Written on: 09/10/2004 by erika26 (11 reviews written)
Cheap, cheerful and entertaining holidays
Some poor maintenance and a couple of grumpy staff members
We've been a bit skint this year what with one thing and another so a foreign holiday was out of the question, but I really like my holidays so I refused to go without one. I went on a mission to find a cheap holiday in this country and trawled through the internet and leafed through tons of brochures to find the ideal cheap family break. I didn't fancy staying in a B & B or a hotel but a caravanning holiday quite appealed to me. I've stayed in a few caravans in the past and enjoyed the whole experience; they are such cosy little things. My quest for the ideal break took me to the Haven holiday's website (http://online.haven-holidays.co.uk) where they have a fantastic selection of family holidays at very reasonable prices.
After joining up to the Haven website I put in a few searches for holidays at various places. Once the search results were in I was quite surprised by the prices, much cheaper than their competitors Butlins and Pontins. I'd stayed at a Haven camp with my family when I was a child and thoroughly enjoyed myself so I decided to stick with this company and choose one of their parks. In the end we plumped to go to the Presthaven Sands resort which is in North Wales close by Rhyl and Llandudno in a little town called Prestatyn, it's also the park where I went as a child.
So how much was the holiday and what did it include?
At most of the Haven Holiday parks you can chose either a chalet or a caravan to stay in. There is a wide choice of different caravans available ranging from simple small and cheap ones to well equipped large and expensive ones. Because our family just consists of me, my Husband and our 2 year old Son we just needed a simple small caravan. We chose a 2 bed roomed 3 star caravan and decided to stay for a whole week. The dates we booked were 10th September to the 17th September (Friday to Friday as it's cheaper that way) We also paid an extra £10 for the week to have a cot for our Son to sleep in as he hadn't slept in a proper bed before and we were worried about him falling out. The total cost of the holiday was £261 which included the cot charge and entertainment passes.
Was checking in easy?
Our booking information informed us to check-in no earlier than 4.00pm which was fine by us as we didn't want to set off too early and we had quite a distance to travel anyway. We arrived at the park at approximately 4.30pm and followed the signs which directed us to where the check-in desk was situated. As it turned out the check-in desk was actually situated inside one of the bars where there was a massive queue of holiday makers all waiting to be allocated their caravans. I was expecting to be stood there hours but the efficiency of the staff made sure we were seen to within 10 minutes. The friendly male staff member who dealt with us was very efficient and took a few details before handing us our keys and showing us how to find our caravan by marking it out on the park map.
After checking in we were directed towards the linen area. You have to pay a £10 deposit for a family pack of linen which includes bed sheets. duvet covers, towels and pillow cases. Exchanging a crisp £10 note for a bag of linen we then made our way to our home for the week hoping the rest of our holiday experience would be just as good. So far everything had run smoothly and efficiently and the staff all seemed jolly and friendly.
What's the location of the park like?
The location is perfect. This caravan park sits right next to the sand dunes which lead onto Prestatyns beach. Literally a 5 minute walk from most of the caravans and you are right there next to the sea. Around the outside of the park are a couple of other small caravan sites, a couple of pubs, a cafe and a shop. Preshaven is by no means situated in a busy and lively place, but who needs to be next to a massive town when you've got everything you could want within the park.
Was our caravan 'home' for the week up to scratch?
Our caravan was situated at the far end of the park away from all the noise of the entertainment facilities. Inside the caravan it was nothing special but it was everything we needed. At one end was a small cosy living room with a colour TV and a dining table, then there was a small and compact but well equipped kitchen, next-door to the kitchen was a small bathroom (with a small bath doubling as a shower). The bedrooms were again small but as there were only 3 of us it didn't matter. One of the bedrooms had a bunk bed, a small single bed and a small wardrobe the other had a double bed and a largish wardrobe.
