Will you miss your lifestyle destination this year?

Were you intending to holiday in a lifestyle destination this year? You may not recognise the posh name, but traditionally it simply means a caravan park or site or camp.
Caravan holidays have changed a great deal over the yearsCaravan holidays have changed a great deal over the years
Caravan holidays have changed a great deal over the years

There has been an attempt to make the humble holiday into something sounding much more glamorous, but at the end of the day its still the traditional choice for holidays that we’ve known and loved for decades.

Caravan holidays rose by more than 15 per cent in the year before lockdown, as Staycations become increasingly popular with Brits with more than 1.8 billion enjoying a caravan holiday.

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Reasons given then included the economic downturn and collapse of the pound, the stress of foreign travel particularly airports, threats by terrorists, less planning involved than holidaying abroad not to mention much cheaper, no luggage to negotiate, less problems with children’s school holidays, and simply that a caravan holiday gives freedom, adventure and total flexibility.

I’m quite sure if we ever return to some sort of normality, a holiday in a caravan will include all those factors, but with the main ones being family economics and lack of affordable foreign holidays. That is, if anyone ever wants us in their countries again!

It seems that celebrities enjoying vacations in caravans have included Jamie Oliver, Kate Moss and Rio Ferdinand, who took his children, when a single dad, to a site in Prestatyn, North Wales.

My son and his wife who have three boys, although having enjoyed many holidays abroad each year in the sun, bought a touring caravan a while ago. The children absolutely loved it and the holidays they enjoyed were filled with as much excitement as anywhere more exotic.

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Historically, caravan holidays first became popular in the 1920s, when they were seen as a rich man’s hobby, although people had always been aware of caravans as home for Gypsies or travelling people.

Early recreational caravans were drawn by horses, but it was only when car ownership became more widespread and caravans could be towed behind one, that it took off as a means of a cheap family holiday, although throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, it was only the better off working class family who owned a car, let alone a caravan, and then it was only due to improved roads, newer design of caravans and better facilities on the sites.

Caravan holidays were also relatively cheap holidays for families renting one, with seaside resorts easily reached by coach or train and, as they were self-catering, were affordable for families on a tight budget and a step up from camping.

In the early 1950s, we enjoyed family holidays on caravan sites in places like Bridlington and Filey. And we were as excited as many children would be today with a trip to Disneyland.

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Although I must admit to a degree of nostalgia about those days, I just cannot understand the obsession Brits have with caravanning now. Why anyone would want to leave the comfort of their homes with all mod cons to exchange for the confined space and relative discomfort of a caravan has me totally confused. And as for camping, well, don’t even go there!

Having said that, I must admit caravans are somewhat different today. Caravans when I was a child were pretty small and certainly had no fitted furniture, or showers, as they do now.

Each night, beds were made up by converting the seating and dining table end of the caravan. The caravan was lit by Calor gas lamps which gave out a distinctive smell and every so often a popping noise. The cooking was also by the same fuel and you had to be very careful that the canisters didn’t run out halfway through cooking a meal, as it meant father had to sprint to the camp shop to obtain a replacement.

All meals were eaten in the caravan. There were no restaurants or takeaways but if you were incredibly lucky you might have the treat of fish and chips at the end of the holiday. Therefore, it wasn’t really a restful time for mother who had brought with her towels, bedding, a large box of provisions and was expected to cook a proper meal each evening on a two-ringed cooker. The first thing she did when we arrived at our rented caravan was to wash all the cutlery and crockery. As she said, ‘you don’t know where they’ve been’.

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Washing up involved the boiling of numerous kettles of water obtained from a nearby tap, and we made do with a wash at the sink each day, rather than have a cold shower at the shower block which was also where the toilets were. I have fond memories of dashing across the field in pouring rain to use the toilet and of hearing the rain beating down on the caravan roof while we were sat playing at cards or Scrabble! You can’t really put a price on the family holidays we enjoyed so much and what’s more we really enjoyed our simple and unsophisticated time together. At least that’s what I tell myself! We were always safe playing on our own, would stay out from dawn to dusk and find plenty to amuse ourselves with, that didn’t involve computers, phones or televisions.

When I read some time ago that a caravan had been sold in Abersoch, Wales, for £550,000, I wondered how simple their holidays would be. With an Italian kitchen, three bedrooms, central heating, Jacuzzi, flat screen television and private steps to the beach, it would seem to involve a fair bit of cleaning.

I don’t think my mother would have liked that!