13 Eurocamp and other holiday park tricks
Don't think muddy canvas, lumpy groundsheets and communal washrooms, these days European holiday park accommodation (such as Eurocamp's) is often well-equipped mobile homes with your own bathroom. What's more, these types of holidays can smash hotels on price.
Eurocamp and similar operators hire out mobile homes, lodges and ready-built tents on campsites in France, Spain, Italy and more. We say 'campsites', but they're often more like resorts, usually boasting restaurants, children's playgrounds, on-site supermarkets and swimming complexes. Many lay on free kids' clubs and evening entertainment.
You'll be doing your own cooking and usually cleaning the mobile home after you leave, but for a reasonable family holiday it's hard to beat. When we searched, a two-bedroom Eurocamp mobile home in a site at the Italian Lakes was £683/week for a family of four in late August. Two rooms in a similar quality, three-star hotel with a pool nearby cost £1,547.
The parks are especially good for families with more than two kids, as three-bedroom mobile homes are often available for a little extra.
I'm a veteran of these sorts of holidays – in the '80s we'd squeeze six of us into the family's Peugeot 505 to drive to France, while I tried to make My Guy magazine summer special last for as much of the journey as possible. Now I love taking my own little ones.
So I wanted to share a few tips on how to further scythe down the cost at Eurocamp (and others) including late deals for summer 2019 and how to save £100s booking via European websites.
- Stay in the same campsite, with the same pool and entertainment for £100+ less...
While Eurocamp is the big name, often multiple operators run mobile homes (or sometimes chalets or wooden lodges) on the same site. So once you've found your trip, see if another holiday operator has similar accommodation there at a lower price.
The big holiday park companies include Canvas, Al Fresco, Siblu, Suncamp and Venue. There are also firms that run in specific countries, eg, France has Les Castels and Yelloh Village or in Italy, there's Human Holidays.
To test this, we searched for mobile homes at La Sirene campsite near Perpignan in France for mid-September 2019. A three-bedroom mobile home was £370 with Canvas, £350 with Eurocamp and just £210 with Al Fresco. That's the same campsite, same pool and same entertainment for up to £160 less. The quality of accommodation tends to vary by operator and park – it's worth searching TripAdvisor for reviews of your preferred site.
- ... and don't forget to check with the campsite directly to see if you can cut the cost even further
Once you've found the park you want, as well as checking different operators, see if you can get it cheaper by booking with the site directly. The sites often rent out their own mobile homes. Again, it's worth reading reviews on TripAdvisor to check the quality.
For example, we found one week at the Duinrell campsite near Amsterdam at £1,463 with Eurocamp in a three-bed lodge in mid-August. Booking directly with the site, a three-bedroom lodge (provided by the campsite) was £1,362, saving £101.
If booking with a foreign company, use a top specialist overseas credit card or prepay card which gives you perfect rates in every country. See Top Cards For Paying Abroad.
- Booking with Eurocamp? See if its foreign websites are cheaper
If you decide to book with Eurocamp, double-check prices on the country's site. Eurocamp encourages British customers to book parks in mainland Europe through its UK site (eurocamp.co.uk), where prices can be steeper.
We got this tweet from @GloriousHornet:
@MoneySavingExp Massive saving to tell you about. Just booked next summer’s Eurocamp holiday. Total price on British site was £3,303. For the exact same holiday on its Swiss website, we paid £1,715. A saving of £1,588! We are ecstatic.
And when we checked we found a seven-day break in early August in a three-bedroom lodge in Canyelles campsite on the Costa Brava. The UK site came up as £1,232 whereas the Dutch site charged €1,161 (£1,035) – a mega £197 saving for the same stay.
So check prices across Austrian, Belgian, Danish, Dutch, German, Irish, Polish and Swiss sites, then compare to the UK site price. If you're struggling with the language, the Google Chrome web browser will translate the page at the click of a button – just go on to the foreign site and a box pops up asking if you would like to translate the page.
We checked with Eurocamp and it said booking this way wasn't against its terms. However, it said: "All of the holiday documentation will be sent through in the booking site's language, so it's a risky way of doing things if it's not your native tongue."
