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What are the new coronavirus guidelines for campsites? And what do they mean for campers?

Camping has been put back on the calendar for summer 2020 with the welcome news that sites across the UK should be open in under a month. To do so, however, campsites will have to comply with new ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines published by the UK government and the devolved administrations. So, exactly what will camping look like this year and how can we all stay safe on site? Along with our comprehensive Coronavirus Travel Advice for Campers, we’ve taken a look at the small print of the guidelines released so far, which cover England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so you know what to expect. Read on to get the post-lockdown lowdown, or jump the queues and get booking now...

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Coronavirus guidelines for camping 1: Physical distancing

The guidance on physical distancing applies on campsites just as it does in other shared spaces. This means you will be expected to keep your distance from other campers. You will still be able to toast marshmallows with your nearest and dearest and sleep in your family-sized tent together (assuming you are all from the same household) but you will need to distance from other people. This will mean some of the things we’ve become used to seeing at supermarkets and other public places will also be in place on the campsite. There are likely to be markers to guide you to keep your distance from other people at pinch points and places where queues are likely to form such as outside reception, at the toilets, showers and washing-up sinks.

Coronavirus guidelines for camping 2: Numbers of campers on site

In order for campsites to be able to offer enough space for people to meet the physical-distancing rules, the number of campers on site may be limited this year. Here at Cool Camping, we’ve always been fans of campsites that have plenty of space – and that often means larger pitches and fewer campers. As a result, many of our campsites already offer the requisite space suggested by the new coronavirus guidelines. Others have decided to reduce the number of people on site at any one time and even to enlarge pitches especially for this year. We’ve put together a list of campsites with social distancing measures so you can read about what our owners have been doing to make their sites safely spaced.

View campsites with social distancing measures

Some sites have also chosen to limit the number of campers or pitches which can be booked together at one time. While we love a sociable camping trip, there’s also something to be said for going it alone. If the restrictions do not allow for your usual band of merry campers to pitch up together, don’t despair. Why not enjoy a solo camp out? Camping on your own, with just your partner or your own family can give you the chance to really relax, to reconnect with each other and with nature. We can’t recommend it enough – and there’s no better time to try it than in 2020.

Coronavirus guidelines for camping 3: Check in and check out

Government guidelines for all businesses are to reduce face-to-face and physical contact. Where face-to-face contact or communication is necessary, the physical distancing rules still apply and, if they can’t be maintained, there might be physical barriers put in place to keep people separated as far as possible. But what does this mean on campsites? The most obvious time and place that physical contact between you and an owner or member of campsite staff takes place is when you first arrive. Every site is different, but most will want to know you have arrived safely so will have some sort of checking-in procedure. These days, it is fairly easy for this to be contactless. While the campsites of yesteryear may have asked you to put your pitch fee in a bucket, now most campsites are bookable online. That’s certainly true of our handpicked collection of Cool Camping sites and means there’s no need for an exchange of cash. In fact, most campsites will be moving towards contactless payments wherever possible so for firewood and goods bought on site, you may need your debit card handy. If your chosen campsite has a reception desk, don’t be surprised to see a screen in place or for staff to be wearing masks when they welcome you. It is often the friendly owner or manager of a campsite that helps make the place special and some of you may have made firm friends on your favourite campsites. They may not be able to shake your hand or give you a welcoming hug this year – but we bet they’ll be smiling behind their facemasks!

Coronavirus guidelines for camping 4: Sanitiser and signs

Once you’re on site, perhaps the most important thing to consider, alongside social distancing, is hygiene. If you’ve been out and about in your own community, you’ll be used to seeing hand sanitiser dispensers and signs about washing hands. The government guidelines ask businesses to do this; suggesting reminders for people to ‘keep it clean’ by using signs or tannoy announcements. We don’t think any of our Cool Camping campsites have plans for Hi-de-Hi-style messages to be broadcast across their sites but there are likely to be signs reminding you to wash your hands and use sanitiser. It is quite likely that campsites, like other places, will be providing extra hand-washing facilities where possible and hand sanitiser where it’s not but, of course, there’s no harm in taking your own. Read the signs and follow the guidelines as your camping hosts will have thought all these things through in order to keep you safe.

Coronavirus guidelines for camping 5: Queues and the loos

Camping is proving a popular choice for a holiday in 2020 as it offers a holiday in the great outdoors with little need to share space. The main places that you are likely to have to share with other people on site are the facilities: showers, loos and washing up areas. Any other indoor facilities, like communal kitchens, are likely to be closed this year unless social distancing can be achieved in the space. The UK Government’s advice for campsites in England is that the gold standard for shower facilities is to assign a separate shower to each household group. Where this is not possible, they suggest enhanced cleaning and a system of time slots or staggered entry to shower facilities – so you may be asked to put your name down and stick to the timetable! Among our Cool Camping sites we have a small collection of campsites and a large number of glamping sites where each pitch or glamping accommodation has its own en-suite or separate facilities.

If you are on a pitch with shared facilities however, you may see toilets being cleaned more regularly and bins emptied more frequently by staff wearing masks and gloves. You may find that the doors on toilet blocks may be kept open (unless they are fire doors) to help keep areas ventilated and you may be asked to close the lids of toilets and bins. As previously mentioned, there is likely to be a system for maintaining social distancing in the queue and even inside any toilet blocks with more than one cubicle – perhaps a one-way system if the facilities allow. By sticking to the rules, we can all help to keep our campsites open for a summer of safe, socially-distanced camping.

More tips on Cool Camping for summer 2020

Take a look at our coronavirus travel advice for campers for more information on camping in the era of COVID-19. Keep an eye on government advice and only travel if its safe to do so and in line with government guidelines. It goes without saying that you should not travel to a campsite if you have any symptoms linked with coronavirus. If restrictions allow for you to travel, make sure you take all the precautions you need to in order to keep yourself and those around you safe. The coronavirus government guidelines on accessing green spaces safely provide some useful tips that can be applied to life on site too. If you're concerned about Coronavirus affecting your holiday, you can also book a stay with our Coronavirus Booking Guarantee ensuring you don't lose out if you can't take the holiday you originally planned.

View campsites with Coronavirus Booking Guarantee

Finally: When will campsites open?

Across the UK the coronavirus alert level has been reduced to Level 3 which means all parts of the UK are gearing up for campsites and other hospitality businesses to open. At the time of writing, different dates have been set for different parts of the UK.

  •  In England it has been announced that campsites will be allowed to open from Saturday July 4th.

  •  In Scotland an indicative start date for "all accommodation" is Wednesday July 15th (though glamping with self-contained facilities may be open from 3rd July).

  • In Wales "self-contained" accommodation, including glamping with en-suite facilities and caravans/motorhomes with their own toilets, can operate again from July 11th, however, general camping with shared facilities will not resume until 25th July.

  •  In Northern Ireland campsites and holiday parks will be opening from Friday June 26th.

It is worth noting that campsites and other hospitality businesses can only open if they meet certain criteria so don’t expect every campsite to open on that date. But it’s fair to say that many of our Cool Camping campsite owners have been working hard to make sure that they are ready to welcome campers back as soon as they can. They have pulled out all the stops to make sure they are COVID-19 secure and meet the coronavirus guidelines for campsites so you can get back on site just as soon as it’s allowed.

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Published 25th June 2020.

This information is based on guidance released for hospitality businesses in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. We are awaiting further information for Wales.