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International travel is up in the air – pun intended. And even if it’s possible to go abroad this year, many won’t want to. Flying is likely to be expensive, and negotiating lockdown rules in foreign countries could potentially be more stressful than getting to grips with the rules at home.
But all is not lost, as 2020 looks set to be the year camping truly has its moment. Campsites are recording “disproportionately high” levels of bookings, said Cool Camping, which received its best ever day of trade this May and a 60% bookings spike compared to this time last year. And camping retailer Go Outdoors said sales are up 460% year-on-year.
“After people have been cooped up indoors for so long, there’s likely to be a strong demand for ‘fresh-air holidays’,” says Jon Boston from the British Holiday & Home Parks Association. “Plus, a chance to reconnect with nature and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of being out in the countryside.”
Boston says parks located largely in rural and coastal areas are also ideal for social distancing. Camping pitches are generally spaced five or six metres apart, and provide spacious grounds to exercise and relax safely.
Another reason the humble holiday is set to boom? It appeals to many different personality types: those who want to stay at home, so needn’t go so far as their back garden. The family campers, the romance campers, the adventure campers. The campers who always camp – and this year are going further, for longer, because why not?
But how likely is a camping holiday this year, given that such a trip is considered “non-essential” and would require most holidaymakers to use communal toilets and showers?
“As far as a hoped-for date is concerned, we hope [to open our parks] as soon as possible this summer, but only when government gives the go-ahead and it’s safe to do so,” says Boston.
“"As far as a hoped-for date is concerned, we hope [to open our parks] as soon as possible."”
“Measures taken by camping parks will vary according to their circumstances, but we are drawing up a detailed list of recommendations for parks to put in place,” Boston adds.
With our fingers firmly crossed for summer 2020 season, HuffPost UK spoke to campers to hear their stories – and words of wisdom – to inspire our future camping trips.
The Family Campers
Kiera Tuck, 42, and her son Noah, six: “We love going bug hunting and bird watching.”
“I’m a single mother of two boys: Luke is 23 and my youngest, Noah, is six. I’m a full-time carer for Noah, who has Type 1 diabetes, ADHD and autism. Usually, we go camping two or three times a year, visiting Wales and Yorkshire. Due to my son’s autoimmune disease, we’ve been self-isolating for more than 70 days.
“We love camping so much, we’ve set up our tent in our garden twice since lockdown – once was to watch the meteor shower! It’s important to us because being outdoors makes Noah feel happy, calm and content. He loves the the peace and quiet. We love going bug hunting and bird watching, too, and Noah photographs everything he likes.
“When I first went camping I was very nervous because of my son’s disabilities – but everyone's caring, welcoming and friendly."”
“When I first went camping I was nervous because of Noah’s disabilities. I was unsure how other campers would find his quirky ways, but I needn’t have worried. Everyone’s so caring, welcoming and friendly. I’ve felt free, happy, safe and totally relaxed.
“The start up costs can be expensive, but well worth it. Don’t get a cheap tent – go for quality. And I’d advise new campers take duct tape, spare tent pegs (they always bend) an electric pump and the crucial tin opener!
“I’m unsure if we’ll get to go camping properly this year, which of course we’re really sad about, but saving lives by staying home is much more important. We’re already making plans for our adventures next year – we might even look for our first festival to attend!”
The Life-Long Camper
Fiona Whitten, 60: “It’ll be a different experience when we do get away, for sure, but I can’t wait to get away again.”
“My husband Carl and I should’ve been in North Wales in our caravan right now, but the virus put paid to that. It’ll be a different experience when we do get away, for sure, but I can’t wait to get away again. We just have to be aware of distancing!
“I first went in a caravanning at six weeks old – and 60 years on, I still love it. It’s the sense of freedom and a love of nature that keeps us entertained. We use our caravan every Bank Holiday – and all our main holidays. We’ve been members of a camping and caravanning club for nearly 40 years. My sons used to think they were gypsies as we were away every weekend whilst they were young!
“There is no routine and set times for anything. Get up when you like, sit round the BBQ under the stars."”
“Caravanning and camping is my happy place. There’s no routine and set times for anything. Get up when you like, sit around the BBQ under the stars. No having to get dressed for dinner. I love the randomness of being in the woods one day and out on surfboard the next.
“If you’ve never camped before, try it. You can start out with a cheap caravan or tent and use equipment from home. If you’ve got children, they’ll love the freedom of making new friends – and it even gives parents a bit of free time.”
The Festival Camper
Shell Robshaw-Bryan and Mark Stuart, 40s: “We can get dressed up in festival gear, and have an at-home imagination festival instead!”
“We used to go to V festival every year, and we also go to Blue Dot, so we’re totally gutted to be missing them – we’re even going to miss Glaston-Telly, which has become a tradition for us! Hopefully there’ll be some live streaming music, or re-runs of festival footage on TV we can watch. We can get dressed up in festival gear, and have an at-home imagination festival instead.
“Each year, a big group of us go down to the coast in Wales for a few days of tunes, drinking, sunshine, barbecues and fun, so we’ll be doing that again at some point – we just have to wait until restrictions have lifted, but we’ll absolutely be having our own mini festival.
“We even do face painting and dress as though we’re at a festival, too. I think that’s as close as any of us are going to get to a real experience this year sadly.
“Remember the joy of running off into the woods for hours on end and building dens as a child? That’s the feeling of freedom that camping rekindles in me every time.”
“I run my own camping blog, Camping with Style, and traffic has been up 20% in the last week alone. It seems people are realising a UK staycation will be their only option.
“Camping makes me feel free. Remember the joy of running off into the woods for hours on end and building dens as a child? That’s the feeling of freedom that camping rekindles in me every time. I hate being cooped up indoors and am always at my happiest when I’m outdoors or sleeping under canvas – even when the weather is less than perfect.
“Being able to wake up to the sound of the sea, to unzip the tent and gaze out at a beautiful coastal landscape is a simple joy I never get tired of.”
The First-Time Camper
Amy Cowlishaw, 39: “It sounds cliché but the experience of ‘being at one with nature’ was truly lovely.”
“It was my first time camping when I took part in the Great British Campout for the NHS. It looked exciting and I was in need of a ‘night away’. We borrowed a tent from a friend, set it up in the garden and joined in the fun.
“I loved sitting out with the fire pit with music, a few beers (Prosecco for me) and star-gazing. It really did feel like we were on holiday even though we were metres away from our house. It was a totally different experience to any holiday I’ve been on. And camping is an easy way to get away – you can load up your car with your gear and set off.
“I know it sounds cliché but the experience of ‘being at one with nature’ was lovely. Spending time outside and waking up to the sounds of the birds as the sun was rising was marvellous. We also had our own little visitor, Poppy our cat, in the morning.
“Spending time outside and waking up to the sounds of the birds as the sun was rising was marvellous.”
“If you do it, I’d say make sure you’re prepared and test any equipment before your break. We had a blow up bed that we didn’t try out – all was fine until we woke up during the night and the bed had gone down, so we were sleeping on the floor! We found the funny side of it, luckily.
“I never knew there was such a big camping community so it’s a fantastic way to meet new people as well.”