Forget cheap, flea-ridden hotels or people shagging through the night in your hostel room – stay in a caravan park instead. Words: LYNETTE EYB

I realise the very word ‘caravan’ will have already deterred some readers, but that’s their loss. While hostels, hotels, B&Bs and good old tents are all on the list of accommodation options for travellers, the caravan – a sturdy and cheap provider of up to six beds under one roof – suffers unfairly as a result of its outdated American trailer-trash stereotype.

I’m not suggesting we all buy cars and start towing these monstrosities across Europe. Instead, why not take better advantage of the ones that are already there? On-site vans tucked away in some of the most beautiful and secluded places on Earth.

Make no mistake, caravans have become cool – most of us have just been a little slow on the uptake. Brits already spend some £700 million a year staying in ‘holiday parks’. They know that caravans are a cheap and clean alternative to hotels, hostels and B&Bs, especially for groups of friends travelling together. And they also probably know that caravans have spawned offspring in the form of more upmarket models and ‘chalets’ – glorified onsite vans modified to make you think you’re really not staying in a trailer at all.

Caravans may not provide the plushest beds in the world and space can be tight, but if bedbugs haven’t stopped us staying in crusty hostels, a few unfashionable curtains shouldn’t stop us making the move park-side.

Certainly, caravans are no match for camping in the street-cred stakes, but mention that you travelled the length and breadth of Europe and paid just £10 a night for your digs and others will soon stop and listen.

Staying in a caravan is the best-kept secret on the budget travel trail. They’re hardly ever mentioned in the major guidebooks, which are all the poorer for it. But if you have a set of wheels – drivers and cyclists stumble across caravan parks in the most unusual destinations – and a half decent map, you’ll find yourself camping alongside rivers, near beaches, on clifftops and at the foot of mountains without ever having to erect a monodome or fold up a sleeping bag. Instant access to great places off beaten tracks other travellers are never likely to find.

One of my most memorable Easter weekends was a little sojourn to Wales. Despite it being one of the most expensive long weekends of the year, four of us shared our own little castle in a quiet and secluded caravan park near the Snowdonia National Park. We cooked breakfasts each morning and wandered to the local pub each night. In between we cycled the trails around the national park and climbed Mount Snowdon. Location, people, location, all for £140. Not each: total. Split that between four people and divide it by three nights and it starts making sense. •

How much?

Prices vary from park to park and from country to country, but you won’t pay much more than £60-£70 a night for a van or cabin that sleeps four to six people. Prices get cheaper the longer you stay (weekly prices in the UK start at £150), and vary according to the season. In Europe, use the same benchmarks as with other accommodation: Portugal and Spain will be cheaper than France or Germany, and eastern Europe will be cheaper still. The further east you go, expect to have fewer options.

What you get

An onsite (or ‘static’) caravan or chalet/cabin usually comes with a stove, toaster, kettle, and basic cutlery and crockery. Most parks these days also provide linen and pillows but always confirm in advance exactly what’s included. Depending on the park and its management, there will often also be barbecue facilities, tennis courts, swimming pools, bike hire and local tourist information. No room service, but for £10 a night, who can really complain?

Where to find caravan parks

Remember that not all caravan parks have onsite (or ‘static’) vans available for hire. Always phone or email in advance. Some camping and caravanning books (such as the Michelin series) have separate listings/symbols for sites offering van hire.

•The British Holiday & Home Parks Association represents caravan park owners and operators. Their site is a good place to start for UK options as it has some useful links and information. At you’ll find links to 1049 parks across the UK with onsite vans available to hire.

• The Camping and Caravanning Directory is also a good source of UK-based sites. You can’t go wrong with Caravan And Camping Britain And Ireland (AA Lifestyle Guides), while Alan Rogers has ‘Good Camps’ guides to Britain and Ireland (see

• Guide To Caravan & Camping Holidays 2007 (Farm Holiday Guides Publications) is a lesser-known book with more of an environmental, earthy feel.

• Tourist board VisitBritain publishes the useful Caravan & Camping Parks In Britain 2007, while VisitScotland has an online searchable database (which includes VisitScotland Thistle Holiday Home Parks, 79 rather spiffy high-end parks offering four- and five-star caravans and cabins). Who said caravanning wasn’t luxurious?

• Across the Channel, Caravan And Camping Europe (AA Lifestyle Guides) is a comprehensive guide to the major sites, while Alan Rogers publishes France, Italy, Spain and Portugal guides, with more than 1600 sites personally inspected by their writers; the website also has a searchable database. Camping France 2007 (Michelin) is also good for anyone limiting their trip to France. A good online resource is Caravan Sitefinder, which has links to websites covering France, Germany and Italy.

• And don’t underestimate the power of the tourist board when searching for that hidden treasure. I put in a call to the tourist board that looks after the French Ardennes (, one of the more obscure French regions at the crossroads of Belgium and Switzerland. That turned up no less than four caravan parks offering static vans in places I would never have otherwise visited.