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Domaine la Yole with Kids

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

The UK weather this “summer” has been the worst in living memory. Despite feeling like I had planned well for the 7-week school holidays with a spreadsheet of rainy day, sunny day, paid and free activities we completely ran out of interesting things within the first ten days with dismal constant rain and very low temperatures. I started to get desperate for the fun in the sun with the kids, continuously hoping for building sandcastles and ball runs on the beach and it being rained off, my mind (and fingertips) started to wander towards investigating a short haul “summer holiday”. However, during our 5-6 years saving for our longer-term adventure travels in South-East Asia (2019, £4,000, 4 months) and Central America (2023, £10,000, 2 months) it would seem a relaxing beach-style holiday in Europe has shot upwards of £4,000 for a package “deal”, and at least £7,000 for a nice all-inclusive week in Europe! There was no way we could afford an on-the-hoof trip to the continental heat wave we keep reading about, surely? Enter Eurocamp!


This blog provides a more detailed review of the Eurocamp site, Domaine la Yole, but the discovery of the Eurocamp thing in general and how it inspired a week exploring the Occitanie/Languedoc region of Southern France can be found here.

I started looking on the Eurocamp website at last minute details around the end of July. We tent-camp every year in the UK and done Butlins once, but this felt like nothing we’ve ever really done in our parenting careers. It was pretty overwhelming with 190+ camps across the continent, a fixed week off work between big projects and a confusing array of accommodation levels. I stumbled across Domain la Yole on the Southern coast of France. The site was highly rated for younger children, (check out the Unofficial Eurocamp Supporters Club on Facebook here) with on-site activities including;

  • 5x swimming pools with 2x toddler splash areas

  • Tennis and boules courts

  • Go karts (with mini ones too)

  • Table tennis

  • Volleyball

  • Football pitch

  • Basketball court

  • Archery

  • An adventure playground (paid extra, over 5s)

  • Trampolining

  • Mini golf

  • Arcade games zone

  • Kids club and animation team programme

  • And ten mins to the sandy beach

Eurocamp didn’t have availability at this interesting park for our exact dates, but I found their cheapest 3 bedroom/6 bed chalet available when investigating the savings of booking direct on the Marvilla parks website. It seemed to me that the only thing you get from booking with Eurocamp (just a reseller) is a rep and possibly some better accommodation standards, depending on who you ask. Having never used a travel rep for anything in my life, and slummed it all the way across two subcontinents, this didn’t seem like a problem. I found a lastminute deal of £550 for 4 nights and snapped it up leaving a week later – saving almost £250 compared with Eurocamp’s own website (I also found a safari tent for just £250 for A WEEK but was too indecisive and it got booked while I pondered the options!)


Travel:


First was the question of flights/ferry/train – the thing I feared would drive the price up to an unaffordable amount (the reason we do long term, slower travel and not short European breaks!). We would have loved to bring our own car, but this would be a 14 hour drive we didn’t have time for, not to mention the more expensive costs of both Eurotunnel and/or a ferry with fuel prices (£2.00£/l in France) on top. I was very surprised to find that Ryanair direct from Stansted to Beziers was only £45 each way! It was just outside of the dates at the Eurocamp for the cheapest deal (that’s where the Languedoc trip comes in).

Beziers airport is TINY (bring snacks and games!). We had seen on the Eurocamp unofficial Facebook group that most patrons were spending €50-70 for a transfer company from the airport to the site, and there were public buses to the nearby Valras Plague area. I also found that an Uber X was £35, so we banked on that. We did have to wait 30 mins or so at the airport for the Uber, but that was the best case, as there were absolutely no taxis at the airport. Unfortunately we had a lot more trouble trying to get back. We figured if we managed an Uber around the airport it wouldn’t be an issue finding one on the coast, surrounded by hotels and Eurocamp stye resorts! We were wrong - we spent about 45 mins trying to get someone to accept the ride, which never came. We asked the reception staff for a reliable taxi and they confirmed the price onwards to our farm stay would be around €50 and they provided a phone number. Sadly, the company (A2A) took two hours to arrive and then wanted €60 (with a surly attitude to boot!). Slap on the wrist for me for not organising at least a phone number and rough price in advance!! Sadly, this frustrating delay cost us half a day at the farm and led to us spending several hours hanging around the eurocamp reception without any idea if the ride would turn up. Very frustrating. This has never really happened to us before, we’ve always managed to negotiate decent onward travel arrangements on the fly, and we found it quite shocking that it was our neighbouring country of all places we struggled - we thought it would be easy! Also, a bit disappointed that no one at the Domain la Yole would help us, minus marks for customer service. Anyway, once we arrived at our farm stay, I composed myself and found two other companies online willing to take us on our final trip from the farm to the airport when required for €30 (+33 7 67 17 03 92) and €20 (Nathalie/All Taxis, +33 6 70 77 93 51). Both were easy to communicate with via WhatsApp and I would recommend you try Nathalie in advance, before organising an expensive transfer, hoping for a taxi, finding an uber or taking Eurocamps recommendation!


