Holiday parks: How to choose the right one for you
In some ways, choosing a home from the choice of holiday parks is easier than picking a permanent residence. Simply let your imagination lead you to the sort of place you’d like to spend your weekends or summer and other-season holidays, and choose the park that best suits your needs.
And, while many of the best holiday parks do have a real sense of community, there’s no need to be quite as concerned about getting on with the neighbours as you do in a residential park, where you will be living alongside them every day of the year.
Location, location, location
Countryside or seaside? Rural or urban? Close to home or far away? These are all questions that you’ll need to consider before narrowing down the list of potential parks for your holiday home.
Of course, all these are largely a matter of personal taste, but remember to take into consideration the needs and opinions of everyone who will be using it. A five-hour drive to a beautiful park in the remote Cumbrian countryside might not be a problem for you, but if other family members with young children are likely to use the home as well, then that might put them off.
A key factor is the age of the children involved. It’s worth having a wider family chat before choosing a park. Having young children may exert a big influence on the style of park you go for and, as they grow, the type of park that will offer a first-rate holiday for all the family will probably change over time.
Go for a park with a lot of facilities. The needs of young children are greatly different to those of older kids. Bored, sullen youngsters add nothing to a holiday and, of course, what they would like to do should be considered.
Another consideration is how you want to use your holiday home. If you will be mainly taking weekend breaks, then somewhere relatively close to home would be better. On the other hand, a longer drive to the perfect location won’t be such a problem if you will mostly be using the park for longer holidays.
If a holiday home by the sea is your dream, then the good news is that no one lives more than 70 miles from the coast in the UK. That means we’re somewhere around two hours from a shoreline somewhere, so it’s not surprising that thousands of us make an escape to the coast every weekend.
A park close to the beach or on a clifftop with incredible sea views might be your dream, but don’t rule out a park close to, or even in, one of our many lively seaside resorts.
Some parks are even within walking distance of the resort's attractions. What could be better than taking the kids or grandkids not only to a beach but to a coastal resort with all the traditional trimmings we all love – fairs, donkey rides, arcades, rock and fish and chips?
Holiday park facilities
There is a huge variance in the type of facilities available on holiday parks. Some are like miniature towns, with just about every amenity you could imagine. Others have minimal facilities but are blessed with a stunning location. There are parks where walking, cycling and swimming are key activities, while others simply offer a peaceful place to relax and get away from it all.
In Norfolk: a village square and a leisure centre
Some holiday parks manage to combine all the above.
Kelling Heath, in Norfolk, is a great example of a park that strives to provide all things to all people. A few miles from the charming seaside town of Sheringham, it’s in a rural location but also close enough to the coast to be ideal for beach holidays. Kelling Heath is packed with facilities and activities. But there’s still a natural feel to the place.
Holiday homes here nestle in woodland and are surrounded by countryside and you can walk or cycle for what seems like miles without ever leaving the park.
The hub of the park is the ‘village square’ and this is where you will find the main facilities, including a well-stocked shop, café, takeaway and pub. The leisure centre has an indoor swimming pool and a heated outdoor pool in summer plus a spa, sauna and steam room as well as a gym. There is also a fantastic outdoor adventure playground.
Once you’ve got a shortlist of parks, spend time on each park at busy periods and decide whether it’s for you. Just as importantly, if you can, visit at quieter times, too. If it’s possible for a park to be too busy at peak periods, you might find it equally unattractive out of season.
Facilities such as leisure centres, bars and takeaways often close for the winter and, coupled with miserable weather and far fewer visitors around, there can be a rather gloomy feel about some parks at this time of year compared to the summer months. That might not be an issue for you, but it’s definitely worth knowing what you’re letting yourself in for.
Holiday parks with a family focus
If you have children of your own or are likely to take holidays with grandchildren, family-friendly facilities will be important. An indoor swimming pool can come in handy especially when the weather’s not great. Also, it’s wise to check out whether the park has any no-ball-games or no-bikes policies.
A well-stocked shop is important, if nothing else, for buying ice cream on hot days! On-park entertainment isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time but it can be fun – and a family-friendly pub within walking distance might come in handy.
A park that has organised activities, such as water sports or archery, will keep kids occupied and give them the chance to try something new. We all dream of idyllic sunny days lazing around a holiday park, while the kids or grandchildren keep themselves occupied climbing trees, paddling in babbling brooks or running down big hills at breakneck speeds. And that’s fine up to a point.
Then after an hour or so, reality kicks in and the dreaded word ‘bored’ is spoken.
Yes, in these days of YouTube and Xboxes, young people are rather more demanding. They want stuff laid on for them. Not just any old stuff, either; they want interesting and exciting stuff. And when that’s done, they want more interesting and exciting stuff. Because they’re BORED.
In Lincolnshire: water sports and more
That’s where all-action, child-friendly parks like Tattershall Lakes in Lincolnshire come into their own. As the name would suggest, the park is based around several lakes, where people can take part in all manner of water-based activities, from the thrills of wakeboarding, waterskiing and jet skiing to the rather more genteel pedalos and fishing.
There’s also an indoor pool with a sun deck and hot tub, where the whole family can relax and watch the waterskiers do their thing on the lake.
Away from the water, young people can sign up for a programme of activities, including hoverboarding, land-zorbing, target archery, raft building, cheerleading, laser tag, balance bikes, waterwalkerz and cycling. Indoors, there are play sessions every day as well as a live show for younger kids. And, in the evening, live entertainment includes bingo, karaoke, talent shows and cabaret acts.
Pets are also part of the family, and if you’re planning on taking Rover on holiday, make sure the park you choose allows dogs. Another important factor to consider is the on-park internet connection. Most parks now offer WiFi, but many charge for the privilege and often it’s only possible to get online in certain areas. If a good connection is important, make sure you check if WiFi is available before committing to your plot.
Choosing a holiday park checklist
- What do you want? Rural, village, coastal or urban
- Facilities - check for:
- Cafes and restaurants
- Sports and activities
- Family orientation
- Is the holiday park ideal for families?
- Or, is it adult-only?
When you started reading this article, sifting through the choice of holiday parks probably felt a bit overwhelming. But, armed with a simple checklist and ideas on what you like you can make choosing the holiday park for you and your family much easier.
Why not read some reviews on holiday parks here?