I’m not an efficient holiday researcher. I lose days, weeks even, trying to find the cheapest flights at times that won’t render us all cranks. I indulge my compulsion to visit the website of every campsite within 100km of an airport. I read all of the Trip Advisor reviews and I scrutinize multitudinous traveller photos of chipped counter tops and mystery insects. No stone left unturned. No accommodation provider left behind.  A corner of my kitchen table will be strewn with frenzied notes and woe betide the child (or spouse) who interferes with my ‘system’. European Campsite Holiday.

That being said, there’s nothing quite like the satisfying feeling of knowing you’ve explored all of the options and snagged yourself a reasonably-priced holiday for the family.

We’re going on our fourth European campsite holiday this summer. We’re campsite people. We love the laid-back nature of campsite holidays and we love the range of amenities and kid-friendly activities that European campsites offer.

European Campsite Holiday

I’ve written a list of everything I can think of that might be of help if you’re considering booking a European campsite holiday for the first time. Feel free to share any more tips you might have for other readers in the comments below!

COST 

Expect to spend anything between €1.5K and €4K in the summer months for a family of four, including flights, depending on when you travel, the campsite size and and the type of accommodation you choose. The ferry may bring the cost down a little. To date, we’ve always flown.

CHOOSING A CAMPSITE 

There are so many campsites. So very many. It’s often almost impossible to choose one over another.

Think about what your prerequisites are. Would you prefer to holiday in a specific country? Do you need the campsite to be within close reach of an airport, a specific ferry port or a train station? Near a beach? On a lake? Inland? Would you prefer a large campsite or a small one? (Bear in mind that some get very busy at peak travel times.)  Would you like to be within walking distance of a town or village? Would you like go on a day trip to a city? Do you have older kids who’d like to visit nearby theme park or water park? Do you need a playground? A toddler pool? Water slides? A bar?

European Campsite Holiday
Bella Italia, Lake Garda

Make a list of your non-negotiables. There’s a campsite that’s perfect for you. It’s just a matter of finding it! Read the reviews. Ask questions on travel forums and hit friends up for recommendations.

We like to to be located near a town or village. It’s always nice to get a change of scene for dinner or a stroll, especially if you haven’t rented a car.
European Campsite Holiday
Playa Larga, Costa Dorada

CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMMODATION TYPE

If you’d like to enjoy the facilities that a campsite holiday offers but you’d prefer bricks-and-mortar accommodation, there are often more traditional options available. Most of the bigger campsites have bungalows or apartments but they tend to fill up fast. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to go a bit more Bear Grylls, tents and lodges are widely available too.

Obviously, not all mobile homes are created equal.

If opting for a mobile home, check out the square footage, be clear on the appliances available and investigate the quality of the indoor furnishings, outdoor furniture and decking space. Decent, comfortable deck furniture with sufficient shade can make a huge difference to your holiday.  You’ll spend a lot of time on the deck.

Bear in mind that mobile homes, while perfectly comfortable, look a bit like a like a prefab and feel a bit like a prefab, because they’re just that –  prefabricated structures that shake every time your kids slam a door and retain heat like wood-burning saunas.

Usually, you get what you pay for. If the price seems too good to be true, then it’s possible that you’ll spend a portion of your holiday looking longingly into to the fancier mobile homes of your neighbours.

‘Premium’ or ‘luxury’ options come with a heftier price tag. Don’t rule them out if things like TVs, dishwashers and design aesthetics are important to you. They may only be 30% – 40% more expensive.

European Campsite Holiday
The Lux mobile home with Human Travel #campinggoalz

CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMMODATION PROVIDER 

Booking accommodation directly with the campsite itself is often the cheapest option and sometimes your only option if you’re after an apartment or a bungalow. Campsites will usually have their own mobile homes and other types of accommodation. A number of independent operators will also have rental units on site, operators like Eurocamp, Canvas, Human Travel (formerly Elle Vacanze), Al Fresco, Siesta, Suncamp, Roan Camping, Happy Camp, KelAir Camphotel and Select Camp to name a few.  Best to price as many as possible for the dates in mind. Keep an eye out for early-booking discounts and check out aggregators like AllCamps and LuxCamp. 

