For a long time, caravan holiday parks have offered a good way to enjoy a week by the UK coast without spending a huge amount of money. Prices at some resorts have risen in the last few years but it’s still possible to find a bargain with a bit of shrewd shopping and flexibility.
Here are some tricks and tips to help you save some money
Enjoy the late summer
Booking a holiday in the final week in August and the first few days in September is one our favourite money saving tips. It still counts as the summer holidays for most schools, but demand is significantly lower than earlier in August. Most parents prefer to have a few days at home before school starts, so prices are much more affordable.
For example, we looked for a week’s holiday at Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park on the Isle of Wight in late summer 2022. A comfort caravan for up to eight people was from £990 for a week if you arrived on Sunday 28th August. Meanwhile, the same caravan was £1849 if you arrived a week earlier. That’s a saving of more than £850 and it’s still within the school holidays. The Isle of Wight is a particularly good choice for a late season holiday, as it gets 500 hours more sunshine than London each year.
Arrive on any day apart from Saturday
Another top tip is to arrive on a Friday, Sunday or Monday. In fact, arriving on any day apart from Saturday may well save you money with big name holiday parks. The saving varies massively, but during the school holidays you will often save £100 or more by avoiding the most popular changeover day.
Again, it requires a bit of flexibility but it’s a good way to save yourself some money if you don’t mind a little bit of inconvenience.
You may be thinking that you’ll hold on for a last minute bargain this summer. That’s not impossible but my recent experience has been that it’s the early bird who catches the worm. The reason is that holiday parks offer a range of grades of accommodation, often called bronze, silver and gold or something similar.
If you leave it late then you risk only choosing between – for example – silver and gold accommodation. The very cheapest accommodation is often booked up first and it may not actually be a ‘downgrade’. Most holiday parks grade caravans based on how spacious they are and what facilities they have, rather than how old they are. You might find that a bronze caravan is new for this summer whereas the gold caravans are reaching the end of their lifespan.
If you want a bargain, you may be best to think beyond the busiest beach holiday counties in the UK. In holiday park price comparisons, Devon and Cornwall’s resorts are usually more expensive than similar caravan parks in Northumberland, Lincolnshire and parts of Yorkshire. Similarly, some parts of Wales and Scotland can be very good value.
Finally, have a search round for privately owned caravans on big holiday parks. Sites like Booking.com and Airbnb are used by people who have bought a caravan on sites run by Haven, Parkdean or Away Resorts. They use the caravans themselves during some holidays but then rent them out to pay the bills. They set their own prices, and sometimes have a simpler pricing structure to big name resorts. With a bit of searching, you can sometimes find a bargain.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Firstly, you are booking with an individual rather than a big name company so look for a caravan or lodge with some good reviews and plenty of photos. Secondly, check if the price you pay includes ‘leisure passes’ or ‘entertainment passes’. If you book direct with a company like Parkdean Resorts then you’ll be able to use the swimming pool and watch the live shows. However, privately owned caravan generally don’t include these passes so you’ll need to pay a bit extra.
Robbie Lane is a holiday money saver and also runs the Best Mattresses Guide.