Back in May we went camping. It was our first family holiday and first holiday for Ian and I since our honeymoon back in 2010.
Being seasoned campers (well, not really, we’ve just been camping a handful of times), we were mentally prepared for the work and effort that goes into camping. Not to mention the freezing cold nights and perpetual feeling of being unwashed.
All of this with a toddler and pre-schooler in tow was a tad daunting, but we weren’t phased.
We experienced a heightened level of trepidation when we considered our actual journey there. It’s a long way to Cornwall from London.
With our car brimming with everything possible (bar an inevitable number of essential items) we headed off at 5am on a Tuesday morning. It took us about five hours to get there, a good proportion of which the kids slept for.
We met a group of friends with children there and set up camp. Literally.
A few years back, the thought of holidaying with friends would’ve felt a bit naff, largely due to feeling intruded on when you wanted time alone as a couple. However, I can’t recommend it enough with this type of holiday.
There were five children in total, different ages, but ranging from 18-months to 8-years old. It was a perfect mix and they all got on brilliantly well. They provided entertainment and distractions for each other, which is most useful when all you want to do is kick back and enjoy a vat of cider by the campfire.
Young children can be a huge challenge getting to sleep at home, let alone anywhere else – particularly a tent. It’s easy to forget how ridiculously arctic the temperatures can be at night, despite the warmth of the daytime.
We made sure that we had some good-quality child-sized sleeping bags for the kids, not to mention fleeces for them to wear, AND fleece blankets to put on top. After a tiring day of purely outdoor activities, the kids were shattered and although fighting it, were ready for bed.
They needed layers for bed. We had two double air mattresses to give a good soft cushioning and a space between the cold ground and us when asleep. We dressed the kids in vests, their normal long-sleeved pyjamas and a pair of socks. Over the top of that they wore fleece sweaters before we zipped them up in their lined sleeping bags. Over the top of that we gave them two huge fleece blankets covering them both together.
Seems a bit much, but believe me, they needed it. If you were to go camping in the winter (you may need your head testing) you would need a heck of a lot more to wear. Preferably thermals. This was the end of May, and the weather was really warm in the day, yet freezing at night.
We managed to get the kids to go to sleep surprisingly well. They did stir a couple of times over the three nights, but overall it was mostly painless.
Catering was a bit rubbish on our part. I did look on in envy at some of the campervan crews who had huge, portable kitchens on site, putting together gourmet meals. We didn’t even have a table!
We had essentials such as peanut butter – amazing for energy and doesn’t require refrigeration. We had tins of beans, tins of sweetcorn, packets of pasta, jars of pasta sauce, boxes of cereal. We had a little gas stove and a cheap set of pans that we used for boiling water and cooking whatever needed cooking. We ate out in Padstow a couple of times, so the kids did get to eat something less miserable than our rubbish camping cuisine. We wouldn’t have wanted to dine camping-style for more than the three days we were there!
The site itself was on a farm. There were animals for the kids to see and interact with, as well as a games room and a little petrol-fuelled railway for the kids to ride on. They were outdoors all of the time, so were burning lots of energy and therefore getting adequately tired. They also had their friends with them, so that was extra entertainment in itself.
We did day trips, visited local places and the beach. And by night, after the kids were in bed, it was wonderful to kick back around the fire, playing card games, chatting and having a drink together with our friends. It was really quality time spent and totally unforgettable.
Camping is a great way to holiday in the UK. Yes, it is hard work and can feel like you’re ‘roughing it’ somewhat, but that’s the fun and beauty of camping. Watching the kids spending so much time outdoors and away from the TV was brilliant.
It was great for me. I didn’t once – not once – think about what was going on at home, Facebook, my blog or anything. Life is stripped back to basics, which I think is good for us all once in a while.
My focus was on what we’d eat for dinner and where we were going that day. It is the simplest way of holidaying, and I loved it. I cannot recommend camping enough, regardless of your budget.
I can’t wait for next time.