Holiday homes going under the description of "chalet" can conjure up a wide range of images. Those old enough to remember the hi-de-hi holiday camps of yesteryear might picture a more humble type of concrete-built accommodation - whilst anyone who has ever stayed in a skiing lodge will probably find the word evoking a decidedly up-market experience attended by fond memories of chalet girls attending to their every culinary need.
The chalets provided on some of Britain's 3000-plus holiday parks won't extend to either of those two extremes. Nevertheless, the type of holiday homes given the name "chalet" by parks do defy a simple single definition - and vary considerably in size, construction, appearance and - needless to say - cost.
Photographs and descriptions on this, or the park's, website should tell you all you need to know about the nature of the chalet you will be renting. But whatever form it takes, you will be assured of well cared-for accommodation and a carefree holiday atmosphere.
What should I expect to pay for a stay in a chalet?
Prices, of course, vary from park to park, but even in high season you could easily pay less than £500 for a whole weeks rental. That, remember, is the price for everyone, and most chalets will comfortably accommodate six or more people.
Top-graded parks in popular areas can top £1000.00 per week during school holiday periods. On the other hand, you could enjoy a long weekend in a chalet in spring or autumn for £400.00 or even less for the whole family.
What does the price normally include?
It covers not just gas and electricity, but often also the use of the parks facilities such as its swimming pool or tennis courts. Entertainment and children's activities are also generally covered by the rental charge.
What can I expect at the park?
Parks can provide the perfect base for all types of holidays because they take you right to the heart of where you want to be; youll awake each morning knowing that the beach is but two minutes away, or that youre surrounded by the wonderful countryside you came to enjoy.
Is there a grading scheme for parks?
Perhaps what really decides the issue for most families is quality which British parks offer - and helping holidaymakers to judge those standards is an official star-rating, assessed by the tourist boards based on the quality of the facilities which the parks provide for guests.
All types of holiday parks come under the scheme. They range from small farm-based parks where you can stay with your touring caravan or tent - right up to major holiday park centres which provide chalets, caravan holiday homes and lodges to hire, and plenty of leisure and entertainment facilities.
The purpose of the grading scheme is to assess parks on the quality of what they provide, and to award up to five stars for the standard of whats on offer.
How does the grading scheme work?
The number of stars received by a park is a guide to its level of excellence. Parks cant miss out on stars by not having facilities such as swimming pools but what they do offer customers must be of the very highest standard in order to receive a top grading.
Five stars is the highest possible award, and these parks are judged to be meeting "exceptional quality standards" in every aspect of their facilities. Four-star parks are described as being of "excellent quality" and also rank amongst the industrys best, having demonstrated superior standards which will be evident at all levels.
Parks with three stars have the official designation of "very good" and can be regarded as representing the industry standard. But even at the two and one star levels of "good" and "approved", the smallest details come under close scrutiny, and must meet strict tourist board criteria.
What types of holiday do parks offer?
British parks offer an unparalleled choice of different holiday styles. Some are out-and-out family affairs and its here youll find features such as swimming pools, play areas, clubs for children and grown-ups, plus a great carefree atmosphere. These parks have all the right ingredients to keep everybody happy, often including cafes and restaurants, plus park shops for all holiday essentials.
But if your notion of a relaxing break is rather different, many parks are designed specifically for couples and families who enjoy quieter away-from-it-all surroundings - and where the main attraction is a beautiful setting in the peace of the countryside, or on the coast and away from the main holiday resorts.
And for those increasing numbers who get their thrills from outdoor activity, theres a long list of parks which pitch you right into the heart of things. Many are located just minutes away from facilities for biking, climbing, pony trekking, sailing and other sports, and a large number of parks themselves provide opportunities for equipment hire.