If you asked my children what their favourite holiday is they’ll tell you it’s camping. Forget the nice hotels with a pool, camping gives something a hotel/villa holiday can’t – much needed freedom plus oodles of fresh air. The upside is it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to do as long as you’re prepared.
We asked the experts at Cool Camping, who’ve spent years searching for the very best campsites, to name their top five French campsites and share their top tips for camping en famille. You can get a discount on Cool Camping France and Cool Camping Kids £13.95 (RRP £16.95) at www.coolcamping.co.uk.
Picking a campsite
Do your homework on the facilities beforehand. Everyone has different priorities and so do our kids; some children will love more of a structure campsite with a playground and perhaps a swimming pool while other will prefer lots of open space. Aim to arrive just after lunch so that you and your kids have lots of time to explore, get orientated and more importantly pitch the tent! Trying to put up a tent in the dark while everybody’s hungry isn’t the most relaxing way of starting your holiday.
Be safety aware
Camping is perfect for giving children the space to explore and push the boundaries but make sure you’ve checked out any potential hazards such as streams, pools, nearby roads and cliff top paths beforehand. This way you’ll feel more relaxed and are less likely to end up running round the site like a maniac trying to find them for tea.
Cooking up a storm
Cooking on a fire is one of life’s pleasures. Be sure to show your children to respect the flames rather than banning from going anywhere near it. If you can all toast a few marshmallows or cook some mackerel, hopefully freshly caught, you’ll be giving them the chance to learn practical skills that they might be missing in everyday life.
Half the fun of camping for kids is going to be bed later than normal so be prepared to relax the rules a little. You never know but you might get a bit of a lie-in in the morning if all that fresh air and going to bed late has exhausted them…
Keep an eye on the forecast and if the weather is likely to be poor get the low down on any local activities you can do such as visiting castles, cinemas, museums or swimming pools. Alternatively, just ignore the weather and run around on an empty beach anyway.
Keeping warm and dry
Avoid long trousers as they’ll stay wet all day. Instead choose shorts and wellies with a mac as skin dries very quickly. Keep kids warmer at night by sticking an extra blanket under their sleeping bags rather than one on top, as the cold comes up through the ground. Have a no-shoes rule in the tent otherwise you may all end up sleeping in a fine layer of mud. And pack more socks than you need.
If your tent isn’t particularly spacious consider taking an extra tent for playing in, especially if you’ve got little ones. They’ll love the sense of having their own space and it can become a base for games, meaning that muddy or wet children don’t sit on top of their lovely dry beds. If you’ve space try to squeeze in a football or rounder’s bat as you’ll always have a handy game to play. Cards and board games are great too for wet weather or quieter times.
Things you’ll need…
- Tent, sleeping bags, torch, loo roll, mallet, sharp knife, plates, pillow, towels, bin bags, ﬁsh slice, kettle, pan and a couple of forks are the bare essentials.
- Don’t panic if you forget something you’re sure to be able to borrow from other campers. Or, you can improvise. No pillow? Stick some clothes into a T-shirt. Forgotten your chairs? Sit on a bin bag or an old log.
- The tent is the only thing you should really worry about forgetting. And tent pegs. Inventing those might be one challenge too far.
Last but not least…
- It’s easy to forget… a water container, matches, towels, anoraks, tin openers, corkscrew, washing-up liquid and sponge.
- Camping will be easier with… fold-up chairs, wind-up torches, washing-up bowl, chopping board, foil, coolbox, chocolate.
Ferme Terre d’Arômes
Ancienne Route Napoléon, 06750 Séranon; 00 33 6 23 32 78 07
Ferme Terre d’Arômes is the place to visit if you’re after a comfortable but wild holiday. 12 Mongolian yurts and a log cabin nestled on the peak of the mountain, offer magnificent views and plenty of outdoor activities, including tree-climbing with one of the longest zip wires in France.
La Serve, 69860 Ouroux; 00 33 4 74 04 76 40
With en suite facilities for each of the roulettes and a breakfast delivered to your front door, you can really kick back and enjoy your time at the Beaujolais country – the home of the first wines of the season. Made from hand-picked grapes and fermented for only a few weeks, the vine officially goes on sale in mid November, but don’t worry – you can always crack open a bottle of the local vin.
24220 Beynac-et-Cazenac; 00 33 5 53 29 54 95
It is hard to imagine more enchanting views, than waking up to the beauty of the fortress of the Château de Beynac and the sound of the nearby Dordogne River. Situated in the ‘five castle valley’ with the storybook red-tiled roofs, the campsite is well catered for with a generously sized swimming pool, volleyball court, and homely bar, with 120 pitches enjoying plenty of mature shade.
L’Espérance, 61110 Dorceau; 00 33 2 33 25 45 27
Pitch up at this comfortable, easy-going site if a quality time with your family is what you’re after. There is a lake for fishing and a small pool in the orchard to dip into. Surrounded by forest, the site promises the pleasure of long walks in the woods as well as bike and horse riding. You can play golf here, too. It’s a land of forests, ancient abbeys, and fortified manors with beautiful gardens – don’t miss out.
23 allée des Sableaux, 85330 Noirmoutier-en-l’Île; 00 33 2 51 39 06 24
Given that it is only a little south of Brittany, Noirmoutier can feel almost Mediterranean, especially when there’s no fresh Atlantic westerly blowing and there’s barely a ripple of water disturbing the reflections of the pleasure boats across the sheltered bay. Noirmoutier-en-l’Île, a pleasant town with sleepy sun-bleached streets and plenty of cafés and restaurants is only a short drive from the site.