There's two sorts of camping: the dreamy, childhood version where a canopy of stars shines over a warm, open fire while darling babies sleep soundly in their tents. And then there's the reality.
Camping with kids required the organisational skills of an event planner, and more sanitary wipes than you can fit into the average ocean liner.
But fear not! If you're venturing into the wilds of Africa with young children in tow, there are some handy hints that will hold you in good stead. So when the night falls and the stars come out to play, the only sound you'll hear is the roar of a lion..and not that of a cranky seven-year-old!
Eats and treats
We all know kids can be notoriously picky eaters, but camping is a wonderful way to encourage their sense of adventure. What kid doesn’t like poking and prodding at a campfire while waiting for the coals to cook their roast potato? And who could say no to the prospect of holding a marshmallows over the flames, burning only every third or fourth one after they've had a bit of practise!
The goal here is not to worry about providing a balanced diet, but to get them excited about camping. Don't be afraid to break out the hotdogs people. There will also be plenty of opportunities to stop spontaneously on the side of the road as you come across an incredible view, so pack plenty of snacks that can be quickly set up on the nearest picnic table, or failing that...the car bonnet. And don’t forget to pack a few comfort foods for those times when the kids are feeling a bit flat or homesick. It's often the simple things that can bring a smile to a little face.
While it would be nice if the elephants arrived on cue, and the lions struck up their chorus on an hourly basis, it's probably not going to happen. So be prepared for the inevitable cries of, "I'm bored!" Yes, it's hard to believe anyone could be bored in Africa. But remember who you are dealing with here! These kids are used to being entertained around the clock, with iPads, iPods and games consoles within easy reach.
So when you inevitable hear a chorus of "What now?" answer with a simple reply..."Anything you want!" You are on safari after all! Head into the nearest township where you can take a hike, go swimming, rent a car, enjoy a scenic flight, ride bikes, shop among the locals...the only rule is to have fun.
When leaving camp isn't an option, it's good to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Try a scavenger hunt, and send everyone off to gather 20 items you'd normally find in the bush. And when in doubt, a deck of cards will keep kids (and grownups!) amused for hours.
The thing about travelling with kids is that you aren't just bringing along extra bodies. You are bringing along extra stuff. Loads of extra stuff. Tons of it, if the packing were left to the little ones!
The key to packing for a safari is to simplify. Try to make do without all the mod cons and make it up as you go along. Make "less is more" your motto.
To cut down on costs, try to use as much stuff as you can from home. Yes it would be nice to be the family who all slept in matching sleeping bags with colour-coordinated torches. But at the end of the day, is anyone really looking? Try and make do with what you've got, and use nature to help with the things you've forgotten!
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