It’s been a turbulent time for the UK’s staycation market, which employs two million people and creates an estimated £14.5 billion for the economy. Thousands of staff were furloughed and companies spent weeks wondering when they would be allowed to open again. Many stopped taking bookings altogether and some slipped into administration.
With restrictions lifting, property owners have been busy adapting and booking agents have experienced an extraordinary couple of weeks with one camping website reporting ‘a 750% increase in bookings compared to this time last year’
If you usually travel abroad and are considering a holiday park in the UK this year, it’s worth realising that there’s a wide range in what you can expect.
Holiday parks are well placed to comply with social distancing guidelines as they are neatly self contained and separated from each other. The best ones are alongside beaches, woodland and lakes so there’s plenty of space to explore.
Most families plump for a big and busy resort which comes with entertainment on tap. These usually have indoor swimming pools, playgrounds, restaurants and kids’ activities. Big names like Haven, Parkdean Resorts, Butlins and Away Resorts have a good choice in this category of holiday park.
This year, many of the facilities and entertainment at these sites will operate differently so make sure you take a good look at the smallprint rather than assuming you will be able to use everything onsite.
Another type of holiday park in the UK are the quieter resorts which offer a cheap caravan in a prime location. These are usually independently owned and don’t have such a range of things to do on site. However, many of them get great reviews and they make a cheap base for exploring the UK’s best coastal resorts.
The third main type of holiday park in the UK are the lodge resorts which offer bigger accommodation units and often come with their own hot tubs. Of course, these cost more than a compact caravan but if you’re holidaying with relatives a bit of extra space is handy and the cost can be shared out.
Make sure you read a few reviews of whichever park you visit. If you pick a large caravan park try to find reviews of the different grades of accommodation as well as reviews for the overall site. Holiday parks tend to replace and refurbish their caravans gradually so you might find that the ‘gold’ accommodation is actually a lot more dated than the ‘bronze’ accommodation. Also take a bit of time to look at the map of the resort. Some of the best Haven holiday parks are huge so even a beachside resort can have some units which are a long walk if you’re carrying beach bags and a bucket and spade.
There’s a good choice of holiday parks around most of the UK’s coastline but you’ll find a concentration of them in Devon, Dorset, Norfolk, Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire as well as some parts of the Welsh and Scottish coastlines.
One thing to consider is that there’s a massive difference in size between different UK counties. For example, if you’re staying in Bude in North Cornwall it can be a four hour round trip to visit Land’s End on a summer’s day when the roads are busy. Meanwhile, the Isle of Wight is more like ‘England in miniature’ with a good choice of holiday parks and a 25 minute drive in any direction from the centre of the Island to a choice of more than 20 beaches.
If a staycation isn’t enough for you after weeks at home then you’ll find a similarly massive choice of family friendly holiday parks in Europe. They are often known as ‘campsites’ across Europe but there are plenty of static homes and lodges to hire as well.
Landal, Roompot and Center Parcs are three of the biggest names in the European holiday park market but some of the independent sites are good too. Many Brits head for Center Parcs in Europe as they can be considerably cheaper than the UK equivalents. They are run by different companies but they have offer a similar look and feel. European Center Parcs are a bit less consistent though, so take a look at reviews for sites in France, the Netherlands and Germany to make sure you aren’t disappointed after a long drive.
Robert Lane is a blogger who writes about shopping and travel and runs The Best Mattresses Guide