This year we had decided to holiday in the UK. We booked a caravan at Haven Seashore in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. We were excited at the idea of the swimming pool and splash zone, the indoor soft play and the Cakery. I was excited for the boys to get to know Rory and the gang, and the fun evening entertainment. Sadly, Coronavirus then hit. We thought that was the end of this years holiday plans but then Haven offered a solution…Hideaway Holidays.
The holiday was offered at a 20% reduced price. You basically get the caravan and access to the shops, laundrette and takeaways but that’s it. If the site hadn’t been directly next to the beach we would have cancelled. Closer to our holiday lockdown was easing and by the time we went the playgrounds, outdoor mini golf and arcades were also open. Sadly, the swimming pool was only open to owners which was really difficult for a 5 year old but the weather was in our favour and we convinced him swimming in the sea was just as fun.
There are a few other changes too. You are given a check in time and you cannot arrive before this. Thankfully ours was an early slot so we were on site shortly after 12 and found our caravan (with only one wrong turn). The caravans have a seal across it to let you know the caravan has been cleaned and closed off immediately after. If the seal is broken then you are not to enter and are to call the 24hr phone number on your key ring. Ours was sealed so we went straight in to explore.
My eldest, J (5) was so excited. He ran around opening every single door he could find. We stayed in a Prestige Caravan which had its own decking. It was beautiful…the layout was family friendly, the master bedroom was much larger than expected AND had an en-suite (which J decided to use most of the holiday). The other bedrooms are much smaller, but big enough for the kids to play. The single beds are narrow so we ended up pushing two together. Our caravan came with bedding, but not all do. We also forgot that ours didn’t come with towels so our beach towels became rationed. There’s a decent TV with freeview and lots of plugsockets (which was vital for us as J uses his Ipad for snesory regulation and chill time).
We had a few issues with the caravan but the housekeeping team sorted them quickly and efficiently, with a smile on their face. They were also quick to deliver the extras we had ordered (travel cot and high chair…handy if you can’t fit yours in the car, and they’re reasonable priced). The kitchen area comes with all the cooking bits you could need, but not too much storage areas for food so we had to get a bit inventive. Mind you, with all the food places around you don’t need much food really. However, my eldest is autistic (sensitive to food) and my youngest (1) has allergies so we did bring enough food to cover us. There is no ‘extras’ so bring your own bin liners, tin foil and things like salt and vinegar, cooking spray etc. It made me feel better knowing that there weren’t left over bits as I wouldn’t have felt comfortable using them in the current climate anyway.
The bathroom has a shower unit. It was a lovely shower that I very much enjoyed, however F and J are used to baths. If your child doesn’t like showers, I recommend taking a small blow up paddling pool as we were able to create the worlds smallest bath tubs for washing the boys. The caravans are quite close together but there’s room to park two cars, and have a small bit of grass to play on. However, our kiddies actually preferred the decking so most outdoor caravan time was spent out there. In the evening it has beautiful solar lighting and you can sometimes hear the waves (once kids were asleep, that is). Where we were parked was a quiet spot so there wasn’t sensory distractions or overloads for J…there is some kind of track nearby though so if you have sound sensitive children you may want to check with staff when booking.
We went to find the Cakery that was talked about on the app. Unfortunately no one had told us (or edited on the app or paperwork you’re given) that this was actually closed which caused big disappointment. However, the lovely lady in the attached restaurant said we could order ice cream and desserts from their menu. So we sat outside and enjoyed our treat. We then walked to the beach which is only a few minutes walk from the caravan. There are a lot of steps to the beach, and only one slope that I was aware of for those with mobility aids or difficulties with stairs. We didn’t sit on the beach that evening, but did head to find the arcade and takeaways.
The arcade was fun. There’s lots of different games and experiences where you can win tickets to exchange for toys and sweets. There was hand sanitiser dotted around and although masks were not expected (they are now as rules changed week after we left) we still wore ours as most people were not social distancing (you can’t blame children when there’s so many flashing lights and fun to be had but it did make me a little anxious). After a couple of goes we got a Burger King to take back to the caravan. You did need a face mask for the food court and there were signs on the floor showing where to go (there’s also a Papa Johns, oh and the main shop has a small bakery for treats).
Day two we stayed nearby.
We went down to the beach and had fun splashing in the sea and playing on the sand. We took a picnic and enjoyed just having our family time. The last time my youngest went to the beach he was still very young so this was really his first proper beach experience. He LOVED it. We took a sun tent and wind breakers which proved to be invaluable as there was a breeze to go with the sun.
After the beach we had a quick trip to the arcade again (F had his first go on a ride!). They have a machine where you win collectable DC cards. J is always excited about anything collectable so we spent quite a bit of time on that. That evening we cooked our own meal. We were planning on having a bbq but as the space between caravans was small and it was fairly breezy we didn’t feel safe (you are allowed BBQs as long as well put out and disposed off effectively). We still enjoyed eating out on the decking and chilling out.
Once the boys were asleep we got out the snacks and enjoyed playing games (including ‘Cards Against Humanity). We had the decking doors open and enjoyed the peace whilst we could. If you fancy getting a party feel whilst not being able to use the club, there is a bluetooth system to play music through. We bought some disco lights with us and one evening had our own musical statues competition.
Day three was another beautiful day so we went to one of the two parks.
This park was the more ‘younger’ aged park but J loved the climbing frame which was like a tree house. We also had a game of Mini Golf (you have to pay extra for this). It became quite competitive as we were all determined to get the fewest shots. Each hole had a different beach/great yarmouth theme. You rent the balls and golf clubs from the swim centre and then head off. Although it is outdoors you are expected to socially distance from others playing, which we had no issue doing. Everyone stayed in their ‘groups’ (please note that you can’t get a buggy or mobility aids around this section).
We then went back to the beach again (the advantage of it being on the door step and the fact it’s not near to the main part of Great Yarmouth so its quiet and easy to distance from others). We were excited as we saw a seal watching us in the sea. We had fun paddling, playing with the sand and using stones to make pictures. That night we got Fish and Chips from the on-site ‘chip van’. The menu is very limited but the cod was delicious.
Day four was our final full day.
We decided to brave going off site. There is a ‘land train’ which you can catch from the park entrance which takes you to the pier. This costs extra as it’s not run by Haven. You have to fold the buggy/mobility aids to be able to get on. There is also a regular bus service nearby and although quite a walk, it is a beautiful stretch if you fancy it. When we got back J and his Dad went to the bigger park and had a play whilst I started packing. The parks have signs reminding you of social distancing but again this was hard as the children didn’t really remember too well so we tried to pick quieter times to visit. My husband stayed with J to help guide him to ‘safe’ places to play. Whenever we left anywhere we always used hand gel which we took with us.
We ended the day with yet another trip to the arcade to use up the tickets we had collected and get the last of the DC cards.
Day 5 was leaving day.
We had to be out of the caravan by 10am. You don’t have to leave the site and can park in main car park so you can still access everywhere that’s open, however we had an upset oldest boy and staying would have just confused him more so we dropped the key in the box by reception and left.
If there’s one thing I learnt from our hideaway holiday it’s that it’s the people which make the adventure. It may not have been the action packed Haven experience of my childhood but we made amazing memories and had our own fun. I would love for us to go back when the world goes back to ‘normal’ (whatever they may mean) so the boys can have the full Haven Holiday. However, for those of you wondering whether to book up this summer (and beyond) I would say go for it. It’s up to you to make it the holiday you will enjoy.