As a child I always wanted to go camping. Not camping in the traditional sense with portable stoves, folding chairs and insects, but to a European campsite in France or Italy like my friends and cousins. They’d come back with tans and tales of water parks, discos and shifting exotic, foreign lads. I’d be green with envy.
We holidayed annually but my mother, at the end of a year’s teaching and keeping house, exercised her right to demand a break from the drudgery of cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. As a result, a self-catering break was always out of the question and campsites were a no-no. Instead we had full-board stays in hotels closer to home, usually within the UK. No language barriers, no long flights, no cooking, no laundry. I think that to her, the notion of campsites and holiday parks conjured up images of sub-standard accommodation, forced fun and Redcoats (Hi-de-hi was big at the time). Butlins or anything similar would not have been her thing!
When Camping isn’t Really Camping
It wasn’t until we visited a campsite in Italy a few years back with our own kids that I realised how far from her grim imaginings campsites were and that, in fact, it wasn’t really camping at all. I’m pretty sure that real campers who erect tents and own Stanley knives are less than happy with the term being so flippantly bandied about in Brittany and Provence by people holed up in mobile homes with flat-screen TVs and Nespresso machines.
We went on our second ‘camping’ holiday in Spain last year and this summer we’re returning to a campsite in Italy. It looks like we’re converts. Yes, the more luxurious, pre-kids holidays were bloody fantastic – the expensive city breaks, the fine dining, the long-haul flights, the luxury beach resorts – but for now, we’re campsite folk. European campsites meet our needs at the moment in ways that other holidays don’t (and when I say ‘our’, I mean the three little dictators we annually fork out a month’s wages to entertain in the sun).
I’ve had conversations with friends who worry about camping holidays in the same way that my mother did; they’re unsure about what they’re getting and more importantly, what kind of luxuries they’ll be sacrificing. Despite my raving about the low cost, the activities on offer and the relative luxury (in comparison to actual proper camping, at least), many remain skeptical and unconvinced.
So, how DO you know if a campsite vaycay is for you?
This quiz will help you find out what kind of holiday-maker you really are…
1. You’re over the weight limit at the Ryanair check-in desk. What’s to blame?
a) Your Louis Vuitton vanity trunk and an assortment of gingham espadrilles.
b) Last year’s giant, inflatable shark and accompanying foot pump.
c) You travel with hand-luggage only. People should really try to minimise their carbon footprint, you know.
2. What else is in your suitcase?
a) A nautical-inspired capsule wardrobe; designer kaftans & swimwear; three Panama hats.
b) The same summer clothes you’ve had since 2002. Sure who’ll be looking at you?
c) Minimal clothing and obvious camping essentials including a solar fire-starter, a head-torch and a bumper pack of biodegradable bin-bags. And, eh, it’s not a suitcase, it’s a planet-friendly back pack made from organic hemp yarn.
3. Describe your ideal accommodation?
a) A junior suite with a superking, an ocean view and a turn-down service.
b) Whatevs. The kids will wreck the place anyway.
c) Once the site is sustainable and climate-neutral with facilities constructed of locally harvested wood and recyclable materials, you’re happy.
4. Describe a typical day on holiday.
a) Sailing in the morning, a scuba diving lesson from a dishy local on the offshore reef in the afternoon, followed by a relaxing dip in the infinity pool before dinner.
b) Reapplying sunscreen to little limbs and waiting for the kids’ club activities to start so you can attempt to finish the book you started in January.
c) Fishing in the local stream, exploring the wildflower meadow and visiting the market garden.
6. How would you plan on spending a rainy day?
a) Enjoying Water Shiatsu followed by a Hammam massage in the resort spa.
b) Sipping on cheap, local wine (it’s less expensive than water, so it’s just good financial sense) while the kids do crafts in the games’ room.
c) Shorts and wellies are ideal for exploring the Mediterranean ecosystem in the rain.
5. How do you like to spend your evenings on holiday?
a) A gastronomic fanfare of local offerings and paired wines followed by cocktails by moonlight on a catamaran.
b) Pizza and sufficient volumes of beer to get you through your performance of a carefully choreographed dance to Shake it Off in the family dance-off.
c) Sitting by the campfire enjoying a beautiful sunset – Mother Nature’s own entertainment.
You’re a bathrobe and slippers kinda gal. You’d choose a rejuvenating facial over mini-golf, a private beach over a flume-ride, a balcony over a barbecue. You like room service and minibars, memory foam and fluffy towels. You enjoy the finer things in life, preferably served to you on a sun lounger as part of an all-inclusive package. You don’t want to barbecue your breakfast, nor would you like to do a full Lidl grocery shop on your jollies. And THAT’S OK! I was you once. Then I had kids who spent all of my money.
You’ll be right at home in a mobile home or a safari tent in a European campsite. The informal and undemanding nature of a camping holiday is right up your street. No dressing for dinner means you don’t have to wear ill-fitting heels on hot, swollen feet. Freedom for the kids to safely roam the leafy avenues and enjoy kids’ club activities while you get quietly tipsy in the sun is exactly what you need. This kind of holiday allows you to pare it back a little without going full-on Bear Grylls. And it won’t break the bank.
You’re a purist and you’re much too hardcore for mobile homes and hot showers. A colourful camping ‘resort’ probably isn’t for you. You want to reconnect with nature. Go forth in search of a Geosite in the mountains where you can forage for mugwort and mushrooms, fish for your supper and wake up to the sound of birdsong and lambs bleating. We are mere imposters. The closest we’ll ever get is glamping in a heated yurt with Wifi. We salute you.
Go on, which are you? Have you been camping or do you tend to avoid them? Perhaps you can you gut a fish with your bare hands, garnish it with wild garlic and cook it on a fire started with sticks? Share your comments below.