When it comes to finding the perfect holiday park for your family trip, there are a few things on the checklist that should be non-negotiables. Caravan World contributor, Tony Allsop outlines what families should look for when researching holiday parks.
Kid friendly attitude
Apart from the actual facilities on offer, it's nice to feel when you arrive in reception that kids are welcome. Some parks have kids clubs, with coloured wrist bands to show you are part of the 'in group'. Special offers of discounts at family friendly venues may be on display.
When we renewed our membership of Family Parks group recently, we noticed that members are entitled to discounts at nominated local attractions automatically, when they stay at a Family Parks member park. This would be of special interest to families, as very significant savings can be made.
Particularly in the camping area, large sites where families in camper trailers can spread out a bit are very welcome.
Most families prefer powered camping sites, which allows the much more convenient use of fridges and electric fans. Some parks have ground matting over some of the campsite, keeping the site much cleaner and more manageable.
A pool, with or without a water park, is pretty much essential for families on holiday. Caravan park managers have told us that most families enquire about a pool when booking. We are amazed by the popularity of pools in cool weather: when it is far too cold for us to consider a dip, children will splash and play for hours to the point where they are shivering. The cost of maintaining heated pools means that they are not very common.
The ocean, lakes and rivers provide endless attraction for RVers with families. Apart from fishing, boating and swimming, water provides an absorbing spectacle to observe from your camp chair.
Any playground, but especially an adventure playground, will keep children entertained for hours. Jumping pillows seem to provide great fun for all ages, and burn a lot of energy. Any activity that keeps everyone away from electronic toys, and encourages activities with new friends would seem to be a good thing.
Ideally, the cost of using sport facilities should be included in the site fees in family-friendly parks, except for deposits on items like tennis racquets and golf clubs. These deposits would be refunded in full when the gear is returned in good condition.
Most family orientated parks allow bikes and scooters, and the good ones lay down strict rules for their use, and enforce them. Children's safety is the dual responsibility of parents and parks. The most important thing is the use of helmets, but restricting where and when bikes and scooters can be used is also important. There is an obvious risk of serious accidents when vehicles share the park roads with kids on bikes, but out-of-control riders can cause serious damage on their own. We saw one young rider career face first into a boom gate with horrendous results.
These days, a number of barbecue huts scattered throughout the park seems to be the thing. Even the best appointed family vans usually do not feature a user-friendly kitchen with lots of bench space. Barbecued food is quick to prepare and easy to cook in volume and can taste great even when cooked by quite inexperienced cooks.
Kids love to have an outdoor barbecue with adults, laying down happy memories that can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment of the RV lifestyle.
When the weather is poor, camp kitchens really come into their own. We are astonished by the range of appliances appearing in some camp kitchens. It is not uncommon to see full sized ovens for roasts and cakes, but we have seen more than a few pizza ovens and bread makers of late. A great range of foods can be cooked and served easily, saving heaps on takeaway. Some parks have impressive herb gardens near the camp kitchen: how much nicer does lamb taste with fresh rosemary, or pasta with some fresh basil?
The tables are much more roomy than those in caravans too, allowing for new friends to be invited to share the meal.
For families, parks with ensuite-type unisex amenities are more popular. It goes without saying that hygiene is imperative. Most managers of 'family parks' realise that standard amenities need frequent 'touch up cleans' during the day when the park is full of families, as in the school holidays.
We have noticed a tendency for families to book ensuite sites, as the convenience balances out the increased cost. Some family orientated parks are now including a washing machine and dryer in so called "super ensuite" sites, which would be wonderful for families with several small children.
Some families love to holiday with their four-legged family members. For several reasons, most parks that do take dogs do not do so during the school holidays, and then it can be difficult to find a park that will welcome your pet.
Your kids can spend a lot of time walking their dog and getting exercise at the same time, but pets can be very restricting when visits to shopping centres or entertainment parks are planned. You do need to consider what arrangements you will make for this situation. Some pet friendly parks do have dog sitters available, but if not, please don't be tempted to leave your pet in your RV all day while you are away.
While they do not contribute to 'healthy outdoor activity', games rooms are very popular with kids of certain ages. Perhaps spending some time in games rooms can be justified in terms of improving fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination! In any case, especially when you are on holiday, a little bit of what you like does you good.
The ideal kids park
The best park we have seen for kids has to be The Great Aussie Holiday Park at Lake Hume. It has everything a family could wish for to keep the children entertained while on holiday; from a huge water park, an adventure park, animal nursery, BMX track, tennis courts, abseiling, flying fox, archery, Frisbee golf, games room: the list goes on.
The water frontage to Lake Hume provides opportunities for boating and fishing. And they make the best pizzas ever!