Kate Simon: If you're feeling the pinch, just get yourself a pitch

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The Independent Travel

Times are tight, so who's got money to go on holiday? Lots of people, according to Peter Long, the chief executive of Tui Travel, Europe's leading holiday operator and owner of First Choice and Thomson Holidays.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast last week, he said that those who aren't in fear of losing their jobs (who are they, then?) are still booking holidays, even if they're cutting them short from the traditional fortnight to 10 or 12 days and considering going all-inclusive, too.

Although Mr Long was on television to discuss Tui's gloomy results – a pre-tax loss of £364m in the first half of the year – he was upbeat about the foreign holiday market, saying: "We offer great value, and it is, in most instances, much cheaper to take a holiday with us to one of our overseas destinations than stay in the UK."

Truth is, the take up of holidays, whether abroad or at home, has dipped, according to Visit Britain's latest figures. And, if the amount of correspondence I've been receiving recently about camping is anything to go by, those of us who are still determined to have a holiday, despite feeling the pinch, are prepared to go bargain-basement.

Two copies of Cool Camping – one to England and another to France – have landed on my desk in the past week or so. And Pitchup.com, the campsite booking website, has just been in touch to tell me that visits to its website have more than doubled in the past four months, year on year.

For many, camping will always conjure up memories from guiding/ scouting days that are just too cold and uncomfortable. But be persuaded: to sleep under the stars, you don't need to construct a Baden-Powell-regulation "sleeping roll" – that curious arrangement of sheets and blankets held together with nappy pins that was more a test of moral fibre than an essential skill, especially as they'd already invented the sleeping bag.

These days, there's all sorts of aesthetically pleasing – and truly waterproof – gear on the market to tempt us to become happy campers. Mind you, our family tried "glamping" last year, when we tested a tepee. But this "12-sleeper" barely fit the three of us and our kit, and we soon realised that our mates' Argos affair, with two bedrooms, lounge area and extension – a veritable suburban semi in the wilderness – was far more comfortable.

I'm fast becoming a fan of camping – probably something to do with having an 11-year-old son and campsites having an abundance of children and acres of space in which they can tire themselves. So, we plan to go on not one but (at least) two camping breaks this summer.

First, we'll be sampling the emerging trend of the birthday party camp – "come and celebrate, all you need is a tent and some sausages" – at Debden in Essex. Then, we're off to a field in Cornwall to join friends who have camped there each summer for 30-odd years. They're now joined annually by more than 60 relatives and friends from across the generations – this is a serious business that needs a van just to transport the kitchen equipment required.

I suspect we won't be the only family popping out to buy a tent this summer – it's the only holiday most families can truly afford.

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