The cot which we requested was firmly fixed onto the small bed but there was no way Jake was going to fit into that. The cot was tiny and would have only been suitable for a tiny baby, not a big baby like our little terror. So we had to come up with a solution as to where Jake was going to sleep. A-ha, we stuck him in the double bed in the bedroom and I and Hubby decided to sleep on the convertible sofa bed in the living room which suited us down to the ground because it meant we could watch telly in bed at nights. So yes we were very pleased with our accommodation and weren't too bothered by the cot situation, although it would have been nice to know it wasn't a full size cot.
And what about the park entertainment?
A wide variety of entertainment is provided at this park, whoever you are and whatever your age is there should be at least something which appeals to you. In fact there's so much entertainment provided that we didn't even get to see or do half of it.
Our favourite place to dump our bums was the huge bar where we initially checked in. During the day this bar would have Rory the tiger and his pals singing on stage and doing dance routines, children's reps playing games with all the kiddies, talent contests, quizzes etc.......you name it, they had/did it. By night this bar was jam packed with every age group imaginable for more of the same kind of entertainment. The dance floor was a fantastic place for all the little kiddies as they used to dance around and play little games together. Jakey loved himself here, made lots of friends and gained a bit of independence. There are another couple of bars situated in various parts of the camp but unfortunately we didn't have the time to do the rounds. The park is just too vast to fit everything in when it's only a week's holiday.
Are there any other entertainment facilities apart from the bars?
Oh yes!!! There is a huge heated indoor swimming pool with water chutes which is supervised by qualified lifeguards. The pool is open from approximately 10 in the morning until 6 at night and is completely free so long as you have an entertainment pass (entertainment pass included in price of holiday) One thing that struck me as very strange though was the fact you're *Not* allowed to take pictures in the swimming pool area. Why??? I haven't a blooming clue but I ignored them and took the pictures anyway because it was the first time Jake had been in a pool. (I was a spectator you see, I don't like swimming) So I took my pictures and just put up with the telling off I got from one of the lifeguards. Why aren't we allowed to take piccies? Come on Haven, everyone takes piccies of their kiddies in the pool when they're on holiday. Dur!!!! As for the outside pool, well that was closed for the season during our stay but it looked a fair size and had a couple of slides.
Then there's the amusement arcades. One of the arcades is more for the adults and has 30p play machines and a wide variety of others. The other arcade is more for the kiddies and has plenty of 5p play machines and 2p falls to keep them entertained. We stuck to the kiddie arcade because the machines seemed to be set to a fairer level and were easier to win on.
A fairground. Oh yes there *is* an actual mini fairground here. You've got the dodgems, a huge inflatable slide, a spinny thing that goes round LOL, a little train, tea cups and trampolines. Don't get too excited though because these are NOT free, the cost is about £1 - £1.50 per ride which I suppose is very expensive if you've got a couple of kids to pay for.
And what about bikes to hire?
Yes there are bikes to hire. There are also the 4 - 6 seater go-cart type things which you can hire out per the hour. I didn't hire a bike so unfortunately I'm not able to tell you the price but I hired a go-cart which was £5 for the hour. £5 may sound a little steep but it is for more than one person so if you split the cost it works out remarkably cheap. Our go-cart was damn hard to pedal though, whether it's because I'm getting older or because it was slightly rusty I don't know, but we took it back after 40 minutes as we were too knackered to carry on pedalling.
Is Presthaven easy to navigate?
For such a huge site it is very easy to navigate. Wherever you want to go there are signposts directing you straight there. The park must easily be a mile from one end to the other so a car is really the best way to get around, and you can't get lost if you follow the footpaths or roads.
Is the park maintained well?
Some parts are maintained very well such as the caravans, equipment within the caravans, the grass was well cut etc.......but some things were pretty abysmal. For example the road leading through the campsite had huge craters in it which desperately needed filling with concrete. Someone is going to break their leg falling down one of them holes or a car will end up getting damaged, Haven will end up with a lawsuit if they're not careful.
