Sarah Barrell: 'Glamping' is gone, now brace yourself for the 'greycation'

Travel view

Sunday 02 May 2010 00:00

Bank Holidays, sunshine and cheery bloom on the long-denuded trees can only signal one thing: it's time to start digging about in the backs of overstuffed cupboards for picnic blankets and canvas.

Yes, British camping season is almost upon us. Of course there are obsessive outdoor enthusiasts, such as my dear deranged Pa, who do this year-round, but most of us, as the old proverb almost goes, ne'er cast a quick-assembly polyester dome tent till May be out.

But just as we're girding ourselves for nights under showery skies, comes news that we are this year, apparently, supposed to be doing it unaided. Glamping has barely entered the lunatic travel lexicon before it finds its demise. For 2010 we're ditching the solar powered iPod docks and Cath Kidston tea makers as it's all about pitching up and dropping out. At least, that is, according to a survey released last week by Argos. British families, it tells us, are choosing camping holidays as an opportunity to go without their gadgets.

Despite the addictive nature of portable technology, one in five families claim their camping breaks are less stressful than other holidays because they provide a break from modern technology, says Argos, one of the UK's most popular camping retailers.

This news, edifying for the human condition as it may be, seems one of the odder things to come from a company that makes its pennies out of selling us stuff. Stuff, by definition, is what Argos does. But the report makes for interesting if mildly unbelievable reading. (Statistics have indicated in recent years that the upsurge in the popularity of camping has been fuelled largely by urban types wanting to escape the grind, but these are exactly the sort of people who would eat their own underwear rather than switch off their smart phones for a week. I speak for myself here).

However, researchers tell us that more than half of us go camping at least once a year and traditional camping essentials were favoured over high-tech gadgets, with torches and camping stoves rated the top must-haves. Laptops, games consoles and netbooks were low on the list but, bearing in mind most tents don't come with electric sockets or WiFi, this perhaps doesn't reveal much. Sat-navs and hair dryers were also low on the list, making us a nation of campers wild of foot and hair. Hurrah!

So, glamping is out, minimalist camping is in. But I fear we're going to be sorry for it, if the dictates of the latest fad travel term rule.

The "greycation" – a multi-generational holiday – is fast on the rise. According to Park Resorts (the UK's second largest holiday park operator) more than 2.7 million families are planning a greycation in the UK this year – three generations going on joint holidays in a drive to save money and boost togetherness (or cadge free babysitting). But my advice is be wary: combine a greycation with a minimalist camping holiday and we risk the birth of a more alarming buzzword that marries massacre with vacation. Massacre-cation? You've been warned.

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