Image: Caravan touring pitch at Love2Stay touring caravan site
They have the priceless ability to take our mind off the more serious things in life; but holidays are essentially an investment. Not just of money, but of time. For this reason, it is worth doing your research well in advance. According to research, over £1.8 billion a year is spent on caravan holidays in the UK – but how much of it is spent wisely?
As a caravan owner, you will have your own methods of weighing up what makes a suitable touring pitch. Personal preference will always be a big factor, and there are also some touring pitch features which all caravanners should be aware of when considering where to go. In this article, we present to you the seven things it pays to take heed of before booking yourself in:
1. Family fun or keeping the peace?
Image: Love2Stay Touring park - zorb balll fun
With the huge variety offered by the hundreds of caravan sites up and down the UK - from large commercial sites to small Temporary Holiday Sites and those operated by the Camping and Caravan Club - it should be easy to find the touring pitch which meets your requirements for a perfect holiday; but there are still traps to fall into. Don’t have any preconceptions about the caravan site you are booking. Just because you can see a play area in the photo gallery, that doesn’t mean it will be overrun with children.
Outside of the school holidays, you might find that some caravan sites with ample kids’ facilities are actually very peaceful – Love2Stay, one of the top touring caravan sites in Wales, or close to it, being a case in point. One of the best practices you can incorporate into your planning is to check for reviews online - get involved on the various caravan forums, and receive the lowdown from the horse’s mouth. It’s all about minimising surprises as much as possible.
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2. Pet-friendly caravan parks?
Image: Matthew Henry
You might split the UK’s caravan sites into three categories when it comes to pets – pet-friendly; no pets allowed; or an ambivalent attitude which doesn’t prohibit pets but doesn’t encourage them, either.
For some caravan owners, pets such as a dog can be seen as almost a member of the family, and the chance to bring them along for the ride, as well as for the walks, is essential to enjoying time away. This group should look closely at the range of pet-friendly sites throughout the country. They often charge a supplement for bringing along a four legged friend, but the peace of mind which you are provided with makes this nominal fee - usually below £50 - well worth it.
Some pet friendly caravan sites are quite happy to advise on suitable walks in the surrounding countryside, and might even sell some doggy treats! You should remember that it is considered good touring pitch etiquette to keep your dog on a lead while on site.
For those of you without a pet– you will want to pay close attention to which sites are pet friendly, specifically if you aren’t a fan of sharing a site with the furry creatures!
3. Touring caravan parks’ location
Image: Love2Stay Touring Caravan Site Shropshire.
Caravan site location isn’t just about the views you wake up to. It can also be a factor in the pricing of booking a pitch, as well as the provisions you will need for your stay in the absence of, or proximity to, or local amenities.
As a general rule, caravan sites which are situated close by to a beach, or in the middle of a village or town, can tend to be more expensive. Of course, if being able to stroll down for a day at the beach in minutes or into the local village to visit the shops ticks your boxes, then it might be worth forking out a few extra pounds.
Staying close to a town can also give you the welcome benefit of transport links throughout the surrounding area, which can amount to a greater degree of freedom in terms of your daily activities. However, if your idea of the perfect break is to embrace the wilderness, these kind of caravan sites are not for you, and you should keep an eye out for locations which are further off the beaten track.
4. Know your ratings
Perhaps the most important piece of advice here is not to judge a caravan site exclusively on its rating. Many ratings – be they three, five or seven stars – can be ‘self awarded’, meaning they should certainly be taken with a pinch of salt.
Among the most highly respected ratings you might come across in the UK include the system devised by Visit England, the tourism body. They assess caravan sites in categories including individual pitches, laundry and bathroom facilities, external lighting and signage, and arrival service. A four or five star rating, as well as a Gold award, is always worth looking out for. You can read more about the Visit England rating system here.
Online ratings should not be discounted. So long as they are derived from a large number of reviews in order to be representative, ratings calculated from visitor reviews can provide another useful barometer as to the general feeling about a caravan site. You should never book a pitch based on ratings alone, but don’t be afraid to use them as an indicator which can inform further research.
5. Know your rates
From touring caravan sites near Wales to caravan parks in the South of England and up into Scotland - we all want to get the best deal possible. But sometimes that just isn’t possible in peak holiday season when caravan sites will want to make the most of their busiest time. So when shopping around for the most budget friendly options, be sure you know of any discounts or special offers which a caravan site might have in place. For example, if you are going away with friends or family in a group of caravans, can a site offer you a discount for bookings on three or more pitches?
Ensure you know which affiliations mean you could bag a reduction – sites which are part of the Caravan and Motorhome Club network offer savings to members. And are you a member of an organisation such as the National Camping and Caravanning Club? If so, there may be caravan sites which you are able to access exclusively as a member.
Image: Airstreams at Love2Stay Touring Site
Power is another part of booking a touring pitch which offers two sides to the equation. On the one hand, sites which are unpowered might have fewer facilities across the board, but they can offer a level of seclusion which might be unattainable on powered sites. Meanwhile, powered sites can cost more than unpowered sites. Even if you are travelling with your own independent power source, such as solar panels, you might wish to book into a powered caravan site, simply because you prefer the location itself.
Irrespective of your decision making process in relation to power on touring caravan sites, it is essential to know exactly what is offered, and what’s not.
7. Touring caravan pitches location – proximity to the bathrooms?
Image: Shower facilities at Love2Stay in Shropshire
Once you have your heart set on a particular caravan site, it’s time to pay close attention to the location of your pitch itself. Subject to availability, it all comes down to what suits you best. If you are a group of light sleepers, such as children who are likely to need the bathroom at all times of the night, or if your daily cooking routine is made a whole lot easier by easy access to dish washing facilities, then you might want to place yourself close to the bathroom or any kitchen area which your site provides.
On the other hand, to safeguard against being disturbed by passers-by at the crack of dawn, it could make sense to take the opposite tack, and position your caravan or motorhome at a pitch in one of the quieter corners of the site. An amenity block is there for your convenience – not inconvenience! So make sure you are getting what you need from one, and not what you don’t.
So there you have it, our seven pieces of key information to bear in mind when considering the best site for you. We all know what we want from a caravan holiday, and by ensuring that we collate the right information, what can initially seem like a minor detail won’t turn into a major source of irritation. So here’s to many more miles on the clock, days spent in the fresh air and unforgettable new discoveries.