This holiday we spent a month with the family in Sweden 🇸🇪. It was awesome. This is a quick write-up of note-worthy tips, the route of our trip and the experience travelling with a family of 5.
We were in a big mobile home (7.5 meters) that has a sleeping capacity of 6. With everyone sleeping inside it tends to get really crowded and it takes a while to transform the living area into the sleeping area. The biggest disadvantage of sleeping inside is that the living room can not be used as soon as the kids go to bed (between 8 and 9). Considering that in some areas there are a lot of mosquitos once the sun goes down we figured we'd bring two 10-second tents to have 4 more sleeping places outside.
Other stuff I took to make the trip more noteworthy:
We started the trip in Trelleborg and did a tour from the South to the East coast of Sweden all the way up to Stockholm (which is only about 1/3th of the country). Sweden is Huge!
We arrived on the ferry (from Rostock Germany) in Trelleborg. Since it was late, 22:30 when we got through border control, we drove to the closest camping which in hindsight was the most commercial and expensive camping we did in the entire holiday.
On the map, it looked great (South West corner of Sweden) but it was pretty much a full campsite with over 100 campers nicely parked between 4 lines. Icecreams and mini-golf at the reception 😱
In the morning I could not wait to get out of there and discover 'real' Sweden. Based on weather forecasts we decided to do the East coast and drive our way up to Stockholm.
Leaving the camping site our first stop Falsterbo beach. On our way there we passed Mikes pizza restaurant with a huge 'Pizza World Champion' banner which did it for the kids. Bribed the kids with some variation of
We'll go to the pizza place after you all play on the beach/in the water to make sure you're all hungry enough
It worked 🍕
It was later afternoon when we left the Pizza place with destination Ystad. The sun was out a curly road that was right next to the ocean and trees/forest on the other side. A few km's later our kids saw someone diving from a small jetty and asked me to pull over.
On the parking, we met a super nice German couple who were wrapping up their 3 week holiday and decided to stay.
It was a super nice spot next to a small sand beach! The road was close (30 meters) but it didn't bother us that much. First chance to take out the SUP-board and Canoo so decided to go all the way 💪🏻. Kids wanted to sleep in the tent, and after they were all down we spent a super nice evening with the neighbour couple that was travelling with a 6-month baby.
After saying goodbye we were on our way to Ystad where we took off the bikes for a short tour and our first chance to do a Swedish Fika (tea/pastry) after which we took a long drive. With the evening approaching most of the spots on Park4night were taken and we had to keep driving to end up in Gislövhammar where there was a small green campsite with a great view over the sea.
The kids made friends, we met a lovely Belgian couple and their dog and decided to stay another day. The second day we went for a Belgian BBQ and invited another Dutch couple to join us (to finish the wine).
In the 2 days on this campsite we also did:
The next day we stayed in a small harbour in Hörviks Hamn. When we arrived all the paying/good spots were taken but I managed to find a spot that was not intended for camping. The spot turned out to be great. It was 5 meters from a small beach.
In the harbour, there was this small restaurant where we had our first restaurant visit so far. It was great (although the restaurant was understaffed and everything took so long). The kids were playing near the docks, we had the best riesling, the good was great and we could watch the sunset from our table. ♥️
The next morning I took Annelies on the SUP-board before we resumed the journey. Next stop: Karlskrona (or somewhere close).
I got a tip from the German couple (day 2) that the islands near Carlkrona are super calm and worth a visit.
On our way to the bookmarked spot, we passed some small camping sites one of which was Kustgården Senoren which turned out to be an awesome camping site. Only 4-5 campers, a small private beach, trees all the way to the coastline and evening sun. That's our spot!
We stayed there for 3 days. The kids were enjoying themselves swimming to the island on the other side or spending time on the playing ground. On the 2nd day, we spent time in Karlskrona. I took off the bikes and we biked across the city visiting the submarine museum, the marina and the park. Beautiful day!
We initially wanted to visit Gotland but the ferries were all booked. Some of the people we met warned us that Öland is super touristic and some of them were advising us to skip it. As it was raining that day and we wanted to drive over the bridge we decided to give it a go driving all the way up to the North of Oland.
I didn't like the harbour that much as there were too many campers, it was very windy and pretty much concrete everywhere you could see. Had some time to dry some of our laundry (the previous place had a washing machine) but didn't trust the kids to just hang in the harbour because of the wind and the water.
We found a great restaurant in the harbour and enjoyed some seafood where I encouraged the kids to all try an Oyster (which they did. Didn't like it).
After the kids went to sleep I met a group of travelling swedes that invited me to have a few drinks. I brought Belgian beers. Stayed there until about 2 in the morning where they convinced me to try a few of their typical Swedish drinks: Rum/Coke, Sprite/Rum and Whiskey 🤕
The next day was rainy and we decided to drive to Vimmersby to visit the Astrid Lindgren (wikipedia) museum. The inside of the museum was not that impressive (I get bored really fast) but the gardens were great!