The Chalet:


The accommodation was the cheapest, basic “Comfort” class, which was TINY (as expected) but well-appointed with quite a lot of storage space for such small quarters, clean, and in good condition. The beds were firm, which we prefer.


We couldn’t seem to find out the options to have a travel cot set up for us, we could see a per-night hire but it was clear there was absolutely no room for a travel cot at all in a 6x person three room set up (2x twin rooms, 1x double). So given we couldn’t figure this out at all we opted to have 23-month Willow in a bed (for the first time ever eek!). Despite getting up a few times at bedtime the first two nights, once asleep she stayed there until her gro-clock informed her it was time to get up – excellent!


There were several fairly hidden extras, which we knew about in advance but were initially confused and a bit disappointed to find out during our prior research as Eurocamp noobs.


Firstly, cleaning is NOT included. You are expected to scrub the whole thing down ready for the next guests OR pay roughly €100 for someone else to perform this. Bugger that, completely worth €100 to not clean vigorously for fear of losing a similarly sized deposit. Secondly bed linen is also NOT included, you must bring your own (no trouble if driving but a hassle for flying) or order it. This could be ordered as 2x, 4x or 6x person packages. So we decided to order for four people and bring one set of our own as a compromise – around £70 Finally, the other extra was WiFi. You cannot access any free WiFi here and must pay a for a package of around £20 for a week per device. Again, this is a relative pisstake and we got roaming for mine and Andrews mobiles from our network providers for cheaper, and hot-spotted the laptop when required.

I know it now sounds like I’m nit-picking (we really did have a great time!) but in the interest of information, I’d say that the sort of outdoor garden terrace area was very misleading. The photos of the chalets showed a patch of grass outside, which we thought would be great for a bit of football or lounging in the sun in a more secluded space, but in reality this was a bit of dusty scrub without a blade of grass in sight. As these are used as private car parks per chalet for those that bring a vehicle, and it hasn’t exactly rained a heap in southern Europe in 2023, this makes sense, but still a little disappointing compared to the photos online - we wandered through a lot of the campsite and most seemed the same, but perhaps nicer ones exist in areas we didn’t explore – it was huge! Still, it didn’t exactly spoil our time here as we were barely at the chalet the entire time except eating and sleeping, no worries.


One curiosity from our experience re accommodation provision is that the French don’t seem to do table knives. At all three of our accommodations during this trip they have forks, spoons and then serrated steak knives (?). Buttering bread and just general dinner with children was an interesting challenge in avoiding serious injury! Weirdly there was a walnut cracker but no veg peeler in the cabin and only 1x wine glass (?). There is more on our packing list below.


The Site:


We really enjoyed the site, everything felt convenient and safe. It didn’t feel as rammed with people as we feared considering peak August holiday and it appeared online that we booked the last available slot. It was busy, but not chaos.


This particular camp is marked as “lively” on the eurocamp website in that there is lots of fairy noisy activities, some don’t start until 9:30-10pm but this didn’t bother us even though we were very close by. The animation is all in French, and evening entertainment including the kids disco all starts far too late for us so we didn’t take advantage of any of that stuff. Kids clubs take from five years so again, this wasn’t for us. One word of caution is that people smoke EVERYWHERE.


The water park was outstanding. The kids loved it. We came for fun in the sun and that is what we got. Our chalet was as close as possible to the water and it made for very easy entertainment for our four day stay. With 3 large pools (one of which is a nice 0.9m depth, perfect for our tall 4-year old!), a range of slides (which are fast and exciting but don’t go straight into the water, also perfect for the 4 year old). The 2x toddler splash areas they all loved even the 8-year old, but particularly great for our soon-to-be-2-year-old. We also found 1-2 sunbeds whenever we needed no trouble. The jammers/speedos rule is strictly enforced here. Lifeguards were literally pulling men out of the water to check out their trunks! I find it really hard to believe this push for better hygiene is well placed in a nation that never seem to have soap or toilet seats in toilets. In fact, France is one of only 11 nations in the world where a burqa or niqab is banned - they seem to love telling people what to wear for no obvious reason. Oh well, this is why we travel – to learn about other ways of doing things I guess! We came prepared and were comfortable and happy.

One downer which might not be everyone’s first priority is that we didn’t find the facilities particularly sustainable. Hospitality energy saving and sustainability is my business and when you’re in this sector it’s hard to not notice things even on holiday; there wasn’t much in the way of easily accessible/well sign posted recycling around the site or from the chalets. We did also kind of find the friendliness…openness…a bit lacking? It’s hard to put my finger on it - in the 26 nations we’ve travelled around, we’ve always felt welcomed, and the level of hospitality was enormous, especially for the kids, in all the range of hostels, home stays and hotels we've frequented over the years throughout the globe. But at almost every kiosk, driver, receptionist encounter we just got the feeling we were an inconvenience, not a customer. Spending the last few weeks reading up on French culture and history put it into context a bit - perhaps they just don't like their neighbours to the West...? Can't really blame them if that's the case lol.