Remember, whichever site you book through, you'll be asked to pay in the local currency, so to make sure you get the best rate use specialist overseas plastic.
- Bag a week's mobile home stay for £99 in France, Italy or Spain – via a daily deals site
Go to daily deals site Groupon and currently you can get a week's European mobile home stay with Al Fresco for just £99. The deal's valid for up to six people on arrivals from 7 September to 26 October 2019, including half term. You can choose from parks in France, Italy and Spain.
This is a cracking deal. When we checked, we found a two-bedroom mobile home in Castell Montgri on the Costa Brava for £286 for a week in mid September. It was just £99 with the Groupon voucher.
The deal will run until 200 people have bought vouchers or 11.59pm on Tuesday 23 July, whichever comes first. (Though Groupon says it may still release additional vouchers after 200 have gone.) You must use your voucher within a week of purchase. It's valid on two-bedroom mobile homes, but a limited number of three-bedders are available for £5/night extra.
Anything to watch out for?
Some more costly parks are excluded: Bella Italia, Bi Village, Cambrils Park, Camp Lanterna, Cisano, Duinrell, Esterel, Le Brasilia, Le Serignan Plage, Les Prairies de la Mer, Marina di Venezia, Park Umag, Pra'delle Torri, Sanguli, Tamarit Park, Union Lido and Zaton Holiday Resort.
The following types of accommodation are also excluded: Verdi Lounge, Toscanini Lounge, Toscanini with ramp and all lodges.
When you arrive at the resort, you'll need to pay a £50 refundable cleaning deposit and £200 refundable damage deposit.
We couldn't find any Al Fresco holidays that cost less than £99 full price, but it's worth a check before you buy.
How to buy your voucher and book
1) Before buying your Groupon voucher, call Al Fresco on 0161 332 8933 to check that the dates and park you want are available. It will then hold your holiday for two hours.
2) Now buy your Groupon voucher and call Al Fresco back to give it your code. Bookings can be made between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
We checked with Groupon and it said if you cannot get the site you want, you can request a refund. While the terms say there's "limited availability on each park on each date for this promotion", Groupon says "if a park has capacity, it will take as many Groupon customers as it can".
Transport's not included, but Al Fresco may offer to add a ferry when you book, for an extra fee – check the cost against booking separately.
- Check Canvas's deals of the week first thing on a Thursday to slash prices by up to 40%
Every week Canvas releases deals of the week on selected campsites for stays over the next couple of months, at up to 40% off. So it's a great time to start looking for peak school-holiday deals. New deals come out every Thursday at 00.01am.
At the time of writing, this week's deals include a week in a two-bedroom mobile home on a site in France's Ardeche region for £302, usually £504. That's for a family of four in late August.
Eurocamp is also offering up to 30% off selected parks for stays in late July and August, however, this is more of a long-term deal, which it expects to run until late August.
- Linen and towels can cost £80/week to rent – weigh up if it's cheaper to take your own
Pillows and duvets are usually provided as standard, though you need to hire or take your own linen and towels. (They can be included with some premium accommodation, depending on the company.)
It's tempting just to click the 'add linen' button to make your life easier, but it can add a fair whack. When we checked for a Eurocamp site on the Côte d'Azur in August, linen and towels for a family of four came to £57 for one week. Adding four beach towels cost an extra £25 – that’s £82 in total.
If you're driving, taking your own bedding is a no-brainer. A family of four's linen and towels typically weigh 10kg, including beach towels. (Sourced from the weights of linen on Amazon.)
Some people worry if the sheets' extra weight would increase fuel costs, so we got really nerdy and asked the RAC. It said: "An extra 10kg in sheets will have a tiny impact on fuel efficiency. It's not easy to put a number on it but with cars weighing over a tonne already, the extra cost would be nowhere near £80."
Is it worth taking sheets if flying?
With flights it's less clear-cut. If you can fit your sheets in a suitcase you're already paying for, great. If not, we checked an Easyjet flight to Nice and it cost £56 per return to add an extra 23kg hold bag, so you'd still save £26. Do the maths. If the saving's only a few quid, it will save a washing load when you get home.
