Ah camping. Quite a polarising activity I’ve found, you either love it, hate it or maybe you haven’t tried it. Growing up, we weren’t a big camping family, most of my experiences have been with friends and only ever a night here and there.
I certainly never saw myself as the “camping type”but with one of our biggest barriers to travel more the cost of accommodation and dining out three times a day, camping might be a good way for us to get away more often, it would definitely be more affordable. So MJ and I decided to give it a crack, just one night, to see how we liked it. But first, we had to prepare.
Over the last couple of years we had bought a number of camping items for MJ's school camps, including a tent, self inflating mats and sleeping bags. I found this Kiwi Holiday Parks Camping Checklist online and other than a couple of camp chairs, we had most of the stuff at home. To make it easy to sort, I packed everything into tubs that I could carry to and from the car - one for food, one for cleaning products, one for first aid items and another for toiletries. It all fit into the boot of our car.
We chose Paekakariki Holiday Park - it’s close to where we live, near the beach and family friendly. When we arrived we were given our tent site, a map of the holiday park and details of the facilities. Our site was sheltered and quite big. We parked up and tackled the first task, putting up the tent! That was relatively straightforward but looking at everyone else’s tents, ours was tiny! We know what we’ll aspire to.
We set our beds up, popped the table and chairs out the front and left everything else in the car, grabbing things as we needed them. MJ was pretty excited and headed off with the map to check everything out. A great thing about being in a campground is that it’s safe and the kids all hang out together, they can have some independence since the area is gated and all the parents are nearby. This campground has a couple of playgrounds, a jumping pillow and most exciting of all, a creek with eels! You’re allowed to feed them meat and you can get right up close if that’s your thing. Hours of entertainment for the kids.
Bedtime however wasn’t so fun for MJ! Even though the campground was relatively quiet, you are in pretty close proximity to others and at times you could hear people chatting in their tents or walking by. The one one kids across from us who kept turning his torch on and off right outside our tent - thanks buddy. We also found our sleeping mats pretty uncomfortable - like, so hard.
After fashioning a makeshift mattress with some towels and blankets, MJ finally fell asleep. I did too but woke frequently because my body was so stiff! We were woken early by a kid calling (borderline screaming) out to his mum on their way to the kitchen. I was feeling pretty broken by this point and glad we only attempted one night - back to back cups of coffee and an hour long walk on the beach revived me enough to pack everything down and get us home.
So, would we do it again? Yep, we 100% would. Here’s why, now that we’ve tested it, we know what we need to fix before we try again - a far more comfortable bed setup and earplugs! But if we can fix the sleep, there is a whole lot to love about camping:
It’s cheap - we paid $28 for one night compared to over a $100 for a motel or hotel. And you take your food with you, so you can prepare your meals.
It’s relaxed - people are pretty chilled, you don’t need to dress up or wear makeup, everyone is relaxed.
It’s friendly - the kids all seem to make friends easily and the other campers and friendly.
It’s downtime - being in this environment forces you to slow down. We checked our phones in the morning and at night but the rest of the time we were reading, exploring, out walking or napping.
It’s flexible - go own your own or with a group. Either is fine, we tried it solo but I can see how it would be fun to go with other families or friends.
It’s everywhere - once you have your basic camping gear kit, you really could go anywhere. I’m already dreaming of taking MJ camping in the South Island for four weeks over the summer school holidays next year.
We give our first ever solo camping trip FOUR STARS out of five, just need to buy some airbeds and earplugs for next time!