Camping in my mid twenties was far more exciting - my boyfriend (now hubby) and I travelled around South America for six months, and would pitch our tent, or swag, wherever we wanted, and lie gazing up at the stars without a care in the world. 'Rough camping' we called it - no facilities were necessary. We were young and in love, and didn't need running water or shower blocks to rely on. A fast flowing river and a bottle of something strong was just as effective.
I recall my parents telling me that when they went camping in the '60's, they took a crate of unlabelled tin cans with them which they had purchased for next to nothing. They would crack one open each night, and would be over the moon about what they would find inside it...baked beans one day, stew the next, canned pineapples the next. They revelled in the unpredictability of it all.
Now, try packing the car for a camping holiday with the kids. Mmmm, can you even fit the kids into the car? Do we really need the kitchen sink? Get it....camping with the 'hips'...it can be hard.
Here a few tips that are worth thinking about before you jam pack the car...
Before you go: Why not do a 'test' camping trip somewhere very local, or better still, in the back garden! Grab the pillows, duvets, and torches, and have an adventure in the comfort of your own four 'garden' walls. That way, if it all gets a bit much in the middle of the night, its not far to get back to your cosy bed. Even if you are not planning a camping trip, this is just a fun thing to do and costs nothing!
Think about where to go: Make sure its not too far away. Is this a driving holiday, or a camping holiday? If its predominantly about camping, then you certainly don't want to spend all your time driving, especially with young kids (that's a whole new ball game). Do you want as many creature comforts as possible or go completely wild? Do you want a campsite with lots of facilities, and child friendly swimming pools, and perhaps a games room? Try Big 4 if you are in Australia (cabins, campsites etc.) There are many good local camping reference pages - camping.com.au is a great guide for all sorts of camping destinations. Perhaps its worth even considering motor homes, which is a great cost effective way of travelling around and being able to stop, camp or stay in the motorhome as you wish. Some great companies to choose from are Maui or Britz motorhomes. These are particularly great options in Australia and New Zealand. Oh, and of course, if you want to go glam, remember to check out the go glamping website for some great and rather unique options.
What to take: We shall discuss what to take in a later post, in fact, a nice packing list has been compiled so that you can tick it off as you rush round the house, trying to load up the car. This way, you won't forget anything!
What to sleep in: Invest in a good tent, and make sure its big enough
for the whole family. Don't try and squeeze you all in a 2 man tent (just because the little hips are little, doesn't mean you can save on space!). Remember, once the little ones go to sleep (day naps and night time), the adults need somewhere to go. Outside is great if the weather is fine, but oh, not really worth thinking about if its not. Consider whether or not you want to be able to actually 'live' in the tent, or just crawl through it. Can you stand up? Are there separate rooms? Can you put the kids in a room, plus have a living room, plus a room for yourselves (super deluxe tent, a bit like the magical tents in Harry Potter!) If your 'hips' are really young, consider that you may need to have one adult in with one child just to give them some comfort.
What to eat: You pretty much still have to do some cooking when you go camping, whether it boiling your water over an open fire, 'Survivor' style, or frying a sausage or two on a portable gas stove. Unlike Survivor, most established campsites have a few bbq's, and perhaps even a kitchen and a shop to buy fresh eggs and bread daily. Remember to secure all food away as you don't want to create a bug problem. Just try not to over complicate things. It is still a holiday after all.
Keeping warm and dry: Take some good fleecy blankets to wrap yourselves up in at night. Perhaps make the tent a 'shoes off' area only as it all can get quite messy. Air mattresses are far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, as they keep you warmer and dryer. Oh, and don't sleep leaning against the side of the tent (a la guide camp)
And finally: Enjoy yourself...watching the 'hips' camping is wonderful, and something they will remember for a long time. And, if the weather is hideous, or its just not 'happening', then pack up the car, and move on....
Coming up, we chat to a mother who has had a successful camping trip with a 2 year old and a brand new baby, plus that all important camping packing list.