Enjoy a family holiday on the French Riviera for less than the cost of a week in Centre Parcs

Les Prairies del la Mer

by Laura Riddell |
Updated on

We turned our back on a expensive staycation in the UK to holiday in Les Prairies de la Mer for the glamour of Cote d'Azure without the hefty price tag

Les prairies del la mer - cheaper centre Parcs alternative

Last year, the kids had broken up for the summer holidays and there was a birthday party to kick off the next six weeks we’d all have to spend finding ways to keep our children occupied.

One of the kids was absent and the birthday boy’s mum explained it was because his mum had decided to take him out of school early to secure a week at Centre Parcs at a more affordable cost.

There was an all-round nod of understanding from the mums present. A couple of weeks earlier, I’d been looking into a week at Centre Parcs at Longleat Forest, Wiltshire, for the end of August. But for seven nights in a Woodland Lodge, I was looking at a hefty price of around £2,500.

It seemed a huge amount for a staycation in the UK, where you couldn’t even rely on the weather.

Then one of the mums mentioned that they’d visited a similar kind of park in Holland. It had cost a lot less and they’d had a whale of a time.

So, my attention turned to Europe and Eurocamp. I didn’t know much about Eurocamp. In my mind it was a budget holiday provider, and I imagined tired accommodation and facilities that didn’t match up to the pictures on the website. But when I took the time to scroll through the available options, I began to get excited.

There were so many fantastic looking sites, in great locations, and with so much entertainment on offer.

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Hitting the road

So, at the end of August, we set off for France. We were booked to stay seven nights at Les Prairies de la Mer, in the south of France. My sons Odhran and Reuben, aged seven and four, had never been on a ferry before. So, we decided to drive from our home in South London to Dover, and travel across to Calais. We were booked for seven nights at Les Prairies de la Mer, but we wanted to make it a two-week holiday by doing a road trip from the north of France to the south. We’d imagined travelling through quaint little villages and beautiful scenery. But we quickly realised that if we wanted to make any headway, we needed to take the motorways, and the toll charges were heftier than we realised. But it meant we got to stop off in some lovely places along the way, including Reims, known for its Champagne houses and beautiful cathedral, and where we ate the most delicious crème brûlêe crêpes, and Lyon, where we visited Parc de la Tête d’Or, which has a zoo you can visit for free. In the north of France, you’re pretty much getting the same weather as the UK. So, when we finally arrived in Côte d’Azur, with it’s clear blue sky and temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, my seven-year-old son said: ‘Ah, now this is a holiday!’

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St Tropez family holiday

Reaching our destination

Les Prairies de la Mer faces the bay of St Tropez and is right next to the picturesque seaside town of Port Grimaud, where colourful houses are linked by bridges over waterways. Here you can admire the yachts, but the glamour is low-key, and you’ll find lots of shops, cafês, restaurants, and gelaterias to enjoy. As we drove into Les Prairies de la Mer, we were delighted to see that this five-star holiday village was as stunning in real life as it looked on Eurocamp’s website. It’s a huge site with lush greenery all around and a Polynesian vibe. There’s a huge fan-shaped pool with a paddling area for little kids, and white sand beach, lined with palm trees.

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There was plenty of space to park outside our mobile home, which was basic but clean and well equipped with all the utensils needed for cooking. The shower was powerful and hot, and the mobile home was air-conditioned. Pillows and duvets were provided, with an extra charge for towels and bed sheets, bookable before the trip. There was a terrace to relax outside, and decking furniture and a gas barbecue were provided. Eurocamp accommodation is charged per chalet, rather than per person. We had a three-bed so were able to invite my mother-in-law along at no extra cost.

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Food and drink

At Les Prairies, there are seven bars and restaurants to choose from, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Throw on a sarong and grab a crêpe or an ice cream from the poolside snack bar or step off the sand on to the shaded wooden terrace of Le Sun, where you can enjoy a beer and a pizza or a light lunch.

Further along the beach, you’ll find Les Baigneuses, serving Mediterranean cuisine. A wonderful thing about a Eurocamp holiday is the ease with which you can tailor your holiday to suit your budget. We found the shop on site to be expensive. So, we visited a Lidl, which was about a 10-minute drive away, and stocked up on breakfast items, light lunch bites, drinks, snacks, and food for a barbecue. Being able to alternate between eating out and cooking at the mobile home and dining on the terrace helped to keep costs down. We found the beer on site to be pricey, but the wine, as you might expect with being in France, was well priced. In Lidl, we picked up beers for a lot cheaper and lovely bottles of wine for just a few euro, saving our cash for delicious cocktails on site.

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Fun filled days and nights

As we took in the stunning scenery and soaked up the rays, it was hard to believe such luxury surroundings in the glamorous French Riviera came in at almost £300 less than a week in Centre Parcs, Longleat. Another area where I felt it trumped Centre Parcs was in the array and standard of activities covered in the cost. As my husband and I put our names down to go on a cycle tour to the nearby Sainte-Maxime, where we would hop on a boat and be taken out to go snorkelling, I walked away whispering to my husband ‘are you sure that’s definitely covered in the cost?’ There were some activities that you could pay extra for but paddleboarding, kayaking, archery and wine tasting, were just some of the activities we enjoyed that were all included in the initial booking cost! There was everything from playgrounds, tennis courts and ping pong tables dotted around to keep guests entertained, and there was a creche and kids’ clubs too.

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For a small extra fee, my four-year-old enjoyed riding a pony and feeding animals in the site’s petting area. At night, we danced and sang along to a fantastic Elvis tribute act, and we had an unforgettable night thanks to dj Pablo Discobar, who had the dance floor packed. There’s a small funfair on site and a little arcade for kids at an extra cost.

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Final thoughts

From the weather to the resort with its facilities, activities and lovely food and drink options, to the surrounding area and all it offers to explore – Les Prairies de la Mer is a resort we would return to in the flash. But we’d recommend flying to Nice and hiring a car.

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Benefits of holidaying in the last week of summer

  • Holiday style: Summer sales kick in early. I went shopping just before our holiday and picked up hugely reduced-price shorts, t-shirts and shirts for the boys.

  • Less busy: We enjoy having the trip abroad to look forward to at the end of the summer, and don’t mind getting back couple of days or even the day before the boys start back at school. This can help bag a better deal and it means less scrambling to grab a sun-lounger or book in activities while on your holiday.

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Top tip: We’re always last-minute planners. But for those who have the luxury of being able to plan ahead, Eurocamp offers 20 per cent off prices during their sales, so keep an eye out for those. You can also put down a deposit and pay off the rest in instalments. This year Eurocamp added several new sites to its book and offers holidays to lots of upmarket campsites such as Les Prairies de la Mer. So, there's plenty to suit all tastes and budgets.

  • Seven nights from 24rd August 2024 staying in a Comfort XL three bed, which sleeps six people, costs £2,175 compared to the cheapest comparative price we could find at Centre Parcs Longleat, where seven nights from 23rd August staying in a two-bed new style woodland lodge costs £2598, and then you've got to add the cost of activities on top of that.

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