Sadly, this is where you’ll fall down the rabbit hole. Each provider will have a range of mobile homes and accommodation offerings. You’ll painstakingly learn the difference between a Eurocamp ‘Vista’ and ‘Aspect’ and a Canvas ‘Select’ and ‘Moda Plus’. Before you know it you’ll be able to decipher between a Roan ‘Casa Royale’ and a ‘Casa Allure’ at a glance! The nitpicking will pay off though. I promise.
European Campsite Holiday
Apollo Lodge with Siesta 

‘EXTRAS’ EUROPEAN CAMPSITE HOLIDAY 

In the world of European camping, bed linen and towels are considered ‘extras’ and often not included in the price. You’ll order them while booking but it’s likely that your beds won’t be made up when you arrive. Not a huge deal but arriving late and having to then make up six beds can be the straw that breaks a weary parent’s back. Forewarned is forearmed.

In some cases you may be required to clean your accommodation before you leave. This can sting. Often there’s an option to throw a little bit of extra cash at the problem to avoid this.

It’s always worth opting for air conditioning, especially with younger kids. Sometimes it’s included in the price, sometimes it’s payable locally and sometimes not available at all. We’ve never not used it. We even had to use the heating function on the air con unit in Spain. But that’s another story.

If you plan on barbecuing while you’re there, double-check that the company you book with a) permits it (some don’t, especially in heavily wooded areas) and b) provides you with a suitable BBQ. Sometimes they’re included as standard. More often than not, they’re available for rent at a small cost.

YOUR LOCATION ON SITE

Campsites vary in size and some can cover up to a kilometre squared, so there can be a lot of walking involved – again something to consider with young kids. Most of the bigger sites will have bike hire available. Some will even have buggy hire. I’ve noticed an increasing amount kids being ferried around in those little pull along wagons in recent years too.

The earlier you book, the more likely you are to be located well. Consider noise from evening entertainment and proximity to pools, shops,  restaurants, beaches, etc. There’s usually no guarantee of where you’ll end up but it’s never any harm detailing your location preferences when booking.

CAMPSITE FACILITIES 

Obviously the bigger the site, the more facilities it will have. Some will have fresh fruit & veg markets, bakeries, pizzerias, hair salons, beachwear and souvenir shops, bike hire, ice-cream parlours, bars and multiple restaurants. Most will have a decent supermarket. Regardless, I’d advise taking a quick scout to the nearest Lidl or Aldi at the beginning of your stay. It will save you money, even if you have to pay for a taxi.
European Campsite Holiday
One of five play areas in Bella Italia

Some will have multiple pool complexes with water slides. Some will have heated pools (often essential if you’re travelling very early in the season) and some won’t. Some will have private beach areas with loungers.  Most will have playgrounds and some even have bouncy castle parks, trampolining and go karts for young kids and soccer pitches, tennis courts and discos for older kids and teenagers.

European Campsite Holiday
One of the smaller pools complexes in Bella Italia

If you’re travelling off season (before June or after August), it’s worth checking what’s available with the campsite. There may not be a full schedule of activities and entertainment until high season and certain pools and restaurants may not open.

European Campsite Holiday
Park Playa Bara, Costa Dorada

CARS ON SITE

Some camping resorts allow cars on site and some don’t. Not a massive issue because they usually stay below 10mph but if cars are absent entirely, it’s one less headache for parents of young children.

European Campsite Holiday

WHAT TO BRING? 

Like any holiday accommodation, most of what you need will be provided or easily available. We find that bringing some of the following on self-catering campsite holidays can help save money and avoid waste:

You can often order welcome packs with essentials like teabags, coffee, water, WINE, etc so that you have some of the basics on arrival.

HOW I WENT ABOUT BOOKING OUR HOLIDAY THIS YEAR:

1.  I set a budget with a little wiggle room.

2. I  decided roughly on dates (July/August)

3.  I created a ‘campsite brief’ with a list of our preferences. While we weren’t fussy on location, but we had specific requirements when it came to the campsite itself.

4.  I started with flights. I made a list of about 8 airports in France, Spain and Italy and searched for flights out of our nearest Irish airports. I disregarded destinations that required us to fly too early or late because of the age of our kids. I made a note of the cheapest dates for flying to a range of destinations.

5.  Then, using the enormous Eurocamp brochure (a very handy resource whether or not you actually book with Eurocamp) and Google maps (the satellite view is super), I investigated any campsites in close proximity to those airports. I visited the campsite websites and a range of other accommodation providers for availability and prices. This took bloody ages. 

Eventually, we settled on 10 days in a mobile home with Eurocamp, in a campsite on the Adriatic coast near Venice, Camping Ca’Savio, flying into Venice with Aer Lingus and out of Treviso with Ryanair. Both airports are 40kms away and the campsite appears to tick all the boxes.

