A Magical Family Summer Holiday for Under £1300
Reviewed by Louise Totton
Since we had the children, I have been trying to persuade my husband that a Eurocamp holiday was a good idea. My husband has steadfastly resisted the idea of such a holiday, resolute in his insistence that ‘camping’ isn’t a holiday, that he has no intention of driving all the way to another country to spend a week sat in a tent or caravan that is a tenth the size of our house, with less than a tenth of the facilities we have at home. After all, it’s bound to rain.
However, circumstances this year meant that our usual all-Inclusive break was cancelled at very short notice, and I was able to convince him that the kids would love the novelty of a different type of holiday, and the freedom from set breakfast and meal times. With a very resigned look on his face, and a heavy heart, he agreed to the 5 hour drive from our home in Yorkshire down to Dover, and an absolute maximum of 4 hours once in France to get to the parc.
Our party for the trip would consist of my husband and me, our daughters who are 7 and 3, and my dad who wanted to come along with us. With all of this in mind, we started leafing through the Eurocamp brochure, looking for a parc that would cater for all of our needs. We were particularly looking for a parc that had a pool complex with slides and a shallow splash pool, and lots of on-parc activities for the girls to take part in. My dad wanted a parc that was spread out enough so that we could be in a quiet area, away from the hustle and bustle of swimming pools and lots of people, and my husband and I were looking for a reasonably priced but not too basic accommodation. With an absolute maximum budget of £1500, including our food and entertainment whilst there, we were asking for a lot.
We finally settled on a week at La Croix du Vieux Pont, a parc not far from Paris. The site seemed to have everything that we were looking for; water slides, a splash park, both indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a manmade beach, kids clubs, several bars and eateries and a boating lake. Now that we’d decided that we were going to be an hour or so outside of Paris, our budget became even more important as we wanted to squeeze a trip to Disneyland Paris into our holiday too.
We booked a week in late August / early September, staying in a Eurocamp 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom Vista mobile home. When we’d been looking through the brochures, the Eurocamp Tree Houses had really caught the attention of the kids, so we also decided to add on a night of adventure for them, reserving a night sleeping several metres above the ground and with no electricity or running water.
About a week before we left, it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea how to pack for a self catering holiday like this. I didn’t know what would be included, what we would have to bring with us or anything. In a bit of a panic, I phoned the customer service number on my reservation confirmation to double check the details before I filled our car up with a load of stuff we wouldn’t need, whilst neglecting to bring essentials that we’d need as soon as we were there.
The lady I spoke to could not have been more helpful, and she ran down the list of what would be waiting for us there. I was pleased to learn that in addition to the bedding and towel packs we’d pre-booked to save car space, there would also be all the crockery and cutlery we’d need, pots and pans, utensils, a full cooker and hob and full sized fridge-freezer.
Our Eurocamp holiday, including our Vista holiday home, night in a Tree House, Dover to Calais ferry crossing and the towel, linen, welcome pack and insurance waiver came in at £852.40, which for a week at the very end of the summer holidays, for 5 people, we thought was very reasonable. This also includes full use of all of the swimming pools and waterslides, the kids clubs, swimming and bike-riding lessons for the kids. Fantastic value.
We have a large 4×4 estate car, but with three adults and two kids to pack for, it’s amazing how quickly boot space can vanish. I was really pleased we had the pre-booked linen, duvets and towels, as to put them in the car would have taken up a huge proportion of the limit space we had, and it meant we were able to pack other things that saved us money whilst we were on holiday. Before we left, I made up some spice mixes so we could have quick homemade meals whilst we were there. I packed some small packs of herbs as well as my husband’s favourite teabags and my daughters’ favourite cereal. Other bits that we found invaluable were a stash of tea towels and washing up sponges, our slow cooker (perfect for preparing food in the morning and coming back to a hearty meal) and a bottle of orange squash; it seems the French don’t ‘do’ orange squash in the way that we do.
We had booked a ferry for early morning, departing Dover at 6.40am. We decided on this crossing as we thought the 5 hour journey would be easier with sleeping children than bored, awake ones. With all of the issues that the Channel crossings have been having recently, we gave ourselves much more time for the journey down to Dover than we actually needed, leaving our house at 9pm.
On the way down to Dover, we found P&O’s Twitter feed really useful for updating us on potential delays and issues; there was indeed an issue around the time of our crossing, with some delays of 3+ hours, and we were pleased we’d allowed the extra time (although we didn’t need it in the end).
We arrived at Dover far too early, as we knew we would, but the P&O staff were fabulous and asked if we wanted to wait for our allotted time or just get onto the next ferry. We opted to board the next crossing, and were given the relevant documentation and very clear instructions on finding the boat. The whole operation ran really smoothly and we were driving up the ramp and onto the boat inside half an hour.
