A Guide To Being A Campsite Pro
To postpone the day I would be forced to confront real life, I signed up to work a summer season as a campsite representative after finishing university in 2011. A few short weeks after completing my final exam, I was flown out to the Cote d’Azur in France to begin four months working for Thomson Al Fresco.
Immersed in stunning surroundings and bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, working as a campsite rep is at times like living in paradise. But long days cleaning caravans isn’t all you have to contend with. You’ll likely have to deal with angry customers, late arrivals, language barriers, drunk holidaymakers, power cuts, and even flooding.
Campsite reps work hard, and they party even harder. Cleaning on a hangover will become the norm. Ritual drinking games, unspoken park rules, romances and rifts develop quickly within the tight-knit community. If you’re thinking of working a summer season, these survival tips from a seasoned rep will prepare you for a summer like no other.
Keep hold of your map
Welcome to your new home for the season. Two kilometres from the park entrance to your caravan, with seemingly endless rows of almost identical mobile homes branching away into the distance. You’re going to get lost, no doubt about that.
You might be ok for the first few days while you shadow your team leader’s every move, but when you eventually strike out by yourself, the campsite becomes an unsolvable maze. Keep your map with you at all times – especially when you’re showing new arrivals to their holiday home! A lost rep with a lost family equals a lost tip.
Nap at lunch time
Work starts at 7am and doesn’t finish until 7pm on days when you’re needed to man reception, and after that the party starts. Luckily you often get two blissful hours for lunch – and if you clean your caravans quickly maybe even longer. Napping on your lunch break is often the only way to catch a few hours’ shut-eye, so make the most of it.
Head to the pool and kip in the shade of a parasol, or get your tan on and sleep in the sunshine. You’ll probably find the other campsite reps snoozing in a choice location every day like a pride of lions.
Learn the language
Wherever your summer season takes you, learning the basics of the language is only polite. Often large campsites are a little way out of the tourist hotspots, so the staff might not speak much English. If you can say hello, please and thank you you’re sure to be rewarded with a smile, and if you can go as far as to ask for a loaf of bread and some cheese, even better.
You might need those language skills when an unlikely family from Luxembourg show up without a word of English. I surprised myself (and no doubt my GCSE French teacher) when I managed to welcome them to their caravan, warn them not to turn the air conditioning below 20, recite the emergency mobile phone number, and even tell them where the bins were located, all in French – albeit with a terrible accent.
Make the most of your days off
This might seem like an obvious one, but with one day off a week and every night spent partying at the bar, it’s tempting to spend it catching up on some much needed sleep. But you’re living in a foreign country! There’s miles and miles of beautiful countryside to explore! There’s cool cities to visit! You’re only allowed to leave the campsite on your day off, so make the most of it and go on a mini adventure.
While I was working in France I visited Cannes, St Tropez, Antibes, Monaco, Frejus, St Raphael and the Verdon Gorge. If you’re savvy you’ll find out when the reps from other companies have their days off and organise a trip together. Even if you just grab your bikes and cycle to the beach, getting off the campsite once a week gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Make friends in high places
While you’re working on the campsite, the chances are you’ll meet most of the staff there. Making friends with the security guard might mean you can sneak the car you borrowed back in after hours. Befriending the restaurant staff could mean a free pizza now and again. Bar staff are surprisingly generous with drinks if you get to know them. I even befriended a tour guide who would visit to sign up holidaymakers to her bus tour to Monte Carlo, which got me a free trip to Monaco and a nearby perfumery!
Befriend the resident cats
Adorable little balls of fluff though they may be, the resident cats on the campsite know how to beg. If you feed them, they will show up at your caravan every day, and they will somehow manage to get inside. Possibly with fleas.
Not only that, but I was told that they’re only permitted to stay on the campsite because they keep the rats out. Come winter when the site closes, they won’t have anyone to feed them and they will either starve or be killed by the camp owners. Sob.
Expect your mobile home to look like the ones in the brochure
Those beautiful luxury caravans with an open plan living area, power shower and air conditioning advertised on the company website are reserved for the holidaymakers. Yours will not look like that. It will be older, less sleek, and there will not be air conditioning. Get used to sleeping in 35 degree heat. You’ll be lucky if you even get a mobile home – most companies house their reps in tents.
Envy the kid’s club reps
They might get to spend their days playing Frisbee and volley ball and painting faces, but come the evening when everyone else is refreshing themselves with cold beers and letting loose on the dancefloor, they will be fighting off packs of children who still want to play while their parents get drunk.
Your customers will see you once or twice for the duration of their holiday – kid’s club reps spend every day with theirs, and the children will love them so much it’s nearly impossible to get away. Good luck getting drunk and making a fool of yourself when 15 eight year-olds want to plait your hair and play catch.