For those of you looking for cheap family holidays in Europe, with added sunshine and lots of things for the kids to do, then I would seriously consider Eurocamp Holidays. We went to the Vendee in France with Eurocamp two years ago and had a fabulous time on two different sites.
The mobile homes were far better than I imagined them to be. As you can clearly see from this photograph, they were very modern and tastefully decorated, fully kitted out and had plenty of space for the whole family. They were also clean, tidy and well maintained. Outside we had our own fenced off area with a raised patio to eat on and a place to park the car.
If a mobile home is not your thing then there are lots of other options to choose from including amazing tents, wooden chalets and even tree houses!
Both campsites had lots of excellent amenities and there were constant activities going on for the kids and adults too.These included a golf course, horse riding, several swimming pools, adventure play grounds just to mention a few. There were also restaurants, clothes washing facilities, bars and a disco.
During the day there were plenty of kids activities organized by the camp. You could take your kids, drop them off and rest assured that they were being supervised by staff in a safe area. This was good if you needed time to do the washing, tidy up the accommodation or just needed a bit of ‘me time’. This was also a good opportunity for the children to make friends with other kids on the site.
You won’t want to spend all your time at the campsite, of course. I mean, what’s the point of travelling abroad for your family holiday if you are not going to explore the surrounding area? One of the good things about these sites is that they are always within a short distance of places you would want to visit, whether it be the beach, local towns and villages or tourist attractions in the local area.
Our children love to explore, but being young, are usually better at doing half day visits to places and then moving on. We would generally find that we would go out exploring in the morning, perhaps visiting a local château and then after lunch out we would return mid afternoon and spend time at the pool. Later the kids would take part in a camp activity whilst we cooked dinner. On other days, the kids would join a morning activity whilst we prepared a picnic and then we’d head off mid morning for the beach, returning home after stopping off somewhere for dinner.
One thing that we particularly liked about the Eurocamp campsites were that they were very quiet in the evenings. If there was a disco going on, you certainly couldn’t hear the music blaring out. The main noise came at dinner, when various groups of neighbours would group their tables together, bring out loads of food and sit down to eat together. It was good to see, dotted here and there, little communities of holiday makers sitting down to eat together, kids included. After dinner, people would drift slowly back to their accommodation, the odd few, chatting quietly away over a drink and nibbles into the evening.
How to keep the price down
Although Eurocamp offer cheap family holidays and the kids go free, the final price depends on the destination you choose, the type of holiday home you decide to book, the additional extras you choose to opt for and the method of travel you use to get there. Here are some tips to keep the final price as low as possible.
When you first book, you are given a basic price which is excellent value – but the way the company makes money is to add optional extras which you can choose or not choose at your discretion. If you choose them all you can soon see the price creep up. So, for example, you don’t need to hire the raised patio to eat outside if you are happy to eat inside or just eat at the outside table without being raised up. We did hire it, but having a daughter who has a fear of wasps meant we ended up eating in more than out, so really we didn’t need it.
The company, like many others, doesn’t include bedding in the package -it’s another optional extra, but if you have space in the car you can save by bringing your own. There are other add-ons like this which you can keep the cost down by not using.
Accommodation prices vary depending upon what type you choose and the size you want – but bearing in mind that this is a summer vacation and you are going to spend most of the time out, it’s really just going to be a base to sleep, wash and eat in. You don’t need the highest spec accommodation. If you are lucky enough to have kids who don’t mind sharing a room, then you can go for smaller holiday home with less bedrooms.
All accommodation comes with at least one bathroom, a kitchen, dining space and living space – so you’re well catered for no matter which option you choose. Save money here and you can spend more on days out. You can also save money by choosing wisely about how you get there. If you are going to one of the further destinations it makes sense to fly and hire a car. For nearer destinations like France or the Netherlands it’s probably less expensive to take your own car on the cross channel ferry.
Rather than having the kids cramped up in the car for hours on end, we took a 9 hour ferry which saved us a great deal of driving time. As it was an over night journey we also booked a cabin for the evening, something I would seriously recommend: sitting around on a ferry all night, trying to grab some sleep in an arm-chair with two young children would have been pretty miserable experience to start a holiday, especially when it was being followed by a the three-hour drive the following day. We could have taken a much shorter journey over the channel and saved a great deal on the ferry price but we would have had a much more travelling to do. What we saved in ferry fees would also have been partially used up in extra fuel costs.
One thing you can do is to book a single night at a camp site and use this as a sleep over destination before driving on to your main destination. In fact this flexibility is one of the really good things about Eurocamp. Our ferry home was at 6am and we didn’t want to have to drive through the night to get to the terminal at 5am in the morning to embark. Instead, we moved our last night to another camp site 15 minutes drive from the terminal and enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
On a similar note, I have a friend who always starts his Eurocamp holiday off with three days just outside Paris. This gives his family time to visit the Parisian attractions and Disneyland Paris before moving on to their main holiday. This kind of flexibility would also be good for those of you considering driving to Italy. You could stop on route at various destinations and explore France on the way, whilst breaking up your journey.
The final way you can save money is through booking your own travel insurance. Eurocamp will offer you the option of choosing travel insurance as part of the package, but you will generally find searching online will get you a better price. If you are taking your car abroad, remember to contact your car insurance company and your breakdown company to ensure you’re covered for travelling in Europe. It’s not expensive, but just imagine having your car stolen or breaking down abroad and not being covered – especially if you were not fluent in the local language.
Overall, we really enjoyed our holiday. There were lots of things near by for us to visit; the camp had everything we needed and lots of facilities; the accommodation was much better than expected for the price we paid; the people on the campsite were all families ( not a single group of drunken blokes out on the pull to be seen); and the kids loved it. Would I take the family back again? Definitely – especially as the kids go free.
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