The great British staycation has taken a bit of a back seat of late after two glorious years in the spotlight.
It was inevitable that once Covid eased and the planes started flying again, millions of folk would head to foreign climes to lap up guaranteed sunshine.
But with the price of, well, everything going through the roof, now might be the time to look again at that value-for-money UK trip.
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Because after the glorious summer we’ve just had, and a wonderful home-grown mix of very British sandcastles, swimming, arcades and Agadoo, no one quite does a holiday as good as us when the elements are in our favour.
I spent a fantastic four-day weekend at Haven ’s highly sought-after The Orchards resort in Clacton, Essex.
It’s a great mix of entertainment, events, action and relaxation all beside a sprawling coastline.
Haven brands The Orchards as an “action-packed holiday village” and you can’t argue as the events diary is heaving with things to do, from football lessons to craft-making displays, and disco nights to golf tournaments.
It’s all booked via an app and my family of four enjoyed swimming at the fantastic indoor – and outdoor – pools every day of our stay.
That’s included in your price if you add in Play Passes for all the family, which come as standard in most bookings anyway, as is access to the central entertainment complex in the evening for a host of live gigs, TikTok dance battle shows, party dances and family bingo fun.
Some other activities have additional charges, and we tried out the family bonding exercise that is “grasshead making” via the app.
It was a wonderful little exercise in the Nature Rockz log cabin run by the on-site park rangers who showed us how to make a face out of a pair of tights stuffed with soil, stick-on googly eyes, and a little grass seed on top.
Add a few feathers and stickers, give it three days, and our new companion was sporting a lush head of grassy hair to complete his look.
The rangers do a host of outdoorsy activities and we loved learning how to survive the elements to build our own dens in the wild using twigs, A-shaped tree branches and foliage.
The little ones also tried out Junior Segway riding. It started with them wobbling around on weird-looking electrified hoverboards on the football Astro pitch.
Half an hour later they were confidently shooting around said space playing a game of basketball on wheels against some other hardy lads in the group.
The instructor was brilliant with the children, explaining all the safety hazards and how to properly ride the tech bots while us parents sat at the side, Costa coffee in hand, smiling and taking memories on our camera phones.
Nightlife is ideal for kids.
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There’s a packed arcade full of 2p machines, classic computer games like Halo and VR simulators as well as bowling and fish hook-style games where everyone seems hypnotised by the draw of “tickets” they can earn while playing and then spending them on sweets and toy prizes.
Beside the arcade is the Live Lounge, where you not only get a full-on Saturday morning Ant and Dec-style 90s live kids’ show each evening, but also bingo games and a star act.
We watched some rocking covers bands bash out Rolling Stones tunes one night followed by a three-piece soul group that had Motown nailed to a tee.
All thoroughly enjoyable and family friendly. And the beers are well priced too.
Outside of that exhaustive list of things to do in camp is a wonderful seaside world on your doorstep.
You’re right next to the wide open, picturesque and relatively untamed beach off Brightlingsea Creek where we rolled up our trousers to get ankle-deep in the chilly waters, exploring salt marshes for crabs.
Twenty minutes down the road is Clacton itself. This is a classic British seaside resort focused around the ride-strewn pier.
You can grab a Pier Pass for £1 and then top it up as you go, allowing you to control your kids’ spending as they give you the old “please, please, please can I go on the rollercoaster again” line.
Dodgems, waltzers, helter-skelters and log flumes all feature and they’re great fun.
Places to eat have improved by the coast in recent years too.
We loved My Big Fat Greek Taverna on the seafront on the Saturday.
It had a lovely water wall and “flowers cascading from the ceiling” vibe while you tuck into authentic Cypriot cuisine.
After a busy day of rollercoasters we couldn’t get enough of their well-priced chicken souvlaki, complete with yummy salad and rice sides.
Plus the halloumi and tzatziki dips with that gorgeous warm pitta really hit the spot – £50-odd would get a family of four a good meal.
After long, enjoyable days, it was welcoming to know you were always going to return to a comfy bed at your caravan base camp.
The luxury places of today’s Haven resorts enjoy all the mod cons. There’s a flatscreen telly in the spacious front room, complemented with big sofas you can’t help but sink into.
Speakers are built into the ceilings and at a flick of a switch you can connect your phone’s Bluetooth up so that you can jiggle around to your favourite songs on the streaming service of your choice, great for when you want a late-night post Live Lounge party.
The shower is powerful and warm and the beds themselves wouldn’t feel out of place if they were slapped with a Premier Inn -style comfort promise.
You can save a lot of cash as well by cooking yourself and the cleverly designed kitchenette, complete with microwave and dishwasher, takes the sting out of the chores so you still feel very much on holiday.
The only real criticism was that four days didn’t feel long enough.
But as airports struggle with a lack of workers, it struck me how – when done right – there really is nowhere like home. With tough times ahead, there’s plenty going on at The Orchards to allow for some quality family time without busting the bank.
Whether that’s swimming, learning to light fires, making slime with the kids or jumping off the new attraction – The Jump – to conquer your fear of heights, you can’t not have a good time. I’ll be rebooking Haven next year. It far exceeded my expectations.
Haven Holidays offers a three-night Haven Hideaway break at The Orchards park, near Clacton, Essex, from £99. Based on a family of six sharing Saver accommodation for arrival on October 14; haven.com.
You can also get more information at visitessex.com.
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