I have never ever liked the idea of camping. There I said it. It’s just not for me, well at least I thought it wasn’t. The idea of sleeping in a field, making my dinner on a tiny stove and getting wet and muddy as the weather isn’t particularly reliable, just isn’t my idea of a fun time. Give me a hotel and a comfy bed any day of the week. However I know that a lot of families love camping and I have to admit, a tiny part of me can see why they love it. I do love the idea of getting up close to nature, to going back to basics and to spending quality time together without the distractions of a television screen.
Therefore we decided to edge ourselves slowly into the mysterious world of camping as a family by going on our first ever glamping weekend in beautiful South Wales. After deciding on our location, I spent many an evening looking up campsites and glamping options- we could have stayed in a yurt, a bell tent, a gypsy caravan, a teepee, pretty much anywhere. Eventually we found a really lovely campsite that took our fancy, Dewslake Camping, a quiet site situated on the edge of Pembrokeshire National Park, just six short miles from the picturesque harbour town of Tenby.
Now obviously having never camped before, choosing a campsite was a little bit of a minefield to me. Did we need an electrical hook up pitch? Would I have to shower in a port-a-cabin in the middle of nowhere? What would the toilets be like? I made sure I researched the camp site and read the Trip Advisor reviews before choosing. Dewslake got great reviews and people were saying it was quiet, clean and friendly- that sounded perfect for us. There was also the question of what we would sleep in, with Dewslake offering bell tents, glamping caravans and regular camping pitches. First glance at their website told me their bell tents were fully booked, but luckily I found an amazing gem by doing a bit more browsing online.
Not Just Any Tent specialise in beautiful bell tents and they will come and pitch them for you, completely taking the hassle out of camping. Now some people may say erecting your tent is the fun part- but not for me. With two small children aged 3 and 1, I wanted to dip my toe into the world of glamping without too much work. We picked the Bells and Whistles package which meant we got some lovely extra touches like floor cushions, bunting, inflatable beds, twinkly lights and duvets. Yes duvets- this definitely sounded like my kind of camping. Not Just Any Tent were great, chatting to us about our requirements, coordinating with the campsite and agreeing to the time and date we were staying. I found the price to be incredibly reasonable £245 for two nights. (Remember you need to pay for your pitch with the campsite too.)
We arrived at Dewslake to find our tent ready and waiting for us, complete with pretty bunting which stood out like a sore thumb amidst the sea of regular tents and caravans. My children were so excited to peek inside and we couldn’t have been more thrilled with what we found- the tent was large, spacious and perfectly kitsch there were twinkle lights, Cath Kidston esq duvets, a table with a vase of flowers and lots of cosy extras. The campsite was lovely, being my first time I was a little apprehensive at what to expect, but the toilet and shower block was basic but really clean, and our fellow campers were a nice crowd.
We ended up having a fantastic time. My little girls found the whole experience a real adventure and the bell tent was large enough to fit our travel cot (something which I checked beforehand) meaning that my one year was still familiar with her surroundings and unable to escape. The inflatable beds were surprisingly comfy, and although it got pretty chilly at night, there was an abundance of cosy blankets supplied by Not Just Any Tent. South Wales is a beautiful area- we visited Barafundle Bay and Tenby which were simply gorgeous.
Here are my top 5 worries I had before we stayed and my thoughts now
Camping will be cold, dirty and I will miss my creature comforts.
Yes it was cold, even in August, and I have to admit to the rookie error of not bringing enough warm layers with me. But after a quick trip to the shop to buy a comfy pair of joggers and a hoody, and a fair few blankets over us, we were actually quite cosy. It was nice to snuggle up together to keep warm. Obviously I am sure it depends on the campsite you go to, but Dewslake was basic but clean and I had a shower in the morning which was lovely and hot.
Camping will be unsuitable for small children.
