We often venture out in our camper van for day trips and it serves us well for changing, eating and sheltering from the weather when necessary. It has lots of space for all of the many items we need to take with us. At the weekend we decided we would try going for a slightly longer trip, trying to escape yet more miserable rain by heading South. We had looked online at a few campsites but hadn’t made a final decision about where to go, as the most important factor was better weather.
After we set out on our journey we decided to head to Whitby, North Yorkshire. It’s quite far from us, as mostly not motorway driving. We were worried that it might be quite long for the kids as they are only 11 months, 4 and 5. However, there were lots of good reviews online and the weather forecast was good. The kids were all excited. They slept for part of the journey, which helped, as it was quite long. We stopped a couple of times for toilet breaks and food along the way.
On the route into the town we were able to see that it was a beautiful place. Quite hilly but lots of lovely little lanes, some of which were cobbled. Once we arrived we found a car park and got the kids out to explore our new surroundings. At first it felt like we were in a crowd leaving a concert or event. It was very busy and the crowd were all constantly moving. We felt like we had to keep walking and not stop, which was a bit strange. It must just have been the number of people, as many places were just busy. We headed towards the pier and beach and decided we would get fish & chips for dinner (well it is a must at the seaside really!)
This was our first mistake! We bought our suppers and headed towards the pier. There were seagulls everywhere, which we are used to, but these ones seemed particularly aggressive and annoying. A couple of them repeatedly swooped down trying to grab the meal from our hands. One even pecked me on the arm when I kept the food away! I was quite surprised by how sore this was and the big red mark it left on my arm. J was very distressed by their aggressive behaviour and the noises they made and he began to cry and put his hands over his ears.
After escaping the evil birds we headed uphill to a quieter spot to eat our food. It had a lovely view over the harbour and we also got to see some rowing boats go past, in training for next week’s regatta, which was nice. Later we headed back down to the pier and enjoyed a lovely walk along it, with the boys playing and peering into things along the way. J is a bit of a worry on piers as he had no awareness of danger and he runs so fast so he could fall over. It can be difficult to let him enjoy the experience whilst keeping him safe at the same time.
On the way back to the van we walked along West Cliff Beach. This was lovely; soft sand, little pools of water, beach huts and people doing water sports. The boys loved using their new buckets & spades to make sand castles and J had a great time burying his newly purchased school bus. The climb back up to the top from there was quite steep but the boys didn’t seem to mind. I might need a few days to recover though!
It was now getting quite late and we had not booked anywhere to stay for the night, so we headed off to look for a campsite with Google as our guide. Many were full and some were just for caravans. In the end the kids were getting tired and we were getting fed up, so we searched online for the best places to park up to sleep and we decided we would look again properly in the morning. This was mistake number 2 (well probably a higher number than this, but let’s call it major mistake number 2!) We parked in a car park near the harbour, which others online had said was a good place to go and there were quite a few other camper vans in.
We set about setting up the beds, moving all of the kids car seats, blowing up the kids’ ready beds and getting everyone ready for bed. We had washing stuff so we were ok that way too. As it turns out, I am an over-packer. I kind of already knew this but the full realisation of the implications didn’t occur to me until we tried to move the stuff around to all fit in comfortably. We also then realised that it wasn’t very safe for J to be upstairs in case he got up in the middle of the night.
It took a while to get organised and to settle the kids to sleep. Then some boy racers were kind enough to come past with their wheel-spinning, revving engines, loud music and shouting. This went on til the small hours and we couldn’t move location because we had set the beds up and had no seats for the kids to sit in. Thankfully the kids slept through.
We got ready and set the van up for driving again. We had planned to head into town for some breakfast, visit the beach and then go to see the miniature railway in Scarborough. On the way into the town we met a lovely couple who had just arrived from Nottingham to stay overnight. They were very nice to the kids and told us about their own grandkids. J then dropped his school bus down into the outer cellar area of a hotel and became very upset. The lovely man have both boys £1 to go to the shop to get another toy. After a detour via a shop, to divert J from the devastating loss of his bus, we managed the breakfast and a visit to the beach at nearby Sandsend which was beautiful.
I think the realisation that we could have another sleepless night hit, so once we had dried and changed the kids after the beach, we set off back home. I was a bit disappointed. All that packing and build up and it had come to a bit of an abrupt and flat end. In the end it was probably the best decision, as we hadn’t really planned it all out as perfectly as we should have. I was also back to work on the Monday, so it meant having the Sunday to get organised instead of arriving home late and rushing around.
Although we cut the trip short and it probably wasn’t our best experience ever, I think it was still worthwhile. We have learned a few things from it that will help us to make changes in the future, so that it can be a bit more successful.
- Book in advance and plan where we will stay.
- Pack less – we really didn’t need 5 outfits for the kids for two days (though my kids do tend to need a couple of outfits per day!)
- Look into more compact (though still safe) car seats.
- Investigate purchasing an awning/tent and storage rack/box to attach to the van to keep some things outside and allow more space for sleeping.
- Try our next venture a little closer to home.
Even though we headed home early I still learned some useful ways of entertaining the kids when travelling, which I will share in another post as I have gone on for long enough in this one.
All in all not a disaster of epic proportions, just an experience we can learn from going forward.
What are your experiences of camping? Any as disastrous as our first attempt?