Holidays! After months of being confined to our homes, many of us are absolutely desperate for a change of scenery, but how many actually want to fly and stay in a hotel, or are looking forward to a break on a cruise ship? Fewer than before the pandemic, it seems. Dealerships have been reporting an upsurge in sales of leisure vehicles to first-time customers as people turn their backs on spending downtime in close proximity with strangers. Those who are new to the idea of touring might find themselves a little lost over where to start. Actually, you’ve already done the difficult bit, having agonised over the layout that will most suit you and your family. Now it’s time to seek out beautiful places to explore. When it comes to choosing somewhere to stay, there’s a lot to assimilate. With more than 12,000 sites listed by UKcampsite.co.uk, 3323 holiday parks and campsites by Pitchup.com, 2000 by The Camping and Caravanning Club and 2500 by the Caravan and Motorhome Club, choosing a campsite can be a little overwhelming. But it is important: not being happy with your campsite choice can ruin your trip. Holidays are about creating memories and you don’t want them to be bad. So how do you narrow it down?
Who do you think you are?
Start by considering the needs of your family. A family with two young teenagers will require quite a different set-up to one with under-10s to keep happy, or one that comprises just adults. Interests are important, too. Will it be the coast, rivers, lakes, countryside, moorland, mountains or towns that offer the most opportunities to keep everyone enthralled? Your idea of a break might be one where there are few decisions to make because activities are laid on and meal solutions are readily available within a holiday park environment, so you can just relax. Alternatively, you might prefer a campsite that is located deep in the countryside or on the coast, where you make your own fun.
Low on the readies?
Budget is another important consideration. If the coffers are low, you might prefer a low-facility, environmentally friendly campsite. Low season is always a good time to go touring on a budget, and you can quite often find some really excellent deals for midweek touring, too. A stay of seven nights or more can sometimesearn you an extra night for free.
What about pets?
Owning a leisure vehicle means they don’t have to go into kennels, you can take them with you, even to Europe with a pet passport. You just need to find a pet-friendly campsite with space to exercise your animal, either on site or on walks nearby. Some sites even have outside dog showers, so you can hose down your pet after a muddy outing. Most insist on dogs being kept on leads, which ensures comfort and safety for all guests, and some will limit the number of dogs per unit.
Join a club
Becoming a member of one or both of the major UK touring clubs – the Caravan and Motorhome Club and Th e Camping and Caravanning Club – gives you access to 4500 campsites. The Clubs list sites they own, affiliated sites, and those designated Certificated Site/Location (CS/CL). CSs and CLs are small, independently owned sites for members only, which take just five units. They are often in beautiful countryside settings; some are areas set aside within larger campsites. Most will be able to provide you with a supply of fresh water, but you should always check the website listing for other facilities. As well as facilities, the Clubs’ websites will list top local highlights. However, working out the sites’ pricing structure can be a little complicated. At any Club site, you are assured of top levels of hygiene and maintenance. If you are thinking about touring abroad, both Clubs can help with travel arrangements, offering deals for ferries and European site bookings. Both can also help with leisure vehicle insurance.
The important stuff
Make a list of what you require from a campsite. If you are in a motorhome and stopping for just one or two nights, it might be as simple as having a nearby pub where you can get an evening meal. Choose a site that has a motorhome service point where you can empty your grey water and fill up with fresh. If you are staying longer, look for easy access to public transport, which saves you the stress of driving along narrow roads or busy streets, and means you won’t have to pack everything away every day, as you do when on the move. Washroom facilities on the majority of sites will include showers, toilets and basins, with family rooms and some specifically for wheelchair users; many have dishwashing and laundry facilities. If these facilities are important to you, check the website for descriptions and reviews. Reviews and awards listed on websites are very good indicators of how well a campsite is run. For eco-friendly credentials, look for the David Bellamy Awards symbol. Super-clean washroom facilities can earn themselves a Loo of the Year Award. Visit Britain and the AA grade campsites, and for people’s choice awards, go to our annual Top 100 Sites Guide, where the campsites have been voted for by their guests (to download your free copy, go to https://bit.ly/2Z08L2K).
Sites for the grown-ups…
Select an adults-only site if you are grown-ups seeking peace and quiet. Tranquil Parks (tranquilparks.co.uk) lists 43 independent, family-owned adults-only parks across England and Wales, with some helpful filters, such as dog-friendly, open all year and fishing. Fishing and touring seem to be quite common bedfellows, with access to excellent angling lakes at, among others, the award-winning Eye Kettleby Lakes (www.eyekettlebylakes.com) in Leicestershire, Henfold Lakes (www.henfoldlakesleisure.co.uk) in Surrey, Sumners Ponds (www.sumnersponds.co.uk) in Sussex, Woodhall Country Park (www.woodhallcountrypark.co.uk)in Lincolnshire, and Fields End Water (www.fieldsendwater.co.uk) in Cambridgeshire.
…and for families
Families often prefer full-facility sites, providing children’s clubs, play areas, fields for ball games, a swimming pool and a restaurant, café, bar or clubhouse. Some have crazy golf and petting zoos. Others have spa facilities and a gym. Take a look at holiday park operators such as Flower of May (www.flowerofmay.com), which owns several parks in Yorkshire offering a variety of family-friendly facilities. Full-facility sites usually have a complement of static caravans, some privately owned, some for hire. The ambience will be busy, active and very much family-oriented. Other holiday park operators to take a look at include Lancashire’s Holgates (holgates.co.uk), whose Silverdale site is a regular finalist in our Top 100 Sites Guide, Parkdean Resorts (parkdean resorts.co.uk) – 32 of its 67 UK-wide parks accept bookings from touring visitors – southern-based Park Holidays (parkholidays.com), which has campsites in Devon, Essex, Kent and Suffolk, and Away Resorts (awayresorts.co.uk), which has resorts in England and Wales. All of these companies offer family-friendly facilities.
Adventure, theme, location
Enjoyment of outdoor activities might guide your campsite choice. Adventure Campsites (www.adventurecampsites.com) lists sites across the British Isles that offer adventures close by, such as walking the Brecon Beacons, or coastal or lake-based watersports. Alternatively, selecting a specific location – the regional tourist board website will have a section on accommodation – or picking a particular theme, such as following Scotland’s famous whisky trail, could be the way to go.
Touring further afield
If you’re thinking about travelling further afield, there’s plenty of helpful information to be found. As mentioned above, the Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club can arrange and book ferries and campsites abroad. If you are touring in low season, pick up an ACSI camping card (campingcard.co.uk), which can gain you savings of up to 60% at participating sites across Europe. The Eurocampings website (eurocampings.co.uk) lists 9854 sites inspected annually by ACSI. Europe, especially France, is very motorhome friendly. If you are venturing across the Channel, arm yourself with All the Aires guidebooks by Vicarious Media (vicarious-shop.com), which list motorhome overnight stops, and France Passion (france-passion.com), which lists farms and vineyards that welcome members with self-contained motorhomes for an overnight stay. Membership is annual, the guide changes every year, so it is important to update. There’s plenty of help to be had, you just need to decide what you want – try reading our travel features, where you’re sure to find inspiration!