This was one of my biggest worries- while I know that families of all ages love to camp, I was worried my children were slightly too young and wouldn’t benefit from it- little niggles like them being cold, or being kept awake, or waking ridiculously early. As mentioned above I researched before we went and found that our bell tent would be able to accommodate our travel cot, this was perfect as it meant that my youngest daughter wouldn’t be able to keep getting out of bed or get confused as she has never slept in a bed before. Admittedly they did take longer to fall asleep than normal, but that was due to the fact that the tent was quite light and there were older children playing ball games on the grass surrounding our tent- however by 9.30pm they were fast asleep and they slept till 7am the next day. In fact, the whole thing was a complete adventure for them and they absolutely loved the opportunity to do something a little different. In some ways it was easier than staying in a hotel room as we could sit outside once they were asleep- the weather was good though so I don’t know what we would have done if it rained.
I’m a little bit of a worrier, what about the safety aspects?
I’m a natural born worrier and I did wonder whether I would feel safe in a flimsy tent in the middle of nowhere. Our natural instinct is to lock our doors at night so it did feel slightly surreal to sleep in a unlocked tent with just a piece of material separating me from the rest of the campsite. In actual fact, I felt safe and fine, the campsite was in a nice area and although I still did feel a little odd about the fact I was out in the open and didn’t sleep the best I ever had, I still managed to relax and sleep well. We did have a funny moment about 4am one night where my husband and I were woken up by the delightful sounds of a couple ‘enjoying’ themselves- it went on for about an hour and in the morning we were trying to figure out who it was! Bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper.
What will we do once the kids are in bed?
All parents with young children will have done the same when they have stayed in a hotel- you put them down to bed and either have the option of sitting in the bathroom reading a book or going to bed at 7.30pm alongside them, therefore I was a little worried about what we would do once they were asleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere with no electricity. But actually it was refreshingly nice, we bought some Pimms with us and sat outside watching the sun go down reading our books. When it was dark we sat and chatted, huddled close together with blankets over us, it was nice to reconnect and not have the distractions of the television or computers. Remember to bring a few torches if you want to read after dark.
I’m just not a camping person.
Camping has never hugely appealed to me before, I just prefer my creature comforts so I was a little intrigued as to how I would find the whole experience. Honestly? I really enjoyed it, it was an adventure for all of us and I loved the fact that we spent quality time together. We were lucky that although it rained here and there, while we were in the tent the weather was nice, so I am not sure how I would have found it if it had been wet- I think it would have been a very different experience for us all. Would we go again? Most definitely, we loved it and I can only see it getting even more enjoyable as our children grow and understand a little more. I think two nights is my maximum though- any more than that and I will be craving a hot bath and a radiator!
Check out the video we made of our first camping experience…
Check out the original post on our first family glamping experience over on Mummy Daddy Me.
Oh Katie how funny! Although it doesn’t feel funny at the time to be listening in!
I’m a bit like you in that I like to feel secure, and I love a good night’s sleep, but actually, it’s a trade-off, and I’ve found I’m prepared to rough it in a tent for the sake of the memories and experiences we have, especially as a young family. Snuggling in a tent with teenagers might not be so exciting, but for now, with young children who totally love the excitement, I’m loving camping (as long as it’s only for a couple of nights)!
Those tents look like the height in luxury!
That’s it I think two, maximum three nights is perfect. I don’t think I could do more than three. And I agree, it is such an adventure for children, it’s worth it to give them that experience and memories.
I grew up in south Wales so I know how cold it can get there! I’ve had similar concerns to you about camping with children – having a tent big enough for a cot is a wonderful idea. My youngest is too old for a travel cot now, but I think I might brave the camping experience soon….I think they’d love it. Thanks for the informative post.
Thanks Nell and yes it is quite daunting with younger children I think. I would definitely recommend giving it a go, we really enjoyed ourselves and would definitely go again.
Glamping is so popular these days. Probably one of the best things about it is that people get to combine luxury with nature. It’s a wonderful experience!