When Macey was just 7 weeks old we took her away in the caravan for the first time.
We were so excited. The van is our second home, and we hope she loves it and our adventures in it as much as we do! Plus, since Macey was born at the beginning of December we had spent almost two months of summer at home, which was very unusual for us, so we were itching to get away.
So when the heatwaves died down and she was a little bit bigger we couldn’t wait to take her camping for the first time. Since then, we have managed to get away at least once a month in the van, and have definitely picked up some tips and tricks to make life easier if you’re heading out camping with a newborn or young baby. [BTW: These photos are from our first few camping trips].
It goes without saying that you should do what is best for your baby and your family, these are just some things that made our camping experience easier!
Here are our top 15 tips for camping or caravanning with a baby for the first time.
In this post:
1. Think about food before you go
Different for every baby, and depending on their age, food might be super easy, or one of the more difficult things to think about for your first adventure. For our first few camping trips Macey was breastfeeding, so it was really easy in a way to keep her fed and happy, we didn’t need to take anything with us. If your formula or bottle feeding, make sure you have access to boiling water to sterilize your bottles, and your pump if you need one. Once baby is starting solids try to take food options that don’t take up a lot of room in the fridge or freezer and can be easily defrosted or warmed without needing extra tools. For example, veggies like pumpkin or sweet potato can be made at home and then heated over the campfire, or banana and avocado can be easily mashed up with a fork.
2. Check the weather
If you can, work your trip around the weather. We took off on our first camping trip last minute, because the heatwave had broken and it was finally a comfortable temperature that we felt confident taking Macey out in. After all the warnings they give you as a new, first time mother about overheating newborn babies, I felt much better knowing what I was in for before we planned anything. Rethink any trips on extreme weather weekends, whether that be heat, cold, rain or wind, to avoid adding extra stress to your weekend.
3. Pack all the “just in case” essentials
Baby carriers, prams, bouncers – take whatever you think you need (and can fit in your packing) on that first trip out of the house. You’ll soon figure out what you do and don’t use while you’re camping, but on that first trip, it’s better to take more rather than less to make your experience as easy and carefree as possible. We quickly figured out that a baby camp chair works the same as a bouncer, but it’s always a good idea to have a baby carrier to go for a walk. Take lots of extra nappies and wipes – you can never have too many but you’ll definitely know if you don’t have enough.
4. Take things that baby recognizes for bedtime
Sleeping in an unfamiliar environment might not be super easy for all babies, so bringing things from home that remind them of their night-time routine is a great way to help them understand when it’s time to go to sleep. To make bedtime familiar and easy for Macey in the van we bought her Love To Dream swaddle to make her feel comfy and safe, and a portable white noise machine since we always have one going in our bedroom at night. We also tried to keep her before bed routine as similar as we could – dimmed lights, change, feed, swaddle, cuddle, down to sleep.
5. And something for them to sleep in
While Macey was just a tiny baby she would sleep in her pram bassinet. We have a Redsbaby pram and you can buy bassinet legs that they can attach to, so that the bassinet is approved for overnight sleeping. This was such a great option for us because the legs pack down flat, and it meant we didn’t have to bring a separate bassinet along with us. Now that she’s a outgrown her bassinet we have a Nuna Cove Air Portacot, which is super handy because it has two different levels for baby to sleep on. Especially while she’s still small it’s great to be able to have her further off the ground at night time.
6. Choose a destination that you know
If you’re a bit nervous about hitting the road with baby for the first time, it’s a good idea to choose a destination that you’re familiar with to make you a little bit comfortable. We normally head to the Murray River at least once each summer, so we know how far it is to the closest town, where we can get supplies if we need them, and how long it would take to get there in the car. Since Macey is our first baby we were probably being way overly cautious, but it did give us peace of mind taking her to a very familiar place for our first venture out of the house.
