I’ve never wanted to go to a holiday park. The idea of spending a weekend in an aluminium box has never really shouted ‘holiday’ to me.
Five-star glamping with gourmet picnics? Maybe. Large-scale holiday park with slot machines and cringey entertainment? Absolutelynot.
But since having kids, I’ve been forced to, let’s say, be a bit more adaptable to how I holiday.
Before children, my husband, Ben, and I used to take stylish city breaks and romantic trips to the Caribbean.
But post kids, our budgets have tightened. And the thought of navigating airports and plane journeys with two tantrum-prone pre-schoolers just doesn’t appeal.
Still, when Ben suggested we booked a family break to a Haven holiday park recently, I couldn’t hide the initial look of horror on my face.
I could think of a thousand other places I wanted to go for a family getaway, and they didn’t involve karaoke or daily trips to the soft play.
But after confiding in some close yummy mummy friends, it turned out some of them had ‘done a Haven holiday’ too. And they'd actually enjoyed it.
As more people egged me on, telling me to put my snobbish assumptions aside, I finally gave in.
Besides, with our kids yet to start school, we could take advantage of Haven’s cheap-as-chips term time deals.
ROARING DAY OUT The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tickets plus hotel stay from £129pp
ROARING DAY OUT
EAU, WHAT FUN
For a mere £130, we could have four nights in a three- bedroom caravan in Norfolk, with all swimming and entertainment included. Bargain.
I sounded out my four-year-old daughter, Maya, and she was already packing her suitcase. So I took a deep breath and booked a break at Haven's Hopton holiday park in Great Yarmouth .
The first thing that surprised me was how slick the whole operation was.
On arrival, we were greeted by a warm and smiley uniformed lady with a clip board.
She took our name and car registration and chatted with the excited kids in the back.
We were handed a map, bags for our laundry and waste and clear instructions on how to find our caravan. First impressions? Pretty good.
The caravan itself was in great condition. Save from a few bits of chocolate we found on the sofa, I could tell it had been thoroughly cleaned.
Haven prides itself on its high levels of cleanliness and guests are even entitled to a full refund if they find the room’s not up toscratch.
Ok, so there was no bathtub for me to enjoy a luxurious soak and I was forced to take a digital detox with no speedy WIFI connection to rely on (although they do have it in public areas).
But with comfy beds, a wardrobe each and all the mod cons needed to cook a decent meal, I felt relieved – we weren’t staying in a hovel after all.
As a mum of two energetic kids, another weight lifted when I found there were plenty of child-friendly amenities close to our caravan, including three playgrounds, a crazy golf course and several sand pits.
The beach was also just a short walk away, so we didn’t havefar to lug the kids’ buckets and spades.
The next morning after breakfast, I headed to the main building, bracing myself for seedy arcades and rowdy lager louts but breathed a sigh of relief when we found a stylish hub of places to eat and drink.
The soft play was cleaner than any I’ve ever visited (believe me, I’ve seen a lot). And the tastefully designed arcade was far from the naff set-up I’d imagined, with a few fun rides for the kids.
With a play pass at Haven, you can enjoy as many entertainment shows as you like.
Before I knew it, I was belting out nursery rhymes and doing downward dogs at a 10am ‘Totsy Time’ and chanting magic spells for a wizardry workshop.
It felt good to see the kids having so much fun.
When it came to tea-time entertainment, my two-year-old, Felix, was wide-eyed as he watched a dinosaur-ranger stage show.
And the colourful Marina Bar, where it all happens, was far from the tacky drink-until-you-drop horror I’d imagined.
As I sipped on a glass of chilled rosé while the kids had a boogie, I realised something: I was a holiday park convert.
When I got back home to my friends, they gave knowing smiles when I announced that holiday parks are bloody brilliant and we’re already booking another one for next year.
There are still deals to be had on Haven breaks this summer – with August and September holidays from £3pp a night.
For more staycation ideas, Zog The Dragon fans will love Warwick Castle's £32pp overnight breaks – including glamping, entry and breakfast.
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