Last Sunday we drove to the airport and my son boarded a plane.
On his own and he is only thirteen.
He is off for a week camping with a friend and his family.
Why we are not with him, you may ask?
We are staying put because, contrary to popular belief, camping for me has always been a very expensive holiday option. “Always” as in the three times I’ve tried it, that is.
I tried camping for the first time about twenty years ago; we were young(ish) and my step sons were still at an age when sleeping in tents and getting smelly is the ultimate fun.
Back then, we decided on a ‘safe’ camping holiday where we booked two weeks in different camping sites in Europe. As camping goes, it was luxury: the tent is up, there were camping beds and all equipment. Still, I failed to see the fun in the insects crawling around, the hard bed, the widely varying temperature and the long nightly walk to the toilet. Once the novelty wore out, the boys were not that keen on it either and we ended up having a ‘break night’ in a hotel every four days or so.
Because I’m a slow learner, we repeated the experience on a bolder but smaller scale with our third son. This time, we were also skint so camping being reputed to be a cheap way to have a break sounded as something to get into.
We bought a tent; we bought and borrowed all equipment we need. We got in the car and drove to a campsite about forty minutes away from our house – just in case we had to come back in the middle of the night, you see. We went with some experienced camping people.
Still, it wasn’t worth it for me.
When I thought about it, my problem with camping is the tent. Which is obviously no good.
We could try buying a caravan; there are some really good ones. There are caravans with kitchens and bathrooms and everything.
In my book this will be cheating: camping is supposed to be rough. Camping is supposed to be about cooking outside, trudging in mud, not washing for days and living a life close to nature. Camping is supposed to be basic and can be wonderful: some love it.
I’ve now accepted that it is not for me!
Camping is not for me because apart from all the things I dislike about it, it also never works out as a cheap (or cheaper) holiday option for me.
This is why.
Costs of camping
Let me give you the costs of camping for a week. We’ll be talking more civilised camping: if I can’t crack going to a campsite I certainly have no experience with completely ‘free’ camping.
And while my experience may appear limited, I did keep a note of our expenses and did some research about prices. Note that the expenses are for three people over seven nights stay.
So here it is:
I’m not going to assume that you have all camping equipment you need. We didn’t. By the time we’d bought the mere minimum (tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, light and cool box) we were talking over $500.
And we borrowed the rest like cooking stove, utensils etc. One problem with this is that when you don’t know the equipment coping is even harder than it needs to be.
I can’t really remember what we paid when we last went camping. The shock of having to put up with throngs of angry flies made me repress this memory.
A simple search on the internet (isn’t it easy today to find things out) tells me that during the summer holidays it is difficult to find a campsite that offers semi-decent facilities for less than $50 per night.
For seven nights this takes us to $350.
Food and drink
Don’t know about you but I do find it really hard to cook anything sensible when camping.
Because the cooking conditions are so primitive what I end up cooking is either something you boil/ heat (ready meal, for instance) or something that you throw on the fire and grill.
On top of everything, because cooking is so hard we end up eating in a pub at least once a day (lunch or dinner).
I’d say that food and drink costs an average of $50 per day and this is a conservative estimate (yes, it is possible to eat for less but it will be unsatisfactory indeed).
Over seven days this is $350.
Yes, camping means driving around; at a minimum you’ll need to get to the campsite. This line of expenditure will vary depending on how much you drive and what you drive. Let’s be conservative again and estimate $120 for petrol (this is if you decide to stay close to home).
What’s the deal?
You see, camping while staying close to home costs $1,320 if you are a camping virgin and include the initial minimum outlay for equipment or $820 if you are a sucker for angry flies and smelly toilets and are doing it again.
Now come the really large expenses for me.
Osteopath and massage
Every time I go camping, I end up with back pain, neck pain and all kinds of ache because of having to sleep on the ground, on blow-up mattress that is not very comfortable.
On top of that, I usually end up really stiff because I’d been cold during the night and my muscles have started to protest.
Osteopathy and massage don’t come cheap. After our last foray into camping (and it was only two nights) I needed four sessions at the osteopath and couple of massage sessions.
This is another $320, you know.
I don’t even want to start telling you how much this costs me.
Camping can be traumatic for border line Asperger’s syndrome people who score very high from obsessions. One of my obsessions is about cleanliness. You get the picture.
People tell me that camping is for people who want to have an inexpensive holiday. I say BS! Camping is not that inexpensive although you can probably tweak some of the costs I’ve given you down.
Camping is for people who really enjoy camping!
I don’t. So what is wrong with going on an all-inclusive holiday (these are the holidays that include flights, hotel, food and drink) somewhere in Southern Europe. After all, seven nights in this four star hotel in Crete (70 meters from a sandy beach) including all meals, drinks both alcoholic and soft, access to tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts costs $1,128 for two.
If we want to be mobile, I’ll still forego the tent and the campsites and get me a great, big RV like this one:
Call me spoiled!