You’ve bought the tent, the airbeds, the camping stove. You know which country you’d like to go to. You’ve even collected some good recipe ideas to try out and have downloaded an app with all sorts of outdoor game ideas. But how do you decide which campsite is right for you?
Narrow it down
You may already have your heart set on the French countryside or the coast of Spain, but there’s further narrowing down to be done – Spain, for example, has over 3,000 miles of coastline. Research the areas you’re interested in to see what they offer. Are you looking for idyllic stretches of white sand and cobalt sea or wilder coasts with rocky headlands and good walking trails?
Perhaps you want the craggy peaks of the Alps or the volcanic drama of the Auvergne. Some campers look for a balance between nature and culture, in which case a site closer to a town or city is a good choice. Many campsites near major cities are designed to retain a rural feel while being within close proximity to the key attractions, providing the best of both worlds.
Activities are a big part of any holiday, whether they’re organised on-site or available in the local area. Many parks have tennis courts, pétanque and children’s clubs, and some have lakes for fishing or golf courses. Picking a beach or riverside location often means you can take advantage of activities offered by local water sports centres such as surfing, sailing, rafting and scuba diving.
France’s Atlantic Coast has several hotspots for keen surfers, while the Ardèche region is great for rafting and canoeing. Rural destinations provide excellent walking and cycling trails, and adventure activities such as rock climbing and orienteering are often available. If you fancy a more sedate break, there are always historic towns, museums or abbeys to visit, places to shop and local cafés in which to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
Back to basics
If you have younger children, a pool complex with waterslides and a kids’ club might be high on the priority list, whereas teenagers may prefer a lakeside location that offers opportunities for bathing and kayaking, or a campsite with a night club or live music.
In terms of the basics, most campsites offer modern toilet facilities, a laundry room and a snack bar or restaurant, but some locations, especially the larger family-oriented ones, offer a raft of activities for all ages. These can include table tennis, volleyball, games rooms, a fitness centre, spa facilities… the list goes on. A campsite with plenty to do is the ideal option for some, while others seek peace and quiet on smaller sites with more limited facilities – sometimes a basic shop and clean washbasins are all you need.
The number of pitches is a good indication of how large the site is. A site with up to 120 pitches can reasonably be called small, while the biggest parks may have over 1,000 pitches. If you’re looking for a tranquil escape, it’s best to stick to locations with under 200 pitches.
The pitch size and type might be a deciding factor in your choice; novice campers may want a nice, level placement with plenty of space to pitch up. Sizes aren’t standardised and can range from 60m2 up to 150m2 or more, and many campsites have several options, enabling you to choose your preferred size.
The pitches are slightly cheaper than those for caravans and motorhomes and don’t have electricity or water. If you want the comfort of electricity on your pitch, choose a campsite that offers such facilities.
If you’re after a beautiful landscape to wake up to, choose a campsite that offers pitches with a sea, lake or river view.
If you're a Club Member...
The Caravan & Motorhome Club has a number of UK campsites that offer space for tent pitches. Hillhead Caravan & Motorhome Club site (UK0845) in Devon is an excellent site for beach lovers, while Knaresborough Caravan & Motorhome Club site is the perfect base from which to explore the Yorkshire Dales and the quaint market town of Knaresborough.