WE HAVE TRAVELLED in caravans for many years and this same topic comes up everywhere: kids, pets and the van parks that cater for them.
As a starting point, during recent years we have seen a number of four-star parks choosing to accept well-behaved dogs rather than putting in children's playgrounds. One such park owner told us that, in his experience, animals cause far fewer problems in busy periods than uncontrolled children.
Leaving pets aside for a moment, we have recently noticed a trend to provide extensive facilities to entertain children in order to attract families to their parks. In turn, we've found this can cause issues for folk who travel without children, particularly in terms of having to pay for facilities that they do not use. There is also extra noise when children are about, and messy amenities blocks, particularly in school holidays.
Noise can be a big thing with older folk, many of whom can handle noisy kids during the day, but enjoy peace and quiet in the evenings and nights. That said, we have found that people who travel with children are not usually noisy at night, as the kids go to bed reasonably early and their parents do not want to wake them. Then again, a significant number of families travel in expanding vans, wind-up campers and camper trailers, and the canvas walls allow noise to be readily transmitted to neighbours.
Caravan park owners and managers have told us that it is during school holidays that their amenities blocks suffer the most damage and mess. During these periods, small thefts can also become a problem. It seems to us that despite signage about supervising children, they can often be seen playing around amenities, unsupervised, while their parents enjoy their holiday elsewhere.
When it comes to swimming pools, lack of parental supervision and lack of understanding about sharing facilities with other holidaymakers can cause real problems. Last year, at a van park at Apollo Bay, a group of young teenagers played loud, aggressive games in the playground area until 11.30pm, long after the area was officially shut. There was no supervision from parents, and no sign of park management. Our neighbour made an attempt to quieten them but was profanely rebuffed. Another case of parents enjoying their break as far away from their offspring as possible!
FEES FOR FAMILIES
Most van parks charge a fee for each child above the normal site fee that covers two adults. A family with four children would find it very expensive to stay two weeks on a powered site in a four-star park. It has been suggested that a family rate be introduced, as with other tourist facilities. On the other hand, coastal parks are generally full during this period, so it would prove difficult to convince management to lower their charges.