We love nothing more than hearing how and why camping is the holiday of choice for people all over the world. We recently chatted to Keith and Floor Hurley, based in Soest in The Netherlands, to find out about some of their favourite family camping adventures, camping road trips, and to get insider tips on camping kit and top camping destinations. Having camped in North America, as well as throughout Europe, from Croatian coves to the wild north coast of Iceland, the Hurley’s are an inspiration to us all. Read on for a hefty dose of wanderlust.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
We have three teenage boys and a heap of animals, including ponies and rabbits. We leave the pets at home when we head off camping, but do sometimes take the dog with us.
What kind of camping holiday do you regularly take?
We’ve done the whole works including road tripping around America with a tiny tent for two, glamping when the kids were younger, and renting a camper van in Scandinavia. We have recently bought a large tipi tent and a van so these days we mostly head off on three or four-week adventures with that. There are countless places to camp in Europe, and we usually leave the planning to the last minute — to see where the weather and mood take us. We now really love owning our tent and kit, and setting it up just how we like it.
What have been some of your favourite camping holidays?
The most dramatic and adventurous trip we’ve ever done was just before we were married when we took a tiny tent and drove between 10 of America’s National Parks. We went everywhere from Death Valley to Glacier National Park and often pitched up alongside huge RVs, which was quite amusing. National Park campsites can be very busy in season, but if they are full there are often National Forests nearby where you have a lot more freedom.
One of our most exciting family camping adventures was four weeks camping and driving around Iceland. We got the ferry from Denmark, which meant we could take all our kit and tent in the van, including a wood-burning stove, which kept us warm during chilly nights. On the way, we stopped off in the Faroe Islands, which was a beautiful place to camp. In Iceland, roads were busy near Reykjavik, but once we got further north, we had volcanoes, fjords, valleys and roads to ourselves. Campsites varied, but the views were always out of this world. One morning, while packing up the roof rack, a humpback whale breached moments from the shore in front of us.
When the kids were younger, we stuck to Europe and booked campsites with facilities for children. There are lots of these in Denmark, France and Austria; one had a little train to get between playgrounds and pools and different parts of the campsite. Scandinavia is also really well set up for campers. Facilities are always clean, and some campsites have indoor kitchens. We went camping in Slovenia and Croatia before we had the kids, but would love to go back as a family. Camping in the mountains and lakes of Slovenia would be a great family holiday.
When is the best time of year to go camping?
We like to beat the crowds so often head to southern Europe in the shoulder season—either autumn or Spring—and go north in the summer. This is a particularly good idea if you’re going camping in places like Italy or France where campsites can get quite crowded in the peak season. We have a wood-burning stove for our tent and so never worry too much about the weather. One summer, we headed up to Norway for four weeks campervanning, and the conditions were perfect—long days and mostly blue skies. Iceland was a little chillier!
Do you ever go camping close to home?
Yes, we love going off on last-minute weekends and staycations when the weather is nice, or to meet up with friends. In Holland, the National Forest Organisation has lots of brilliant campsites that are always surrounded by nature.
Why do you like camping over other types of holiday?
Camping is so different from our normal life, and so it feels like more of a break from routine. It’s a much more primitive way of living—it’s refreshing to strip everything back for a few weeks every year. To be out in nature is also very calming. The kids always go through a phase of asking about WIFI codes, but after a couple of days, settle into the new routine and enjoy being out in nature as much as we do. Having a total digital detox is a real appeal. It’s also very bonding as a family; we plan the itinerary together, and work as a team to put up and pack away camp (it can get a little competitive!). We have a big tent and a spacious van which helps because no one is on top of each other.
How do you go about planning a camping holiday?
We pick a place we want to go and then start planning a route. Once we’ve worked out a vague itinerary, we get an idea of how many campsites there are and how likely they are to get booked up. If availability looks good, we might wait until we’re there. Alternatively, if they get booked up, or there’s a particular campsite we want to go to, we book it in advance. It’s quite fiddly to work out what campsites there are; it would be great if CampInn became like the booking.com of campsites, so you know what’s available where. The great thing about camping is that there’s lots of flexibility if you want to change your trip.
What are your favourite pieces of camping kit?
Our Tent Tipi is brilliant, especially with the wood stove, so we never get cold. Our van is also really handy because it makes packing up more straightforward.
What do you think about camping in light of the Coronavirus pandemic?
There are plenty of campsites that are well suited to this coronavirus pandemic situation. Some campgrounds have very private and spacious pitches that are perfect for social distancing. At others, pitches even come with private bathrooms, or family rooms that you can rent so you’re not mixing with others.
If you feel inspired by the Hurley’s camping adventures, why not book a stay at a campsite close to home or further afield on CampInn to start an adventure of your own.
If you have your own story you would like us to publish and share with the CampInn community please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Tuppen is a travel writer, researcher and sustainability expert who since circumnavigating the world without flying has celebrated responsible travel.