We may have been having a bit of a mad moment when we decided to take our 13 month old twins camping last weekend. I was supposed to be going away on a hen weekend for one of my oldest friends but with the girls still feeding all night and teeth coming through one after another it just wasn’t going to be possible to leave them overnight. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps so when my husband suggested we do something with our free weekend I knew I wanted it to be something that would remind me that the babies were enriching our lives rather than just ruling them.
With the weather forecast looking good, we packed up and headed West for Pembrokeshire (Wales for my overseas readers), early on a Friday.
Pembrokeshire is a convenient nap-length distance away, so we didn’t have to deal with any of the stresses of having awake babies in the car, and we had a packed lunch ready for when we arrived.
We chose the campsite very carefully – Caerfai Farm http://www.caerfaifarm.co.uk, a favourite of ours as its in a beautiful location right on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, with a beautiful sandy beach, a short pram’s push into St David’s, great facilities, yet small and peaceful. It’s also an organic farm so I knew that if we ran out of milk or eggs we could get what we needed in their shop.
As we arrived early on a Friday, there were plenty of pitches to choose from. We chose ours mindfully, with great views and a bit of seclusion, but with sleepless nights of babies crying in mind – I had an awful sense of trepidation that we would be very unpopular campers if the girls kept everyone else awake with their crying.
Admittedly as several other campers enthusiastically pulled in to pitch up in the spot next to ours then spotted the babies and did a quick about-turn I really did begin to think we’d made a mistake. But as we put the tent up and the girls played in the field occasionally coming to ‘help’ us with the tent pegs, I started to relax and not worry too much about what was to come. The girls thought the tent was the most fun den they had ever come across, and had no end of fun playing with the guide ropes, chasing bees in the grass and picking flowers for each other.
In the afternoon we went down to the beach and the girls paddled in the waves and we built sand castles for them to knock down. It was all going so well until meltdown number 1 happened!! Apparently the very sticky sand on their skin wasn’t a nice sensation and they didn’t calm down until we got them back up to the campsite, rinsed off and into a warm change of clothes.
The next task was to cook dinner, and a nice rice pasta with cheese sauce and ham provided a nice dose of carbs to warm us all up and refuel our tired bodies after the days’ excitement!! I’d planned each meal with any chilled food to be used in the first 24 hours, as it was unlikely to keep for longer than that in the cool bag. After that meals were made from food not easily perishable. I plan to write a separate post on my camping meals for the family soon.
I was so nervous about bedtime as it hasn’t been going well at home recently for some reason, but perhaps because of all the fresh air, or because I decided to feed to sleep (I usually feed then my husband cuddles to sleep at home), but the girls were out like lights! Incredible! This gave us a chance to sit outside and take in the gorgeous views and spend some time together away from the distractions of home. The night went unbelievably well, with only 2 wake-ups each for a quick feed then back to sleep. We all slept so well on our new self-inflating mattress, a great investment as it was much further than our old blow-up bed, so I wasn’t worried about the girls safety.
The following day was cloudier so all the warm clothes I packed really were useful. We had a lovely stroll into St David’s for a coffee while the girls napped in their pram, a walk along the coast path with the girls in their backpacks, and another afternoon on the beach (this time much better prepared for sticky sand situations!).
The second night went as well as the first and then it was time to pack up and head home. Overall, it was such a positive experience for us all, it’s given us the confidence to do it again soon, pack less, and get more off the beaten track.
As always, I like to leave a few of my ‘lessons learned’ for anyone planning to do this for the first time, so here goes:
- Check the weather forecast and keep checking, we reckon our first trip in the rain might have been miserable and put us off for the foreseeable future!
- A short trip, reasonably close to home is a good idea the first time
- Pack lots and lots of warm clothes for the babies, and less clothes for you.
- A windbreak makes a good ‘safety gate’ or additional sound barrier between you and the neighbours
- Choose a campsite where there is plenty of space between pitches so neighbours aren’t going to be really grumpy if the babies cry all night. In the end we reckoned that the seagulls, sound of the waves and man snoring across the way were way louder than our babies’ brief wake ups. It’s a good idea to leave a clear sign that there are babies in your tent so that people who are really baby-averse can choose not to pitch up next to you. We left a couple of toys and some small clothes hanging up outside.
- Give thought to bedding – a self-inflating mattress that we bought is a great investment – the most comfortable bedding I’ve slept on while camping and firm enough to be safe for babies.
- Plan meals ahead and start cooking early – gas camping stoves usually take longer to cook meals on.
- If you have a pitch in a beautiful spot, you can enjoy your surroundings after the babies have gone to bed