Last week we all went to Center Parcs for 5 days. My plan was to write a blog about our time in the same way I did for our Glasgow trip. Unfortunately Flyn was unwell with slap cheek during the holiday so we didn’t do as much as we would have liked. So I’ve decided to write a quick pros and cons list for Center Parcs in case it might help others who fancy going.
The Pros – Before we went Tony did loads of research on Center Parcs and worked out what we needed and what was good to book for while we were there.
- The first pro for us was that we were able to go during term time which really affected the price.
- We also liked that it is only a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive so manageable in one go if the kids were up to it.
- Once we arrived a real pro for me was hiring bikes. We picked them up as soon as we arrived and had them for the whole duration of our stay. We initially had one with a trailer for the twins and we took Alfie’s bike with him. After the first morning we realised it is actually quite hilly for a wee one on a bike so we went back and got a baby seat on the back of mine so that Alfie could go in the trailer with one of the twins and I would have the other twin on mine. It cost us £119 for the whole stay which included two adult bikes, the trailer, baby seat and two baby helmets.
- We went straight to the pool on our first morning and Alfie’s face when we walked in was amazing. It’s really impressive and you could spend whole days there with older children. It’s pretty warm and has rapids, slides, waves and a splash bit that the twins loved! Alfie was super confident in the water with his armbands and they provide life vests for little ones which you just help yourself to. Our favourite part of the pool was the fast rapids and we went round it many many times!
- We were trying to keep to a pretty strict budget during this trip with Christmas coming so we had brought a food shop with us. The kitchen in the accommodation had a hob, oven and microwave so was kitted out for what we needed. We did end up eating out on our last night at Bella Italia which was fine.
- One thing we worried about with sticking to a budget was whether we could do enough to keep Alfie occupied. We had booked a treasure trail for our first full afternoon and we enjoyed that and we were given free crazy golf which Alfie also enjoyed. Apart from that we just stuck to the pool and the free fireworks which kept us busy.
The cons – We has obviously heard lots about Center Parcs before we went as so many people have gone but this was our first experience of it.
- The first con for us is that it is very expensive. We were lucky and able to go during term time but when Alfie starts school next year it won’t be so easy. It was 1/3 of the price for us to go in term time so it’s a huge difference. We couldn’t justify it during holiday time.
- The second thing is that it is full of activities you can do that look amazing. That may sound like a pro but the activities are very expensive as well. For example the mini trek for 2 years plus is almost £14 for 30 minutes. Now it’s not that bad but it could add up if you have more than one child. If money isn’t an issue, center parcs would be incredible!
- The accommodation varies depending on what you’ve booked. Because we were off peak times we booked a three bedroom new style lodge. It was nice and spacious and had a good sized living area with kitchen, dining and living space. We did have an issue that we only had one cot and one high chair even though we had emailed ahead but that was fixed and staff came and collapsed down the single beds in the third bedroom so we could fit two cots. While out and about exploring we did see some lodges that looked really run down and I guess those would be the cheaper options. I felt the lodges weren’t particularly child friendly and that leads me onto my main con.
- When we were researching what we would need to take we were surprised by how much we would need to provide that we assumed would be included. When staying in the lodges you are provided with some toilet paper but not enough, some dishwasher tables but again not enough. No cot bedding, no sponges, cleaning stuff and fairy liquid. And we had a log burner but no logs provided. Now it’s all very first world problems I know, but when you’re spending a good amount of money I thought toilet roll could at least be included. I also realise that some people may come and eat out all the time so don’t really need the kitchen stuff but that wasn’t financially possible for us. It meant that our car was absolutely full to the brim and by the time we added swim towels, our clothes, nappies and food, the car was heavenly laden. I think if I’d paid the full holiday price (roughly £1300 for a family of 5) I’d be thoroughly miffed heading off to buy my own toilet roll.
My opinion – Overall I was impressed with Center Parcs. It was well run and organised. Check in and out was easy and with bikes it was lovely to cycle around and explore the amazing grounds. The pool was a real hit and with older kids would make it easy for parents to sit back while their kids were off swimming. It’s frustrating that things are so expensive but all the activities looked good quality so it’s not unexpected to pay the price. Once we are restricted to term time I’m not sure we’d be running back. I just can’t get past the price you have to pay for the accommodation when that same amount could get you flights and an Air BnB somewhere abroad. The only way I could be swayed would be to share with family or friends to lower the price. It was nice to experience what all the hype was about and we certainly had an enjoyable trip (even with sick babies) so I would recommend it to anyone looking for a holiday in the uk who loves to be outdoors where everything is under one ‘roof’.
If you’ve been to Center Parcs, what were your thoughts on it and would you go back? And if you’ve not been, is it your kind of holiday?