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  • Writer's pictureSophie

Camping adventures

We just arrived back from two nights camping at a local campsite with another family. This was our first camping trip as a family (now that our youngest O is 3, it feels like the right time to try, plus our 6 year old has been asking to go camping for a while). So we decided to tip our toe in by booking in at a campsite only half an hour from our home (luckily we live in a beautiful part of the world where lovely campsites are close by!). That way, if it was an absolute disaster (either the weather, or the children did not cooperate), we could just drive home and sleep at home. We also chose a campsite with a lot of amenities because we are not yet ready to go off the beaten track in any way, shape or form. E had been given a (4 man) tent from her grandparents for Christmas, but because of our very wet summer this was her first chance to use it! The family who we traveled with are close friends of ours and our kids and theirs are close in age (their kids are age 6 and 4), and because we see them often everyone is very familiar with each other. I discovered the joy a few years ago of traveling with another family with kids rather than on our own, for a few reasons: a) the kids amuse each other and don't get bored so easily, b) the adults can socialise, c) strength in numbers mean that kid supervision can be shared more easily giving everyone more time "off". This was definitely the case on this trip :)

Despite our slight trepidations, luckily, the weekend went really really well. The weather was beautiful (very hot but there was a great pool onsite to cool down, and importantly NO RAIN), which has not been typical for this summer. After a slightly fraught Friday afternoon arrival, where the kids were tired after school and misbehaving, we were tired after big days of work, and the tents were a pain to set up, we then had a lovely dusk swim following by pizza and then the adults relaxed by our campsite while the kids (ours and our friends) played on their scooters and generally loved the independence and novelty of playing outside after dark until we all retired to our tents.

Dawn views

It wasn't the most comfortable sleep of my life (sleeping that close to kids who toss and turn is challenging) but it also wasn't the worst I've had on holiday. I was up before dawn with O on Saturday, and it was peaceful and fun watching him explore our new surrounds while I watched the birds fly overhead in the beautiful dawn light. O and I went for an early morning stroll and I picked up a coffee as soon as the coffee van opened at 6am, before heading back to say hi to our fellow campers who were now starting to emerge from their tents. Saturday was a fun day with two long visits to the pool which had recently been renovated and was the highlight of the trip, lots of time on the scooters exploring for the kids, fish and chips for lunch, ice cream, and some afternoon drinks for the adults. A few of us got a bit sunburnt (we re-applied in the afternoon but even that wasn't quite enough), and by the evening we were all so tired it was early to bed.

It was a pretty great pool. Even the adults had fun on those water slides! And the shallow toddler end was good for the little kids to play in safely too.

Sunday morning O and I were again up early around dawn, and after coffee and packing up the campsite (turns out packing up is significantly faster than setting up which is handy!), we headed over for one more swim at the pool before check out. It was another hot day so even at 8.30am we were glad to cool down in the water. After check out we headed back to our friends' house for one last play and lunch before we drove home and the kids had their first screen time for the weekend while we unpacked and did our Sunday afternoon chores.

Overall our first camping experience was a big success. The kids of course had their moments (both the 3 and 4 years olds had meltdowns a few times for various reasons, or sometimes no reason at all, sigh), and the 6 year olds were cheeky and defiant a few times, but generally, everyone was well behaved and had a great time. The kids really enjoyed the freedom of the campsite and being able to join other kids and kind of hang out in a pack, which was also fun for us parents to watch, especially because everything did feel quite safe and the kids did stay within the boundaries we set (our section of the park). Also, even for us parents there was a novelty of being able to just take the kids to bed when they (and we) were tired, and not having to worry about the usual routine of bath, teeth, stories, bed etc (they did their teeth but we skipped the showers and let them run a bit wild). Falling asleep in the tent to the sounds of nature was lovely. It was great to have a screen free weekend for the kids (well from Friday - Sunday afternoon), and see them come up with other activities, like climbing trees, playing with lamps in the tents, rugby and even playing with walkie talkies (well done E remembering to bring them!).

The only things I didn't love about the weekend was a) I didn't really have a chance to have a long walk which I usually love to do on holiday, there was too much parenting and socialising, although we did swim a lot so I guess that is exercise, b) my back got sunburnt on Saturday which was uncomfortable, and c) it was probably a few degrees hotter than would be ideal (it was perhaps 33 degrees when 28 would have been perfect), however overall the weekend was fun (which is not guaranteed with small kids, although we are out of the newborn and toddler stages so things are MUCH easier than they used to be), and we are definitely keen to do this again, at this campsite or another one fairly local (within an hour of our house is ideal at this point with the kids I think). Not only is camping fun, it is significantly cheaper than hiring a self-contained apartment or hotel room, which means little mini breaks like this are feasible on a semi-regular basis (thinking a couple of times per year will be fun to break up the year). Who knows, maybe in a few years we will be "real" camping people, setting up in remote locations with all the gear, although somehow I doubt it!

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