The crossing went really smoothly, and because of the time of the morning, it was really quiet. We decided to have breakfast on board and took advantage of the ‘kids eat free’ offer. My husband and dad had a full English breakfast, the kids had a mini cooked breakfast, and in spite of my gluten allergy, the lovely server made sure I could eat, and I enjoyed scrambled eggs with bacon and mushroom. The whole meal was £24, which for 5 tasty and hearty breakfasts, we thought was great.
When the ferry docked, we made our way down to the car, set the satnav with the GPS co-ordinates provided by Eurocamp before we left, and set off for the last part of our journey. It could not have been easier. We opted to use the toll roads as we’d heard it was significantly quicker and easier than the alternative route, and we were glad we did. The toll was €15.70, and it meant that we pulled up at La Croix du Vieux Pont, in blazing sunshine, by 9.15am.
The First Day
As we’d arrived so early, we knew it was very unlikely that our accommodation would be ready for us, but we headed for the Eurocamp reception anyway. We were greeted by a really friendly courier (Eurocamp’s term for a holiday rep), who told us that our holiday home wasn’t yet ready, but she took our mobile number and told us that we could make full use of all the facilities whilst we waited. She promised that they would text us as soon as it was ready, and pointed us in the direction of the pool complex.
We knew we would probably be arriving before the accommodation was ready, so had packed a holdall, left in an accessible place in the boot, with a change of clothes, swimming gear, a couple of towels and drinks and snacks in. This was invaluable as it meant we could just park the car in the car park and head to the pool without the added stress of hunting through our big suitcase for all of the bits we’d need.
The kids were absolutely delighted with the pool complex; there really was something for everyone there. My eldest daughter went straight for the water slides an immediately pronounced them ‘awesome’. The younger one loved the splash pool, which was under cover, a really good size and has a super cluster of small slides in it. It never goes above knee height, so is perfect for small kids, and relatively stress-free for the parents. It is also fabulously well heated, and was like getting into a bath. Needless to say, I dispatched my husband to look after our eldest in the deeper (and colder) pool whilst I volunteered to mind the younger one in the warm pool.
My phone beeped at 12.15 with a text from our courier to inform us that our holiday home was ready for us. We got the kids dried and dressed and made our way over to the Eurocamp cabin so we could start our holiday properly. We were then provided with a park map, shown where our accommodation was on the map, and asked to follow the courier in our car and we would be lead to our pitch.
Our pitch was located perfectly for us, in the extension part of the site, but in a peaceful cul-de-sac, which is exactly what we’d wanted for my dad. The mobile was set on a really well sized, self contained pitch with a driveway, plenty of grassed space for the kids to play, and a super decking with a gas barbeque.
The holiday home itself was really modern and fresh, we were so pleasantly surprised by it. We thought the layout of the accommodation leant itself really well to an al-fresco, relaxed and sociable holiday. The living area is central to the caravan, with a large settee, a dining table and a decently sized galley kitchen leading out of two sets of patio doors onto the decking. The two twin bedrooms, shower room and toilet are located at one side of the mobile, and the large master bedroom with en-suite at the other side. Everything in the unit was immaculately clean, the floor was a solid floor which means they are clean and fresh for each new arrival, and the duvet and linen packs were waiting in the relevant bedrooms ready to be made up.
The kids were desperate to get back to the pool so my husband and dad took them back down to the pool whilst I unpacked, made the beds and wrote a shopping list. There is loads of storage and cupboard space in the Vista, and I was able to get everything put away without having things cluttering up the work spaces and the floor.
There is a small shop onsite, which is actually really well stocked and reasonably priced. We bought some sausages, salad, freshly baked baguettes and cheese so we could enjoy a BBQ that evening, planning on doing a main shop the following morning. We spent a wonderful evening, cooking sausages and eating bread and cheese. Dining outside on holiday has the ability to make the most mundane of foods taste delicious and we all thoroughly enjoyed the sense of occasion.
After we’d eaten, we thought we’d take a little stroll around the site to get our bearings and see where we’d be spending the next week. The site is a large one, so after consultation with the map and thee kids, we decided we’d try to find the manmade beach. We found a super adventure en route to the beach, so we stopped there for a little while, before prising the girls off the climbing frame to complete our journey to the beach.
The beach is a real sight to behold, with lovely soft, white sand surrounding a lovely blue lagoon. We were surprised how many people were still there at 7.30pm, but there were plenty of kids making sand castles, digging holes and swimming in the water. Whilst not hot, it was plenty warm enough for the kids, and the mums and dads were taking full advantage of the beach bar located just a few metres from the water’s edge. The girls did not stop grinning from the moment we arrived to the moment we left, it was absolutely perfect.
After walking back ‘home’, we got the kids into their PJs and packed off to bed, whilst we took advantage of the wine and crisps provided in our welcome pack and sat outside enjoying the balmy evening; the perfect end to a fantastic first day.
