School holiday camping trips are a rite of passage for children and parents alike. For the kids, it’s what memories are made of- sleeping in the Great Outdoors and eating sausages for days. For parents, it’s an exercise in not committing infanticide while attempting to relax whilst covered in sand and/or dirt.
We’ve just returned today from a four night stay in the Cotton Tree Caravan Park here on the Sunshine Coast with another family with whom we’ve had the odd non-enjoyable camping holiday … there was that time when we spent the entire day helicopter parenting an 18 month old Sussie around a beach infested with wild dogs and bogans in 4WDs (she spent the last two days of that trip playing in the car, where she couldn’t escape). By Sundowner Time, she was asleep, exhausted from the day. In comparison, our friends spent the days watching us run around while they lay around on beach towels, reading the paper and doting on their non-moving and very placid nine month old. Until Sundowner Time when we sat around the campfire watching their attempts to put her to bed; that kid solidly refused to sleep unless at least one parent was with her all the time and even then not that well. So it was all a bit shit in the socialising stakes for us.
Now the kids are older, we’re all a little wiser and surely could pool our available resources together to actually have a pleasant time camping. Surely we could put a bit more of the ‘I’ in ‘Holiday’ I was banging on about here a while ago? Well we did, to a certain extent. Here’s how:
- Appropriately aged children
Babies and camping don’t mix. I’ve done it. You can do it. But it’s unpleasant with the crying and the nappies and the special food and the eating of sand/dirt/sticks/charcoal etc. This time all of our kids were out of nappies and happy to watch a screen whenever we turned it on (at Sundowner Time) instead of the sad little story above. There were still illogical tantrums about unicorns, but she wasn’t eating a unicorn found next to the campfire, so all in all, it’s much better to camp with kids when they’re older.
Because you and your noisy kids will no doubt piss off the Grey Nomads and probably everyone else in a kilometre radius if you have to run between tents and camper trailers, it is best to have camp sites together so you can corral yourselves in a wall of canvas (also a good time to give the kids some nerf guns and tell them to protect the camp) and keep the kids inside. Our friends broke rank and took a coveted water site (usually reserved for the GNs) leaving us back in the boon docks of the park, but we just took our chairs over and apart from sleeping at our own site, we spent our time there. All the smug caravanners in their prime water front sites must have thought the Tardis had come to town or that Harry Potter was staying in his magical camper trailer next door with the amount of people coming in and out.
Those kids need to be able to wander. It’s not right to have to get out of your camp chair and follow your child around every time they toddle out of the camp corral. This is why camping on a beach (sandpit) or in a forest (fairy woodland) is much more preferable to staying in a fancy apartment (expensive breakable shit everywhere) or camped on a river bed (water hazard). Of course there is the sand and the dirt you’ll need to contend with, but dirt isn’t expensive to replace so clearly my logic here is unbreakable. Our friends asked us if we indeed had a second child: The Boetman only surfaced from the beach when he got sand in his eye or was hungry (about once a day).
The thing about kids is that they love sausages and generally hate vegetables which is lucky because the healthy food pyramid should always be inverted when you’re camping out: living in the wilds (of Maroochydore) means parental skills can go on standby in the diet department. For a break from the sausages we went down the road to the surf club for chicken nuggets and chips. We even managed to cover the fruit spectrum by smearing everything in tomato sauce. We fed ourselves a steady diet of potato chips and camembert.
5. Screen time
Yeah, you’re camping and screens should be kept to a minimum so you can enjoy the Great Outdoors. But you know what? There’s not a lot to see outdoors at night when you’re camped next to a town who’s lights have obliterated any chance of seeing actual stars. And the kids have been playing in the sand pit all day so they are usually at the end of being pleasant and at the beginning of being little whingey shits. And as our friend said- “This screen time’s for me: not the kids! *looks-in-direction-of-sunset-he-missed-trying-to-get-the-TV-to-work*”
6. Camping Gear
Yes, they had a TV. If you can, I always recommend going on a camping trip with people who are ridiculously organised and have every gadget which can open and shut. Then you can piggy-back on all their awesome things they have like a TV and new camp chairs which were like off-the-ground beanbags and I think I need to go and get one.
Spending half the day accompanying small children to the toilet is bloody tedious at the best of times. When you’re camping and it’s a 200 metre walk to the amenities block, it’s mind blowingly irritating. Like trying to pierce your ear with a toothpick. So if you have to take one child, call out for a general toilet trip for all children and you knock out at least half your wee&poo trudge. There’s also the benefit of having the other parents supervise your kids while you sleep off lunch or having an adult back you up when you remind your child that food is for eating, not spitting, that sand is not for throwing, that holes dug in the sand can be shareable (or just dig your own you lazy twit) etc etc.
There are a lot of other benefits of camping with friends including actually spending time with them. And this happened. How delightfully different to that other camping trip.
Do you prefer to camp with friends?
Or not at all??
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