This is a piece I wrote for some coursework, so takes a slightly different tone than usual. See what you think . . .
With many families budgeting more and more the uptake on a package holiday has decreased somewhat in recent years. In contrast, more parents are looking for a cost effective alternative and, perhaps over romanticising their own childhood memories, are taking up camping in a bid to spend ‘quality time’ with their offspring. But is camping the same as in the days of yore?
When I was a child I remember camping trips with my parents and brothers being the most exciting part of the summer holidays. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a package holiday and the costs and stress of taking three children on an airplane would just about have finished my father off.
The night before we went my parents would be packing the car with exciting essential equipment – wellies, pac-o-macs, buckets (to bail out the tent) – and in the morning we would climb onto the heap of sleeping bags laid out across the back seats, legs up on bags squashed down the foot well (no seatbelts in those days) and off we would go. My parents would choose a place to visit, usually Thetford forest or Aldeburgh, and once we got within range they would just hunt down a campsite and pay per night to pitch up in a field at a rough fee of £2 a night.
In recent years enthusiasm for camping has grown again, with an increase in camping and caravanning trips of 20% in 2009 according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey. Camping itself seems to have changed somewhat, with campsites having to provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment to attract families. With the ease of so much information available online, the discerning family camper can pick and choose their campsite based on amenities such as the shower block, washing facilities, children entertainment room and of course, the essential free wifi. Gone are the days where children would be expected to roam the forest or paddle along the rocky beaches with no other entertainment. Now, no matter how ‘rustic’ the camping experience, we would not dream of going anywhere without ready access to facebook. Electricity is available to power fridges and heaters. Last time I went camping, the neighbours turned up with their 24 inch TV. Pitching up in a field can still be done, of course, and that is sold as a unique selling point, with rural campsites advertising ‘camping as it used to be’.
The equipment has also improved. Gone are the days when touching the side of the tent in the night meant waking up in a soaking sleeping bag. Now tents are drier, warmer and much more roomier. Inner sleeping rooms can be bought in a dark fabric to prevent the light waking up the little darlings at dawn. Collapsible and inflatable furniture means a tent can be furnished with sofa and wardrobes without taking up too much room in the car. Indeed a new phenomenon of ‘glamping’ sees some campers taking rugs, beds, duvets and microwaves – a real home away from home.
Thankfully though, not everything has changed. Small children still enjoy the experience of snuggling up in their sleeping bags and listening to the exciting and scary sounds of the outdoors. One of the great things about camping that does remain is the sense of community, possibly born from the relief of knowing that every other adult there is as soggy, tired and insane as you are. However it is true that, as with no other holiday, campers are a friendly lot who can be chatting to the neighbours, assisting complete strangers in putting up their tents, sharing a hammer and rescuing stray children within minutes of finding their patch of grass. There seems to be an unwritten rule on a campsite of keeping an eye on each others belongings. Where else would you deposit your personal items and hundreds of pounds of cooking gear, sleeping bags and foldable tables and, having secured them carefully within a formidable shield of fabric and a zip, wander away for the whole day while fairly certain no one would breach the barrier.
As one mother said, ‘the community atmosphere is brilliant and there is a real sense of spending time together as a family that you just don’t get on a holiday abroad’.
Is modern camping an improvement? Parents certainly do appreciate having adequate showers and toilets nearby and, televisions aside, it does get families out and about and spending time together still. At the end of the week though, one thing has not changed. By the time the tent is packed up, the dirty washing stuffed back into the footwell and the sleeping bags on their way home to be aired, any mother can tell you camping is hard work and there is no relaxing. It’s not what I would call a holiday.