Q and A: How can we go it alone on a camping trip?

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered

We have two young children and want to spend our summer holiday camping in Europe, probably France. We are not keen just to stay on one all-inclusive campsite. We have our own equipment. How can we make our trip as independent as possible?

Q. We have two young children and want to spend our summer holiday camping in Europe, probably France. We are not keen just to stay on one all-inclusive campsite. We have our own equipment. How can we make our trip as independent as possible?

P Biggs, Lancaster

A.Not everyone who enjoys camping holidays wants to stay on large campsites as part of a pre-booked package deal. People with their own tents or motorhomes don't need an existing, on-site caravan whose charms can wane during a two-week stay, and may prefer moving from one site to another, sampling a variety of locations.

Focusing on France makes sense because, with more than 9,000 official campsites and a further 2,000 farm sites, it dominates Europe's camping scene. Central Europe is another good bet, with campsites in Germany, Austria and Switzerland numerous and good value. In contrast, sites in Italy tend to be comparatively more expensive, and in Spain, they are few and far between.

Pitching up at the local municipal campground can work out fine, but in peak season it may be touch-and-go finding space. If you have your own caravan, motorhome or tent, and want a large degree of flexibility, but don't want to leave everything to chance, a company such as Eurocamp Independent (0870 366 7572, www.eurocampindependent.co.uk) is a good starting point. The company, says it was set up to cater for customers who wanted to take their own camping stuff while keeping some of the advantages such as on-site couriers and kids' camps. Geared specifically toward holidaymakers with their own gear, it will organise as much or as little of your holiday as you wish.

The company offers 102 sites in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Holland and Luxembourg. You can book several sites for no extra charge, making a multi-country tour possible. Like all the camping operators, it offers Channel crossings at fares that may undercut those available on the open market, especially during the school summer holidays. A basic 12-night holiday in late July for two adults, a car, tent, and a P&O Stena crossing between Dover and Calais costs £440; children under 13 are free. But you may have to pay supplements for nights spent at some of the smarter sites (up to £15 per night), and for a pitch with electricity and drainage (up to £6 per night). There is also a supplement payable on the ferry if you travel at the weekend or have a motorhome, trailer or caravan; these range from £26 to £63.

For a more traditional holiday feel, try Les Castels (00 33 2 97 42 57 12), a French company with 49 four-star sites set in the grounds of chateaux, mills and farms. The receptionist in one site can phone ahead to others in the chain to arrange accommodation for you later in your holiday. A pitch at the Chateau Camping Le Colombier in Normandy costs around €25 (£15) per night in high season.

If you want to avoid the large campsites beloved by the French (and plenty of overseas visitors), look for one of the farms and houses that offer camping facilities for a small number of tents and vehicles.

Camping à la Ferme et Chalets Loisirs 2002 (Windrush, £10.99) gives details of more than 1,000 farms in France that accept campers. It is written in French – but even if you don't speak the language, there are easily understandable symbols.

Other useful guides include the Michelin Camping and Caravanning Guide: France (Michelin, £8.25), and the Alan Rogers books on France (£9.99) and Europe (£12.99) published by Haynes. These give detailed descriptions of hundreds of sites throughout the country. The Rogers guide is particularly user-friendly, describing sites in words, not symbols, and also helpfully offers a booking service. A pitch at a fairly typical place mentioned in the book, the Camping du Boise de Reveuge in the eastern Franche Comté costs around €20 (£12) per night for a family of four.

If you are after the ultimate rural idyll, some countries permit free camping for short periods, although this often translates into a complete lack of facilities. For example, away from Spain's towns you are not confined to campsites, provided there are fewer than 10 people in your group and you are at least one kilometre from the nearest site. In France, you cannot officially camp on public land, but private landowners are often happy to accept holidaymakers wanting to try a spot of camping sauvage. It is wise, though, to consult with the local tourist office if you intend to do a lot of this form of camping.

Q. Our two children are aged 12 and nine. We are looking for ideas for a one-week break in either the June or October half-terms at a location where there are huge swimming pools with lots of slides, wave machines, etc. We don't mind flying but don't want to drive long distances, either in Britain or abroad. We don't like very high temperatures. We've tried Center Parcs but any other suggestions would be gratefully received.

Jane Nairne, London

 

A.With both children over nine years old you have plenty of options; many water rides impose strict age limits, though for some there are height restrictions as well as, or instead of, age. Book as soon as possible if you're restricted to the busy half-terms.

You don't say what your budget is, but one of the cheapest (and coolest) options is to stay in the UK and go to one of two big water parks on the south coast. Quaywest in Devon (01803 555550, www.quaywest.co.uk) is located on Goodrington Sands near Paignton. It has pools and water slides galore. All day admission costs £6.95 per adult or £5.95 for children (£23 for a family ticket). However, it's open only 26 May to 5 September, which would leave you just the June half term. It's also quite a distance from London – the fastest trains take more than three hours and driving is considerably longer.

Splashdown, near Poole in Dorset (01202 716123) is closer to the capital. It has 11 tyre rides, flumes, whirlpools and rapids to keep you entertained. Most rides are indoors, too, so it won't matter if the weather is bad. Splashdown is open all year round. Admission is £6.50 for anyone over five.

However, if you don't want to risk rainy days, I'd suggest you book a cheap package holiday to mainland Spain, which has several sophisticated water parks well set up for families. The main resorts each have one nearby. In Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, Aqualandia (00 34 965 86 9101, www.aqualandia.net) opens on 5 May, but closes on 13 October, before half term.

On the Costa del Sol, Parque Aquatico Mijas (00 34 95 246 0404, www.aquamijas.com) is located on the picturesque Fuengirola bypass, but don't let this put you off (nor the fact that the website is accompanied by audio that sounds like a flushing toilet). The problem is that opening dates this year are 27 April to 29 September, ruling out the later half term, and the sun can be fierce in June in the south of Spain.

Aqua Brava in the north of the Costa Brava (00 34 97 225 4344, www.aquabrava.com) would be a better bet for June, though it does not open until 4 June – halfway through the half-term.

The travel trade reports that packages over the Jubilee half-term holiday in June are selling fast, so don't delay booking.

Send your family travel questions to S F Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS Or crusoe@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn