The team here at HolidayHomeBuyer have worked in sales roles on holiday parks for over 15 years. During that time, there are certain questions you frequently hear from prospective owners – and perhaps the most common of those questions is “How long is the park open for?”
It’s completely understandable, after all, you want the longest possible season for your money, right?
Well, that’s one way of looking at it – but there are a few things to think about when you’re looking at the length of the season on the park. Those things include:
- Whether or not you can use the park facilities all year round
- Do you have a caravan that’s suitable for 12-month use?
- What happens on the park during the winter months?
- What’s right for you and your planned use of your caravan?
Here, we’ll take a detailed look at those questions (and more!) – so you can decide whether a park with a 12-month season is going to be right for you.
8 months, 10 months, 12 months – why the difference?
It’s useful to start a guide like this with a bit of background information.
As you explore the possibility of owning a static caravan, you’re going to find plenty of different season lengths. Generally, parks ‘open’ for business around the start of March – but when they close varies.
Some parks close at the end of October, some at the end of December – and some don’t close at all. To be honest, you’ll even find variations of these dates too – but generally, the end of October is the earliest a park will usually close.
So, why the difference in length of the season?
The answer depends on a lot of different things. It could be that the local authority outlines when the park can open and close. It may be that the park operator wants a period of maintenance time when there are no members of the public on-site. Then again, it could also be that the park operator sees the appeal of a park that never closes.
However long your park is open for; you’ll find that holidaymakers can usually only make bookings between roughly March and October. Therefore, even if your park’s open on Christmas day, it’s probably only going to be holiday home owners (and perhaps a handful of private renters) that will be on site.
You might not think the holiday season will make much of a difference to your experience on a holiday park – but in actual fact, it’s one of the first things we’re going to look at if you’re considering a park with a long season…
When do the park’s facilities open?
We now know that there are plenty of different season lengths for you to look at – but just because there’s a big sign that says “12 month season!” near the caravan sales office doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be able to take a dip in the pool after your Christmas dinner.
The reason? Well, like most things; it comes down to money.
As a holidaymaker spending a couple of weeks on a holiday park, your purse strings tend to be quite loose. Kids or grandkids (or both!) are happy to keep asking for money to spend in the arcade – and eating great pub-grub and fish and chips in the facilities every night is well worth it to enjoy your short stay.
The park experience for holiday home owners is often a bit different though. People who’ve opted to buy a caravan on the site tend to spend more time in their caravan than holidaymakers might – and they generally spend less money and time in the park’s facilities. What’s more, caravan owners tend to use the park at weekends more than through the mid-week – so most of the people enjoying the entertainment mid-week are likely to be holidaymakers.
Understandably therefore, the park’s bars, pools, and restaurants tend to make the most money during the holiday season. In fact, when you consider the costs involved with keeping entertainment and leisure facilities open and staffed, it often just can’t happen unless there’s a never-ending stream of holidaymakers through the door.
What does this mean for holiday home owners on 12-month parks?
In truth, it generally means the park facilities won’t be open after October.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, you’ve bought a holiday home in a beautiful part of the country with lots to do locally – but it is worth knowing. If you’re buying a holiday home entirely for the social aspect, you might want to look at smaller ‘owners only’ parks with an on-site pub or leisure facilities that are open all year. Then again, if you’re happy with a few quiet months when the nights draw in, then a 12-month season with reduced facilities might suit you perfectly.
Either way – whether you’re looking at an 8-month or 12-month park (or anything in between), you’ll find that access to the park facilities is often the same across the board.
Is your caravan suitable for 12-month use?
As UK residents, you don’t need telling that it gets seriously cold after the clocks go back. Sure, there might be the odd sunny weekend in November, but generally, it’s never t-shirt weather between the end of October the end of February.
The thing is, most static caravans on the market are designed to be holiday homes. Sure, some have double-glazing and central heating – but they tend to be at the upper end of the price bracket. When you’re just starting out, a single-glazed caravan with a single fire/heater tends to be the most budget-friendly option.
The question is, do you fancy a weekend away in a cold caravan in early-January?
If your Ancestry DNA test confirms you’re related to a long line of Norwegian deep-sea fishermen then the idea of a frosty weekend away might sound like heaven – but for most people, it really takes the edge off a nice break.
If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll visit your caravan all year round, then buying a double-glazed and central heated caravan on a 12-month park is a great plan – but a more basic holiday home might not be practical through the winter months. With this in mind, a park with a shorter season often works really well – stay snug at home when it’s frosty – and use your holiday home when the sun reappears around Easter.
What happens on a park during the winter?
We work with a number of holiday parks that close to holidaymakers and caravan owners during the winter months, even though the local authority has granted them permission to stay open.
Well, it’s often to do with what’s happening on the park after November.
Take a wander around any holiday park and you’re likely to see beautifully cut grass, pretty flower beds, and neatly arranged caravans – as well as well-equipped and well-presented facilities. It doesn’t happen by magic though – in much the same way that retail staff are frantically preparing amazing Boxing Day sales over Christmas, holiday park teams are often hard at work getting the park looking great during the winter months.
(We should know, we’ve been there – with our wellies and gloves on!)
Holiday parks go into winter-maintenance mode when the holidaymakers go away. Pools close to have works carried out on the huge amount of equipment that runs behind the scenes; underground infrastructure work is carried out on water, gas, and electric supplies, and caravans are moved, re-sited, and upgraded. For some holiday park teams, the winter months are their busiest time.
On a 12-month season, you should expect a lot of this work to be carried out around you. Again, this is often absolutely fine – after all, if the facilities are closed, you’re likely to have your feet up with Netflix on – or be out and about doing things locally. On the other hand, don’t think you’re missing out if you opt for a site with a shorter season – those closed months give the park operators time to make sure the place is looking great when the season rolls around again.
What’s right for you?
Now we’ve looked at a few pros and cons of various season lengths; it’s worth thinking about what it is you’re hoping to get from a static caravan holiday home.
For some people, a 12-month season is an absolute must.
For others, 8 or 9 months of possible holidays and breaks is perfectly adequate.
Generally, you’re going to have a more comfortable time in winter in a caravan that’s equipped for the colder parts of the year – so if you’re thinking about a budget-friendly first caravan that’s single glazed and only has a single heater, you’ll probably get the best use out of it through the spring, summer, and autumn periods anyway.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that even the most well-insulated caravans generally need to be ‘winterised’ through the coldest months too (having the water and heating systems drained and filled with anti-freeze) – and some insurers will insist that this is done. It’s a lot of legwork to undo and redo this work if you just fancy a weekend away in December.
The message is this:
A 12-month season might look like an attractive prospect – but it’s not always practical. In most cases, an 8- or 9-month season is just as enjoyable.
Don’t be put off a park if the season’s a little shorter than you think is ideal. With the right caravan and the right park, it can be nice having Christmas dinner in your little countryside retreat – but there’s also a lot to be said for snuggling up at home during the winter, then getting excited when the season begins again in March.