When I used to frequent caravan parks, before kids, it was all about steering clear of the amenities, the play room, the playground or anywhere else that would involve hanging out with or listening to the joyful shrieks of other people’s small humans.
Then our kids came along – they are three and four now – and their arrival has taught me the joys of jumping pillows, enclosed playgrounds, lukewarm paddle pools and Mr Whippy induced sugar highs.
It’s turned everything I thought I knew about the perfect campsite completely on its head. I actually get excited now when we pull in and there’s a gaggle of noisy kids hooning around on bikes and scooters. In the past I would have run a mile!
It took a little bit of trial and error to work it out but, finally, I’ve learnt that choosing the right site can make or break a van park holiday with kids.
On one of our first forays into caravan park holidays I got pretty excited about scoring a waterfront site with awesome views. It was within metres of a gorgeous, deep, fast flowing river and bloody miles from the amenities block. I was patting myself on the back for nailing it. The kids were one and two.
It didn’t go well. There was very little relaxing going on and I spent a week dragging the kids away from the edge of the river and doing countless ten-minute treks to the toilets with one under each arm.
It took a friend with older kids who was a whole lot more experienced to point out a few things that I could be factoring into the planning process that might help improve the next attempt. They were such simple things but they have been a total game changer for us.
Which brings me to the list, the golden list, all the things to consider before you choose and book your site.
Usually the staff on reception will be happy to answer any of these questions and help you out, but I also find that jumping online and checking out a map of the park before you book is super handy. That way you can suss out where everything is and pinpoint exactly where you would like to be before you call up.
You’re never going to be able to tick everything off the list (if you do you’ve hit the jackpot with the Holy Grail of sites and I’d love to know where it is. Pretty please!) It’s just going to be a matter of deciding what the big-ticket items are for you and your family and having a good old go at ticking as many off as you can.
Things to consider before you book
Make sure your site isn’t close to a busy road, either internal or outside of the park. You don’t want to spend the whole stay worrying about the kids wandering two metres and ending up on the road.
Keep some distance between your site and any deep, fast flowing bodies of water. There’s nothing relaxing about spending the whole stay hovering over the little humans to stop them falling in.
Choose a site close to the amenities block. Anything that makes the inevitable multiple daily (or hourly) treks back and forth a little easier is going to be a winner.
Anything within sight of the play area is also a winner. Yes, you get to listen to everybody else’s little bundles of joy playing all day but I reckon it’s worth being able to sit and enjoy a cuppa under your awning while the kids play.
Try and give yourself a little bit of distance between your site and the front gate, otherwise you end up with every single car that enters the park driving straight past you.
Midges/sandflies. While you can’t make your way around the country and avoid them the whole time, you can have a pretty good crack! Our youngest is allergic to midges and to be honest, nothing can make us pack up and get outta there like a plague of midges can. Jump online and read some reviews about the place before you book. WikiCamps is great for that. You will find that people will usually mention any current mozzie or sandfly plagues in the most recent reviews.
For the older kids being close (ish) to the camp kitchen is great. Then you can safely send them off with the dirty dishes, a bucket and a sponge.
Check out if the park has activities during certain times. Some do things like outdoor movies and other activities. Nothing beats being able to shoo them off for an hour or so in the evening while you chill for a bit and if you’re nice and close to said activity it makes it even easier.
Water Parks. If I’m ever tossing up between a few different options and one has a water play area then it’s usually going be winning. Nothing beats a water park when it comes to keeping the kids off your case and to ensure they crash out easily at the end of the day. If you can see it from your site then it’s another win.
While we are on the topic of making your holiday as pleasant as possible, there are a few other things you can do to keep things running smoothly.
Write the number of your site on the kids arm, it means if they get lost someone can bring them to you, even if there is no mobile reception.
Write the code for the toilets on your arm for the first few days until you memorise it. There’s nothing more annoying than doing the mission there and then realising you forgot the piece of paper with the code on it!
Put glow sticks on the kids at night so it’s harder to lose them.
Put glow sticks on any guy ropes so it’s harder for a kid to trip over them.
Take some walkie talkies for the older kids. That way they can go off adventuring while still staying in contact with you.
Don’t forget the scooters/bikes. Every other kid there will have one and will be flying past you having the best time ever. It sucks to be the kid without the wheels. I learnt that one the hard way.
Well, there you go guys, have fun out there and good luck! I hope this helps you manage to have at least ten minutes of relaxation on your next trip, that the ankle biters are kind to you and that you don’t arrive home needing a holiday to recover from your holiday…
So what the hell is GoSeeAustralia? We're basically a bunch of Aussies who love the outdoors – and that’s why we’ve created a place where you can book campsites at over 500 caravan parks and campgrounds Australia-wide, rent campervans and RVs, as well as share your experiences and stories.