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5 Tips for a Stress-free Family Holiday

When you’re travelling with a large family, you want your holiday to go smoothly. So, the idea of camping can be a bit daunting. Sure, the idea of spending time together in the great outdoors and leaving behind the dreaded screens can be appealing. But heading out for a camping trip takes a lot of planning at the best times – camping equipment, dressing for the weather, keeping everyone entertained – just how can you make a family camping trip exciting, memorable, and above all, stress-free? 

Over the summer break, our family of six spent a wonderful 12-day camping trip in Brittany, on the western coast of France. We had a terrific time, packed full of activities and lots and lots of memories. Here we share our top tips to have a great family holiday, with minimum hassle.

1. Pack Smart

If you’ve ever camped with kids before, you’ll know the inevitable Tetris puzzle of trying to fit in all the camping equipment AND the kids. There’s the tent, the cooking utensils and pans, bedding, camping chairs, clothing… the list goes on. When you’ve got kids, the sheer amount of stuff that you need to bring suddenly seems to explode exponentially – changes of shoes, nappies, outdoor play equipment, toys and games for the car. So parents will know that you need to pack smart. 

One way to reduce the amount you need to pack is to book a campsite resort. These campsites pre-prepare tents ready for your camping trip, so you don’t need to bring your own gear. That leaves precious boot space for duty-free shopping. Cabins and mobile homes can also be a great option if you prefer to have a few modern conveniences when you’re away. 

For our holiday, we chose to stay at Domaine Des Ormes. Not only did it have fantastic facilities that we made extensive use of, but it was also close to the beaches and lots of local attractions. Be sure to check out the available facilities so you can pack the right gear, like swimwear. 

If you’re planning on taking a lot of excursions off-site with kids, a sensible day bag should be an important part of your packing. From carrying water bottles, extra layers and nappies, to having somewhere to pop your souvenirs, a practical bag is a must. I made sure to throw my trusty Lemont backpack into the suitcase. It’s lightweight and foldable, so doesn’t take up a lot of space and I was grateful for it, more than once!

2. Plan Your Route

Let’s face it, travelling long distances with kids is exhausting (and dare we say, frustrating!). With a little careful planning, you can make the travelling part of the fun. 

For our trip, we took the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, which meant we could bring the car and all of the kids’ gear. Since you just drive your car straight onto the ferry, there’s no hassle with unloading your luggage and having it scanned through security, unlike taking a flight. 

Taking a day crossing to France means that the kids have plenty of entertainment on the way over. There are plenty of places to eat and shop, and usually some kids’ activities, too. So your holiday has pretty much started before even leaving Portsmouth! As I stood on the sunny deck, watching the sun glinting on the waves in my blue mirror sunglasses and waving goodbye to England with the family, I knew going by ferry had been the right way to go.

Passport control had been a breeze. Throwing all the documents into the Lemont backpack meant I could grab them easily. Plus all of the security checks were done before we boarded, so arriving in Caen just meant driving off the ferry – no need for the kids to nag about boredom! 

Night crossings can be a blessing for families with young children, especially on the way home. No longer buoyed by the excitement and promise of a holiday abroad, everyone’s usually happily exhausted. Booking a cabin in advance for the night crossing can be worthwhile so that everyone gets some rest before the final leg home. 

3. Book a Campsite Resort with Great Facilities

Entertainment is a big factor when planning a camping trip with kids. They tend to be a little less interested in hanging out in the tent with a book, than grown-ups. Booking a campsite with great facilities is an easy way to entertain the kids, with minimum effort on your part. 

Our campsite in Domaine Des Ormes was simply perfect. As well as 400-acres of woodland and wildflower meadows, as far as the eye can see, the site boasts an indoor pool complex and some amazing outdoor pools. As a heatwave hit most of Europe this summer, we found ourselves practically living at the swimming pool. With so much time spent at the pool, I found that the Lemont backpack really came into its own. I could throw in the extras that kids inevitably need, like water bottles and a spare bottle of suncream, and the side pockets were handy for things like my sunglasses. The bag is water-resistant, so you know your phone is not going to get wet inside. We had an enormous amount of fun splashing about and going on the water slides!

Look for resorts that provide family-friendly activities, for all-ages. Our kids loved the pony rides around the campsite! Resorts offer a huge range of activities from mini golf to high-wire adventures. On our holiday, we played our first ever game of foot golf, which had us in stitches as we tried to kick the football into the giant holes. Just great fun for the whole family!

Booking a place with a good range of facilities and activities means that you’ve always got a back-up plan up your sleeve, on rainy days or when you just need a break. In fact, you know you’ve booked the right campsite when you don’t even leave the resort for the first few days! 

4. Choose a Resort Close to Fun Excursions

At some point during your camping trip, you’ll probably want to go off and explore the local area. Well, the adults will! So you’re going to need to find some amazing activities to persuade the kids to leave the campsite. 

Domaine Des Ormes is the perfect base for day trips to a few local towns. On one day, we drove the 40-ish minutes to Mont-Saint-Michel and wow, were we pleased we did! As we approached the imposing-looking abbey, I found myself pulling down my sunglasses and sucking in an impressed whistle. It really is an amazing sight to behold, and comes as little surprise that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s lots for the kids to do here, too. Just five minutes away from Mont-Saint-Michel is Alligator Bay. My kids were blown away by the hundred of alligators, and we spent a few happy hours here. 

Later in the week, we headed over to St Malo, famed for its pirate links. If you’ve got any would-be buccaneers in the family, then this is the place for you. It’s only a 30-minute drive, so it’s very do-able with young kids. 

Here you can enjoy a lovely family walk along the city walls or through the historic centre. There are lots of places to stop off for snacks and plenty of shops for souvenirs! Younger kids will love the Grand Aquarium, where you can easily spend 2 hours wandering around. 

Wherever you go for an excursion, having a well-stocked backpack is a must. Mine was handy for carrying all the stuff we needed for the day – wallet, suncream, water, snacks, sunglasses. They’re also useful for bringing back the extra things you might pick up, whether souvenirs or shells from the beach!

5. Plan in Some Downtime

All too often, families with younger children make the mistake of trying to pack in ALL the sights during their holiday. While you want to maximise your time away (especially if this is your first trip away since Covid began), constantly heading out to visit a local attraction can be exhausting, not to mention expensive! So plan in some downtime. 

For us, our downtime centred around the beach! Domaine Des Ormes is close to a couple of beaches, including St Coulomb and Dinard. Both beaches are an easy drive from the resort. Throwing a couple of beach towels, snacks for the kids and plenty of suncream into my Lemont bag, we found we could bring all of our essentials for a day at the beach. 

Hanging out on the beach is a great way to relax. For the kids, there’s swimming in the sea and playing in the sand. Meanwhile all the adults need to do is throw on a pair of sunglasses, lather on the sunscreen and lie back in the sun. With the amount of driving I knew I’d do on this trip, I’d invested in a pair of stylish Westley blue-mirror sunglasses. I was really pleased with the way the polarised lenses reduced glare, which made it easy to keep an eye on the kids as well as read my long overdue book. Heaven!

Make Memories, Not Headaches

All-in-all camping can make a great family holiday and even families with young children (our youngest was 6 months!) shouldn’t shy away from it. With family-oriented campsites and pre-prepared tents and cabins, everything is ready and waiting for you to arrive. After that, it’s simply a case of planning how you’ll keep everyone occupied and entertained. So do the planning upfront, and be ready to make magical memories with your family.

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