A Guide to Seasonal Caravan Pitches
Caravan’s in-depth guide to finding and securing seasonal caravan pitches on your favourite
Written by Steve Goodier
Our Steve is a seasoned caravanner who loves to explore the north-west and Wales, so much so he leaves his caravan on site permanently.
Once in a while, you stay on a campsite that’s so perfect for you and your family that you think, ‘I could happily stay here all year’. Well, with a caravan, you can!
Many campsites have a number of spaces allocated for seasonal pitching – where a tourer can be left in the same spot all summer or all year – allowing the owners to visit any time they want.
A quick weekend getaway? Perfect. Half-term hols with the family? Spot on. An extended break in the summer? Yes, you can do that, too. And all at a price far below a nightly rate.
Why consider seasonal caravan pitches?
A lot of people have mixed views on this subject. Let’s get these out of the way before we have a look at how to go about things if you fancy using your caravan as a base in one selected area between March and October.
Site owners point out that it gives them a guaranteed income which is unaffected if the summer is a particularly weak one or recession periods see weekend tourists cutting back on costs and staying at home.
Regulars, who habitually use seasonal caravan pitches, point out that it avoids having to tow through Friday evening traffic and set things up. It means they don’t have to vacate their pitch mid-morning on Sunday and there is none of the fuss of bringing the van home and storing it afterwards.
It is also much cheaper than buying a static caravan and means you can move from area to area as the fancy takes you.
The alternative view is that seasonal caravans on a site take up several of the available pitches – often the hard-standing and best ones.
Many caravanners find it quite off-putting, having other caravans around them which are empty and shuttered up. It’s a matter of personal taste and what you prefer.
However you see it, it’s fair to say that over the past 20 years the popularity of seasonal caravan pitches has increased annually.
I’m an active seasonal touring caravan user and have watched with interest how this alternative form of caravanning has taken off beyond belief.
Twenty years ago, when I first had the idea of doing it, it was hard to find sites that would accommodate you. Farm sites were always worth asking, but a lot of the commercial ones just weren’t interested. These days, many sites in top areas have long waiting lists for seasonal pitching.
So, if this is something you fancy doing, how do you go about it and for what should you watch out?
Although this is mainly a summer pastime, remember that many owners either leave their vans on site for the winter and pay a monthly storage fee. Sites sometimes have sheltered storage areas, but many just leave caravans where they are, or move them to an ‘all year site’ and pay for the winter season.
However, make sure you have a good hard-standing pitch (grass is no fun in the darker days), so you can enjoy your off-season bolt hole to the maximum, as you are likely to be using your van in all weathers, as well as early and late season.
How much do seasonal caravan pitches cost?
Cost can vary from owner to owner.
I am currently paying £1300 for the summer season [2015 prices] in the Lake District, and this seems to be a standard figure when you speak to other people. However, some of the larger sites, with numerous facilities, may be charging as much as £1800+. It pays to do a bit of shopping around and make sure you know just what you are getting for your cash.
Some sites will charge you a fee for the season and then extra for electric hook-up when you are there. In my opinion, the best option is one flat fee for the season that includes your electric and has no restrictions on when you can use the van.
You don’t want any hassles – the essence of this idea is to tow your outfit to site in March, get it sited correctly and nicely levelled, set your TV/satellite up and get the inside just as you want it, then just use it.
You can even leave spare clothes and non-perishable food there, too, so you can arrive with the minimum of gear, plug in your electric, and just enjoy the experience. It’s a great feeling being able to stay as late as you want on a Sunday while the rest of the site empties out!
If you have a fully serviced pitch, you can set up your waste and water, too, and enjoy the benefits of a static caravan with the advantage of being able to move it the next season to somewhere new.
If you are having to empty your waste and fetch your water during your stay, make sure you put your Aquarolls away (or lock them securely) when you leave. Most sites are secure enough, but prevention is better than cure, and they are costly to replace.
Security on seasonal caravan pitches?
