What Makes a ‘Perfect’ Caravan Park?
November 11 2011 | kelly
Get the lowdown from caravan park expert, Kirk Gibbons
It can be a bit overwhelming deciding where to stay – whether you’re planning a holiday, or just passing through a country town with your RV in tow.
That’s why your RV Life Club invited expert Relief Caravan Park Manager Kirk Gibbons on what makes a good caravan park and how to save money on bookings. Learn a trick or two from Kirk who, along with his wife Suzan, has had over 20 years experience in the hospitality and caravan park industries.
1) What makes a good caravan park?
First and foremost, look for a caravan park that suits your needs:
- If you have kids you’ll want a pool, playground and/or beach and room to run in safety.
- If you have pets, make sure the park is pet friendly (and remember to clean up after them).
- If you have a large van, you’ll need a large site. So, don’t forget to mention the size of your van when you book.
- If you want more privacy, look for ensuite facilities.
- Ideally, you’ll look for a location close to shops, beach and places of interest.
- It’s always great to stay in parks that are in good old country towns with history and old-world charm.
- Watch for drive through sites, a kiosk, and friendly staff.
- A good caravan park should always have well-presented and clean toilet/shower blocks.
Parks with higher star ratings offer more services and facilities. However, most people find that a 3 star park will often be sufficient. If the park is rated 4-5 stars you may be paying for facilities you don’t need. Even some 2 star country parks shouldn’t be ignored as they can offer charm, warmth and good old-fashioned country hospitality. The star system is a guide to luxury – don’t overlook a good clean country/rural park if you don’t need all the bells and whistles.
Look for well-tended grounds. They are an indication of quality and the likelihood that if you have a problem, it can be fixed on the spot. Parks that are remote or run ‘via satellite’ normally cater for permanent or long-term guests. Be careful as the standard of cleanliness and maintenance may not be to your liking.
2) How do I choose the right caravan site?
Beach or river frontage sites often attract higher fees. While you may be paying for a prime location, it could be a popular gathering point that you’ll share long into the night with uninvited campers. So when you make a booking, ask if there is a choice of site and find out what rules are in place to protect your privacy. Also consider whether you want to be near facilities like the amenities block or a certain distance from a busy road, camp party, BBQ area, etc.
Unpowered sites can occasionally be of a poorer quality than powered sites. BUT they can offer seclusion and privacy, as well as the opportunity to use your solar panels. On the other hand, if you prefer a particular powered site, it may be worthwhile paying a little bit extra, even if you don’t need the electricity.
If you prefer a shaded site, check nearby trees for dead or unstable limbs, bee activity or bull ant movement. Always carry powder or a form of ANT RID in the van, particularly in rural parks with lots of gum trees where there has been low rainfall in recent years. We have seen visitors ignore advice and suffer tree limbs falling on vans and tents during summer. Often the only warning was the CRACK of the limb as it fell.
- Remember, your site selection may be limited during holiday periods. In popular parks book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- When booking make sure to get a site number, check it on the parks site plan on the web, ensure the receipt has the site number on it or confirm site position by email if you are travelling.
- Always take the name of the person taking your booking – it personalises your arrival.
3) Can I save money on bookings?
Yes. As a rule of thumb, site fees can range from $10 per night for a basic park in a non-tourist area to $40-60 plus per night during peak season in a quality park near a popular beach.
Most caravan parks charge extra during holidays but offer attractive discounts during non-peak periods. Be sure to ask for the best deal at the time of booking. Try forming a small group booking (3 or more campers) to get a better discount. Always consider caravan parks that are part of the ACC RV Life Club as they offer fantastic discounts to Club members. Check websites and popular tourist literature for deals such as seven nights for the price of five, 3 nights for the price of 2, but make sure the normal nightly rate is competitive with other parks in the area. Independent parks usually have the flexibility to offer more attractive rates.
Parks often have a policy of minimum bookings during peak holiday periods. For Easter you may need to book a minimum of four days, and up to a week in the summer holidays.
If you are planning a major trip around our great country, there are three major caravan park chains you should consider joining for the discounts on offer; BIG4, Family Parks of Australia and Top Tourist. A fourth chain, DISCOVERY, is making inroads with quality parks in regional areas. By joining these chains you can quickly recoup your membership fees. They normally offer a 10% discount up to a maximum of $20-25. Also, caravan parks associated with these chains are generally of better-than-average quality.
Find out more about Kirk and Suzan’s over 20 years experience in the hospitality and caravan park industries at www.caravanparkmanagers.com.au
PS: Kirk and Suzan have just started managing the Port Neill Caravan Park which is famous for some of SA’s best fishing. If you’re travelling the Eyre Peninsula drop in and say g’day.
PPS: What do you think of Kirk’s tips? If you’ve got any other tips or experiences – add them in the comments below!