How to go camping with a baby: useful tips and info
Posted on 22/09/2017 by John
In September 2015 my wife Emma and I took our 8 month-old daughter for her first trip abroad. Our plan was to take a campervan from London, cross the channel and head down through France. This article is about our experiences and our tips for travelling and camping with a baby in a campervan (4-berth).
When we told friends and family our plans their reactions ranged from “you’re brave” to “you’re mad”. But as soon as you've read this blog post, packed with info and tips, you'll see that camping with a baby isn't as difficult as you might think.
Every parent knows that the amount of equipment a baby “needs” is inversely proportional to their size. Even an overnight trip to the grandparents seems to involve loading the car up to the ceiling and even then we always seem to forget something. For this two week holiday we tried to be ruthless about what we packed. The essentials we finally settled on were:
- Travel cot
- High chair (the Ikea one with the removable legs)
- Baby bath
- Play mat
We took our Maxicosi car seat and base (the Voyager campervan has ISOFIX points). The car seat fits onto our pram frame so even if our little one was asleep when we finished our drive, we didn’t need to risk waking her up by moving her into her pram.
We packed enough baby food and nappies to last a week. Even in the smallest towns, we had no trouble replenishing supplies. Having a decent size fridge in the vehicle really helped as we could store half-eaten jars of baby food rather than having to throw them away.
Best time to go camping with a baby
We travelled in September. Still nice and warm throughout France, but with the summer holidays over all the campsites we visited had plenty of space so it wasn’t necessary to book in advance. Campsites were also cheaper than July/August as were the ferry costs.
Camping with a baby road trip tips
Here are our tips to make it even easier for you to plan a camping trip with your little one as well. Camping with a baby is an amazing experience.
Sleeping tips for the best night's sleep
The campervan has a large floor area that is normally used for a second double bed. This is where we put the travel cot. The main bed is huge so there was plenty of room for night feeds when necessary. Our daughter doesn’t normally sleep through the night, but she did on several occasions during this trip. My wife and I had our best night’s sleep in months!
Meals: eating together
A high chair of some description is a must. Most campsites may have a high chair in their restaurant, but you won’t be able to take it away onto the campsite itself.
Our little one would sit in her chair and watch us prepare her dinner and ours. We would then all eat together.
Our favourite campsites
The majority of French campsites are well catered to children and babies. Our two favourites from the trip are mentioned below.
Huttopia Versailles and Huttopia Versailles is a perfect stop-off point to break up the long drive from Calais to central/southern France. Versailles is on the outskirts of Paris and it’s only a few minutes on the bus to the famous palace of the same name. A train into central Paris takes about 20 minutes.
We spent two nights at Huttpoia and went to the Palace of Versailles in the middle day. With a small baby, I’d suggest just buying a ticket for the grounds rather than looking around the palace itself as it’s not really pushchair friendly.
Chateau des Marais in the Loire valley and only a few minutes drive from Chateau de Chambord, one of France’s grandest chateaux. Whilst our little one was too small to enjoy all the water flumes, it didn’t stop me! The shop on site sold everything we needed.
The campsite served as a base to do a few day trips such as the ancient city of Blois and ZooParc de Beauval which certainly seems worthy of the campsite receptionist’s claim that it’s “the best zoo in France”.
Both of these campsites had dedicated baby rooms with baby baths built into the counter top. On our next trip I’ll check out which campsites have good baby facilities and then leave the baby bath at home.
On the road
Like most people, we did the Dover – Calais ferry crossing which takes about 90 minutes. It’s a great way to break up the journey, grab some food and let the little one have a crawl around. On the return trip, the British border control is in Calais and they will want to see the face of your baby to ensure it matches the passport. If your baby is asleep they will come out of their little booth and have a look in the car. No need to wake them up!
France has a network of toll motorways. In the UK we’re not used to paying for using normal roads, but overall I recommend them. Travelling with a baby over long distances can be a horrible experience if you get stuck in traffic. The toll roads seem almost empty at times and we didn’t experience a traffic jam in two weeks.
Another benefit of the toll roads are the rest stops (called “aires”) every 10-20km. They all have toilet facilities and plenty of parking spaces. Most have a few picnic benches. With a baby, you never know when you’ll need to stop. With France’s aires we were only ever a few minutes from being able to stop for a nappy change or some lunch.
The large floor space in our campervan was perfect for changing nappies and it also served as a useful play area once we’d put down the play mat.
Would we go camping again with a baby?
Absolutely! Our little one always had something to keep her entertained, we could stop whenever we needed and had the freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted. France is really accommodating to children and the warmer weather meant mum and dad had a great time too!
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