Many campsites wake up to the fact that their opportunity for business is not simply May-September. With a little creativity they can generate business throughout the year. The Alan Rogers website currently shows over 1,550 campsites that are open all year round. That should be sufficient for even the most picky of campers.
Camping can be an enjoyable experience whatever the season but it more suited to many in the summer.
With caravans and motorhomes now well insulated the days, or rather nights, of being chilled to the bone are long gone. There’s a dizzying array of heating technologies from built-in warm air blowers to storage heaters.
Warming the cockles has been taken to a whole new level by the latest in plug-in electric heaters (you’ll definitely need adequately powered hook up for these). Popular choices include those with a fan, for rapid heat, and smaller models that radiate heat gently (nice to come back to after an evening in the pub!).
Tents are still, well, tents so remain a rather chilly prospect on a freezing night. But other kit, like sleeping bags and insulating clothing, has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Of course, some campsites will be open in winter to cater for a specific market and so facilities will be maintained for comfort. Campsites well suited to being a base for skiing will have wash blocks kept warm and toasty, with hot showers, all winter.
Here we take a look at the principal reasons people choose to stay on a campsite outside high season.
More peaceful campsites
The ambience on a campsite is totally different out of high season. Things are less frenetic, quieter and just more relaxed. There are no queues to beat, no crowds to avoid. You can get up and just do what you want when you want without any pressure to ‘get on the road’ before others do.
Prices are markedly lower out of season so a out of season break is easier on the pocket. On the continent you’ll find many campsites in shoulder periods (May or September for example) offer incredibly low prices with the aim of attracting guests who will then dine in the on site restaurant and enjoy a drink in the bar. Many years’ observation suggests this is a sound strategy and a genuine win:win.
Getaway camping breaks
We all like to take a sneaky getaway. It could be a long weekend with the dog, taking some long, blustery walks then finding a cosy pub and slumping by the fire for the evening.
Or it could be a city break – there is a new breed of city campsite emerging where the proposition is low cost pitches or accommodation in snug chalets or glamping units, with easy public transport routes into the city centre. Result: happy campers, enjoying low cost city breaks without the crowds.
Certain campsites in certain areas are perfect for activities of a specifically wintry nature. Think snow related sports like skiing and snowboarding. Campsites in the Alps, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Pyrenees can be a short walk from the ski lift. Others lay on shuttle buses and most can help arrange ski passes, equipment and instruction.
Unless staying in campsite-owned accommodation, you’ll of course need a properly prepared caravan or motorhome, with insulation, good heating, snow chains and so on.
For many camping and caravanning is all about the children. Summer is the time for them to run around in the safety of a campsite, letting off steam and having a blast. For others that’s all fine as long as when the school bell rings in September and they all pack their pencils and traipse off to the start of a new term, the campsites are left peaceful and calm.
No one really wants a lifeless campsite – and there’s nothing quite so deserted as an empty campsite. But certainly a relaxed campsite, with no shrieking, loud music and disruptive antics is a happy place. So many people choose to go camping out of season, when the schools have gone back, purely for the peace and quiet.
Themed camping breaks
During the long out of season months there plenty of opportunities for creative campsites to conjure up themed breaks to attract guests. Halloween is an obvious example, with pumpkin carving, haunted woods, ghost stories around the campfire and generally spooky goings on. The kids love it – a delicious combination of toe-curling thrills and the excitement of being outdoors on cold, wintry nights.
Other themed breaks include Valentine’s Day – not everyone’s idea of romantic nirvana of course, but a bottle of fizz, some heart-shaped cupcakes and a special meal go a long way to making an enjoyable break.
Christmas markets are big business now. In fact Birmingham’s is the largest outside Germany and Austria. They provide a heady mix of impulse gift buying, irresistible sweet treats and a warm glow inside that can only mean Christmas is around the corner.
There are markets at stately homes like Chatsworth House and Leeds Castle in Kent, as well as cities like Oxford, Chester, York and Exeter. Of course, don’t forget the original Christmas markets on the continent in cities like Strasbourg, Lille, Bruges and Maastricht. For all there are well-placed campsites with easy access.
Dark Sky Reserves
The UK has four of the eleven International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. Not surprisingly they are in the least populated areas of the country: Brecon, Exmoor, Snowdonia and the South Downs. And, of course, the best time to observe the starry, starry nights is on a crisp, dark night in mid-winter. Find a campsite that’s well tucked away and sit back and let the entertainment begin.
Not everyone likes the hot, sticky temperatures of summer. For some it’s an uncomfortable time, to be endured rather than enjoyed. Consequently, many choose to stay at home during the hottest times and to holiday in more manageable months like May and early autumn.
Those with dogs in particular don’t like to inflict punishing heat and limited shade on their pets – particularly if travelling to the hotspots of the continent. Easier to chill out at home, then travel.
Seeking warmer climes
Conversely perhaps, many prefer to travel during winter in order to find warmer weather than at home. These are the so-called ‘snowbirds’ who fly south from the UK in late autumn, staying in sunny locations (notably Andalucia) for the winter.
Some trundle caravans behind them or take motorhomes, others keep their vans out there in over-winter storage facilities.
Weddings and family gatherings take place at any time of year, celebrating all manner of events. At such times, accommodation can be hard to come by in one house, so a campsite often has the solution in the form of comfy glamping pods, chalets and mobile homes.
Usually cheaper than a hotel and enabling a ‘cluster’ of guests to share lifts to and from the party venue, they offer great flexibility. Of course, Christmas gatherings are another time when such a solution is increasingly an option.
The two main clubs each have a range of certificated sites for members use: small facilities for low volume camping without frills.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club has its CLs (Certified Locations) and the Camping & Caravanning Club has its Certificated Sites. Many of these are open all year round. Of course, being smaller than conventional campsites and without major facilities, staff payroll and extensive grounds, they usually find it easier to keep the doors open all year round.