real life

Family camping holidays are torture. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Saturday morning.

I open my eyes to witness my son shaking a tube of lubricant all over the dog. He hurls the empty container at me and then flees, laughing maniacally.

It’s going to be that kind of day. And we have to be packed and in the car, ready for a three day camping adventure within the hour.

Like that’s going to happen.

Pack the car / stuff it full of crap. Image supplied.

My childhood memories of holidays are so happy and carefree. I wonder if my mother remembers them that way. Since I graduated to the role of parent, I’m realising that family holidays are actually the most stressful time of the year.

Why do we do it to ourselves? Where’s the appeal in cramming everything that you own into your car so that you can sit in traffic for three hours or more while you listen to your child complain that they want to watch more Dora the Explorer on the iPad?

What is the point of creating amazing experiences for your children when the first thing they say when you finally reach your destination is “Can we go home now?”

Yet we do it, and we are joined by hundreds of other families on the road to bickering, sunburn and new reasons to hold grudges.

A few months ago now, hubby and I took our son to the Newnes, just north of Sydney’s Blue Mountains. It really is an amazing spot. There is no phone reception, just sweeping views and kangaroos hopping by the outskirts of the campsite. We sat around the campfire, played games and paddled in the nearby creek.

Just North of the Blue Mountains. Image supplied.

On day two we went on an epic 4WD adventure, traversing cross country to a dark and spooky cave with real glow worms living inside.

The highlight of that outing? For a split second when we were approaching the 4WD track, my toddler saw another child with a remote control car. This is the exciting tale he shares when asked to recount his weekend adventures.

I will never forget that remote control car. Mostly because my son proceeded to ask for one, on repeat, for three hours.


To make matters worse, we completely lost our bearings and had very little idea if we were on the right track to the famous glow worm cave.

We’ve all played that game - the one where your phone pretends to have reception and will load half of the map but not the bit you desperately need to see.

Hubby and I weren’t lost, we just didn’t know where we were. The directions we had were rudimentary, they just said “turn off the highway”.

They should have said “then drive for an hour, with the passenger insisting you are going the wrong way and the driver refusing to turn around.”

It’s typical that right at the time when you are about to stop the car, get out and walk away from each other forever, you’ll see a sign heralding your arrival.

Then your child will proceed to be completely underwhelmed by the incredible spectacle of nature and will continue to ask for a remote control car to play with.

We made it to the cave and didn't even kill each other! Image supplied.

Family holidays are messy, stressful and chaotic. There’s the risk of a spider or snake bite and the revelation that you have pitched your tent next to a patch of stinging nettles.

Air mattresses inevitably deflate at 3am. The kids will either be too hot or too cold and you’ll realise too late that you left all the forks on the kitchen counter. A strange child from a neighbouring tent will teach your child to swear and the people camping closest to you will get drunk and play Metallica until 4am.

Yet this is what we pitch to ourselves as an affordable, family friendly way to create cherished memories.

The true benefit from these getaways is how much they make you appreciate your everyday life back home.

Do you have a funny family holiday story?