The introduction of holiday park accommodation in Europe to the Australian market is fantastic news for Aussie travellers and something to be really excited about. Whilst this style of holiday accommodation has been popular with British and European travellers for many years, it is now possible for Australians to also take advantage of this great value accommodation thanks to the introduction of an Australian office. As regular visitors to holiday park accommodation over the years, with my family, I'm really excited that this great holiday concept can now be booked in Australia.
So, why should you be excited about holiday park accommodation? For starters, holiday parks offer a cost-effective way to see Europe with prices starting from as low as $31 per adult per night (based on twin share). If you are travelling with children, up to four children can stay for no additional cost.
In Aussie terms, the holiday parks are similar to our Big 4-style caravan parks. All the European holiday parks in the program (over 150) are of a very high standard - most have a restaurant, bar or pizzeria on site, as well as a small supermarket or shop. Parks are ideally suited for families with playgrounds, and, in many instances, swimming pools, games rooms and even kids clubs. On-site laundries are also a bonus, and at many of the parks, your mobile home will be equipped with a BBQ.
But one of the best things about holiday park accommodation is that you know exactly what you are going to get. Every mobile home is fitted out to the highest standard with everything included to make your stay as pleasant as possible. And importantly, each mobile is fitted with its own shower and toilet so there are no trips to the amenities block required in the wee (pun intended!) hours.
Each park has its own on-site representatives who are on hand to greet you when you arrive and help you settle in. They'll also offer advice on things to see and do in the area and keep the kids entertained at the kids club (where applicable).
Holiday park accommodation isn't only for families, though. It's also popular with couples who appreciate the great value this type of holiday offers. It's like having the best of both worlds - you get clean, comfy accommodation in a safe environment (and often in a resort-like location) without having to pay top dollar.
With parks located throughout Europe, it's easy to plan an itinerary that allows you to visit many different countries whilst staying in holiday parks along the way. France, Italy and Spain have the most parks (and are probably the most popular destinations for British travellers), but you'll also find parks in some Aussie favourites - Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, amongst other countries.
Having stayed at numerous holiday parks in the program over the years, I've selected my four favourites and I'll explain below why they made the cut.
Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen (Switzerland)
Having stayed at this park on four occasions (the most recent being in 2013), this park is definitely a favourite of mine. The big winner for me at the Jungfrau park is the location - nestled in the Lauterbrunnen valley and with the towering Swiss Alps all around you, you can't help but be impressed.
The park is only a short walk to the village centre (past one of the 20-odd waterfalls in the valley), as well as the railway and cable car stations which are the starting points for excursions into the alps. A walk in the other direction takes you past lush alpine fields where you'll see cows grazing, or take the pathway alongside the gushing River Lutsch?? to the mini golf course.
Kids can amuse themselves on the play equipment or in the TV room but there's also plenty of open space for them to burn off some energy. Bike hire is also available.
The park boasts a well-stocked supermarket, a restaurant offering local specialities and take aways (such as BBQ chickens), and a bar. Tickets for the mountain excursions (Jungfrau Bahn, Schilthorn, etc) can be purchased from the tour desk next to the supermarket and often are available at special reduced rates to park guests.
The other great thing about the Jungfrau park at Lauterbrunnen is that you don't need a car to get there. Regular trains run from all over Europe to Interlaken where you can connect to a regional train for the 20 minute journey to Lauterbrunnen.
With its quiet location, great facilities and jaw-dropping views, I highly recommend this park.
Natterersee, Innsbruck (Austria)
Located about a ten minute drive from Innsbruck just past the small village of Natters is the Natterer park. This picturesque park is built around a lake which is the hub of the park's activities. Pedal boats, canoes and a water trampoline are popular with all ages, as is the waterslide. Right beside the lake, a games room is home to plenty of table games, and a beach volleyball court and playground means the kids will never be short of things to do. A small mini-mart sells groceries and a kiosk by the lakeside does a roaring trade selling ice creams and cold drinks. Also popular is the pizzeria.
Natterer is another park in a quiet, rural location with the Tyrolean Alps creating a picture postcard backdrop. The park is surrounded by lots of walking tracks and the more energetic can walk to the village of Natters (2.5 km). From Natters, you can catch a tram into the centre of Innsbruck to explore this beautiful city.
Dining at the beautiful lakeside restaurant was a highlight for me both times that I stayed at the park (and on another visit to Innsbruck whilst staying in the city, we even ventured out to Natterer just to have dinner at the restaurant). Nothing beats eating a traditional Austrian meal whilst sitting alongside (or in our case, over!) a glistening alpine lake.
Natterer is a well-maintained holiday park that provides plenty of things to do for all ages and it's location close to Innsbruck makes it the ideal place to spend a few nights.
Situated on Lake Constance, which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Lindau is in a fantastic location. Less than two hours from both Zurich and Munich, it's also a good starting point for a European holiday. Before visiting Lindau I wasn't very familiar with the area but I'm really glad we visited the region and stayed at the Lindau holiday park.
Whilst not located in Lindau itself, the park is only a few minutes drive from the lakeside town, and is in a quiet, rural location next to a forested area. The parks 'manor house' can be traced back to the 14th Century, its original owners once important nobles of the region.
A swimming pool, three lakes, a playground, beach volleyball court, table tennis and bike hire means there is always plenty to keep children amused. There's even a pony riding school on site.
If you feel like dining out instead of cooking, the park offers three restaurants including one serving traditional Bavarian fare and an Italian restaurant. We enjoyed one of our favourite meals at this park - a huge 'family platter' which consisted of all kinds of Bavarian specialities (such as kransky (sausages) and spaetzl (noodles) - it was too much for the four of us to eat and only cost EUR25.
Some of the activities our family enjoyed whilst staying at the Lindau holiday park were visits to Lindau itself (wandering the old town) and a cruise on Lake Constance, a visit to Meersburg Castle, a visit to Liechtenstein (just 60 kilometres away), and a fantastic day at Legoland at Gunzburg, an hour and a half away.
Also close by are Mainau Island and many pretty villages along the lake shore - why not visit Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein all in one day?
Weekend, Lake Garda (Italy)
Italy's Lake Garda is relatively unknown to Australian travellers but it is mega-popular with Europeans and as a result, there are numerous holiday parks located around Italy's largest lake. I've stayed at a few holiday parks around Lake Garda but my favourite is known as Weekend.
The park is set on a steep hillside overlooking the town of Salo and beautiful Lake Garda. Views from the pool area and outdoor restaurant are stunning and it's easy to spend most of your time relaxing and taking in the views. If the kids need more entertainment, though, there's a playground and games room with table games, and a kids club operates in high season. As well as the restaurant and bar, the site also has a well-stocked supermarket.
Lake Garda's many attractions include watersports and swimming and the many theme parks which are located on the southern end of the Lake. (I can highly recommend Gardaland.) The many lakeside towns are well worth a visit and perhaps a meal at a typical Italian trattorie. Sirmione, with its magnificent castle, and Riva del Garda (at the northern end of the lake), are two of the towns I really enjoyed visiting.
If you're happy to travel a bit further, Verona is only an hour away by car, whilst Venice is two hours' drive. We drove to Densenzano station (40 minutes) and caught the train to Venice, which took 1 hour 40 minutes.
Other useful info
At the time of writing, there are 160 parks in 10 European countries in the program in each country was as follows.
UPDATE: 30 November, 2014
Holiday Park accommodation is now not able to be booked through travel agents in Australia but you can SEARCH AND BOOK ONLINE HERE*
Footnote: Together with my family, I have stayed in holiday parks in Europe on five separate occasions in nine different parks in four countries.