We started to dabble in camping a few years ago, with our first long trip last summer holidays, in Wales. It rained pretty much the whole time, we had to buy extra layers of bedding to keep warm at night and spent a fortune in ‘indoor’ activities. However, when asked, our eldest still thinks its one of the best holidays in her short memory. Leaving me to ask WHY THE HELL? This is what I came up with.
Firstly, I asked them why they like it so much but I didn’t get much joy. Some vague statements about it being fun. But at 5 and 7 years old they couldn’t give me many reasons.
Last year I noticed it was more about spending quality time with us, the grown ups. They sought our undivided attention, no boring interruptions from work or washing up. So the destination and accommodation doesn’t particularly matter much.
Secondly, it’s all about the tent and the field. With one simple step through a zipped up door, they’re on the grass. Free to roam around relatively safely compared to the city. They are fascinated with their new portable home, helping us to whack in pegs and sealing themselves off in their own rooms (they share a bedroom at home). So despite wanting to be with us, they’re on a longer leash than usual.
It’s a cliche but kids really do make friends in a flash. Before you know it, there’s a ready-made holiday club patrolling the site. We didn’t even pick sites with play areas or swimming pools last year but they still managed to have fun, even with the wet and muddy grass. All it took was a tree swing and a Frisbee.
Alfresco cooking and dining for each and every meal is another thing they seem to go mad for (weather permitting). And the fact we eat comfort food most days; variety cereal packs, pasta and barbeques. The kids even like helping with chores while camping, filling up the water carrier and drying the dishes – stuff they would never do at home!
And as long as the sun is shining and it’s not too windy, I kind of like camping too. I do like the remote and unusual locations it allows you to explore more closely, where hotels or cottages just can’t compare. The whole being close to nature bit is bitter sweet. The noise of late night revelers, bin lorries and ambulances sirens is replaced by flapping canvas, birdsong, cows and sheep and with only canvas to keep it out, I need earplugs. It’s different. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good night’s sleep. But the novelty of a sheep chorus seems to make the kids giggle.
I’m not entirely fond of all the stuff we have to fetch down from the loft then cram into our Peugeot 308 and roof box. It’s a fine art remembering the configuration but it does feel liberating carrying around your own accommodation. Plus by the time you’ve packed and unpacked the car, pitched up the tent and cracked open a beer, work stresses are a dim and distant memory.
But the best thing for parents is the cost. It means you can afford to take one or two weeks off in peak season without breaking the bank. And while they are so young and don’t crave exotic locations, hotels and pools, we’ll take the savings and swing a mallet a couple of times, no problem.
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