I wanted to find a super isolated spot and try 'real' free camping (preferably next to a lake). We drove around for a bit and were looking at google maps to find a small road that led to the water. Took about 45 minutes to find a great spot with no one around.
Stayed there for 1 night only and drove up to a super nice farm in Ydre. We were welcomed by a couple that, together with their 3 kids, moved to Sweden 1 year ago to start a small farm. There were able to buy a piece of land for in his words 'less than a new Volkswagen transporter' 🤩
Every night (stayed for 2 nights) we sat around the campfire and met other guests staying there or had some time to get to know the hosts and their stories. Awesome memories, hope I can be there someday and see what they did with the farm.
In the morning it was pouring rain which made the host happy as it hadn't really rained in about 3 months. Joked about Belgians taking the bad weather with us and left for Stockholm.
Because of the weather forecast, we decided to book a short stay somewhere close to Stockholm to visit the city. We found a great spot on Airbnb next to a river with our own private jetty. The house had a separate lake house with 2 extra beds, a Sauna (which turned out was not working) and a great kitchen. A nice feeling after spending 10 days in a 2x6 camper van 😀
Enjoyed spending some time in Stockholm and were able to meet Frederik's family (and baby). My kids were so happy to see Frederik again (we worked together quite intensively a few years ago starting Prezly). We made some great memories!
The day after we spent a day in the city Center of Stockholm, gave the mobile home a good clean and started planning the rest of the trip as it was time to see the rest of Sweden.
We wanted to spend more time around the big lakes and drove to Västerås (pronounced Westeros like GoT).
We found a nice spot on an almost empty grass field next to a bar/restaurant which was built over a small river. There was a mini-golf terrain, almost no tourists and a nice pizza place which made us stay for a day longer.
The kids wanted to swim and I promised them to do a big tour on the river with the sup board. Inflating the board is a real workout as it needs 1.5 bar to work well but it was totally worth it! We spent a few hours on the water making sure the kids were tired enough for a smooth bed routine 😴
The next day we drove to Örebro to visit the Stadspark which was advertised as one of the most beautiful parks in Sweden. While the kids were playing in the playing ground had some time to walk through the park and found this beautiful walnut tree.
After the kids were tired of the playing ground I told them they'd get ice cream if they could guess which tree in the park is on my top-5 of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen. They guessed it quite easily 🍦
We left the city park and drove all the way up to Värern which is the biggest lake in Sweden and one of the largest lakes in Europe. It's beautiful.
Found a camping spot right on the east side of the lake. Sun was out, no clouds at all so time to set everything up and take a swim. The water was super clean and we stayed in much longer than planned. After dinner, I told the kids to go and find some wood to make a campfire. We had bought marshmallows a little earlier and allowed the kids to get sugared up right before they went to sleep 😫
Annelies wanted to go more North to see real Sweden so we left early the next day driving North and closer to the border of Norway. Most of the campsites were full and there were noticeable fewer spots on park4night. We landed in Årjängs Hembygdsgård, a small camping site next to a lake.
The best thing about this spot was a nearby coffee bar/restaurant/hotel that had an awesome backside terrace with a view over the lake. We went in for a quick coffee and spent almost 3 hours. We started talking to the staff, met a fellow Belgian couple while the kids were playing inside. The place was so awesome that we had to get a table for dinner the same evening. One of the best meals/experiences we have had in Sweden so far! Even with the limited menu choice (we did not have a choice) the food was great, the staff super helpful and the view was stunning.
We wanted to get back to the lakes so drove all the way down to Upperud where we found a horse farm that rented out Canoes. Because it was raining all evening we went to bed early and kept everyone inside (no tents). In the morning we prepared lunch, double-coated the kids with sunscreen and put on the lifejackets. Canoe trip!
This turned out to be awesome! From the farm, we had to follow a small creek for about 1 kilometre to get to a side lake of Värern. Choices for Canoes were limited so we got two single Canoes and a double one. I took Marcel and Lucie in the double one where our youngest sat on my lap. This was quite a workout and outside of the kids complaining (I'm tired! I'm hungry! My arms!) it was by far the most exciting thing we did so far.
We spent about 4 hours on the water and got back to the camper about 30 minutes before a big thunderstorm. Packed up the tents and decided to drive through the bad weather on our way to the bottom of the lakes. We arrived in Kedumstorp later that evening. Everyone was tired after the boat ride and road trip so we took out a pizza and stayed over in what in retrospect was the worst spot of the holiday (which was still a 6/10). We left at 9:30 to drive to Hjo.
In Hjo I did not want to camp in the commercial campsites or harbour so looked for a spot close by so we could visit the city by bike. Found an awesome spot close to a small lake west of Hjo.
Outside of the flies (there was a public toilet that desperately needed taking care off), it was a great spot!
We ended up staying for 2 days with mini bike trips to Hjo city centre where we had the best ice cream. The sunsets on this spot were awesome and the water was only 50cm deep for the first part of the lake. This allowed the kids to play in the water until it was time to sleep or food.
Because the water in the lake was a little smelly we needed to wash ourselves every time we came out. We figured out we could do outside showers opening the camper side window and pulling out the showerhead.