The proximity to the beach is pretty good, a ten-minute walk from the centre of the park, gated access with showers on the way back. The beach itself was great, you can never beat the easy entertainment a beach brings, and this one had soft sand, excellent for building and a not-freezing sea bringing decent sized waves to leap over – always a big hit. It was half empty on the Friday but rammed on the Saturday – the blue skies and scorching sunshine really brought out the crowds - I don’t recall ever visiting a beach that full of people before, but this didn’t spoil our fun. Mission accomplished - sand, sea and good times.

With all that in mind, we found the site nicely laid out, in fairly good upkeep with lots to do and most importantly the kids LOVED it.


Food:


All accommodation levels at this camp (and most throughout Europe) are self catering, though there are a few easy but seemingly variable options with an on-site restaurant (though closed this summer due to staffing issues), a takeaway pizza outlet, a Chinese take away (also closed), a sandwich cafe, a great boulangerie selling loaves, sticks and pastries/croissants, and a scrummy patisserie selling on kinds of cookies, cakes and bakes. There is a supermarket with a good selection of dried and frozen goods, cheeses, fresh fruit and veg and a butchers, as well as restaurants and shops just outside the park.

In an effort to keep costs down we meal planned everything from snacks and dinner to picnic lunches and breakfasts and constructed a shopping list excel sheet, filtered by things to bring from home and things to buy on our supermarket trip shortly after arrival. Our research for our recent trip to Denmark made us aware of the stupid Brexit issues around customs and imports and we packed only dried goods. Also, knowing we would have to move all our food from one place to the next on our travels either side of the Eurocamp we also planned to buy some meat on site rather than our arrival supermarket trip to limit the time it spent in the exceedingly hot car. We sort of forgot about all the dairy and cheese, so the night before our road tripping day from Carcassonne to Grotte de Clamouse we filled a sandwich bag with water, put it in a cardboard box (from our supermarket-purchased cornettos and shoved it in our air BnB freezer - and in the morning we packed it in an insulated carrier bag, which unbelievably worked a treat! There was still ice in it when we arrived at the eurocamp after ten hours out and about in 37 degrees!


We were prepared for higher prices for our chicken breast and burgers bought on site, but still happy in the knowledge eating out would cost us €100 minimum per meal and we saved around €800 cooking all but one meal ourselves. One thing we were surprised about was the lack of variety in the large supermarkets, it’s lucky we chose to bring some things from home to execute our plan!

We actually went to 2x supermarkets (Lidl and l’clerc) but couldn’t find anything like guacamole or sour cream. First world problems, but unexpected nonetheless. Much like the taxi/uber issue, I just wasn’t expecting to not have these things available so close to home, the British are pretty spoilt for choice! We made our own guac with a bit more work and subbed-in creme fraiche for sour cream anyway (worth it for the fajitas!). We also had to build in the fact that we were unsure if we would have an oven; some of the chalets had ovens and others didn’t but we had no way of telling which, and it wasn’t clear if there would be a BBQ either. This was frustrating, but with good planning it wasn’t a problem when we arrived and found nothing but a stove top and microwave for appliances.


You can download our meal plan and shopping list here, we hope it’s useful - we will certainly do exactly the same again! We spent £54.58 in Lidl and £42.45 in i'clerc for the remainder we couldn't find in Lidl, and about £40 in the on-site shop for meat, a total of £147, not much more than home for a weeks decent food/picnics/snacks.

Self-catered 1-week food list
.xlsx
Download XLSX • 14KB

Packing:


We did our usual flashpack with all our personal items in each of our hand luggage’s, but I opted to pay direct with Ryanair for a checked bag, and using it for food (see above) and a few other bits. This is our first short-haul summer holiday, so we modified our usual backpacking list to drop mosquito nets and hiking gear to include food and more beach toys, which you can download below. We didn’t find that we missed anything or overpacked. Key items specifically for the one-week eurocamp for our self-catered meal plans included a kitchen sponge, and washing up liquid. We also brought foil to wrap naan breads and baked cheeses in using the hob, and our usual food-clips, food-bags and collapsible Tupperware. Bin liners and a 4-gang extension lead for charging our things also always with us! Despite brining 50% deet mosquito repealing we still got fairly done by the buggers.

Eurocamp 1-week packing list
.docx
Download DOCX • 32KB

In Summary:


We booked a eurocamp style summer getaway as a cheap last minute mission for some sunshine, in an easy, kid-orientated setting - and that is what we got!! Despite a few cons the pros were significant, as was the discounted deal on flights and accommodation. Any half board or all inclusive European break for fun in the sun seems to be around £5,000 for a week or so at the moment for our family of five, and I’d highly recommend the site and our eurocamp adventure for £1,800 as a very good deal for an average of 32 degrees sunshine. If you like wine and cheese then all the better!!

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