I’ll report back! You can read our review of Bella Italia on Lake Garda here. 

European Campsite holiday
We’ll be attempting a day trip to Venice with the kids. Pray for us.

If you found this helpful our you’d like to add some tips of your own, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you been on a campsite holiday?  Would you recommend it? What kind of holiday maker are you?

Interested in a European campsite holiday but not sure where to start? I've covered where to look, how to book and and what to bring. Read more on https://shinnersandthebrood.com #travel #familyholiday #europeancamping


I’ve linked this post with #wanderlustkids and #familyfun

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54 Comments

  1. Coming from South Africa our camping experiences are so different to this as we we don’t call it camping unless you stay in a tent! But we tried it in Ireland and now we understand why the Irish prefer mobile homes lol!! (Galway/Salthill campsite in a tent = NEVER AGAIN). We have been to two campsites in France with our brood, one in Brittany and one in the Vendee but the latter was so hot it was uncomfortable (see we’ve acclimatised now). We love the simplicity of staying in a tent but it does mean we have to drive, however, catching the ferry is a great fun part of the holiday. Enjoy Italy, and especially Venice!

    • Sinéad Reply

      I know what you mean! It’s not really camping in the traditional sense of the word at all! I remember taking the ferry as a kid and absolutely loving it. We’ll definitely take the ferry to France some year, especially when the kids are a little older.

    • Sinéad Reply

      I’m halfway through a Bella Italia review! 🙂 Will get it up asap!

  2. We have never been to a European campsite before although I am starting to think it would be an amazing family holiday. We are 100% apartment and bungalow people though so I will have to get booking x

  3. We’ve stayed on lots of campsites in Europe. My husband is very much a tent man but I’m all for the facilities – especially now that we have kids. We are thinking of doing Eurocamp next year in a big group with friends but would be the only ones with kids so trying to find a suitable campsite!

    • Sinéad Reply

      This year will be our first year with Eurocamp. The ones we haved been to have been very kid-oriented alright. I hope you find a great one that suits everyone!

  4. Great advice. We had our first family camping trip last year with some friends ,we loved it and will be doing it again this year. Not sure we’re quite ready for a full on holiday abroad camping yet.

  5. Great article I think you got it all there.
    Being French my only addition is on likelihood of sunshine.
    In our family as we were growing up in Paris, we always plotted a straight horizontal line from Bordeaux. Anywhere above there is a chance of rain, anywhere below and its likely all sun.

    • Sinéad Reply

      That is such a good point and a VERY valuable piece of advice!! I’m totally going to use that rule! Brilliant!

  6. I hope you have a wonderful holiday! I have very fond memories of Eurocamp holidays as a child – we went every other year. I loved camping, and especially the onsite takeaways – heading up there with our saucepans and asking in French for ‘poulet frites’. We definitely plan to do a Eurocamp holiday in the next few years – I can’t wait!

    • Sinéad Reply

      Ah they sound like super memories! I always wanted to go on this kind of holiday as a kid but we never did!

  7. Sinead, we have been to Venice its an amazing city but one of the most expensive cities in Italy. Just be prepared for a meal to cost €15-20 more per person than anywhere else……and we are budget travelers!! Great tips, next year this type of holiday might be for us when Roisin is a bit bigger, I love Italy and cant wait to explore it some more.

    • Sinéad Reply

      Thanks for that! We’ll brace ourselves for it being mobbed and mad expensive! My head says no but my heart says we can’t be beside it and not visit! #torn

  8. I’m in the midst of holiday searching with my mates and you’re right in a way that you get what you pay for. Saying that, we’re looking at Zadar in Croatia which looks unreal atm! (Really like your blog design btw!)

    • Sinéad Reply

      Oh Croatia sounds gorgeous! We’ve never been but it’s on the (looooong) list! Happy researching! And thanks re the blog design! 🙂

  9. Cassandra| @TheschoolGateAdventure Reply

    This is brilliant Sinead. Would love to know your opinions on both Playa Bara and Bella Italia! I’ve shortlisted both recently so was super invested when I started reading this blogpost! X

