I am not overly keen on the term ‘glamping’ (‘glamorous camping’). It doesn’t matter how swish the canvas is: there is nothing glamorous about mud and communal toilet blocks. Sometimes the prices are so lofty, you could get a four-star hotel room with an en-suite bathroom for the same money. You could argue that from a personal finance perspective, glamping is a mug’s game.
But what I love – what I really, really love – is glamping on a budget. It can be done! This year we spent an idyllic bank holiday weekend at Hidden Valley Yurts in Monmouthshire. It was our fourth time there and, if I’m honest, a stay in a cosy yurt knocks the socks off a two-man igloo tent and Beanfeast cooked on a trangia. Even when it rained all day Sunday and we were cooped up inside, we had fun: we kept our little wood-burning stove going, and settled in among the blankets and throws with wine and good company. Also (mercifully), there was plenty of space in which to zoom around, so our yurt was big enough to stave off Thrifty Kid’s cabin fever.
Hidden Valley Yurts is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in a wildflower meadow alongside a brook in the Wye Valley. Each yurt is fully-furnished and beautifully painted, with cosy beds and plenty of fairy lights for night-time. There is a large and well-equipped communal kitchen, a lengthy trestle table under canvas and lots of toys and books. You can also have bonfires. The site is environmentally sustainable: the showers are heated by solar panels, all the wood used on-site is grown on-site, and the eco-loos drain to reed beds. Our yurt adventure cost us £140 for a three-night stay for three people, with petrol and food shopping on top. At this yurt campsite, a three-night weekend stay can cost as much as £480, so we were able to make some significant savings. Thinking about it, our family of three paid less than we would have at a rundown Travelodge…
Here are four of the ways in which we kept our costs down:
1. Power in numbers.
This was our number one money-saver. We descended on the yurts as part of a large group of friends – so large, in fact, that we took over the entire yurt campsite for the weekend. We squashed five adults and four children into our seven-person yurt. “Squashed” isn’t the right word though, because the quarters weren’t cramped and there was more than enough room to scamper around in. This brought our costs down dramatically.
I accept this isn’t an option for everyone, because some people don’t like sharing accommodation, even with family or friends. It worked beautifully for us though. With so much space, we didn’t feel like we were on top of one another. Also it was quite handy at night, when the parents could take turns being with and checking on the sleeping children.
2. An independent glampsite.
With more British families holidaying in the UK, some big-and-beautiful glamping ‘chains’ have sprung up. I have never stayed at one so can’t spill the beans, although I know they have their ardent fans. What I do know, though, is that flexibility and a laid-back attitude seem to be built-in features at independent sites. For example Amanda and Peter, who run Hidden Valley Yurts, were fine with us having nine people in a seven-person yurt. They were also kind enough to take receipt of the online groceries we had delivered to the site on the day of our arrival, and brought them down to the communal kitchen for us.
If you would like to go glamping and/or yurting, while saving money, I would also recommend that you keep an eye on your favourite places’ websites and Facebook pages, for last-minute offers, late deals and cancellations. This is particularly useful if you can’t afford the full price, but you don’t want to share with others. Again as an example, Hidden Valley Yurts offers some bargain discounts one week before any dates that aren’t fully booked, with prices for midweek breaks starting at £100.
3. Cooking from scratch, instead of eating out or buying ready-made food.
OK, I have a confession to make. You know how I love my good ol’ slow cooker? Well, I put it in the boot of the car and took it with us. Yes, I love it that much…
…Also, if I can cast modesty aside for a moment, it turned out to be a SWEET move. Slow cooker recipes are perfect for camping: cheap, because you are making dishes from scratch, but also quick. Chuck the ingredients into the pot, then leave it and go off to enjoy your day or night. Minimal kitchen slavery required, which is as it should be on a holiday, eh? I put it on overnight so that we had porridge ready and waiting when we woke up in the morning. I also cooked jacket potatoes in it and, for the last evening, hot mulled wine.
I’ll post the recipes later this week. 🙂
4. In-house entertainment.
Really, this is what it says on the tin. Why go out and spend spend spend, when you are staying somewhere so beautiful, and with so much to do on-site?
P.S. Here is the website, plus the Facebook page, for Hidden Valley Yurts in Monmouthshire. The lovely people who run the place have no idea that I am posting about it; I am sharing it with you because I love it there.