I love camping. No,wait…I love the idea of camping. I have a wonderful romanticised notion of camping: of warm summer evenings, campfires, waking up with the dawn chorus and being one with nature.
My actual experience of camping is something quite different. On the hit- or-miss scale of under-canvas experiences, mine are firmly in the miss camp!
I hate being cold and I particularly hate waking up with a freezing cold nose – if you’re lucky enough to have slept. Wrapped in as many layers of clothes and sleeping bags as you own, you are mummified in a nylon triangle, yet you still awake with an arctic island in the middle of your face. And camping with young children- especially mine- is definitely a non-starter.
Camping, glamping, tent, yurt and tipi… none afforded the romanticised idea of camping I sought. The reason is most definitely that I am somewhat attached to life’s little luxuries: a bed, a loo, running water, my own shower… I could go on!
We have swapped camping for caravanning, a tent for a mobile home as this can afford a similar experience with the benefit of a comfy bed and a solid roof overhead. The long-term goal is to buy a camper van so we can zoom off at a moment’s notice, but in the short-term we regularly book caravan breaks. My advice for a good one?
- Do your research. We have stayed in some fabulous places, equally we’ve discovered a couple of real stinkers! I’m a total TripAdvisor addict. I write reviews for everything and I read reviews before I book anything.
- Find out more about the area. We’re National Trust and English Heritage members so I use the apps to discover local sites- this is usually a cheap day out and makes more of your membership fee.
- Research local attractions and plan ahead. I often find discount vouchers or book online in advance for the best prices. You can take snacks, water and a picnic if you want to keep costs down or manage what your children are eating.
This is my essential packing list for a self-catering caravan break:
- Clothes, footwear and outerwear appropriate to the season/weather.
- Swimming stuff- costumes, toys, floats, rubber rings etc. I have a big bag full of swimming and beach stuff that we just throw in the boot. This is after I realised that I was buying new armbands, rubber rings, goggles and noodles every time we went away!
- Beach toys- saves you buying them again and again. I have a selection of small sets that don’t take up too much room. Although…top tip…if you are stuck for a bucket on the beach, a paper coffee cup works a treat!
- Food and drink essentials: coffee, teabags, milk, bread, butter. If all else fails, at least you can have tea and toast when you arrive!
- Caravan essentials: loo roll, washing up liquid, sponge/dishcloth, bin bags. I also pack tin foil as it’s handy for leftovers and picnics.
- I always take a few extras to make life even easier: a bath mat (or spare towel for the bathroom floor), tea towels and an oven glove. You don’t realise how much you need them until you don’t have them!