Another thing that bugged the hell out of me was the state of the bar area sometimes. During the afternoon the bar would close for a couple of hours and in this time the bar would NOT be cleaned. Therefore going to the bar at night I would notice drinks spilt and rubbish all over the dance floor where the kiddies were about to play. The tables would be littered with empty glasses from earlier in the day and ashtrays would still be full. Surely when the bar is closed it's the perfect time for cleaning it up, isn't it??? Obviously not!!! All the cleaning was left until last thing at night so the bar area would be disgusting by 8pm every night.
And the other amenities???
There was a couple of decent shops onsite that sold everything from bacon and eggs, to booze, to gifts. The shops were reasonably priced and were always fully stocked. If you wanted to eat out there's either the pub near the entrance (which we didn't go in) a diner or a couple of takeaway places.
The diner was extortionately priced and was always just about empty. We had our Sunday lunch in here and it cosy over £15 for two Sunday lunches and two drinks. It tasted nice but certainly was not worth that much. One of the takeaway places was Harry Ramsdens. I love Harry Ramsden food but this place gives it a bad name. The staff obviously DID NOT WANT to be working in a chippy, were impolite, miserable arses, and totally unhelpful. On the one occasion we ventured into here they'd apparently run out of nearly everything we wanted and instead of telling us what they HAD got they just let us carry on asking for things and answered HAVEN'T GOT to everything. Well after these two experiences we ate in our caravan most of the time which we really enjoyed as we felt we were having a *real* caravan holiday rather than just sleeping at the caravan.
Is this a suitable holiday for disabled people?
Well I would say yes to this one as I saw many caravans which had ramps to enable wheelchairs or pushchairs easy access. All the entertainment facilities are on one level, no nasty flights of stairs anywhere. One thing I would point out is as I've mentioned before the park is vast so wheelchair users may find it tiring travelling from place to place, especially if their caravan is at the far end.
What about a bus service?
Yes there are bus stops throughout the park which you can catch connecting buses to Rhyl and Llandudno from (probably more places too) We took the car so had no need for the bus but I saw them quite frequently at the bus stop opposite our caravan.
Were the Haven staff good at their jobs?
Apart from the ones who worked in the Harry Ramsden chippy I can't fault any of them. The Haven entertainers were fantastic; I have no idea where they get their energy from as it seemed they were working 24/7. All day every day the same ones would be working, sometimes doing more than one job. You'd find children's entertainers playing with the kiddies all day then you'd see the same ones at night dressed up doing songs and dance routines from musicals. Very helpful, very friendly, very good at their jobs and very talented. Oh how I wish I could be young free and single again and have a go at their job. No complaints on the staff front (apart from the chippy misery guts)
Anything else to know?
A lot of the caravans on this site are privately owned and privately rented, Haven doesn't own all the caravans. They have caravans to sell and spare sites ready right at this moment. If you would like to own a caravan here take a browse around the haven website (http://online.haven-holidays.co.uk) where I'm sure you'll be able to find out more information. If you don't like caravans you can even stay in one of the chalets onsite which doesn't even cost much more than a caravan. OR take your own caravan or tent and pay per night for a little patch of land.
My overall conclusion
I tell you what, I had the time of my life. I'd forgotten how much fun holidays in this country could be but it was fantastic. I can't pinpoint what it was about this holiday that made it so special but me and hubby still rave about it now. Yes there were a few things which weren't up to standard such as the road maintenance, the teeny weenie cot, the cleanliness of the bar area, but who cares??? I loved myself, Jake loved himself and Kris did too. That's all that matters!!! The nights we spent in the caravan were so cosy, probably something to do with the rain pouring down and the wind howling mind, but to me cosiness is what caravan holidays are all about. We will definitely be booking another holiday through Haven at some point in the near future, maybe we'll go back here or maybe we'll try another of the Haven parks, we're undecided as yet. I wholeheartedly recommend Presthaven Sands to everyone who fancies a good cheap holiday, if it wasn't for the couple of disappointing points I'd raised I would have given it 10 stars but unfortunately I feel I have to dock them a star so it gets 9 stars from me.
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