In less than a weeks time we should be setting off on the long drive from Scotland to our first family camping holiday in France. Well, we will be if Toby’s passport turns up in time but I’ll get to that in a minute! I say camping, but only in that we’ll be staying on a camp site. We’re staying in a mobile home so it’s not really camping in the strictest sense. It is a kind of camping that I am very familiar with though. From 1998 until 2003 I spent every summer (and then some – our season was March to October) working in France for several different camping companies. Most of those years I was working for Canvas Holidays, I spent a few years as a campsite courier then made my way through the ranks as Site Supervisor and then Area Manager before eventually moving to Scotland to work in head office recruiting and training new staff to work overseas.
Anyway, suffice to say I know what to expect from this kind of holiday. We’re actually going back to the same campsite that I worked on my first season, which I can’t believe was actually 16 years ago (gulp!). I’m really looking forward to going back but I have a feeling that going back with my husband and baby isn’t going to be quite the same as when I spent 10 weeks there as a carefree 20 year old, spending my days cleaning tents and mobile homes, and my nights getting drunk on Desperados!
So with less than a week to go I thought I’d share a few of my top tips for planning an overseas camping holiday with a baby.
- Apply for your baby’s passport in plenty of time. I would say at least two months before you’re due leave unless you want to spend the last week before you go massively stressed about whether it’s going to turn up in time! As I mentioned at the top of this post we are still waiting for Toby’s passport. It is supposed to take three weeks and has currently been nearly four weeks since I sent the application. I am so annoyed with myself that I didn’t apply for it earlier, I am usually so organised about these things but somehow time just crept up on me. I had to send my passport off to be changed to my married name before I could apply for Toby’s but then after two weeks realised there wasn’t enough time to wait for mine to come back before applying for his…so had to apply for Toby’s anyway but because I didn’t have my passport I had to send my birth certificate, which was in Blackpool at my parents’ house…and blah blah blah. Basically, what I’m trying to say is apply for those passports early!!
- Make sure you have travel insurance, and an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) if you are going to Europe. We get travel insurance through our bank account but I had to add Toby on to it and I had to apply for an EHIC for him too which you can do online.
- Pre-book as much as you can so you don’t have to pack as much. We have booked a cot and highchair so we don’t have to take our own. We have also booked linen hire so we don’t have to take bedding with us either. we will be taking Toby’s sleeping bag and cot sheet so things are as familiar as possible for him. You can book a buggy with Canvas (and most other camping companies) but seeing as we have quite a small stroller, which will be useful on the journey, we’re taking our own.
- Plan to do washing while you’re away. With the best will in the world I cannot pack enough clothes for me, Barry and Toby to last the two weeks we will be away. I know there are washing machines on the campsite and I plan on using them! I’ll try and pack one week’s worth of clothes and then to one or two loads of washing while we’re away. I might even do washing a day or two before we come home – it’s not that much effort and it’s so much nicer to come home and unpack clean clothes than have to wash everything when you get back. (Of course for us there will be a bit more washing as I’m planning on taking our cloth nappies, but it won’t be any more than when we’re at home).
- Try and plan your journey to make it as stress-free as possible. For us this means having two overnight stops in the UK before we even get on the ferry. We have got a long way to go and Toby isn’t that keen on being in the car for a long time at the moment so we are breaking our journey down into manageable chunks. We always try and drive so at least part of our journey is during nap time. We also have to plan for plenty of stops. Toby isn’t really old enough that we can entertain him with games or DVDs in the car so if he gets really grumpy the only thing we can do is stop and get him out for a bit. If you are going to France then you could try an overnight ferry but I decided we’d be better to stay in a hotel in Portsmouth the night before getting a morning crossing to France. Hopefully that means we will all get at least some sleep!
- If you have overnight stops then pack a small separate bag with your essentials so you don’t have to unpack the whole car to get to your tooth brush and pyjamas!
- Make sure you have everything you need for driving in Europe. You will need to let your car insurance company know and check you have appropriate cover. European breakdown cover is also pretty essential. Check the regulations for anything else you need for the country you are going to – in France we need headlight deflectors, a warning triangle, hi-vis vests (one for every passenger and they have to be in the car with you, not in the boot) and breathalyser kits. If you are planning on using satnav to find your way then it sounds obvious, but make sure yours covers Europe!
- You might want to take baby food/formula/nappies with you. There are of course supermarkets overseas but they might not stock your favourite brands so it’s worth taking them with you. We’ll be taking formula and some fruit pouches and snacks for Toby. Other than that I’m fairly confident he’ll be able to eat the same as us, just like he does at home.
- Take some food and drink basics – if you like tea then definitely take tea bags as they are one thing you really can’t find in France (not decent ones anyway!). Also remember, you might arrive late on the campsite so it’s worth having some supplies for the first night and following morning with you.
- If you can, take baby sitters with you! My parents are coming on holiday with us. They are staying in a separate mobile home and we aren’t travelling together, but hopefully having them there will mean Barry and I will get to have a little bit of time to ourselves and feel like we’ve had a holiday too. Of course it will also be lovely for Toby to spend some extended time with his Grandparents – with them living so far away he only gets to see them for a few days at a time usually.
So that’s my Top 10 Tips for taking an overseas camping holiday with a baby. I’m sure there’s lots of other things that I’ve forgotten and I’ll do another post when we get back home of any other things that come up during our holiday (assuming Toby’s passport turns up and we actually get to go of course!). Have you ever taken your kids overseas on a camping holiday? Or did you brave flying and staying in a hotel? (which I wouldn’t contemplate at this point!) If you did I’d love to hear how you got on and if you’ve got any tips to make our holiday go smoothly.