All the books about Sweden talked about the west coast being so beautiful. The Swedish people we met during the holiday told us that it's the side of Sweden the Norwegians took over
They like to come over with their big boats, expensive cards and you know, they just take over...
So we had mixed feelings about exploring the west coast. We drove up all the way to the Norwegian border where we stayed on a small farm (with 2 horses). Upon arrival, we were hesitant to stay the night but the owner convinced us
Yesterday a moose came down that hill and were grazing the field here. The German couple that stayed here saw it around 6 in the morning. We also have the white moose here.
When we left for Sweden we said it would be great to see a wild moose and now we had the opportunity to do so. We set up the camper and tents and called it a night early. I had set my alarm clock to get up around 5 in the morning to start spotting. Nothing :-(
As we were close to the Norwegian border we decided to drive up there to see the Älgafallet waterfall and the old border bridge (the old Svinesund Bridge). After that, we drove up to Strömstad where we had some time to go swimming and found a nice small tapas restaurant. The perfect day ❤️
I did tell Robbert about my morning activity and the white moose and he wanted to double down.
Dad, if you wake me up I will do the deer watch with you. Maybe Mom can help too...
To maximise our chances we started to search for tips 🤓such as at what time of the day are Moose most active? Do they come in groups or by themselves? I decided to talk to the owner once more to get some more pointers.
Although I was tired of last time, and not too confident we'd have a chance spotting some we agreed to a new schedule for the next morning.
Crickets 🦗🦗🦗...We were all pretty disappointed not spotting anything significant (2 Crain birds and a small deer) we figured it was time to move on and also prepare the way back to Belgium (ferry vs bridge, driving at night or not...).
I found a great sheep farm in Ostroo that had some room to park up to 8 campers. As it was a beautiful day we drove down and decided not to visit Goteburg. I don't know what it was but after our Stockholm visit, we didn't feel like getting back to a city.
Right about when we arrived and set up the tents it started raining while the sun was shining so we had to go hide inside.
We put the kids to bed on time (a long day) and I found a small window to take a short run. I got lost and didn't want to take my phone so the run took way longer than expected. I think I ran around 15km and arrived around 11:00 where everything was pitch dark.
Annelies and I thought it was a good moment to start preparing for the way back to Belgium and spent a nice evening with candles to finalise the plan for the remainder of the holiday. It was a great opportunity to open a good bottle of Whisky I brought from Belgium which we ended up drinking a little too much off 🤕
In the morning the Sheep farm turned out to be much more awesome than we'd imagined. There was a small breakfast/lunch shop, a mini-beach to swim, you could take a tour around the farm (over 1000 sheep) and they allowed the kids to touch some of the sheep.
As we had a dinner date with my colleague in Helsingborg we had to leave for about a 1-hour drive. Annelies did all the driving where I had a chance to look for Corona rules with regards to passing through Denmark and Germany and had to find a place to stay.
The West coast of Sweden has much fewer spots to spend the night with a camper. I discovered that some of the regions also have a no-free parking rule (in contradiction with the rest of Sweden). As we agreed to go for dinner in the city centre, and we wanted to put the kids asleep at somewhat of a decent hour (Marcel is 6 yrs old), I was looking for something we could walk/taxi to from the restaurant. No success :-(
Looking at the different options I found an affordable hotel with one family room available right outside of Helsingborg and the taxi ride to the restaurant was about 25 euros. Turned out the room was really just 4 beds but luckily we had a mattress and sleeping bar in the camper. After taking a quick shower (showering 3 kids is never quick) we said hello to this great taxi driver and went to the hotel.
It was my first time meeting Brenna (my colleague) and turned out to be a wonderful night! The kids enjoyed the company of Brenna and her partner, we had great food, good laughs and some time left to explore the city centre and harbour. Robbert and Brenna had a great (Pokemon) connection. Great success!
As a cherry on the cake (and according to the plan we made 2 days earlier) we wanted to surprise the kids with a hotel with a swimming pool or sauna and Annelies and I were secretly hoping we could have a rooftop/skybar experience after the kids went to bed.
So I booked two rooms in the Clarion Malmo Hotel which turned out to be great. We had two adjacent rooms on the 16th floor with an awesome view. Because the sun was out we figured out would be best to explore the city while finding something to eat for the kids (we were planning to have a tete-a-tete in the hotel skybar).
Exploring the city we had cocktails on a terras, took a ride in the ferry wheel, found a great restaurant for the kids, practised our Voi scooter skills and danced to a DJ in the hotel that was wrapping up the LGBTQ+ conference in the lobby of the hotel.
We managed to get the kids to sleep at 20:30 for the long ride tomorrow, and after I made sure they were really sleeping, shared instructions with Robbert on how to reach us and the reception I went up to the Skybar where Annelies was waiting for me.
It was the perfect wrap-up of a one month stay in Sweden. Perfect (and frigging expensive) cocktails, good food and a wonderful view over Malmo from the 25th floor.
Sweden, we will be back!