We are trying to arrange a last-minute camping holiday for our seven- and 11-year-old children. We'd like somewhere with reliable sunshine – so not the UK – but not too hot given that we'll be under canvas, and near water for some swimming or waterborne activities. D Wood, via e-mail
A France and Italy are obvious choices, but the latter can be oppressively hot and the former very busy during summer. With this in mind, you might consider Scandinavia, which offers a diversity of climate, scenery and activity. You could opt for sandy beaches in Denmark, island hopping in Sweden or forest camping in Finland.
Camping is universally popular in the Nordic countries and as such facilities tend to be first class. The notion of Allemansrätten, or "Everyman's right", means that you are able to camp anywhere that isn't somebody's home or garden, cultivated land or a nature reserve, but comes with a strong emphasis on responsibility and respect for the land. It became part of the Swedish constitution in 1994 and the concept is observed in most Nordic countries.
If this idea strikes a chord, then your first step is to obtain a Camping Card Scandinavia. The card is free – although there is a chargeable validation which lasts for one year – and covers the entire family; benefits include faster checking in and out of campsites, discounts and accident insurance during your stay. It is valid in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In Norway the card is compulsory if you choose to stay at one of the campsites featured in The Norwegian Camping Guide (00 47 23 08 8620; www.camping.no); the same applies for Denmark (00 45 39 27 88 44; www.campingraadet.dk) and Finland (00 358 9 4774 0740; www.camping.fi). In Sweden, the majority of sites require the membership card (00 46 31 355 6000; www.camping.se).
The card can be ordered from any of the organisations' websites and lasts for a year once validated: the cost is Nkr120 (£11.80) in Norway; Skr125 (£10.40) in Sweden; €7 (£5.80) in Finland; and Dkr90 (£9.50) in Denmark.
With its fjords, rivers, lakes and 20,000km of coastline, Norway offers ample opportunities for waterside camping. This year's Camping Guide lists over 240 campsites, from Sorlandet in the far south to Finnmark, north of the Arctic Circle. Given its northerly latitude, bad weather is always a possibility, but Norway is also a temperate country. The warmest areas are in the far south.
If you'd prefer a designated campsite, you could try Pluscamp Sorlandet (00 47 37 15 40 80; www.sorlandet-feriesenter.no), which is 5km south of the Sandnes fjord in Sorlandet. Aside from swimming in the fjord, you could explore the crenellated coastline by boat.
The region has breathtaking walking landscapes, including mountain ranges and fjordal coastline. Prices start at Nkr190 (£18.70) per night for a plot if you do not bring a car, Nkr225 (£22.20) if you do, and Nkr260 (£25.60) for a pitch with electricity. The site is around three -and-a- half-hour's drive south-west from Oslo, and it still has availability next month.
Roughly an hour's drive further south near the town of Grimstad is Moysand Familiecamping (00 47 37 04 02 09; www.moysand-familiecamping.no). Here you can get lost amongst the surrounding beaches, with the option of hiring boats and jet skis. The cost of a pitch and parking space is Nkr270 (£26.50) per night.
Over the border in Sweden, your options are again limitless, with self-catering cottages, log cabins or traditional tent camping. For sun and swimming, the southernmost region of Skane is ideal. Skane Zoological Park Camping (00 46 413 553 2270; www.grottbyn.se) is located next to Skane's biggest lake: Ringsjon. Allemansrätten also allows swimming in public bodies of water. Camping, including shower facilities, costs SK180 (£15) per night for a plot with a tent or a caravan. Families can also enjoy cycling and walking on designated tracks and barbecue facilities. The surrounding area offers sandy beaches, walks through idyllic countryside and the Zoo of Nordic Animals (00 46 413 55 30 60; www.skanesdjurpark.se).
To camp independently, the Stockholm Archipelago offers abundant choice, with 25,000 islands off the mainland. The Archipelago Foundation (00 46 8440 5600; www.skargardsstiftelsen.se) offers advice on where to camp on the islands.
Denmark is perhaps the most popular of camping choices. With 7,000km of sandy coastline it is home to some of the best beaches in Northern Europe and August temperatures hover at 20-25C. Visit Denmark (020-7259 5958; www.visitdenmark.com) has produced a new camping brochure (www.e-pages.dk/visitdenmark/91) which lists suggested routes and places to visit. The rules about where you can camp are slightly more stringent than in Sweden.
West Jutland is a popular choice for campers since most sites are situated next to the broad, white sandy beaches. On the cusp of West and South Jutland, there is the five-star rated Hvidbjerg Strand Feriepark (00 45 75 27 90 40; www.hvidbjerg.dk). It is next to car-free Blavand beach, and its shallow water makes it a good choice for young swimmers. Pitches cost Dkr 190 (£20.20) until 10 August and Dkr 115 (£12.16) thereafter, with an additional Dkr 75 (£8) payable per adult and Dkr 55 (£5.80) per child.
The site is half an hour's drive from Esbjerg, which is served by a direct ferry (0871 522 9955; www.dfdsseaways.co.uk) from Harwich. There are still August sailings available; overnight return crossings cost from £700 per family with a car.
Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail email@example.com