Part of the fun of a holiday is in the planning but it can be stressful if you are scrolling through websites trying to get the vibe of a camping destination through photographs which much the time have been taken very badly or conversely, very carefully, and sometimes end up giving a false impression of the place.
I recall my friends who chose what looked like a gorgeous campsite in beautiful English countryside. What the pictures didn't show was the huge power station looming over the site, ruining the view. Luckily she found it amusing and still had a lovely time but maybe some more in depth research would have prepared her for the reality and allowed her to make an informed decision.
So what's the best way to ensure you end up at the campsite of your dreams?
Make a Wishlist
So you've found a campsite you like, maybe on a membership directory like the one key by The Camping and Caravanning Club. Even if you intend to book via the platform (to get discounts or low deposits for example) check to see if the site is listed anywhere else so you can build a better picture. Try doing an image search as you may find visitor pictures which often give a more realistic view of the site.
Ask friends for recommendations but take their personality into account before making a decision based on their advice alone. I have friends who love sites with lively bars and entertainment which is my idea of hell. Having said that, we have booked a static caravan weekend break on a Hoseasons site with swimming pools and a Burger King but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the sake of the children - mine are going to love it!
Read the reviews.
Now I'd advise caution with this step but it's still a useful thing to do as long as you take them with a pinch of salt. Some people only leave negative reviews and never bother to leave positive ones which may give a skewed impression of the product, venue or service you are reading reviews for.
Some people have their own agenda or a distorted view of what's reasonable. For example I read a review on one campsite near Twigworth in Gloucestershire which complained about road noise. The site information noted the proximity to the motorway with the positive message that the location was ideal for a stop off on the way to or from Devon and Cornwall.
A thorough look at the reviews showed some people mentioning noise but adding that it wasn't an issue. A quick glance of the map should have been a warning for people who really wanted to avoid road noise. We stayed and despite the fact that we live in a rural village, I would describe the site as very quiet and the traffic noise didn't bother us at all.
To be on the safe side look at the 5 star and 1 star reviews and then check out a couple of the 3 and 4 star reviews to see if there's a recurring theme. Then think about how bothered you are. We recently stayed on a site where lots of people mentioned it was a long walk to get water and to the Elsan point. When we got there it was literally a two minute walk - closer than the facilities at a big woodland site we stayed at earlier this year. It's all about expectation.