Guest post from Lucy Stadward
My buddy, Lucy, has recently taken her family – hubby, baby and toddler – on a camping trip, Eurocamp style and when she offered to share her story, I bit her hand off! Lessons learnt from camping with two little ones, in Europe no less, what’s not to love?! Er, well, you’ll see but I personally would have gone home earlier (or more likely Mike would have sent me home) – because I’m not much fun to be around when I’m tired!
Not to put you off, because this does sound like a wonderful trip and everyone’s family is different, but I will definitely be observing Lucy’s lessons learnt if we were going to do a similar break to Eurocamp. Enjoy, it’s a great story!
Eurocamp – Baby’s first camping trip!
Guest post from Lucy Stadward
Choosing a first holiday destination for our family – me, husband Tom, Sophie (age 2) and Jack (8 months) – was a long researched affair. We took Sophie to Australia to visit my sister when she was four months old but hadn’t been away anywhere since. All of Tom’s annual leave had been taken up by planning around my pregnancy and new baby arrivals for almost two years – so we were all in desperate need of a proper away from home holiday.
We decided to avoid flying – tough enough with one very active baby never mind a toddler in tow, and Tom had done lots of Eurocamping as a kid with his family so we looked at the options there. We both speak a little bit of French (and both love Beaujolais, Croissants and Cheese…) so opted for Normandy. The parks Eurocamp offer are really varied and have some fantastic sites and activities available but we wanted one suitable for our small people so chose Chateau Lez Eaux, about a two hour drive from Cherbourg ferry port. We chose the park based on the swimming pools on site, and its proximity to a couple of lovely sounding towns and beaches, plus the great reviews on tripadvisor.
First off, driving with the kids wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, mainly because we broke it up and planned journeys around their naps. The first stage wasn’t great however… We set off at 7pm from home in Newcastle after normal bath, story and milk routine assuming they would sleep in the car – normally they both have to be prodded awake on even very short journeys first thing in the morning – so I was somewhat stunned that Sophie, a great sleeper, just didn’t drop off. For over three hours!!! She was singing, playing with her baby doll, asking for ‘nummies’ (food or drink normally of a sweet persuasion) and demanding that we listen to ‘Tiger’ ie. The Tiger Who Came to Tea, on audio book. I got really bloody sick of that tiger! Jack slept most of the way but Sophie delighted in the fact that she managed to wake him up on and off. All in all it wasn’t too bad though and we arrived at our first Premier Inn Family room stopover at around 10.30pm. A very hot and sweaty nights ‘sleep’ later and we were on the road again, this time to call in on Tom’s 94 year old granny who lives near Salisbury, and where we stayed for a lovely couple of days.
Sailing day arrived and we packed the sleepy kids in the car at 6am to drive to Portsmouth. Other than a hot queue waiting for the ferry to start loading this was all fine, and we were all excited when finally embarking! We couldn’t take the trusty double buggy on board (no lifts) so came prepared with dummies for Jack and snacks and toys for them both to keep them going for the three hour journey. Again, this bit all went really well; we kept Sophie busy taking trips round and round the deck, watching Peppa Pig on the ipad (I developed a love hate relationship with PP over our holiday!), and having a decent although bizarre lunch (Sophie’s kid’s meal consisted of, literally, sliced ham in a box!).
Arriving at Eurocamp
Arriving at Cherbourg we quickly adjusted to driving on the right and set off, with the kids instantly asleep, to our Eurocamp site. I got a text from them with contact details of our ‘camp courier’ so that was nice! But with no postcode the satnav struggled to get us there and the road signage wasn’t great either, so we took a few wrong turns. We arrived within two hours and checking in with Eurocamp was all very easy; there was a greeter who escorted us to our fantastic tent and pointed out the shower/toilet block on the way, as well as the pub, shop and takeaway, and both indoor and outdoor pools.
We LOVED our Safari tent (although I don’t mind admitting that I would have loved it more sans kids!). The tent was raised on wooden decking with a large open plan living area including a lovely big wooden table and chairs, fridge freezer, cupboards stocked with pots, pans, plates, etc. and a four hob burner. There were two equal sized bedrooms, one with two single beds and one with a double bed. We partly went for the Safari tent to have the experience of ‘camping’ to some degree but with the benefit of not having to set anything up on arrival, and sleeping in proper beds!
Ah sleep… if only!!! The major, major drawback of the holiday was the serious lack of zzzd’s. Sophie is normally a tremendous sleeper and, as with the car journey, I naively assumed she would settle quickly into her usual patterns. There was a good baby bathroom with a shallow basin and shower head in the toilet block so we could stick to the kid’s normal routine of dinner, play/Peppa Pig/story and then bath, teeth, bottle for Jack and bed. Despite the one hour time difference the kids were seemingly shattered by 6:30 on the first night so we tried to aim for normal 7pm bedtime… Bathing and getting into PJs in the shower block we carried the kids back to the tent and tried to settle them in their blow up readybeds together in the twin bedroom.
Jack typically zonked out on his bottle so it was a case of trying to keep a suddenly-full-of-energy-and-mega-excited Sophie quiet… an impossible task! We ended up putting Jack in his blow up bed in the double room, and after putting Sophie back in her bed over and over and over again (hours passing – unheard of for her to be awake after 8pm!) I eventually wrestled with her in the double bed while Tom ‘slept’ in one of the single beds with Jack back in there with him. Bless him, he was repeatedly woken by Sophie’s singing and shouting but kept dropping back off. Eventually we got everyone to sleep by 10pm, me cuddled round Sophie and Tom stroking Jack’s hair. I was filled with dread I have to be honest, I was expecting Jack to be a bit of a sleep pain but I had no idea Sophie would be such hard work!
The next day, while Tom and I attempted to be nice Mummy and Daddy as opposed to exhausted monster parents, the kids were on good form and we set about enjoying the holiday. Daytimes overall were really, really great – we went on lots of trips, the kids napping in the car en route to the zoo, aquariums, lovely medieval towns for ice cream, a great farmers market. The double buggy was invaluable and meant we could spend the entire day out while kids napped as normal. We found food pretty easy to manage, lots of cheese, ham, veg and crepes were scoffed. We also shopped in the local supermarche and had a couple of BBQs at the tent, made basic pasta meals and the kids ate tons of delicious fresh avocado, oranges and bananas. We all fell in love with the croissants from the campsite shop – you order the night before and collect them warm at breakfast. Amazing and necessary after no sleep!
Unfortunately sleep became the big missing joy of the holiday so it really wasn’t restful at all – something Tom and I were both in need of! Sophie didn’t settle any evening until 9pm at the earliest; it was too light for her and she was too excited. We tried later bedtimes, stories, cuddles, ignoring as much as possible and everything you can think of. Jack slept most through most of this but was pretty much awake every hour on the hour from 10pm (accompanied by huge loud yells!) so we got pretty much zero kid free time. At home we have been really lucky in that from 6 weeks on both kids have given us our evenings to digest life so it was a bit of a shock to the system! By the end of the week we were so shattered we were desperate to go home, which is a bit of a shame.
Eurocamp – Lessons learnt
I would definitely do France/driving/ferry travel holidays again. I would also do Eurocamp again but, until the kids are much older, I would opt away from glamping and choose a three bed cabin. Walls and curtains are needed in our family!
Thank you Lucy!!
Yes, walls and curtains are needed in our family too…you and Tom are a proper troupers but I’m sure you’ll forget about the lack of sleep at some point in the future and just have happy, nostalgic memories of warm croissants first thing in the morning!