I've just come back from a long weekend's camping in Monmouthshire, dashing back late on Monday afternoon on a train packed with bank-holiday travellers.
Surrounded by all these grim-faced souls returning to real life (myself included) it felt irritatingly like a pre-rush hour commute rather than the tail-end of a holiday. I'm wondering if I should have bothered coming back at all. It's not that I'm work-shy (at least not that much) but after talking with some of the happy camping families pitched around me, it seemed that an increasing number of us are electing to live under canvas, at least for the summer.
I spoke to a family who are spending the entire school break camping, the workers among them commuting into cities around the south-west to eek out their earning hours indoors, before returning to the freedom of the campsite at night or at weekends. I love this idea. It's a kind of "statement camping" that has a defiant, libertarian attitude about it.
Taking the home-away-from-home idea to a potty extreme, I met a couple from Bristol who had recently camped in Devon near a tent full of cats. The cats' owner would appear twice daily with kitty biscuits, cuddles and to let his pets in and out. At dusk the animals would appear, yawning and stretching before vanishing into the woods for their dark pursuits, and quite incredibly were happily herded back inside each morning where they spent the day snoozing.
It seems the cats' owner had opted for a summer of camping only to be offered a two-week house-sit nearby, at a rather grand property that didn't allow pets. What's a free-loading holiday-maker to do? Leaving cats under canvas was clearly the answer.
Last year, there was a rash of alarming news stories about the increasing number of Londoners who, thanks to prohibitively high property prices, were forced to live permanently in campsites and commute into work each day. I didn't meet any of these embattled workers. And neither did I encounter any off-grid-living, yurt-loving Freegans, but rather a breed of innovative holiday-maker looking for a cheap way to stretch out their summer break.
If you want to make your holiday budget go further but can't face camping, don't be tempted to think an all-inclusive resort might be the answer. According to a recent report from the Post Office, 94 per cent of all-inclusive holidaymakers expected all meals in all restaurants to be included in their package price, but its survey of 54 hotels in 24 destinations worldwide found that 65 per cent charged extra or put restrictions on using their à la carte restaurants. With all-inclusives now accounting for around a third of UK package holidays, this could mean that some five million of us are out of pocket. Of course, it is entirely possible not to spend an extra penny once you are at an all-inclusive resort but according to the Post Office only one in five holidaymakers managed it. Not surprising really, as the key culprits of unexpected costs – mini bars, cocktails, international drink brands and internet use – are many people's essential ingredients for holiday R&R.
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