“We hebben dit weekend een huisje” (“We have a little house this weekend”) or “We gaan in de vakantie in een huisje” (“We are going in a little house in the vacation”). If you mingle with the Dutch, you will have heard these phrases. People regularly book holiday homes in vacation parks for a break with their family, wider family get-togethers or boys/girls only weekends away.
Vacation parks, a.k.a. holiday villages, are certainly not unique to the Netherlands, but they seem a great part of their culture and come in a number of varieties to suit differing tastes. The basics, though, are a little house (usually a bungalow) equipped with beds and bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen with basic pots, pans and utensils, located on an enclosed site often in or near woodland, with various facilities on site, e.g., activities, supermarket, pool, and restaurants. Many only allow you to drive your car up to the house to unload at the beginning of your stay and load up again at the end. The rest of the week you walk or use your (hired) bike. If you are looking to join in, here are some tips.
If you are going with children and want the park to provide for their needs for a week, you will probably want one of the parks with a pool. These tend to be the more expensive ones. Center Parcs is a good example of the type of park that caters to this market, with many of their parks having things such as pony riding, climbing wall, indoor play area, play-ground, archery, geocaching on-site, or other activities. Check carefully what different parks offer, and which activities are and are not included in the price and which activities are operating during the time you are there.
Looking to commune with nature? Many of the parks are in or near areas of woodland, beaches, etc., so you can enjoy bike rides and walks in the surrounding area. Landal Green Parks is one of the bigger players in this market. Sites vary substantially as to location, access to the nature parks, how well equipped the houses are and how nice the finish. Also, consider smaller non-chain parks for a more relaxed, closer-to-nature feel. Search for ‘vakantiehuisje’ and add the nature area you want to explore. Don’t forget to include areas in Belgium and Germany, too!
Luxury vs Budget. – there is a great range in prices (mainly based on available on-site facilities) and in levels of luxury. It’s worth checking how old the park is and when the last renovation was. Some places give you the option of bringing your own bedding to save some money. Some allow you to opt to do your own cleaning. Some have small supermarkets (limited range, higher than average prices). Some appear to be very cheap, offering very low weekly rental rates, but by the time you add tourism tax, a booking fee, a mandatory cleaning fee, a mandatory bedding and bed/kitchen linen fee etc., you have laid out quite a substantial sum. There are good deals to be had, though, especially at the last-minute and in the off-season. When you book, it is also worth checking where they want to allocate you a house. If being on the outer edges of the park, a substantial walk away from possible restaurants, supermarkets, activities is a problem for your party, take that into consideration. You may need to pay extra to be closer.
Whichever options you choose: have a super vacation!