On day 2, we woke to more fabulous sunshine. We ate a breakfast of cereal, bread and cheese before my husband and I set off to the supermarket, leaving granddad to entertain the girls to the swimming pool for a couple of hours.
We asked the couriers and were given excellent directions to the nearest supermarkets and hypermarkets, and we decided to head to the large Intermarche near Soissons for our big, initial, shop. Given our tight budget, we were really pleased with how reasonably priced the supermarket was. We did a full shop, with plenty of meat, an abundance of French cheese (just had to be done), lots of salad and veg, treats, cooking ingredients, toilet paper and other incidentals, and we spent less than €100.
We headed back to the parc, collected two very happy and hungry girls from the pool, and went back to our holiday home for a continental lunch, glass of wine and relax on our sun loungers. Whilst the children played on the lawn and my dad had a snooze, I threw together a quick slow cooker meal ready for the evening then we sat down and had a look at the park map and the information we’d been given by Eurocamp and decided how we’d spend the next few days. We wrote a list of things we’d like to do, and specific requests included: beach, swimming pool, lots of BBQs, kids’ club, hiring a pedalo on the lake, the bungee trampoline, Disneyland, zip wire, abseiling, the quads track, then more beach, swimming pool and BBQs. We were also really keen for our youngest to take part in the Mini Ride Station and Mini Swim Station sessions.
A good chunk of the things that are on the list are free, which is great as it means we could pack in plenty without worrying too much about the cost.
Packing our holiday with fun for everyone
We had an amazing time, every single day. We visited the pool complex at least daily, and the kids had an absolute ball there. There are lifeguards on duty all of the time, and they were doing a great job of monitoring the slides and the pools, and keeping everyone safe. The pools themselves are immaculately clean, there is an outside pool that was actually a little chilly by the end of the week, a large indoor pool that was brilliant for my eldest to practice her swimming and underwater swimming in, the superb warm splash pool, as well as spray park and two really decent water slides. There are ample changing rooms below the complex.
If there had not been so many other fun things to do on-parc, we could easily have spent the vast majority of our holiday in the pool complex. Spending quality time here with the girls was brilliant, as was watching their confidence around the water and swimming increase day by day.
The weather was quite changeable whilst we were here; we had some fantastically warm days as well as some colder, cloudier days. The pool complex was great in this situation because the roof is retractable, meaning the temperature was always at a comfortable level.
The staff who run the activities and kids clubs were really brilliant. Rowena ran the Mini Fun Station club for my younger daughter and also the Mini Ride Station club, and she was just lovely. Both of the girls adored her, and the activities at the club were really engaging, stimulating and age appropriate. All of the kids who attended were having an absolutely superb time, and my youngest kept asking when the next session was. The themes varied each day, and the club really added to the holiday for us. The best bit is all of the sessions are free, as are the cycling sessions, so again the children could pretty much do as much of it as they liked, without us worrying about the cost.
The kids’ clubs for school aged kids had finished by the time we got there, but our eldest was made really welcome at the Mini Fun Station club, and she was happy enough with it, although she would have loved one that was a little more age appropriate.
Whilst Chloe attended her clubs, I took Abigail off for her Zip Wire and Abseiling Action Station sessions. Whilst not included in the holiday cost, we were surprised how reasonably priced they were at €5 per person for a 90 minute session.
The two couriers who ran these sessions were great. They had fantastic banter with all of the participants; they made sure that everyone was safe, whilst having an absolutely superb time. My daughter isn’t shy or nervous, but climbing up a very tall tower and throwing yourself off it isn’t easy. The couriers were really reassuring, and by the end of the zip wire session, Abigail was throwing herself off the platform backwards and with no hands. It was absolutely fabulous, and the adults were able to join in too.
The abseiling session was just as good, and it again lasted the full 90 minutes. As it was getting on for the end of the season, we were the only participants for this session and we had 5 or 6 turns at climbing the tower and lowering ourselves down, with various challenges thrown in by the couriers to add to the fun. It was absolutely fantastic, and without a doubt one of the highlights of the holiday.
We decided to spend one of our afternoons around the boating lake, where there is an abundance of things to do. There was canoeing, pedaloing, a small quad circuit, an assault course and a bungee trampoline. All of these activities were chargeable, but weren’t unreasonable, especially for the size of venue. We pre-purchased a card with €30 of credit for €20, and we were able to try out loads of different activities for this amount.
It was a lovely, sunny day, so we decided we’d hire pedalo first. The pedalos and canoes are hired out on one of the large fishing lake, and it was a super and reasonable relaxing way to spend an afternoon. The staff made sure we all had life vests on, and we set off for our hour on the lake. It was really lovely to have an activity that we could all join in with together, regardless of age and fitness level.
