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I've been going on Haven holidays for a long time now and have been to a great number of their different sites throughout England and Wales. They used to be part of the Rank Organisation but it was sold off a couple of years ago to British Holidays. Things aren't as good since that happened.
There are only 18 sites to choose from now as many smaller site have been sold off to a company called Park Resorts so if you have been to say Cayton Bay just outside Scarborough and wondered what happened to it you'll find it in the Park Resorts brochure. Back to Haven though and where there used to be quite a bit of choice in Scotland and Wales we now have only 1 park in Scotland - Craig Tara, the old Butlins site outside Ayr - and 2 in Wales - Presthaven Sands, just outside Prestatyn and Hafan Y Mor, another Butlins site this time near Pwllheli. The other sites and their locations are as follows:-
Yorkshire - Blue Dolphin, Primrose Valley and Reighton Sands - all near Filey
Lincolnshire - Golden Sands in Mablethorpe
Norfolk - Caister, Seashore & Wild Duck - near Great Yarmouth
Sussex - Combe Haven near Hastings
Dorset - Seaview, Weymouth Bay Littlesea - all near Weymouth
Devon - Devon Cliffs near Exmouth
Cornwall - Riviere Sands near Hayle & Perran Sands by Perran
Somerset - Doniford Bay near Watchet
The last time we went was the start of July this year to Blue Dolphin in Yorkshire, decided on because we know the area well as my partner is from down the coast a bit and we thought it would be easy to visit family and friends at the end of the week's holiday. We booked online - the site is very organised - and managed to get one of the half price holidays which are available at certain times of the year. Luckily Scottish school holidays are earlier than our English counterparts so we qualify for these if we go the 1st or 2nd week of our hols. We decided on a silver 3 bedroom caravan which sleeps up to 8 and also decided to make it a Rory themed caravan (will explain more on Rory later). This cost us just over £300 for the week including half price cancellation plan as we were paying up front and before the end of February.
There are other discounts available if you aren't lucky enough to get a half price holiday and these include early booking and payment discounts, 10% savings if one of your party is over 55 or under 5. There are also discounts for group bookings if you are booking 5 units or more. Although the old discount of booking a second weeks holiday has now gone and you can't always combine discounts like before British Holidays took over.
These holidays are ideal for children and there are 4 clubs depending on their age, with lots of activities for them to take part in. Paws is for 1-4 year olds. Then there are the the two tiger club sections ages 5-8 or 9-11. The final club is the T-co club for 12 years upwards. These used to take place morning and afternoon but the afternoon slot has been filled up with shows such as Pantotime and Rory Wild West Bonanza where there is a small charge for children who want to get a themed lunch although they were able to get pictures taken with Rory and also Bradley the Bear who is the mascot for British Holidays and has started to join Rory in some activities. There is also the free Anxious' Radio city show which was very entertaining for the young ones so plenty to do inside should the weather be bad.
The Paws club has organised activities such as toytime, musictime and maketime which encouraged my son to make a lovely rainbow picture and a hat with stickers and feathers on it. He loved this and it lasts for an hour in the mornings - just long enough for toddlers. Although there are funstars there to organise clubs, children under 8 do need to be accompanied by parents but then these days most responsible parents wouldn't want to leave their kids anyway.
Tiger club take part in makes and colouring competitions as well as games such as rounders. This can be fun for parents too as it's something you probably wouldn't have done otherwise.
The older T-co club does more of the sporty side of things and my 13 year old daughter and her invited friend went rollerblading, played ten-pin bowling and had a swim session as well as playing football, basketball etc. My daughter has been going to these type of holidays but it was her friend's 1st one and although it took a little while for her to join in by the end of the week there was no stopping her.
The clubs are themed round our favourite Tiger, Rory who has been the main mascot for Haven Holidays as long as I can remember. With him is Greedy the Gorilla and Anxious the Elephant who join him in fun and games and there own shows which are put on a few times in the week. My 3 year old is just tiger mad which is why we paid the extra £15 for the themed caravan which has a bedroom complete with Tiger club curtains, bedding and even a Rory mirror which we thought was cool. The ceiling had glow in the dark pawprints and there was a great height chart on the back of the door. Also included were 2 gifts of tiger style hooded beach towels and best of all the beds were all made when we arrived which was a new thing for us as you usually have to make up your beds with the linen provided. This was fantastic after the 6 hour journey. There were 2 twin rooms and a double room which weren't exactly spacious and I did end up with a few bruises squeezing round the side of the bed but the living room area and kitchen were lovely with plenty of room and came supplied with a small tv although I think it was only really ever on in the morning and at tea time. There was a separate shower room with Rory paws on the glass and a small toilet which again was a bit of a squeeze. It was all lovely and clean though and with it being the silver standard we also had a microwave. The caravans can be a bit chilly although there is a gas fire which we you need to be careful with if you have little ones as there are no fire guards provided. There are still some parks who have chalets and these can be warmer especially if taking and early or late holiday.
I think all the parks have both indoor and outdoor pools and these are all free as long as you show your entertainment pass which is included in your welcome pack when you arrive along with a program of events for the week. There are also Fun Palaces for the children to bound about in and these also have special areas available for under 5s so if your little one is a bit nervous then this is ideal. Not our son - he was off like a shot up ladders, down slides and getting lost in the ball pool. There are also activities which you have to pay for such as the roller disco and professional football coaching as well as a learn to swim program and scuba jet training in the pool. If your children want to take part in these activities it can work out quite expensive and you have to book at the start of the week to be sure of a place for some as they can be quite popular. It is free to take part in the roller disco though if it is with T-co so try to get your teenagers taking part that way. It is also an ideal way for them to meet new people and make friends.
The night time entertainment is great too with magicians and circus acts earlier on to keep the kids amused whilst the bingo goes on in the separate entertainment area and comedians and singers or bands later on for the adults. There are also food areas if you want a night time snack but as well as the drinks this can be expensive - the wonderbar for kids sells all sorts of goodies from slush puppy style drinks to crisps and popcorn but again these are very pricey.
Apart from that though the holiday is good value for money and we all had a great time despite the weather not being fantastic that week.
You can book for a week's holiday or a 3 or 4 night break and accommodation is also available for those in wheelchairs with specially adapted caravans which have a ramp, wider sliding doors and converted shower room and wc. There are also ramps in the main entertainment facilities which I was most impressed with as it is very handy for people with buggies too.
Can't really fault this type of holiday if you've got kids and love a bit of fun and laughter. By the end of it you are guaranteed to be taking part in the party dances or singing along to the Tiger Theme Song - cd's available for keeping the kids quiet in the car while you are driven demented. The one piece of advise I would give British Holidays is not to change back the format of the kids clubs to the way it was before as speaking to a few other people on holiday we were all a bit disappointed and concerned that more of the old Haven we loved would disappear.