By whatever name you call them — holiday parks, holiday camps, camping resorts — one thing is for sure: these holiday destinations are a one-stop-shop for family entertainment.
Holiday parks have been around for almost a hundred years now, and there are countless sites right across the UK and Europe. Each year, families visit in their thousands — and it’s easy to see why.
Family holiday park stays take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. Unlike camping, you don’t need to pack a tent (in fact, some holiday park lodges are really impressive). And once you’re inside the vicinity of the park, practically everything is on offer, from on-site breakfast spots and day-long activities, right through to a chilled G&T at the end of the day.
But with so many holiday resorts to choose from, you’ll need to do your research. So let’s dive in...
Kids have the time of their lives on a holiday park break. They get to meet new friends, try new things and have heaps of fun. From waterslides and adventure activities to evening entertainment, there’s always something going on.
Grown-ups can cut loose a little bit, too, and unwind with some time away from young ones. Many holiday parks and campsites offer kids’ clubs and babysitting services to help you out.
What’s more, holiday parks come in all shapes and sizes.
You can stay in luxury tents, lodges or mobile homes. There are locations close to the beach, in the middle of the countryside, or right by popular attractions like theme parks (like Disneyland Paris). Some offer a non-stop schedule of activities and entertainment. Others are quieter and more low-key.
So what’s the catch?
Holiday parks can be busy during high season — if you’re looking for a quiet retreat with just the family to keep you company, a holiday park definitely doesn’t fit the bill.
This type of holiday can also be very expensive during school breaks, particularly as some parks charge extra for certain activities and events.
Once you’ve checked in, you can really make what you want of a family holiday park stay. That being said, holiday park staycations or trips abroad would most suit active families who want their pick of activities, food and entertainment options — that’s what you’re paying for, after all.
Butlin’s and Pontins are both large scale holiday parks, offering chalet accommodation and gold-standard entertainment in a few select locations around the UK coastline. Accommodation at Pontins is more basic, but can save you a few pennies as a result.
Most of Haven’s 40 caravan parks are close to the beach and, while smaller than Butlin’s or Pontins, offer a good selection of family-friendly activities and facilities.
Lovely seaside locations are the big selling point for these lodge and caravan park holidays — compared to other UK parks, there’s not the same choice and variety of facilities. Parkdean Resorts are found all over the country, while Park Holidays caravan parks are based solely in the south of England.
Center Parcs offers forest-based fun for all the family, with high-end accommodation set over huge parks and an extensive selection of dining and activity options. Center Parcs sites are best explored by bicycle — depending on where your lodge is, you could be a long walk into the ‘centre’ — and some have high ropes, archery and horse riding to enjoy.
Hoseasons has something for every price point; cottages, boating, lodge holidays, luxury camping, seaside stays and forest adventures in holiday parks across the UK. If you want the Center Parcs experience, without the Center Parcs price tag, Hoseasons is worth a look.
It would be impossible to list all the holiday park resorts across the continent, but here’s our pick of the best:
Based across 17 large holiday parks in France and Holland, Siblu offers chalets, lodges and mobile home accommodation as well as pool complexes and kids’ clubs. Their villages in northern France (Normandy and Brittany, to be exact) would be easy to reach by car — perfect for families travelling abroad with a lot of stuff!
Al Fresco is at the cheaper end of the holiday park scale, but still offers exciting family-friendly facilities and mobile home accommodation across five European countries, some as far-flung as Croatia.
At Canvas Holidays, you’ll find beautiful locations in an incredible selection of European countries and a great range of luxury camping, mobile home and lodge accommodation, too. Many of their holiday villages feel more like 5 star hotels, than a camping site.
If choice is what you’re after, then Suncamp is where you need to look. Suncamp has 400 campsites in 13 countries, many of which boast sea or lakeside locations and some even have their very own waterpark.
Europcamp is a long-established holiday camp favourite, with a staggering range of locations, accommodation and activities (think zip-lining, zorbing and horse riding). Eurocamp also has a number of “rustic” options, with villages set in amongst the locals — perfect for families looking for a more authentic continental experience.
The short answer? Any time you want!
When you’re sleeping in a lodge, caravan or static home, you don’t need to worry so much about the rain. That’s why many holiday parks are open all year round, with a range of both indoor and outdoor family activities available. Some even put on special seasonal events for Halloween, Christmas and New Year.
That being said, parks may reduce their activities and entertainment in off season, so be sure to check what is included with your booking if you’re travelling outside school holidays or in the winter.
Holiday parks suit a range of budgets. They’re generally cheaper than hotel accommodation but more expensive than camping — even if you choose to stay in a holiday park tent.
Prices vary depending upon company, location and the level of facilities the park provides. Bear in mind that some holiday parks charge extra for activities and this will affect your overall spend.
And one last point: don’t discount a European holiday park, because you assume it’ll be too expensive. Sometimes, even with travel included, a stay at a European holiday park can work out cheaper than the UK equivalent.
To give a rough idea, here are a few figures based upon a week-long stay in August for a family of four:
Holiday parks are made for families. With great locations, kid-focused activities and entertainment, there need never be a dull moment.
Many UK holiday parks boast incredible facilities and entertainment, and all right on our doorstep. At European parks, you’ll probably get better weather and can practice a little of your French or Spanish, too. Ultimately, it’s all down to the type of holiday you’re looking for.
Some parks charge a fee for bed linen and towel hire, so check your booking details and consider taking your own if you’re travelling by car. Otherwise, pack for the weather and the exciting family activities you’ve got planned.
Holiday parks are a great option for kids of all ages. As enclosed parks, safety is a priority and they often provide excellent children’s entertainment. Toddlers will love splashing in the pool or paddling in the sea, while teens can enjoy outdoor adventures and evening discos (without the parents!).
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