7. Use a dummy chain
Save yourself MANY MANY MANY trips to clean off a dirty dummy by clipping baby’s dummy onto a chain. Ohmygosh, I think Macey dropped her dummy straight into the dirt about 6 times in the first 10 minutes of being at the river. She was just so excited, and when she smiles the dummy falls straight out! Our favourites are from Indigo Dreams, they are completely customisable and double as a teether, which is so helpful in a few more months.
8. Buy a baby camp chair
OMG aren’t they just the cutest! Once your baby can sit up a little baby camp chair might just be the cutest thing ever, as well as super practical and handy for your travels. We bought the one above from Kmart (it’s called the Kids Hexagon Chair), pretty much just because it’s so cute, but she could comfortably sit in it for ages and really loved it. Kmart also have a great portable high chair, which is a great option for when baby is a little bit older and it starting to eat solids on the road. Such an easy way to have a high chair while you’re camping, plus it packs down so small.
9. Plan your rest stops in advance
Depending on how far away you’re planning to travel, baby is probably going to need to eat and be changed every couple of hours. We found it easier to have some rest stops planned along the way, so we weren’t looking for one at the very last minute. On some occasions Macey was sleeping, so we would keep driving a little further until she woke up, but at other times it was good to know that we were only 10 minutes or so from our next rest stop, so we weren’t stressing if she started to get a little fussy, or had a poosplosion!
10. Set up a fly net gazebo
This one probably depends on where you go and what time of year it is. But our first trip with Macey was up to the Murray River at the beginning of February. It was flies and mosquitoes galore and I did NOT want my brand new baby being nibbled on by dirty mozzies. My Dad had thought to bring a fly net gazebo which was an absolute game changer. There were no flies landing on her, and we could relax without worrying about nasty bug bites.
11. Don’t forget sun protection and something for those mozzies
Sun hats are a must when travelling during the summer time with baby, as well as swimwear with long sleeves to keep them protected in the water. We also always take some baby sunscreen with us if we think we’re not going to be able to escape the sun. For mozzies we have been using mozzie patches to avoid spraying any harsh insect repellent on or near Macey. We also set a couple of Thermacell Repellers around the campsite, which work wonders in keeping the mosquitoes away.
12. Pack lots of extra changes of clothes
Whether the weather forecast is inaccurate, or baby has a few accidents throughout the day, it’s always a good idea to bring lots of clothing options. It’s a good idea to pack both warm and cold options, no matter what time of the year you’re camping, extra socks and singlets, and a baby beanie is always a good idea to have on hand. Short and long onesies are also a great idea, as night temperatures can be the most inconsistent. Always take extras in case of unexpected blow outs, you just never know hey!
13. Think about a designated baby play mat
Macey loves play time on the floor. She didn’t love tummy time too much when she was really small, but she loved lying on her back and playing with you. Take a play mat or a blanket that is just for baby time, to give them plenty of space to be free. Macey also loves to watch the trees, so she loved being on the play mat out in the open. A weather resistant play mat is a great idea, as they’re easy to shake off if you’re taking it in and out all the time. Although our woven picnic blankets are beautiful, they would often be full of burs after a couple of hours on the floor and require a lot more care when packing them away.
14. Baby bath time
In all honesty, the first time we went camping I completely forgot that we would need something to bath the baby in. Whoops! Amongst trying to figure out all the different layers of clothes she might need I completely forgot about a bath. However, since that first trip I found a collapsible bath from Kmart that is super easy to store in the van, or pack flat if you’re taking camping supplies. Make sure you bring some kind of hot water system to fill the bath (there are lots of great affordable solar options if you don’t already use one) and a water temperature checker is always helpful too.
15 . Remember to have fun!
HAVE THE BEST TIME EVER! If caravanning and camping was something you loved before baby arrived, it’s going to be even more special travelling as a family. While you might have to think of a few extras and do a little more packing before you go, it’s honestly so worth it. Macey always has the best time when we take her away, and even though she was only 7 weeks old on our first adventure, you couldn’t wipe that smile off her tiny little face.
None of the links in this post are sponsored or affiliate links, I just wanted to share items that have been working for us, in case they could be helpful for you too!