As mentioned in my previous post, we were away at Havens Haggerston Castle holiday park last week.
We have been going to Haven parks now for several years, and while some people might look down their noses at this sort of place – I probably was one of those people before the boys, for us it works really well. To start with, you are self catering, and with fussy eaters like mine, that makes a great difference. Being in a caravan, you are in a family environment. It isn’t like in a hotel where you have to be aware of the people in the next room, because the boys have space to be themselves. There is plenty to do on the door step. On the same note, there is as little to do as you want to! Upon arrival, you get the programme of events, and can plan to be available when the things the boys want to do are happening. It isn’t a case of all or nothing. There are plenty of daytime activities to not just keep the kids occupied, but to stretch them and allow them to learn something new if the want to, from sports, to bushcrafts! There is entertainment galore, with shows for all ages, from the tots, to the adults, and in between. The character mascots – The Seaside Squad, are there for the kids, and their singing and dancing is a key part of the evening entertainment. It’s a total package, and if like us, you book early and get good discounts, its great value for money! The boys love Haven, so for us as parents, we love it too because happy children, mean a less stressful parent time.
We have been to several different parks, and because the on site environment is so similar, it means there is enough familiarity to make the boys feel comfortable upon arrival. They know they will be in a caravan – ok, the decor in each one is slightly different, but the layout it pretty standard. They know the hub of the entertainment complex is the amusement arcade, and they just need to locate their favourite machines. They know the shows are the same across all the parks, and the characters will be there. It all adds up to a feeling of belonging for them.
Haggerston Castle though is by far their favourite site. It is a small enough park for them to know where everything is, and yet it is of a size that means all the entertainment and activities take place. The first time we went there, it was a last-minute decision to go away, and it was freezing cold, and raining hard, we were in a low-end caravan so it only had heating in the main room. It should have been really miserable, but we had a brilliant time, and have returned there twice a year for short breaks ever since!
The pattern of our breaks always starts the same way. We arrive way to early to check in, but it means we can go swimming straight away. The pool is great, and included in the price. Once the boys are in the pool, they feel like they are finally on holiday! They would spend all day every day in there if there wasn’t so much other stuff to do. They will spend a ridiculous amount of money in the arcade, but it is interesting to watch their ability to shut out all the sensory things going on around them with their desire to win tickets to exchange for gifts at the end of the week. They love the ranger activities, and we always book them straight away, to make sure they get on them. This year, they included fire lighting, shelter building, and making smores! It is great to see the kids getting dirty rummaging around in the woods, totally supervised and totally safe.
The evening shows are watched from a distance, with ear defenders on. They love them but on their own terms. D always wants to have his photo taken with the characters, but the line is always too long for M who gets stressed enough waiting for his brother. There were also a couple of fabulous puppet shows at lunch times this year. It is brilliant to see M particularly creased up with laughter at the simplicity of a Punch and Judy show.
It’s good to have somewhere the boys want to be, and where we feel they can be themselves. While it may be a nice thought to take them on an exotic overseas break, for now Haven is perfect for us, and until the time when the boys aren’t enjoying it so much, I think this is the pattern I holidays will continue to take.