It seemed like a good idea at the time- a mums and kids camping trip to mark the beginning of the summer holidays-carefree days of alfresco eating, and sleeping under skies scattered with a thousand stars -or at least that was the theory. 

After weeks of debating the merits of everything from Feather Down Farm to ‘wild camping ‘off grid, we finally compromised on a tipi ‘glamping’ site. 

It looked idyllic–all Moroccan lanterns and kilims, wild swimming and campfires – but arriving on site, it was glaringly obvious that ‘bring your own bedding’ was definitely not a metaphor! -It meant literally that -including the beds (we hadn’t for the record!)  The tipis were damp and the water pressure in what was euphemistically called the shower block was non-existent, having been drained, and I quote, ‘by the cows drinking from the trough in the upper field.’  

Since then, we’ve had our fair share of glamping disasters – The VW campervan- baby blue with Cath Kidston interior- but with an awning which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the one in the instruction manual-after grappling with it for 2 hours in the dark we gave up and my husband and the dog slept in the car. Then there was the year we toasted marshmallows around the campfire smugly surveying our bunting – festooned bell tents and deliriously happy  ‘free range’ children -satisfyingly reminiscent of a Boden photo shoot. Fast forward to the next morning, and  a disaster zone of collapsed tents, deflated blow up mattresses and soggy bedding. 



Yes it’s been a learning curve but if you get it right it can also be wonderful and life affirming!  An opportunity to connect with nature and give children a unique level of freedom. 

“Time camping isn’t spent, it’s invested” 

A recent study by the Institute of Education at Plymouth University found that parents of children who camp outdoors at least once a year felt that they did better at school and were healthier and happier.

More than 80% of parents claimed that camping had had a positive effect on their children’s education; 98% said that it made their children connect with, and appreciate nature, and a similar percentage felt that their children were happier when camping, and that it provided useful skills for later life. 



The children who were surveyed reported making new friends; having fun, playing outside and learning new skills.  

Camping can provide a welcome break from being hooked up to technology, and give children a greater degree of freedom and independence than they normally have. 

From an educational perspective, it supports learning in subjects like geography and science, as well as introducing a myriad of new activities like hiking, canoeing, playing in a stream, fishing, collecting firewood, climbing trees, orienteering or playing hide and seek. 


“There is no wifi in the forest but I promise you you will find a better connection”


Sleeping in a tent means that the whole family is spending time in close proximity, and allows you to spend quality time together, cooking, setting up camp; walking; toasting marshmallows and telling stories around the campfire. Making it a technology free zone gives you time to connect with each other and really listen. 

Ditching the pressure of deadlines and tasks, helps teach children and adults about mindfulness and simply being in the moment, appreciation of the little things, whether its star gazing or taking time to observe nature. 


“I would rather own little and see the world than own then world and see little of it


Unless you are a hardened camper, glamping can provide a more luxurious introduction to camping. 

There is no shortage of vintage Air Stream trailers; tipis, yurts and tree houses that make it incredibly easy if you prefer to simply turn up and let someone else to do all the hard work, but if you decide to do DIY glamping, it’s the little things that make a big difference. 

First up– the tent– bell tents are beautiful and very easy to put up, but remember if you have to take them down in the rain, you will need space to fully dry the canvas before packing it away. Whatever tent you buy get a bigger one that you think you actually need- children and camping gear take up much more room than you think they will. 


For sleeping camp beds or blow up mattresses (remember the pump and insulating mats) and proper feather duvets and pillows are a must- a mattress topper if you have room is a welcome luxury, and remember hot water bottles if you are not on electric hook up. 


With clothing be realistic, and assume it will rain at some stage – so take layers, warm clothes and quick drying waterproofs- Wellies and (whisper…crocs… sshh)- are a must, they are waterproof and can be kicked off easily outside the tent (take a tub trug or wellie rack and leaves shoes outside) and to avoid a trail of wet grass through the tent, a dustpan and brush are essential. 

If cooking be realistic – exchanging your brand new Neptune kitchen for a primus stove and tree stump, is not always as easy as Pinterest would have you believe- try to stick to one pot cooking, but bring olive oil, dressings and herbs. Pack the essentials- cool box; sharp knives; can and bottle opener, plastic plates, cups and wine glasses; tub trug and cloths for washing up and drying. 


Remember to bring lots of glamping accessories to pretty up your tent inside and out bunting and solar fairy lights; festoon lights or a tea light chandelier; rugs or kilims; outdoor beanbags; hammocks; camping chairs and table; scented candles and lanterns and a wireless Bluetooth speaker or solar radio. 


Try wherever possible to double up- for   example, if you can pack everything into a large lidded wicker basket it can double as a bedside table; wet wipes are perfect as for wiping dirty hands and faces; cleaning plates and as emergency make up remover wipes. 


For showering, bring fluffy towels and spares in case it is difficult to dry them, and pack your favorite shower gel and perfume- try to make it as ‘spa like’ as possible- glamping is, after all, about the little luxuries. 

If you are tempted, go make some memories (and don’t forget the marshmallows!) 


For further inspiration check out:  

Website: Sawdays Canopy and Stars 

A collection of quirky glamping places including tree houses, tipis and yurts 


Book: Cool camping with kids  

This essential guide reviews 80 of the best family camping sites and other ideas to get the most out of your canvas adventure, with sections on campsite games, cooking with kids, family festivals and hiring a campervan.