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Choosing the best holiday park for your family

If you’re a sceptic of caravan holiday parks, it’s worth realising that most have moved on from the days of knobbly knee competitions and grubby old accommodation. Popular parks occupy prime seaside or countryside locations and some have direct access to quiet beaches. They are also a good option for large family gatherings, meaning that each family can their own space but can easily meet up at mealtimes or share babysitting duties.

There’s a big choice of holiday parks in popular UK resorts, including the Isle of Wight

The phrase ‘holiday park’ can mean many different things in the UK and doing your research is wise before you book. After all, you don’t really want to be suffering unfriendly glares from fellow visitors if your children are the only ones making noise before 9am.

If you’re a dog owner then you’ll find plenty of holiday parks are pet-friendly, usually for a small charge. Equally, if you’re not a dog fan you might want to pick one which is pet-free.

Many families opt for a busy holiday park which has enough onsite to fill many hours without venturing outside the park entrance. Most of these are operated by chains such as Haven, Parkdean Resorts, Park Holidays, Away Resorts or Pontins. The quality of these parks varies somewhat, both in terms of the accommodation on offer and the facilities. The best of these parks offer scenic locations and modern accommodation, including some posher options with lodges and hot tubs.

In theory, you could spend your whole holiday on one of these large, family-friendly parks, thanks to the kids’ activities in the daytime, evening entertainment for the grown-ups, indoor swimming pools, sports and playgrounds. Bear in mind that there’s usually a charge for some activities. As a general rule, swimming sessions are included in the price when you book but any sport which requires an instructor usually has an extra fee. Each park is slightly different so have a read of the small print first.

Those of us who prefer to explore the local area might be better to choose a simple holiday park which only has basic facilities. Some of these are still in scenic locations but the onsite facilities might be limited to something like a launderette and a set of swings. Often, these parks are the cheapest option and can offer an affordable holiday in the height of summer in popular locations such as Devon, Yorkshire, Cornwall or the Isle of Wight.

Finally, there are posher holiday parks which usually call themselves ‘holiday resorts’ or something similar. The wobbly caravans are replaced with more robust lodges with hot tubs and the onsite buffet restaurant is replaced with a ‘brasserie’. These often cost considerably more than caravan parks, but many receive rave reviews and offer some good discounts if you are able to avoid peak times.

Whichever type of caravan holiday park you pick, you’ll get best value if you can fill up a large caravan and split the cost between six or eight people. There is sometimes only a slight difference in price between a four berth caravan and an eight berth, although you will need to know each other pretty well and be willing to wait to use the shower in the morning.

Check a few recent reviews before you book and don’t assume that the ‘gold’ accommodation is always better than the ‘bronze’ option. You may find that the ‘bronze’ caravans have just been replaced or refurbished whilst the better-equipped ‘gold’ accommodation is getting a bit tired.

Happy holidays!

Robert Lane runs Holiday Park Guru and Isle of Wight Guru.

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