Holiday Parks and Holiday Villages
• Not that some operators to Europe will arrange ferry crossings or other travel, often at preferential rates. Check too if they offer discounts on car-hire, and/or special deals or even free places for grandparents.
• Also look out for discounts outside school holidays if travelling with babies or toddlers. Note that some operators have parks particularly well-suited to very young children, offering equipment loan or hire and special activities. Notify them of any requirements for highchairs, cots and other baby/toddler equipment and find out if baby linen is included.
• Consider carefully the kind of holiday you want. Larger campsites and parks with entertainment can be noisy at night.
• Find out if you can choose the location of your unit in advance. You may prefer to be close to the swimming complex, for instance, or away from the evening entertainment hub.
• Check the location – for instance, being by the beach may be important to you. And make sure there’s a decent amount to do in the vicinity.
• Pay attention to on-site and off-site facilities. If the on-site shop is limited and/or overpriced, are there supermarkets within easy reach? You’ll probably bring your car; if not, is there good local public transport?
• Find out if you need to book activities or kids’ club places in advance, to avoid disappointment. Reserve bikes (and child-seats/trailers) if possible.
• Investigate when you can arrive and leave. Even if you can’t check in until 3/4pm on your first and need to check out by 10am on your last, some parks allow you to arrive early/stay on to use facilities – effectively giving you two extra days’ fun. Facilities tend to be much less busy on main arrival and departure days, too.
• If you’re arriving late in the day, order a welcome pack of basics so you don’t have worry about provisions.
• Find out if linen and towels are extra; if so, and you have room in the car, take your own to save money.
• When you're on-site, look out at reception or in local shops and tourist offices for discount vouchers to local attractions and restaurants.
Camping and Glamping
• Kids LOVE camping. With adults, it can be a love or hate thing, though most just need a bit of persuasion. An appreciation for the outdoors and relaxed attitude to the weather are essential. Lots of independent play out in the elements tires kids out nicely, but camping also offers lessons in self-sufficiency – making fires, cooking with limited food/facilities, and learning how nature can sustain us. However, if you’re still not convinced, or don’t want to go the whole hog, combine a camping holiday with a few days of luxury, try a weekend on a campsite with good facilities not far from home, or at a family-friendly music festival.
• Take a separate tent for older kids. If you’re sharing, have one with compartments, for private time after the kids are asleep. But be prepared to go to bed with the sun and rise with the sun!
• Bear in mind that the more things you take (foldaway chairs, cool boxes…), the more comfortable you’ll be. But air mattresses and feather pillows can be too bulky to take. Bring the campsite essentials: extra blankets even in summer, sun protection (a gazebo or tarpaulin) if in a field, a wind-break (to double as a privacy shield), a double-hob stove, battery-operated lanterns, a washing-up bowl and equipment, copious loo and kitchen roll, wipes, and pans, plates, plastic glasses, etc.
• Pack masses of clothes – if there’s no laundrette, it’s hard hand-washing and drying clothes in a tent.
• Take plenty of food and drink – on-site shops can be expensive. Pasta, couscous, baked beans and eggs are easy and quick. Snacks are important, especially dried fruit and nuts; bring containers to keep bugs out.
• Pack favourite toys, for when it rains and you’ve worn out local museums.