Now that we are well into the school holidays, some of you may be just going on or just returning from your summer break – either way, you are probably dealing with an alarming amount of socks and underpants!
We had our main trip away last weekend at Camp Bestival in Dorset, which I highly recommend – all the spirit of a festival but without people drunkenly falling on your tent or chucking gas canisters on to bonfires.
Still, there is no avoiding the fact that a family camping trip is like a major military operation. You can easily spot those families off on such a trip because their cars are so packed they can’t see out the back window. It’s like some universal challenge; which family can fit the most stuff from their house into their car?
Of course, the upside to this fairly dangerous lack of driver visibility is that your children are so tightly wedged in between pillows and sleeping bags that they’re forced to sit still.
Camping brings to light a whole new set of challenges for you and your family, like finding ways to keep yourselves entertained without all the usual technology and the conundrum of opening a bottle of wine when you’ve left the corkscrew at home.
Suddenly you have to make do with whatever you have – and the argument over who is doing the dishes is intensified by the fact they’ll have to walk half-a-mile to queue for a sink.
It’s not unheard of to wake in the morning to find pools of water inside the tent, or to spend frustrating moments at 2am fumbling around in the dark trying to find the torch when you are desperate for the toilet.
But there are many lovely moments too, like when your children bond friendships with the next door campers, or when you are all happily sat around a barbecue while the sun goes down.
For me, it’s one of those rare opportunities in life when I don’t have to worry too much about keeping things tidy or how my hair looks, and there’s little point in ironing clothes beforehand because as soon as the tent goes up they are somehow mysteriously all over the floor.
I happily resign myself to the fact that for the next few days we will live within the kind of environment that brings to mind a major crime scene.
Camping can remind you of what is important in life and really bring you down to earth – quite literally if your blow up bed deflates itself as frequently as ours does. You return home full of appreciation for the commonplace amenities of everyday life.
You can’t beat that moment when you get into your own bed, no longer having to wrestle with the zip of a sleeping bag and can relish in the pure luxury of your own private toilet and free flowing hot water.
It’s enough to give you a brand new outlook on life – for a couple of days at least, until you are forced to face up to the pile of earth-infused washing and smelly wellies.