After last year’s successful camping trip with mum friends from school and our farming group, we were all champing at the bit to book another trip this year. For most of us it was a first time camping with the children, and even though the 1 or 2 days of rain wasn’t the most fun we had, the children had such a wonderful time (as did the mums) that it was a nobrainer to go again as a group.
Of course we could book a few cabins or caravans at a holiday park, or forest site, or book a couple of cottages somewhere, but it would be so much more expensive. And the flexibility wouldn’t be as great. We found that going right at the start of the summer holidays worked out well, when some of us finish school ahead of others meaning we could miss a lot of the holiday rush. Others in the group could join us a few days later when their children broke up. Campsite booking means we have a choice of turning up and leaving whatever day we want rather than being limited by booking which are either 3, 4 or 7 days, and have to start on a specific day.
The discussions about booking this year’s break started before Christmas. We’d decided that most of the group from last year would go again, and which dates. Then we had to decide on the campsite. Did we want to go back to the same one as last time which was brilliant, but the older children wanted surf rather than the shallows of Weymouth which meant finding different beaches.
With a mix in ages from nearly 2 to 11 years, it means we need somewhere with a mix of beaches – preferably sand for the younger ones, with some gently sloping waters, and options of waves for the older ones. And plenty to do if we want to visit places and not just spend time on the beach.
Being fairly central, it means we’re pretty much within 3 hours journey of South Wales and the south coast of England, but England won out with the prospect of (hopefully) better weather. A couple of the group asked around for campsite recommendations and searched online and we found what looks like a great campsite in Devon. It’s more expensive than last year’s as it includes 2 adults in the price (most of us will just be one adult), and then children, gazebos, and other items on top. But it’s still cheaper than just one adult going away for a few nights in a cheap B&B.
We’re all really excited about going, and I’m already researching upgrading my tent to get one with standing room, a proper sewn in groundsheet (not one that claims to be but still has gaps), and possible 2 rooms.
Going away in a group is brilliant fun (I’m not sure I’d go camping with N on my own), but there’s a lot to think about when looking for and booking your campsite. Here’s my tips for organising a camping trip and booking a campsite.
Tips for booking a campsite
1, Start thinking about it early
While you can do last minute camping trips, if you’re going with more than one tent and are particular about the campsite you want, whether you want electric hook ups etc, then you need to be organised and start booking early.
2, Choose an area
Especially if you’ve never been camping before, you’ll need the time after booking to plan what you need to take. With the internet it’s really easy to research – choose an area, look up campsites in that area, and ask around friends and family. There’s usually someone who’s been to a campsite to ask about their experience.
If you’re staying on the campsite all the time, then the surrounding area is less important, but if you want to get out and about, think about activities, places to visit and beaches.
3, Work out who you’re going with
If you’re going on your own, then it’s easy to decide, but if you’re going in a group shortlist everyone’s requirements and dates, plus the type of pitches everyone wants, and make some decisions.
4, Choose your pitch type
Now, I’m talking family camping here. Obviously if you want wild camping then you’ll have very different places to look and things to think about. But generally if you’re looking for family camping, the choice is size of pitch size – sometimes it’s one size, other times there are supersize pitches – and electric hook ups or not.
If you’ve got older children and are allowing them electronic time or want to charge phones then electric hook up is essential (many campsites do have charging points onsite). Similarly if you want to be quicker to get your tea or coffee in the morning, then have electric, save your camping stove space and take a kettle.
When thinking about your pitch requirements, bear in mind that many campsites expect you to park within your pitch as well, so if you’re having someone join you later, there might be an additional charge for their car, and you may need the extra space books.
5, Campsite facilities
I don’t think I’m that fussy but I do require several things when camping. A nice toilet and shower block. And wifi.
Last year’s campsite said they had it but it wasn’t in evidence when we arrived, so we lived without and relied on data when available. This year’s we know there’s definitely wifi masts on site. Ok, so camping’s meant to be able switching off, but sometimes I do need to check and clear out my emails to avoid a backlog when I get home.
And showers and toilets. Unless you’re going wild camping you’ll want decent facilities, especially if you’re not hardened campers. Campsites do win awards for their toilet facilities so you may be surprised at how nice they are. Look out for family showers too.
Bear in mind washing up facilities too. Ideally you want various points around the campsite because you don’t want to be walking miles from one end to the other.
6, Activities and entertainment
It might be a bit ‘Hi de Hi’, but campsite activities and entertainment will vary. Some will have nothing, others may have an activity hub – with kids activities, playground and/or soft play. If you’re going camping with children and want them to get a bit of independence and make some holiday friends then it’s worth finding a campsite with at least a playground, preferably fenced off. If it’s a small campsite and you’ve younger children but still want them to be able to go off on their own to explore, then being near or within view of the playground is perfect. Larger campsites, you might find the play area in another field or out of site, which will be better for older children being able to roam.
At last year’s campsite, there was a playground, a football area with goals a covered table tennis table. Oh and a dog walking area where dogs could go off the lead.
Many campsite also have pop up entertainment and food offers. This seems to be quite a popular option at many campsites I’ve looked at – instead of having to cook every night, you can have pizza and/or a night in the bar with entertainment at the weekends.
7, Book your pitch
Booking your pitch isn’t always as simple as you think. Many campsite costs include 2 adults, so check if you’ll be paying for additional children, or whether the children can go down as an adult if there’s only one adult camping. Check the pitch size you need to book, check if other items like additional cars or gazebos etc cost extra.
If you’re planning on going on holiday as a group, also check if there are any limits for tents booking as a group. For example, we’ve got about 7 or 8 tents/families going, but our campsite only lets 4 book together. We’ve worked round it because we’re going in different stages over the week. Also if booking as a group, speak to the campsite to see if you can all be put near each other. If you book far enough in advance this may be manageable.
Of course, you could just let someone else organise the whole lot and you just need to turn up! But hopefully these tips have been useful if it’s your first time going camping on a family holiday.
Do you go camping? What do you look out for when you’re booking a campsite?
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