- Tied to the school holidays? Tripping away in last two weeks of summer is usually cheaper
If you're travelling with school-age kids, it's worth waiting to go away in the last two weeks of summer if you can. As with other holidays, campsite prices drop rapidly for stays at the end of August – likely because most people want to go as soon as they can.
For example, we saw a week at Camping Solaris in Croatia with Canvas in a two-bedroom 'bungalow tent' (cross between a lodge and tent). It cost £738 from 10-17 August, but just £488 from 24-31 August. On 7-14 September it was just £145, so obviously if you're not tied to school holidays, it's well worth holding off.
See the How to Beat School Holiday Hikes blog for more tips.
- Driving? Stuff your car with the right kit to cut costs while you're there
Mobile homes save on living costs, as you can cook some meals at home – a boon with the weak pound.
If you're taking a car, be prepared and pack essentials you might otherwise end up paying for. Don't forget items such as washing up liquid, tea, sugar, dishwasher tablets, bin bags, olive oil and loo roll. If you've kids, consider taking a bucket and spade if near a beach.
Once you're there, it's usually much cheaper to shop at large supermarkets rather than the campsite store.
For more tips on maxing the savings, including easy recipe ideas and meal plans, see the forum thread: Spill the beans – self-catering tips.
- Holidayed with Eurocamp or Canvas before? Trick to get 5% off further bookings
If you've holidayed with Eurocamp or Canvas before, you get a 5% loyalty discount on your second and subsequent bookings. (You don't need to have signed up before your first booking.)
To get Eurocamp's loyalty discount, your booking needs to cost at least £50. With Canvas, you need to sign up to join its free My Club scheme and it should automatically take 5% off your next booking.
- Experience the magic of Disneyland Paris, but stay on a campsite for a more Minnie bill
Bound for Disneyland Paris? Unfortunately, its fairy-tale hotels often come with VIP price tags. Yet stay on a campsite in the surrounding area and you can experience the same magical atmosphere at a drastically reduced overall cost.
With just a 30-minute drive to Disneyland, the Paris Est-Champigny campsite is an ideal base for visiting the theme park. When we searched, a three-night stay in a cabin at Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch in mid-August would set a family of four back £1,397. Yet a two-bedroom mobile home at Paris Est was just £316 for three nights over the same dates.
Another popular park for Disneyland fans is La Croix Du Vieux Pont, a 1.5-hour drive from the theme park. We stayed here for a week, and while you wouldn’t want to commute to Disneyland every day, it was perfect for a day trip.
- Taking the ferry? Packages can undercut booking your campsite and travel separately
Operators such as Eurocamp and Canvas offer discounts if you book ferries and accommodation together. But check if it's more costly than booking ferry and hotel separately.
It’s also well worth checking out Brittany Ferries, as it offers deals with French campsite companies including Yelloh, Siblu and Les Castels.
- Get three times Clubcard vouchers' value when you spend 'em on ferries
Tesco shopper? Don't just spend Clubcard vouchers on the weekly shop. Redeem vouchers via Tesco Clubcard partners and you can get three times points' value.
Each £5 in Clubcard vouchers you swap gets a £15 voucher that you can spend on P&O Ferry crossings from Dover to Calais. There are a few caveats. Stays must be over five days, and the maximum discount is £210 for a return or £105 for a single.
How to book your ferry
Call P&O to confirm availability before you book, as there are limited Clubcard places available on each crossing. Then exchange your Clubcard vouchers.
It should send you an email within 30 minutes with a code to book – use it quickly while there's still space. You don't have to pay solely in vouchers; you can make up the rest in cash.
You can also get three times your vouchers' value on DFDS Seaways crossings to Dunkirk and Calais. However, you need to exchange your vouchers by Sunday 25 August.
- Before you buy, try a cashback site
Once you know what you're booking and where, the final stage is to check if you can get extra cashback on top via cashback sites such as Topcashback and Quidco, rather than going direct. With these sites, find the company you're buying from and check if it gives you cashback via its link.
Book a Canvas break through Topcashback and new customers to the holiday company get 7.35% cashback – a nice £74 back on a £1,000 holiday. Though always think of this as a bonus and not guaranteed, and try to withdraw any cashback straightaway.