Speaking of security, you are best choosing a caravan site where the owner, or warden, is a resident. After all, that’s a lot of money you are leaving just lying in a field!
You will have to let your insurance company know your intentions and give them the site address to put on file as a ‘known location’ for your outfit. They will want the dates it’s away and will charge for updating your records – usually about £15.
Check what position they take on awnings, too. Lot’s of seasonal caravanners like to set up their awning and arrange furniture in it but, if it blows down in a gale when you’re not there, it could do a lot of damage to your caravan, and many insurance companies simply will not cover you for this.
If they cover you, make sure you buy a strong awning. The awning should be a freestanding, steel pole structure. And strap it down with storm straps as well.
The site owner will want to see a copy of your insurance to make sure you are covered and will ask you to leave a spare set of keys, and contact number with them in case there are any problems or the alarm goes off.
You may find yourself on the general caravanning field, but many sites have a separate, designated area for seasonal caravan pitches. If you intend to move on the following year, start looking around your new intended area sooner rather than later.
It can be quite difficult to find a seasonal pitch, and you may need to visit or ring several sites before you find somewhere that can accommodate you.
And one final point: once you site your caravan, make sure you use it.
I have been on many sites where caravans get used two or three times a season, and that’s it – for the cost you may as well tour if that’s all the time you can spare!
Most sites offering seasonal pitches send out an invoice for the full amount you are expected to pay in the late winter and expect to get paid either before you arrive or when you do. Many do offer the facility to pay the amount in two halves but check they don’t add a surcharge for allowing you to do this.
Can you choose your pitch?
Sometimes. The choice of pitch depends on the site and the owner. If there is a waiting list, you will have to take what comes up. If the site has a lot of seasonal pitches, the owner might give you some choices of a few. It also depends on the length of your van – some pitches are smaller than others, and you may have to go where there is space for your outfit.
How often do you have to use your van to break even?
At £1300, with an average pitch costing £25 per night, it’s 52 nights, for me.
In reality, that means two to three weekends a month, plus a few week-long stays.
Assuming that average of £25 per night for a pitch, and most caravanners only being able to use the van at weekends during an eight-month season, three (two-night) weekends a month would total about £1200 in site fees. Of course, there are long bank holiday weekends and extended breaks, too, and, remember, this is more about convenience than overall cost.
Servicing on pitch
There are mobile independent caravan servicers who will come and do a full caravan service for you on site, and at a reasonable cost. A lot of dealerships like the caravan you bought to be taken back to them for servicing to prevent voiding the warranty.
Taking it back to the dealer is not essential, but ensure you check on it. We book our van in for its annual service the week it comes back off the site after the end of the season, so we can get it all over with quickly, give it a wash and get it ready for the winter.
Does your insurance go up?
Not really. As long as the insurance company knows where the van is and has it marked on your records as a ‘known location’, the premium usually remains the same. You will be charged a fee (about £15) for having the additional location added to your records.
What about security devices on the site?
Security is just the same as if you were at home – wheel locks firmly in place and a hitch lock on. Always set the alarm when you leave the caravan, as the insurance may be void if you don’t. Ensure Aquarolls are put away when you go home or, at least, locked to something secure.
What do you do about gas, battery and electric hook-up?
Always turn the gas off and disconnect the electrical supply. I usually just unplug it from the electrical box and place it neatly under the van with a plastic bag around the connection, so it is then a simple and quick job to plug it in when you arrive.
Batteries are okay left connected (if you are coming regularly) but make sure all the switches on your control panel are turned off, and we recommend turning off at the RCD unit, too.
Can other people visit your van or use it in your absence?
You will be allowed visitors, but make sure they park carefully and don’t obstruct other pitches. Most sites will allow family or friends to use your van when you are not there, but make sure you let the site owner know who will be coming and when.
Can I sublet?
Most sites are not keen on this practice. Check with your site owner to see what his official stance on it is.
Should I drain onboard water tanks when I leave?
I always do early and late season, when there is likely to be a frost. I also generally empty the ‘flush’ tank for the loo.