    • Sinéad Reply

      Hey Cassandra. So, I’m going to post a Bella Italia review this week hopefully! Half done! We’ve been twice… it’s great. Big and busy but lots on offer! Playa Bara was much smaller but really lovely too. We travelled in early May. It rained a lot. The toddler pool was being renovated and neither the slides nor the spa were open. The main pool was quite cold too. Any negatives we had were PURELY because of when we traveled though. It’s a lovely campsite on a gorgeous beach. Really easy to get around and well kept. We found the animation team great and my kids loved the mini-disco at 7 every night in the amphitheatre. There’s a really gorgeous little village walkable along a coastal path and we visited Taragona too. It rained but it was still lovely. We also went to Portaventura for the day and the kids loved it. All in all, I would recommend it but just not that early in the season! We booked with Siesta. Their mobile homes were located in a nice quiet part of the campsite but I’ve definitely stayed in cleaner, nicer campsite accommodation and probably wouldn’t book with them again. That being said, we had a TV with British channels which helped a LOT when we were confined to the mobile home due to the RAIN! Gah! HTH! Happy hunting!

  10. Some fab tips! I am so cold right now, I would love to be off on a summer camping holiday in the sun ☀️

    • Sinéad Reply

      Frozen here too! Looking out the window at snow and ice! Bring it!

  11. Oh this is perfect to get me in the mood for summer, especially as it’s freezing outside! Some wonderful tips here lovely. 😃

  12. Sounds great! We went on a camping holiday to Annecy in France about 4 years ago because my sister in law works for a European Campsite Holiday company and got us a family discount which was Ace! We went at the beginning of June and it was so warm. We were child free then so had a large tent but it was a fair distance from the loos and showers so I’d go for something a bit more convenient if we dd it again, which I hope to do soon!

    And congrats, someone loved this post so much they added it to the #BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your ‘I’ve been featured’ blog badge 🙂

    • Sinéad Reply

      Yay for #Blogcrush! We’ve never braved a tent but that’s not to say we wouldn’t in the future!

  13. Love this post! I am just like you and research everything insanely thoroughly to ensure we get the best deal for the best price. We’ve never been camping with the kids though – we are really keen to do it this summer. Not sure if we’ll make it to Europe or just Cornwall this year, we’ll see. But I do see a European camping holiday in our future! I like camping, but with a few luxuries! xx

    • Sinéad Reply

      Parts of the UK look beautiful! I’ve seen some fab British campsites on the coast reviewed and they look great!

  14. Such a great post! I think this is what we will be doing for our holidays next year. It always surprises people that we want to go on holiday but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the insane heat! Italy is our only option, due to flights, so I’m looking forward to hearing how you get on x

    • Sinéad Reply

      Ah cheers, Susan! Thanks for that! I can imagine. We were in Limasol pre-kids in August once and I couldn’t cope with the heat at all!

  15. Great tips! I’m definitely plannng to try a European campsite, there’s just so many brilliant things to do on them, and the weather is good! I’ve got my eye on Corsica or Sardinia… #familyfun

    • Sinéad Reply

      Oh wow! Corsica looks fab. We had a super time on nearby Elba pre kids. One of our favourite places to date.

  16. We’ve never stayed in a campsite when travelling, but it can save so much money perhaps it is something I need to look into. We like being close to towns and cities, but also far enough away to get away from the hustle and bustle.

    • Sinéad Reply

      Same as that! I like somewhere to day trip but peace and quiet too!

  17. This is really informative and so much information to help make a good holiday decision. Hope you have a great holiday

  18. I’m with you Sinead, I like to know I’ve done all the research and covered all bases. Plus I love a bargain and need to make sure I’ve got the best deal! This is a great and really comprehensive post. Hope you all have an amazing holiday!

  19. Oh my word you really have thought of everything! We don’t have any time to do a holiday like this this year but I really want to do one soon with the kids so I’ll be coming back to re-read all these amazing tips!

  20. I think you’ve got everything covered there Sinead. We once looked into a Eurocamp holiday when I was younger to France but never managed it. Somehow I find it funny that I have ended up living on a campsite in the Eastern Algarve with a lot of retirees and everything you say about a mobile home is true. Also, the noise little feet make when running through the home can be heard for miles outside (I know, our neighbours have commended on it). Our campsite is nowhere near as fancy as some of the ones you have described, but it’s popular with Portuguese and Spanish families in July and August nonetheless. Thanks for linking up to #wanderlustkids

    • Sinéad Reply

      The noise! Yes the noise! As a teacher it reminds me of work and teaching in a temporary prefab (which are sadly in abundance in Irish schools!)

  21. I once went camping and it didn’t end well. Let’s just say torrential rain and a body bag. However, that was very extreme and we were young and ill-equipped. This has inspired me to try again! 🙂

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