Camping is like Marmite - you either love it or you hate it. Quite often people's view of life under canvas is tainted by a bad experience.
But it doesn't have to be that way. With the right attitude, a bit of organisation and some essential kit you could be making marvellous family memories this summer.
I feel really passionate about camping. Obviously if faced with a week of rain in a tent with five children and a husband, I reserve the right to retract that statement. Even so, children and camping are a match made in heaven.
The freedom from our normally high tech lives, the fresh air, cooking outdoors, getting back to nature are wonderful as is not getting caught up in airport hell. Plus it's cheap.
Here are my Top 10 tips to make your camping holiday heavenly.
Try before you buy. Borrow a tent and equipment from a friend and go for the weekend. But don't venture too far from home, just in case.
Essential equipment. You don't want to pack the kitchen sink, but there are a few must-haves. Ours include a pump that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter for beds inflated in minutes, a large flask that holds litres of freshly boiled water and means that even if it's raining or windy outside we can safely have that all-important hot drink, and lots of torches. Also a dustpan and brush, it's amazing how much grass and sand children can trail in.
Stay warm: If you're cold you'll be miserable so hot water bottles, layers, decent sleeping bags and (sometimes) duvets are a must. Blankets under the airbed help stop the cold too.
Food, cooker and utensils: A cooker with sides to protect the flame from the wind is essential as is proper (not plastic) cutlery and enamel plates, bowls and mugs. Eating off plastic just makes me feel miserable. Non-stick pans and a large frying pan hasten washing up.
I hate to say it but wet weather gear. If you're prepared then it won't feel so bad. It's amazing how muddy campsites can get so wellies are essential. There's no such thing as bad weather just bad gear. Remember to pack games and books for any rainy days too.
A whirly-gig: These flags and windsocks fluttering on the end of a special, flexible, long pole will help point your children in the right direction. And you. It's surprising how many tents look the same.
Organisation: Keep plastic boxes with lids full of your camping gear, organised of course, for quick get aways. It also makes keeping the tent tidy, something that can be come quite an obsession when you're living in a small space.
Research your site. If you're after peace and quiet and it has an on-site clubhouse chances are it's not the place for you. Similarly, if you have small children check that your site isn't on a cliff edge. Arm yourself about potential on-site hazards, just in case. If you don't like busy sites, it might be best to avoid Bank Holiday weekends.
A little bit of time for mum and dad: No matter how tired you are, try to carve out a bit of time for yourselves. There's nothing like watching shooting stars as you sip your hot chocolate outside the tent while the little ones snuggle down in their bags. Have them join you for a bit then pack them off.
- Attitude: This is the key to having a great time I think. Drop your standards and expectations and relax about bedtimes and bath times. Tired grubby children are a sign of a good holiday. Oh, and expect a bit of bad weather. Then you won't be too miserable if it does rain.
Above all enjoy yourself. We still talk fondly of the festival trip we made with four children, one of them seven months old, in which one child threw up in the middle of the night over three sleeping bags and an air bed deflated. Ah, the stuff of family memories......
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