Camping has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I’ve camped everywhere from river banks, to festivals, to the chapel of a medieval castle! But now that I’m a bit older (and significantly more decrepit) I prefer to camp in luxury and that means finding a suitable campsite, which should be an easy task but unfortunately some camp sites just don’t cut the mustard.
On the whole I’ve been lucky and found some amazing campsites, where the grass could have been a bowling green and the facilities have been clean enough to eat your dinner off. Sadly, I’ve also been to camp sites which have turned out to be an overgrown fields with spider infested tin huts acting as a shower blocks. No prizes for guessing which type of campsite I prefer!
So, with the adventure of taking Baby on her first camping trip to Higher Moor Farm just on the horizon, I thought I would share my top tips for finding the perfect camp site.
Location, Location, Location
Ok, so this one’s obvious. When you choose a camp site the first thing you want to look at is location. I suggest casting quite a large net with this. Choose a large area or region as this will give you a lot more choice and shouldn’t make too much difference to your holiday, so long as you were planning to explore the area anyway.
You should also consider what type of holiday you want when you choose your campsite. For example, if you want a coastal holiday then consider that campsites nearer to the large towns, or with a sea view, are likely to be much busier than those tucked a little further inland. So if quietly sipping a cider while enjoying a tranquil evening in the sun is your aim, you might want to choose the country site rather than one just off of the beach.
Next you want to think about what facilities you need. Most campsites will have a shower block and basic washing up facilities, but do you want to be able to wash your clothes? Do you need a microwave to heat baby food? Do you want tea and coffee facilities or access to a fridge? Some campsites offer a huge array of complimentary services that can make your stay more pleasant. Some even have onsite shops, which is great if you like to start your day with bacon and eggs!
You should also consider whether you’re taking a dog. Dogs aren’t welcome at all campsites, so you should always check in advance.
Finally, do you want electrical hookup? With the increase in popularity of glamping, many campsites have started offering electrical hookup for tent pitches which is fantastic if you can’t live without your laptop, or just want to charge your phone. I never go anywhere without an electrical hookup these days, but bare in mind that pitches with electric will cost extra and you will need to bring your own connector to get the electricity into your tent.
Different campsites provide widely differing entertainment facilities from nothing, to a full club with swimming pool, so before choosing your campsite you should decide what facilities you want.
The campsites with games rooms, pools and bars are understandably more popular with families with small children and so depending on what facilities there are, these campsites can be busier and often noisier than sites without.
You should also consider the opening times of the facilities. For example, I once paid a very high price for a pitch at a campsite with a pool because the children wanted to swim. However, when we arrived we discovered that the pool was only open between 10am and 4pm. As a result we were always out exploring while the pool was open and the children didn’t have the opportunity to use it. Also, if the site has a bar that is open until late, bare in mind that you will likely have some very tipsy campers trying to find their tents at closing time and that the party may not end just because last orders have been called.
Each campsite has its set of pitch terms. Some charge for space, others for the size of your tent, some charge for the size of your tent but allow everyone the same pitch size, others charge a flat fee for the pitch and one tent but charge extra if you want to put a second tent on your pitch… the list goes on so make sure you know what your paying for and what is included.
Regardless of the pitch fee, most campsites will charge extra for having a gazebo, more than one car, or pup tents.
If you’ve never booked a campsite before the term pup tent may be confusing and I have to admit that when I first came across the term I thought it was some sort of dog kennel! In reality it is a small tent, in addition to your main tent, for older children and teenagers so that they can disappear into their natural dark solitary habitat when socialising with the olds gets too much.
Check Recent Reviews
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you actually read recent reviews of any campsite you plan to visit. Most campsites have been open for many years and during that time they may have gone through peaks and troughs that you won’t see when just looking at a star rating. The number of times that I’ve been on the verge of booking a site with a good star rating only to change my mind after reading terrible recent reviews is shocking.
One example of this that stands out in my mind was a site in the new forest, it had a good star rating and the older reviews were perfect, nice and clean with modern facilities, lovely views and close to the beautiful wild ponies. Fast forward to reviews written in the past 6 months and you found reports of tatty facilities and the lovely wild ponies now regularly walked into the campsite (which had no fences) destroying tents and being aggressive to adults and children alike.
A few months or a year really can make a big difference to the quality of a campsite so even if you have to search out the latest reviews, it really is always worth it.
By this point you should have a couple of campsites shortlisted. They will all look perfect but which one do you choose?
I have a simple theory on how to decide whether a campsite is really as clean and well kept as you would hope and that is simply to look at the toilet block. Yes, find a picture of the toilet block, if it’s clean and modern then the campsite is likely to be immaculate! My reasoning being that everyone hates cleaning toilets, so if the campsite has taken care to make sure that the toilet block is somewhere you would like to be, then you can usually guarantee that they have spent just as much time keeping the rest of the campsite in an equally pleasant condition.
So far this reasoning has never let me down. Hopefully it will work as well for my readers.
So, That’s it, my top tips for choosing the perfect campsite. If you use them I would love to hear how you got on. Also, if you happen to have visited a perfect campsite please share it and spread the word!