Pay less and play more with Karl Cushing's guide to holiday parks on the Continent
All-inclusive resorts might grab the headlines, but for pocket-friendly, hassle free family holidays you’d be hard pushed to beat a holiday park.
Forget images of tired static caravans and morning runs to communal shower blocks: these days you’re more likely to find yourself kicking back in a modern, well-equipped mobile home or chalet, with top class entertainment and facilities on tap.
Moreover, with major operators investing big bucks to improve their sites and adding locations as diverse as the Italian Lakes, Austrian Alps and Spanish coastline, they’re increasingly easy to sell – and with the likes of Siblu offering 15% commission, the pickings can be pretty good too.
What? Formerly Haven’s European arm, Siblu owns and operates 14 four-star, family-friendly holiday villages across France. All are open from May 24 to September 15.
For 2013 its Domaine de Litteau village has a new outdoor children’s play zone, complete with BMX track, zip wire and archery range, plus Le Lac des Reves, a multi-flume waterslide. Most parks feature indoor and outdoor pools, splash areas, children’s clubs for ages up to 14, adventure playgrounds, restaurants and evening entertainment. Two properties, Le Bois Masson and Les Sables du Midi, even offer spa facilities.
Hot deal: Free bike hire and linen at Domaine de Kerlann, Brittany, and Domaine de Litteau, Normandy.
Top pick: Domaine de Kerlann, near the harbour town of Pont-Aven, is very family-friendly and convenient for exploring the Brittany coastline.
Book it: Seven nights’ self-catering for a family of four staying in a two-bedroom Esprit+ mobile home starts from £581, commencing August 24.
0871 911 5555
PIERRE & VACANCES
What? Having acquired Center Parcs’ continental arm, P&V owns 14 villages in France and Spain. New for 2013 is Bonavista de Bonmont Holiday Village on the Costa Dorada.
Standout features include the pool areas with water slides and wave machines and its larger villages boast facilities such as golf, tennis and spas. The best properties are dubbed Premium, such as Les Crets in Meribel, which offers ski-in ski-out accommodation.
Hot deal: Get 15% off selected seven-night bookings, and 30% off summer two-week bookings, made before March 31.
Top pick: The 180-hectare Pont Royal en Provence Village Club overlooks the Durance Valley. Accommodation ranges from apartments to villas, and as well as activities such as horse riding and golf there’s a new ‘leisure valley’ with giant slides, mini-farm and play areas.
Book it: A self-catering stay in a one-bedroom apartment, sleeping up to four, costs £500 for seven nights, after the 15% reduction.
0870 026 7144
What? For 2013 the operator has doubled its programme to 134 parks across nine countries (France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and Spain), many operated by sister brand Canvas Holidays. Accommodation ranges from mobile homes and chalets to luxury lodges and apartments.
For 2013 Hoseasons has highlighted its properties best suited for British families in a collection called Voyager First. Quieter sites such as Landal Rehrenberg in Salzburgerland, Austria, are good for couples – plus some sites boast facilities such as spas and beauty centres.
Hot deal: All Hoseasons parks can be booked for a £50 deposit until the end of February.
Top pick: Kids will love the bowling alleys, climbing towers and wild water course at Hof van Saksen in Holland and adults the indoor pool, spa and golf course, while the stunning Drenthe countryside is great for hiking.
Book it: Seven nights in a farmhouse for four people in the Easter school holidays costs £516.
0844 847 1144
What? Keycamp features 95 parks across eight European countries, including Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. Accommodation ranges from mobile homes to apartments and tree houses, with activities such as cycling and golf.
New for 2013 is the Holiday Marina park on the Cote d’Azur, complete with two pools, Jacuzzi and hammam, and the Château de l’Epervière park in Burgundy, set in the grounds of a 16th-century chateau. Plus, 24 parks have opened Splash Parcs, complete with pools and waterslides.
Hot deal: Prices in June lead in at £280 for seven nights, with 20% savings on selected parks during July and August.
Top pick: Kids will love the Château des Ormes, set in 250 acres of Brittany parkland. There’s a Splash Parc, circus tent hosting entertainment, riding school, golf course and free clubs for children aged from six months to 12 years. Standout properties include the Lake Houses and treehouses.
Book it: Seven nights’ accommodation-only from June 25 for two adults and up to four children, staying in a two bedroom Villanova mobile home, costs £476.
0844 844 0000
THOMSON AL FRESCO
What? Al Fresco features 56 parks in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Holland and Croatia. All offer essentials such as restaurants, supermarkets and children’s play areas, and many boast adult-friendly facilities such as gyms, spas and beauty centres.
For 2013 it has increased its choice of well-equipped mobile home styles to 10 and added the four-star Yelloh! Village Ilbarritz, near Biarritz and the beach.
Hot deal: This year sees a host of early-bird deals, including savings of up to 25% off, two-for-one offers on mobile homes and loyalty discounts of up to £100 for repeat customers.
Top pick: La Croix du Vieux Pont, in France’s Champagne region, boasts three lakes, watersports and a beach, plus, new for 2013, an indoor pool area and sports centre. The park operates excursions to Paris and Disneyland Paris up to six times per week (pre bookable through Al Fresco).
Book it: Seven nights at La Croix from May 25, 2013, in a Rossini mobile home, sleeping up to six, costs £630 accommodation-only.
thomsonalfresco.co.uk/agent0844 774 1515
BRITTANY FERRIES HOLIDAYS
What? Alongside offering self-drive, ferry-inclusive breaks from three UK ports to 71 chalet camping parks in France and eight in Spain, Brittany features a range of apartment complexes, cottages, villas and hotels.
For 2013 it has added 15 French parks and introduced more flexible arrival times, including weekends, and durations, with many bookable on a nightly basis.
Hot deal: This May you can get a week’s chalet camping holiday at Sol à Gogo or Clarys Plage in western Loire, staying in a mobile home sleeping four, from £99 per person, including ferry crossings.
Top pick: Le Domaine de la Paillotte in Aquitaine, France, boasts cosy self-catering mobile homes and is awash with free activities. It’s also near lovely beaches and countryside, while nearby Moliets-et-Maa boasts an excellent golf course.
Book it: A week for a family of five, staying in a chalet-style mobile home, costs £1,135, departing July 27, including return Portsmouth-Le Havre crossings.
0871 244 1444
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