Packing for a self catering holiday

We are off to France again this year and having done the trip last year, we have learned a few things about what to bring for a camping trip or any self catering holiday really.

We are travelling by Ferry, insert all jokes about the Ferries on a Ferry here, so we have the benefit of being able to bring anything that will fit into our car and roof box.  We will pack enough clothes for a week and wash them over there as they have washing machines on site.  In fine weather, this isn’t much of a chore and it saves from arriving home with bags of dirty laundry.

Last year we only brought enough food for the first night.  We had thought that visiting a French supermarket would be fun.  With three kids in tow, who had been cooped up in the car the previous day for over six hours, it was not fun.  We ran around the supermarket as fast as we could and didn’t even have time to linger around the fun isles (chocolate, olives, crisps & wine).

This year we will bring a lot more food supplies.  Pasta, coconut oil, tea, coffee, cereal, oats, granola bars and cleaning supplies are the same everywhere.  I also found that it was hard to find chickpeas that weren’t soaked in salty water so I will bring along a few cartons of beans in water (I’m vegan).  This means that we can arrive and settle ourselves before having to rush out to the shops.

Most French campsites have their own small shops on site but the larger supermarkets tend to be a drive away.  I love exploring foreign foods and if we bring along the staples, when we do go shopping, hopefully we can enjoy picking up fresh local food, linger in the wine isle and then get out of there before the children start whinging.

If you want to see what food and household items we are bringing this year, you can find my video below.

Clothes wise, we used unvacuumed vacuum bags last year and this worked out really well.  Vacuuming them might seem like a good idea but when you don’t have a vacuum on the way home, this becomes challenging.  We used mid-sized bags, one per person as well as one for the swimming gear and one for towels.  We sealed them and put them in the roof box and they were easy to unpack and repack.  This year, we will be moving campsites half way through our holiday so easy packing is crucial to avoid any stress.

I’m a girl who loves to get dressed up when the occasion calls for it.  However, a camping holiday with three small children in the countryside doesn’t really warrant a fancy frock and heels.  I plan to pack lots of floaty dresses that I can wear with flip flops but could also add a necklace and a glittery pair of sandals if I do want to look a bit more dressed up on one of the nights.  We tend to spend our evenings on holidays out on the decking of our mobile home, watching the sun go down with an obligatory glass of wine while the children sleep.

Timing of packing is also so important.  We start making lists about two weeks beforehand and then the actual packing starts a week before we leave.  This leaves time to unpack unnecessary items, give each other opinions on what we are bringing and pick up some last minute items if we realise that we have forgotten to buy something really important (like swim nappies).  It also means that we can pack up the car the day before we leave and tidy up the house so that we are not arriving home to absolute chaos.  We have a cleaner once a week and we plan on asking her to visit once while we are away so that we will arrive home to a clean house.

I always like to bring a bag of medications/first aid supplies when travelling.  It saves trying to find an open pharmacy and someone who understands what you are looking for.  A friend of mine told me a story about her husband trying to buy a pregnancy test abroad one year where he had to mime a growing belly to a sales assistant. It’s a hilarious story but I’m sure he wasn’t having much fun!!  This year I went into the pharmacy with a list of essential items only to find that they had prepackaged travel packs available, categorised into ages.  I picked up a pack that included calpol, nurofen, antihistamines, anthisan cream for insect bites and dioralite.  We will also bring the thermometer, plasters and some TCP.

We have a five year old and a three year old (as well as Thea who is one).  Activities during travel are essential to avoid boredom and subsequent divilment.  I made a trip to Penneys (Primark) this year and picked up some very affordable activities.  Teamed with some blank paper, their pencil cases, a ziplock bag with lego in it and a book, these will hopefully keep them entertained in the car and on the Ferry (see video below).  We also bought a DVD player for the car last year and during long trips, they can watch a movie.  The one we bought was a simple one from Halfords for €90 and it works well.

For the ferry trip, we plan on packing a separate overnight bag as you aren’t allowed to pop up and down to the car.  A pair of pyjamas each, a change of clothes, some simple toiletries and some entertainment is all we plan on bringing up with us.  This year we will also bring some small boxes of cereal and some almond/oat milk (that doesn’t need refridgerating) as well as some plastic bowls.  Last year, the chidren were tired from the excitement of going on holidays and being on a ferry and they had meltdowns at breakfast time in the restaurant.  Watching the sea through the window of our cabin while eating cocopops will be fine this year and we can get a takeaway coffee for ourselves.

The night before we leave, we will run through the lists and tick off all of the items.  We usually go through the paperwork together so we can double check all tickets and passports.  This year I have bought pizzas for the night before we leave because, despite all of the planning, it will still be a bit stressful and something easy for dinner will help.

Lastly, in car snacks are a must for us when travelling.  I’ve loaded up on healthyish snacks for the kids and I and less healthy things for Mark as he won’t even taste a date ball!  Small bottles of water are also great as it does get hot in the car.

If you do forget something, it’s not the end of the world.  So if you get a hit of adrenaline halfway to your destinaton when you realise that you forgot arm bands or the wine opener, just remember that you can buy them when you get there.


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