After we’d completed our time on the lake, we spend a couple of hours between the quads, the bungee trampoline and the playground. To say it was idyllic id an understatement; the parc is beautiful, with lots of trees and lawned areas, and we as we sat on the grass in the sunshine with an ice-cream, the kids both said that they REALLY didn’t want to go home.
We allocated a full day to going to Disneyland, Paris. It was really easy to get to from the parc, we set our satnav to avoid the toll roads and the journey took us about 2 hours. We Left the parc at about 8am, with our packed lunch, and arrived at Disney at about 10am. It is quite possibly one of the most magical days we’ve ever had as a family; the girls were utterly in awe of all of the characters, and we wandered around Sleeping Beauty’s castle soaking in the atmosphere.
We timed our day around the Disney parade, which was really worth doing as it was a superb experience. It was as much fun for the adults as the kids, because all the old favourites were there as well as the more modern characters.
We eventually left the park at 10pm, after the fabulous Disney Dreams fireworks finale. I’m not sure we could have packed more into the day, it was absolutely superb, and La Croix du Vieux Pont is perfectly located as a base for a day trip to Disney.
In and amongst all of the kids clubs, bike riding, abseiling, zip-wiring boating and Disney-ing, we packed loads of time in at the swimming pool and at the beach. We honestly only stopped to eat and sleep. We found that we really enjoyed having a BBQ meal during the daytime on our decking; lots of cured meats, cheese, bread, salad and something warm from the BBQ was our standard fare most days. I also popped something in the slow cooker most mornings for our evening meal, which we found to be a really easy, hearty and cheap way of eating. It meant minimal effort and washing up, and we had a hot meal waiting for us every evening when we got back after the beach.
Also at the parc is a little entertainment complex, housing a softplay, Laser Quest and bowling lanes. Whilst we didn’t use any of these, as our kids were shattered by the evening, they looked really good and seemed quite popular with other families. There is a lovely bar on site that we spent a couple of evenings in, which served ice-cream and slushes for the kids as well as a really good range of beers and drinks for the adults.
There was a weekly karaoke show which we thought was great fun. All of the children were encouraged to join in and our two sang their way through every Frozen song in the book.
We topped off our amazing holiday with a night spent in a Eurocamp Tree House. These are fabulous wooden houses, constructed high up in the trees. They offer a really ‘back to basics’ experience, having no water, electricity, lighting or heat. They have a basic, dry toilet (think a frame with a plastic bag). As well as the Tree House, anyone booking a night also has access to a Eurocamp Classic Tent for the evening, in case of adverse weather or just wanting to have their feet on solid ground.
Everything in the Tree House is made from wood, and there was a tree trunk growing through both of the pods that we had. Our Tree House had two ‘pods’, one with a double and a single bed, the other with 3 single beds. These were joined together by a decking walkway, and accessed via a rickety spiral staircase.
The experience certainly was that of ‘simple living’. The children found the adventure absolutely fabulous, although as a parent of a 3 year old who is prone to wandering at night time, the darkness situation worried me slightly. I needn’t have worried though, as after the packed day we’d had, plus the fresh night air, both girls fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow and slept though until the following morning.
The Tree House night was our last night on parc, and was a totally fantastic way to round off an utterly amazing holiday. The girls loved the experience beyond words, and my husband’s mine has certainly been changed about holiday parc holidays. Eurocamp were amazing, from start to finish. The customer care in the UK were great pre-departure, and the couriers on site, especially the activity couriers, made the holiday the special experience that it was. The accommodation was perfect for our needs and we thought it was great to have our own space rather than being confined to a hotel room.
When we added up the total holiday cost, including the £852 for the holiday and ferry, fuel from Yorkshire to Paris and back (we do drive a very economical car), Disney tickets, shopping, spending money and all of the activities, the holiday came in at a few pounds under £1300. When you consider that £187 of this was Disney tickets, and that we ate and drank really well, without worrying too much about budget, we think this was an absolute bargain. We had a fantastic time, and were never short of something to do. This holiday is one that will stay with us for an awful long time, it was so different to anything we’ve done before and we’d love to do something similar again.
Thanks so much, Eurocamp, you’ve helped us create some magical memories, and we loved every fun packed minute.
Eurocamp are the leading provider of outdoors holidays and help more than 500,000 holidaymakers plan fantastic trips to Europe each year. They offer more than 180 prime locations that are ideal for any kind of holiday: from beach and citybreaks, to stays amongst mountains and lakes. Most importantly, we are more flexible than other operators, offering a range of travel options, including flight, ferry and driving, and total flexibility when it comes to arrival and departure dates. To book visit www.eurocamp.co.uk or contact the customer service team on 0844 406 0402.
For a Classic tent, prices start from £34.85 per night with mobiles starting from £39.95 per night (prices vary throughout the year).