So I’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…. and I’ll continue now you all have Julie Andrews in your heads).
Keycamp asked very sweetly for us to review a family holiday with them… and not being prone to turning down the opportunity to examine a company using a two-weeks-in-the-French-sun method, we of course obliged.
To give credit to them, they didn’t cherry pick a ‘best site’ for us – they simply allowed us free rein to entirely plan our own holiday wherever we chose. We’ve said it before – we’re quite a tricky family to please en masse, what with there being six of us to start with, and an often awkward gap in the age range (it’s rare for the 11yr old to want to do the same thing as the 3yr old). This is why I tend to cover the travel reviews myself where possible – it’s actually not for the shallow reasons you all think it is (well, not only those, anyway) – we’re just a great test family for travel reviews; if a place pleases us, it’ll please most people!
The Keycamp booking process was incredibly simple – there is an overwhelming choice of sites available to choose from, so I would suggest you decide in stages – country, then region, then look at all the sites in that area and read the details carefully (I didn’t, to our cost…more later of that). Decide ahead what you are looking for – on site sports facilities, children’s clubs, big pools, evening entertainment, tranquillity, close to a major city, way out in the sticks? Keycamp can pretty much cover them all, the choice is yours for the making.
One of the other things I liked a lot was that as there are so many parcs, you can split your time – this worked really well for us as we were also due to review Disneyland Paris. So we opted for a two night stay at Paris International, followed by ten nights at the Parc de Fierbois, down in the Loire region near Tours. Doing this we managed to break our journey into easy stages, and see a little of France too.
Once the booking was confirmed, I received the confirmation details by email very quickly – and once I had that booking reference a whole new Keycamp world opened up to me!
When you log in to the Keycamp site with your holiday number, you can access all sorts of very useful info. Not only are all your essential travel docs available to download (they come in the post too, but I loved the security and ease of having them all online whenever I wanted to check something), but there are travel guides to your region, notes on your chosen parc, helpful info on all sorts of things from driving in your destination country to a local wines guide. You can order any extras you might like too, such as welcome packs (not really worth bothering with, imo – take your own pack of first-night essentials with you), linen packs (definitely recommended) and beach towels (essential if you don’t want to lug your own – rest assured Keycamp’s are large, fluffy and perfect for the pool). Letting your courier know what time you expect to arrive will also help them keep an eye out for you – they’re very rarely just sitting in their van’s, waiting, so this is a good idea.
I went away with a plastic wallet stuffed with useful things I’d printed off – most of it never saw the light of day, but I felt more confident just knowing that I had a handy crib sheet of the useful French if we broke down, the oh-so-useful local guides as to where the nearest supermarkets/petrol etc were to the parcs, the directions just-in-case the satnav stopped working (it did)… it all helped to make a never-prepared-properly Mumma relax and enjoy herself that bit more. And it was all just sitting there on the Keycamp site waiting for me, with no hunting, searching or googling on my part to find it. Brilliant.
You do have to be prepared for a change of lifestyle if you’ve never ‘holiday park-ed’ before – children do not go to bed early, enjoying much the same bedtime as their parents. The first nights we were naturally exhausted from the travelling, and we slipped ours into bed at their usual times – and in fact the site naturally dipped into peace and quiet around 8 as most people finished their meals, the very youngest went to bed and their parents settled outside on their decks with a glass of something chilled, whilst others moseyed off to find something to do. But the noise levels increased from around 9.30, and often peaked around 11 before descending into quietness again – but the Parc de Fierbois was never ‘loud’, populated as it was entirely with families – usually it was overtired children on their way to bed who never fail to notice how loud their voices are. Of course, this is camping, so only one caravan/tent enjoying a rowdy evening can spoil it for many others around – on the whole we didn’t suffer, but a couple of nights were were left grumping and fiercely ‘SSSHHHHH!’-ing at a noisy neighbour or two. However we soon got used to the pattern, and rather enjoyed the later mornings the later bedtimes naturally brought. Teaching the boys how to play cards actually made for some of the nicest memories of the holiday, sitting on the deck in the evening with cold drinks as the sun went down and the temperatures finally cooled a little.
I’m reviewing the two individual Keycamp parcs separately as they deserve their own mentions, as they were two totally different experiences – keep your eyes peeled over the next day or two.
Perhaps the biggest recommendation I can give is that we spoke to many guests at the Parc de Fierbois – mostly Irish, as the Irish schools break up a few weeks before those in England. Many of them were ‘serial Keycampers’, slowly working their way around Europe, one Keycamp at a time. Whilst the parcs differ greatly, and none are actually owned by Keycamp so you do need to read the details carefully to check what will be available on site when you get there, not one of the people I spoke to had a bad word to say about Keycamp itself.
I can only agree – the process of booking and organising the holiday (our first abroad with the children) was made much more simple and painless by their fab online system. And at the Parc de Fierbois, it was everything we hoped for (Paris International is a very different type of site to the norm, and not a fair comparison).
Whilst this is really NOT our usual kind of family holiday (you’re far more likely to find us in a remote cottage alone in an expanse of moorland), we had a complete ball, the children loved every second and we all came home relaxed and smiling (and loaded with cheeses).
Thank you Keycamp – you made it all very very easy. :D.