Picking the best campsite for your first family camping trip

With the arrival of spring, now is the ideal time to plan your first-ever camping trip with the children. With most New Zealand children spending an average of 2 hours a day in front of an electronic screen, according to a report compiled by the Ministry of Education, spending time outdoors will be of great benefit to the whole family. While it may be very tempting to just throw a tent and most of your household belongings into the car with your kids, it does require a bit more planning to pull off a stress-free debut camping trip. One of the biggest considerations is the campsite you are going to visit. Although NZ has a myriad of decent, family-friendly sites, it is important to pick one that will suit your family’s individual needs the best.

Find a site close to home

When taking the children camping for the first time it comes highly recommended to keep it as close to home as possible. Camping close to home can have many benefits including the ability to avoid a long drive which, more often than not, leaves the children irritable and the parents ready to go back home right away. It also helps camping in an area you are familiar with, knowing the exact whereabouts of the nearest doctor, grocery store and other amenities you might need at short notice. If anything goes wrong during your trip, it is significantly easier to pack up and go home if you are only a couple of miles away as opposed to having driven half-way across the country to camp. Luckily, regardless of where in New Zealand you are resident, the chances are very good that you will have a family-friendly camping spot near your home that is ideal for your first family camping trip.

Pick a campsite with large stands and useful amenities

When trying to make a choice between the countless camping spots available, take the size of the stands into consideration. The larger the stand, the more space you and your family and all your camping gear will have to make yourself comfortable in, especially if you have smaller children that like to run around outside and you want to keep them within view. A larger stand will improve your level of comfort. If your tent is exceptionally large or if you consider taking a caravan or RV, you need to double check that your chosen stand will comfortably fit everything you are planning to bring along on your trip as the last thing you want is to be cramped for space with children in tow. Don’t forget that you will usually need to fit your vehicle on to your tent site too. Be sure to pick a campsite that offers a clean ablution block and, if needed, kitchen facilities. If you need a few extra comforts, book a site with electricity. If you want to really get off the grid, note that there are strict rules around ‘freedom camping‘ in New Zealand.

If you feel slightly overwhelmed planning your maiden camping trip, don’t despair. As with everything else in life involving your children, you will find a way to make it work simply by doing a bit of research and relying on your own instinct and creativity. Even if the trip does not go according to plan you will still get to spend some quality time with your family away from the distraction of TV screens and gaming devices.

Sally WritesThis article was written by Sally Sykes with additional information from Kidspot NZ. Sally is a freelance writer who left her corporate job for a life of freedom. She regularly travels with her family and absolutely loves camping in the great outdoors.










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  1. dawnblyth 30/09/2018 at 10:13 pm

    Camping is a fun activity to take your children on. I didn’t go camping when I was little and so I don’t know much about camping. Thankfully my husband has experience in camping and knew what we needed. I think its a great thing to go and do with your children as it opens their eyes to so many more adventures and experiences that they don’t get when they are home.

  2. Alezandra 30/09/2018 at 9:46 pm

    We have not tried camping although it’s not my cup of tea, it’s something I will be keen to do if my family wants too.. but I think i might be more up for glamping (with that little extra comfort).

  3. felicity beets 28/09/2018 at 8:15 am

    Helpful idea to take a camping trip closer to home for the first one. We would love to travel together on a campervan holiday.

  4. kymmage 27/09/2018 at 8:46 pm

    So far we have only camped close to home. As in, so close to home they can walk back in the house for the bathroom. haha. I went out one night and it was so much more uncomfortable than I remember as a kid. I should really get brave though and try a real camp grounds at some point. I know my eldest would be so happy if we did!

  5. Mands1980 27/09/2018 at 10:13 am

    We have always wanted to go camping but just havnt done it yet I think it’s all the unknowns with kids. We usually go to my parents Bach with all the home comforts. I would definitely want a toilet/ shower block and kitchen facilities would be a bonus. I know when I went camping as a child we went to some camp grounds or otherwise complete off grid and used lake water for everything. I’m definitely not going to do off grid and this article says things have got tougher on that sort of camping.

  6. Bevik1971 26/09/2018 at 11:43 am

    We used to go camping all the time when I was a kid 🙂 My family and I haven’t been camping as yet, but we will at some stage! When we go to Alexandra to stay with my Dad in the summer he pitches a big family tent beside his house and we camp there! Except he has power, radio, airbeds etc so it’s pretty comfy haha

  7. MuddledUpMolly 25/09/2018 at 8:18 pm

    My husband and I have taken our now eight year old son and almost two year old daughter on an annual camping trip somewhere around New Zealand every year for the past four years. We love getting away as a family and so far have tried four completely different locations to try and find our perfect spot. New Zealand has so many wonderful camping destinations and it’s great to see people getting out there and experiencing it.

  8. Shelz69 22/09/2018 at 6:01 pm

    I still haven’t been brave enough to try camping on my own with the children. It something I would feel safer about if I had a man with me, but I’m determined that I will be brave enough to try it one day. Maybe like it was suggested and go somewhere close to home first.

  9. Shorrty4life1 22/09/2018 at 4:49 pm

    We have just brought a cute little camper van. We love tenting but hey new opportunities eh. Next I reckon we will get an awning up next to it so we can semi go part camping still haha 😂. We have planned heaps of camping trips even one over Christmas and also one at the end of October. Wahoo for great weather now.

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