PHS columnist, Elisabeth Hobbes, tells us what she loves about camping and editor Robyn Rychards talks about the joys of staying in a hotel. There's something for everyone!
My first camping experience was back in the 80's in a soggy, windswept field above Rhyl, in a tent that seemed to be made from tissue paper. If you so much as looked at the canvas, the water pooled on the inside and slid down. Anything touching it got damp. It was a week from Hell. Wet feet. Wet clothes. Wet and miserable. Wet and cold. I vowed, never again.
And I didn’t for years. I spent my holidays in Cornish cottages, Greek villas or fancy city hotels. So what changed my mind? One thing: Children. Kid1 and Kid2. Suddenly camping became more appealing for a number of reasons.
Reason 1- Cost. Travelling has always been a big part of my life but cutting my hours, and the other expenses of having children, meant we couldn’t do it to the same extent. Camping gear is relatively cheap to come by online, either new or used. A French campsite can cost as little as €17 a night, even in August, so we can get away pretty much every school holiday without having to sell our kidneys on return. Kid1 came with us to a festival when he was around ten months old and Kid2’s first camping trip was at five months old – 3am breastfeeds on an inflatable mattress is no mean feat!
Reason 2- Freedom. From single field sites on the Gower to the village sized parks in Europe, the kids can be free range in a way they can’t at home, living as we do on a busy road. They’re old enough to play without me watching their every move. I can relax with a glass of wine while they go feral with other kids, and charge manically round until dark, climbing trees and wearing themselves out so they sleep.
Reason 3- Nature. Waking up to the scent of grass in Devon or dust in Spain is a great start to the day. Sitting under the stars at night, or bat and rabbit watching, equally so. A 2 a.m. loo trip becomes a moment of wonder with a star filled sky that goes on into infinity. Even in bad weather, there’s something comforting about drifting off to sleep with the rain pattering on the roof.
Reason 4- Cooking and eating outdoors. BBQs every night! What’s not to love?
Reason 5- Equipment. It’s changed a lot. No more Swallows and Amazons, scout-camp-style grimness, with poles that always have a section missing. Modern tents are big enough to stand upright in, properly waterproofed and go up in minutes. Our cube springs out of the bag like a jack-in-a-box and only needs four pegs. Our latest inflates with a hand pump. The stove runs on ecofuel, not industrial-sized Calorgas bottles. Inflatable mattresses are actually comfortable. We have electricity!
We started out with a tent but four years ago we came across the Amdro Boot Jump. A genius piece of kit that fits into the back of our Peugeot Partner. It's a seating area during the day and a bed at night with a built-in stove and storage space. We sewed curtains to make it look like a circus tent and the Kids slept in a tent linked with an awning. We traveled as far as Italy and central Spain with that set up.
This year things have changed because I’m getting grumpy about 3 a.m. toilet trips (mine, not the Kids’). We’ve become part of the towing crowd and bought a small caravan with a bigger tent and awning.
By the time you’re reading this we’ll be somewhere in France en route to Spain. I’ll be lying in bed as the kettle boils while the Kids head to the campsite shop on a mission to find fresh croissants for breakfast.
You can’t do that at home!
For more information about Elisabeth Hobbes and her latest release - Redeeming the Rogue Knight - check out her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Not To Camp
When I go on vacation, I want it to be just that, a vacation. A chance to not only see things I’ve never seen, but an opportunity to get away from what I do at home. As a woman and a mom, that means getting away from cooking and cleaning. So one of the biggest joys of going on a trip for me is not having to worry about what to make for the next meal, much less cleaning all those dirty dishes. That's why camping doesn’t feel like a vacation. True, there’s something to be said for waking up in the great outdoors, and camping is very cost effective, but if it means I have to cook and clean—and don’t even get me started on how uncomfortable it is, or the lack of a real restroom—I’d much rather stay in a cheap hotel. Though, of course, a five star one is even better!
One of the great things about hotels is the wide variety of options you now have for the kind of place you want to stay, where you want that place to be, and how much you want to pay. Thank you internet! These days a person isn’t stuck with using only big name hotels that are easy to book, needing a travel agent, a travel club, or relying on word of mouth. The lovely worldwide web provides not only the means to find a place to stay, but also gives you all the information you could possibly need about that place. I love it! Even better? Now there’s places like Airbnb and Flipkey. With these options, you can find something with any amenity, and in any price range you want. From an island villa to an attic room in Paris.
This doesn’t mean I’m knocking a stay at the Ritz, enjoying room service and having everything you need at your fingertips. I’m all for that. But if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, something that will give you the true flavor of the area you’re visiting, check out those websites. Finding a place to stay using this kind of a tool opens up endless opportunities and experiences, no matter what type of vacation or accommodation you’re looking for.
An equally great way to find a place to stay, are websites like Trivago and TripAdvisor. You can search your destination and the dates you're traveling, and up pops a list of available places, as well as sites to book them on. So, although I’ve done my share of camping, and have enjoyed it occasionally, I’ll pick a hotel-type accommodation every time!
For more information about Robyn Rychards and her latest release - Second Time's the Charm - check out her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Which camp are you in? Do you like being close to nature or do you struggle to understand why people pay to sleep in a field? Tell us in the comments and/or use #camping #glamping or #lapofluxury to join the #PHS discussion on Social Media.