Over the many years of caravanning with my four kids, it has never ceased to amaze me how many people comment on our willingness to put in the hard work to go caravanning as a family. Amazement changes to admiration when I get the baby out of the car. How on earth do you go travelling with three kids and a newborn? they wonder. This may come as a surprise, but it’s actually quite easy to go caravanning or camping with a baby. The real challenges begin when bub begins to crawl, and then walk. My husband Chris and I decided early on that we would take our kids away in our camper trailer as we’re both avid outdoor lovers and we wanted to pass this on to our kids. Sure, there are challenges to overcome but, really, anything is possible if you’re willing to give it a go.
Snapper Point, Murramarang NP
Caravanning With Baby
We first hit the road when we had three kids aged three, 20 months and our baby girl, Hannah, was only ten weeks old at the time. We’d purchased an offroad camper trailer one year earlier and got it ready for our two-year trip around Oz. Sure, I was apprehensive at first as I didn’t know how things would work out on the road but I figured nothing could be too hard, especially with the support of my fantastic husband.
Looking back, the trip was simply amazing – one big adventure and it changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
The two older kids learned so much on the road and it brought us closer together as a family. Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of difficulties but we approached every ‘problem’ as an opportunity to improve.
So it was nothing unusual when we started planning for a six-week trip to southern NSW with our three kids and a newborn. Joshua was eight weeks old when we bundled him into our Toyota Prado, hooked up the camper trailer and hit the road once again.
Chantelle adores her baby brother
Preperation Is Key
Personal experience has taught me that travelling with a large family requires extensive preparation. We research the national parks, campgrounds, facilities, and nearby towns. This enables us to choose suitable place to stay which will work for a family of six, including a baby.
Bournda National Park, for example, topped our list as I discovered there were gas-powered hot showers as well as a laundry where you could bathe a baby – perfect! It is also a beautiful place with plenty of room for the kids to roam around. The five other destinations included Deua, Murramarang, Morton, Budderoo and Ben Boyd national parks.
Walk to Ben Boyd’s Tower in Ben Boyd NP
The booking system in New South Wales requires travellers to book and pay for campsites before arrival so we picked dates for each destination which meant I could go ahead and reserve sites in each national park.
In some cases, I’d ring the ranger to ask specific questions about the size of the sites as we travel in a rig with an extended tent and we wanted to make sure we’d fit. Often the ranger would give me valuable information about the campground or area, so don’t hesitate to get on the phone and ask plenty of questions.
Before we embarked on our six-week camping trip to New South Wales, I’d been breastfeeding Joshua. However, a lack of weight gain placed me in a situation where I decided to put him on the bottle as the stress was starting to get to me. There’s nothing worse than worrying about whether your baby is putting on enough weight.
Joshua was only eight weeks old when we hit the road, still requiring a night feed. I’d purchased six bottles so I would only need to clean and sterilise bottles once a day, if necessary. This meant I always had one or two extra bottles at hand without stressing about running out. Thankfully, after nine days on the road, Joshua started sleeping through the night, enabling me to enjoy the trip even more.
Baby Camping Accessories
You soon learn that the smallest person in the family needs the most amount of stuff, whether you’re at home or away camping. At home, Joshua had slept in the Phil and Ted’s bassinet, which is nice and compact, so it became his comfortable bed on the road. I also purchased a ‘swaddle bag’ as this ensured he would stay nice and warm during the chilly nights − an added bonus was a great night’s sleep for the bub as the bag minimised his arm movements, which would often wake him up.
Sterilisation is crucial when bottle-feeding a baby. At a discount store, Chris found a $3 box that became a sterilisation container, while a good quality thermos proved ideal for warming up bottles. Having three older children meant they could take it in turns feeding Joshua, which they really enjoyed. Just before we left, I discovered a small tube of travel hand sanitizer at the local camping shop – the perfect way to clean your hands when you don’t have quick access to a tap and soap.
I really wanted to bring the rocker and Chris – the world’s best packing expert – managed to find a spot in the car. Joshua spent hours in the rocker at home and would often fall asleep in it.
The latest addition to our camper trailer tent was a high-quality vinyl floor, which made the annexe bug- and draft-proof. Sure, it took a bit of time to set up the entire annexe so we could use the floor but it was so worth it.
Space is at a premium when you take four kids camping, especially when one is a newborn. A pram simply wasn’t going to fit in the Toyota Prado but this challenge was easily overcome by buying a baby carrier. The Baby Bjorn baby carrier with back support would have to be my favourite as it enables you to carry your baby for extended periods of time without putting strain on your back. There are plenty available on eBay – I purchased one for $35 instead of paying $200 for a new one.
I’d highly recommend finding a suitable sun hat for your baby. Special sunscreen is recommended, though we had to be careful as Joshua has childhood eczema. My preference is to dress a newborn in a jumpsuit to minimise sun exposure.
Bath accessories can be limited to a large box and a bag of cotton balls. A small baby kit, which includes a baby brush, comb, nail clippers and scissors, is perfect for camping.
The six-week camping trip flew by and Joshua no longer fit in his bassinet by the time we came home. He will not remember the trip but the other kids will – they loved every minute of their first adventure with their baby brother.
Pebbly Beach, Murramarang NP