I had never thought I could be the camping type. I’m definitely not a five star princess, but camping always brought connotations of no showers or toilets which doesn’t fill me with excitement! Growing up, our family holidays were in my grandparent’s caravan, which I loved. Caravan parks are fantastic for kids and I have been looking forward to taking them on a van holiday for a while. There are always new friends to be made, and lots of activities to try. My parents-in-law bought a camper trailer last year and we were lucky enough to take it on it’s maiden voyage. We booked our first family camping trip with an ensuite powered site at a caravan park down the coast, which provided just enough home comfort along with the camping experience.
We arrived at our camp site after driving through pouring rain, then hail. It was dry when we got out of the car and started setting up, and then came the torrential rain which didn’t let up until the middle of the night. We quickly shoved the bags in the ensuite and trapped the poor kids in the car with the iPad while we set up. I meant to take a photo of us afterwards, as we looked like we had showered in our clothes! Despite our neighbours telling us we were crazy to keep going, we got everything up and ready in around an hour which wasn’t bad for our first time!
The morning after a storm always provides fantastic finds on the beach. The kids had a ball exploring and found lots of shells, drift wood and some dried sea anemones. Our caravan park had a small beach on the grounds, but other than a paddle and explore we didn’t have a proper swim there. There were lots of steps and ramps down to the beach which meant it was a bit tricky to drag all our bits and pieces up and down there.
We were lucky enough to have a few sunny days and spent them at the beach and Mogo Zoo. I had never been to Mogo before, and loved it. It is quite a small zoo (similar to Canberra) with a great selection of animals. We loved watching the cheeky primates, admired the huge white lions during snack time and feeding the giraffes.
If you are looking for close up experiences with animals I would definitely look at Mogo. They were very reasonably priced compared with other zoos. We fed the giraffes which I have done before at other zoos (they’re my favourite animal) and it was only $10 per person. A baby zebra had been born the day before and was out in the paddock, so that was a very special sight.
Taking life at a slower pace was nice. Afternoon rest time was made an institution and I managed to get through two and a half books, and a couple of magazines. My husband and I played card or board games each night and chatted. It was lovely not having the distraction of the TV or computer. A friend had suggested we buy the card game Phase 10 which has fast become a favourite. If you love Uno, you’ll enjoy this even more.
There were quite a few storms during our time away, which made for a bit of a wet trip. Luckily the town was big enough to provide entertainment with a movie theatre and indoor entertainment centre. An early morning walk after more rain was beautiful and misty, and we loved seeing a little dolphin swimming around the harbour.
My parents were also down the coast, and we had a great day with them and my cousins. They have kayaks, which are always a big hit and we all enjoyed having a turn. The kids are old enough to participate now as well, and love sitting up the front and being paddled around.
We’re hoping to go back to the same caravan park next year, and extending our stay by another week. On our last night we were talking about things we would do differently next time, and certain things that worked well for us. I thought I would share a few with you.
Style Unearthed’s camping tips
1. Use packing boxes
My parents-in-law had bought a couple of these for food and the kitchen area. We used one for the kids’ clothes, but next time we will take one for each of us, plus entertainment bits and pieces. It will mean that everything stays dry, and they will also stack neatly in the annex.
2. Book an ensuite site
If you are camping in a caravan park and these are an option, they are well worth it. It was only $10 more per night, and it meant we didn’t have to queue for showers or the toilet, and we could confidently send the kids to the bathroom by themselves as they were only three steps away. It was also handy having easy access to hot water when washing up.
3. Pack extra towels
I took two beach towels and bath towels per person, plus lots of hand towels and tea towels. Unfortunately because of the torrential rain our annex leaked, so the towels came in very handy! I washed and threw them in the dryer a couple of times but having extras was great. We ended up buying two big red checky bags (you’ll know the ones!) from a $2 shop to store the towels. They were the perfect size and width.
4. Use zip lock bags for packing
I bought some extra large zip lock bags and they were incredibly handy to pack underwear and socks in. It meant we didn’t have to search through bags to find small items. Once the bag is sealed you can squash it down so it works like a space bag.
5. Take pegs and rope
We hadn’t intended to do washing while we were away, but ended up having to wash a couple of loads. Even if you don’t want to wash, you will need somewhere to hang swimmers and beach towels so they can dry. We made an impromptu washing line with some thin rope between the fence and the camper. It was incredibly handy and ended up being used every day.
6. Make friends with your caravan park owners
Chat to them via email, over the phone or on social media. During the school holidays, many parks will have organised special events. Ours had movie nights, visits from a band, a rock climbing wall, a snake education show and a farm yard nursery. The kids loved the different activities in addition to the pool, jumping pillow, mini golf and play equipment that are regular fixtures at the van park.
Do you go camping? Have you got any tips we can use next time?