When thinking about camping, especially family camping with kids, many of us automatically think of the difficulties and inconveniences involved. You know. . . uncomfortable bed and bugs everywhere, high-traffic toilets, and how it takes a lot of time to do anything like cooking, cleaning, pitching tents and breaking camp. Too many to think that we may not even get to the point of considering it as a very doable, exciting and practical alternative to often much more expensive hotels, bed and breakfasts, AirBNB flats and other short-tern rentals.
There are, however, so many factors that make family camping both a fun and practical way of vacationing. Here are some of them.
1. Price. There is at least a €30 to €40 difference per night between a camping site and the cheapest (!), regular accommodation (like in a motel or a small apartment). Imagine, you can travel to all kinds of places, big cities included, and I’d bet you that there is a camping site that you could afford and possibly like.
In Paris, for example, rental apartment rates were prohibitive when we were searching for accommodation for our family fun, summer camping road trip, especially since it was the Bastille Day (French) Holiday. Meanwhile there were at least two major camping sites within the city limits which were about €50 per night for a family of four. On average, this was about €20 more than we would usually pay per night, but still is reasonable considering that Paris is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Will tell you how and exactly where it is in a couple of weeks, once we actually get there.
2. Swimming pools. Yes, it seemed to be a standard amenity for family-friendly camping sites that, believe it or not, can make your children much happier than eating 10 bars of chocolate in one sitting or any other paid activities. If you travel with young children, look for camping sites with a kiddie pool. Kaj, for example, refused to submerge in a big pool. When told that there was no small swimming pool, his extreme dissatisfaction could surely be heard for kilo/miles away!
“DLACZEGO NO deep piscina for me, Mama!”, he would say in his often mixed language. Why?
3. Play area. Activities. This includes playground, water splash park, billiards, table football, toys. Or sometimes… everything!!! Look for camping sites with activities for children (usually no extra charge). The camping site that we visited a couple of days ago (Las Cañadas Camping in Los Baños de Montemayor) had several activities a day to choose from, like paddling, zip line, craft workshop. The added benefit (to you, parents) is that your child would not have to be accompanied by you (usually from 5 years old and up). So, when you have kids and just want to have that coffee (Six adds: or cold beer) in peace, little things like this make you appreciate it more.
4. Location. Camping sites are everywhere!!!! The best part is that you do not have to book it in advance. This is one of our challenges to ourselves this summer and what we are doing now. JUST SHOW UP AND PITCH TENT! We drive to the pre-determined camping site that we found beforehand without a reservation. So far, so good… as there have always been space left for us to camp on (just in case there is nothing, you can just go to the Google map, input “camping” in a search area and voila… several options would usually come up instantaneously. And after a quick research, you have a back up. So far, so good. Thank God and Google!
5. Weather and Flexibility
We are currently at a wonderful camping site called La Verana in Los Picos de Europe–the highest mountain range in Spain. We chanced upon it when it got too late and dark for us to continue driving in the mountains to the original option two hours away. We could not have been happier with this improvised stop.
Not having to make a reservation gives you so much more flexibility and ability to adjust your schedule while on the road.
6. Meeting people. Do you knock on hotel rooms to meet your neighbours?? If so, you are most likely one of the very few (like my husband :)!! When camping, you see your neighbors every day and usually in their barest (not best) forms. You know, like first thing in the morning, no make up, and sometimes topless like this Dutch mother of two young kids in our last camping site who greeted Six, my husband, with a smile and a “Hallo!” as if it was the most normal thing to do).
It can be a burden sometimes. Most times though it was really interesting to observe or just exchange a few words with new people. On the little street at our current camping site, where we have our tent set up, there are co-campers from 8 different countries!! Everyone greets each other with a smile and hello… even tattooed bikers in leather jackets. Breaks down your little prejudices!
The other advantage is that kids can play together! More fun for them, more time for you! A pure win-win situation.
7. Adventure. Camping is quite an adventure; an “unplugged” one, if you let it. Having to survive without your children’s thousand favorite toys, being so close to nature that you can hear birds flapping their wings in mid-air and breathing fresh air into your lungs every morning–that’s it! Pure and simple. Even thunder and pouring rain were exciting for the kids! Have your kids write or draw on a journal! Camping generates great memories! It is worth putting some of it on paper.
8. Learn new skills for the little ones (and adults too)! Yes, for adults too! We all have been learning quite a bit during our camping adventures. Setting up and collapsing a tent, cooking in the windy rain, functioning with minimal equipment, being even more patient with kids. . . Speaking of kids, camping is a fantastic, hands-on school for them.
When Kaj and Karol fought today about who would be helping me out preparing dinner, I was actually enjoying their discussion. In the end, Karol cut the carrots and Kaj the bell pepper. And they both enjoyed eating the veggies that they cut, raw. Everybody was happy. Kids can (not only learn) but be entertained by the regular daily activities, like washing dishes or doing laundry. As long as there are buttons to press, things to cut, water to pour or splash, yes, they will learn to like it.
Six taught K+K the imaginary red line (between our neighbor’s plot and ours) today so vividly that K+K walked the red line, in a straight line. . . back and forth like little toy soldiers.
9. Space!!! Forget bumping into furniture in those small rental apartments being constantly in fear that your little one decides to use a vase as a football; those little balconies, terraces or even gardens (if you decide to go all out and rent a fancy house). At a camping site you have got so much SPACE and hey, it is for a fraction of the price! Just open your tent and let your kiddos out! Oftentimes, they’ll find other children to play with, play on their own, and sometimes even a simple rock may become the best toy ever!!
A camping site also provides a safe parking spot for your car. Usually, the parking is right in front of your tent/pitch. So, forget about finding FREE or PAID parking in any big city and leaving all your stuff in the car. Or, if there is a garage tall enough to fit your roof baggage carrier (over 2.3 meters, for example). Or wide enough to minimize all the other less mindful ones from scratching or bumping into your car.
Camping is fun! Yes, it is not a luxury vacation alternative. There are a lot of things that we can complain about camping too. But, and a Big BUTt at that, the benefits easily offset the complaints and discomfort. Try it and let us know what you think.It is so much worth it guys!
Have fun! See you on the road!
SHARING IS CARING! Please DO! Big Smile!