Center Parcs is a great option for a UK family holiday – just book, turn up, and fun is guaranteed. Hence its popularity among British families, many of whom return time and again.
But if it’s your first time at one of these groundbreaking villages, we’ve put together a list of pointers to help you and your family make the most of your Center Parcs break. Tip: you might want to do your planning with the kids as a way of getting them excited about their trip.
WHEN TO GO
Center Parcs is not a weather-dependent option, and though your kids will probably be more than happy to spend the entire time in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, there’s an incredible range (100+!) indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy year-round.
If you plan to spend most of your time doing outdoor activities, particularly water-based ones, think about coming in the warmer months. On the other hand, winter is a lovely time for a cosy break at Center Parcs – there’s nothing quite like coming back from the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and getting all toasty in front of your own open fire with a mug of hot chocolate.
Other factors that might influence your decision are the many seasonal events, from Christmas-themed activities to Mothering Sunday or Father’s Day breaks. Or perhaps you have your own special occasion to celebrate – a birthday or a family reunion, for instance, is a great excuse to visit Center Parcs.
HOW LONG TO GO FOR
Center Parcs makes it easy to enjoy a short break, by offering both three-night weekend breaks and four-night midweek breaks. There is also the option to stay for a seven-night break.
WHICH VILLAGE TO GO TO
Most people opt for the Center Parcs closest to their own home – indeed, part of the beauty of these holiday villages is that they are easily accessible yet, with their forest settings, really make you feel as if you’ve entered another world.
All Center Parcs villages offer the same general facilities and activities, though they differ in small details such as restaurants – for instance, Elveden Forest in Suffolk has a unique revolving restaurant serving breakfast among its many eating options, while Whinfell Forest in the Lake District serves local produce and ales from a Cumbrian brewery in its traditional English pub by the lakeside. Accommodation varies too – those who’ve already tried out the range of villas and lodges may like to sample the luxury treehouses at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and Elveden Forest. And the newest addition, Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire is well-regarded for its spa resort.
Again, this is part of the attraction of Center Parcs – you can visit the villages over and over again and always have something different to enjoy.
WHICH ACCOMMODATION TO CHOOSE
Take your time to browse the accommodation on offer through the Center Parcs website to see your options, which can even run to your own games room, sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub if you plump for a New-style Exclusive Lodge.
With accommodation having up to four bedrooms sleeping a total of eight, Center Parcs is the ideal venue for an extended-family gathering, or for holidaying with another family. But if you’d prefer your own space, you can book two neighbouring villas.
Not many people know that you can also choose your villa location within the village – you can be close to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise or base yourselves in a more remote part of the village (bikes make it easy to zip around the car-free pathways).
WHAT TO DO
The online booking facility means that you can book your activities and devise and print out your itinerary at your chosen holiday village in advance. This will help you to get the most out of your break and fit everything in, whether it’s a family archery session or some child-free pampering at the Aqua Sana spa. What’s more, you can book the OFSTED-registered Activity Den in advance for children aged up to 11.
On the other hand, remember that this is a holiday and a chance to spend family time together, so don’t try to pack in too much – the kids will insist on coming again anyway, so you won't miss out in the long run!
You can also make advance reservations at your favourite Center Parcs restaurants, though with such a wide choice of all-day family-friendly eating options, you’ll have no problems keeping your brood well fed and happy even if you book when you arrive.
Don’t worry about allergies or special dietary requirements – just bring them to the attention of restaurant staff before placing your order and they will do their best to accommodate your needs.
WHAT TO BRING
Don’t stress about what to bring – the on-site supermarket, ParcMarket, is reasonably priced and includes baby essentials on its well-stocked shelves. Even if you forget crucial items such as your swimwear or your baby’s swim nappies, each village has a good range of other shops.
Note that the lower-budget Comfort accommodation don’t include towels, but you can pre-order them before you arrive. Also if required, cots are provided but you need to bring your own cot linen.
HOW TO MAXIMISE YOUR TIME ON-SITE
Get a head-start on the fun by arriving ahead of check-in (3/3.30pm). You can use some of the facilities from 10am on your day of arrival, and the Subtropical Swimming Paradise from 2pm.
Consider pre-ordering a family grocery pack to be waiting for you at your accommodation – then you don’t have to waste precious family time doing a shop. These can be ordered when booking your accommodation or later when booking activities.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY
With your kids inevitably asking you when they can come back, it’s never too soon to think about your next Center Parcs holiday, so do remember than if you book another break within 28 days of your departure date, you get best-price guarantees, discount vouchers and cancellation insurance.
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