A Family Break at Centre Parcs
A couple of weeks back we headed off for our family holiday, after going to Wales, Lake District, Dorset the last few years this time we went to Centre Parcs at Elveden Forest. The difference this time was that it included the in-laws. To fit everyone in we booked a 4 bedroom lodge and a separate hotel room for MIL & FIL so that they could relax without 3 children running everywhere.
We’ve all been before but since the last time, the family has grown so we needed the extra space. A heads up by Centre Parcs isn’t cheap, you pretty much pay for everything, every activity, every meal, the full monty. BUT if you can work it so that you share a lodge with another family member it’s so much better. In our lodge, we had 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms/shower rooms and then an extra toilet. On top of this the kitchen was big, the dining area big and the living area bigger still and then a little patio area. For this roughly we paid £500 per family which for a 5-day stay isn’t bad at all.
To really make the most of things the trick is to get there at about 10 am. You can get into the area but not into your lodge until 3 pm. We got there at about 11 am and looked around the shops and also had some lunch in the Sports Bar. Otherwise, to us, it feels like day 1 is travel and unpacking so we gave ourselves an extra 5 hours exploring. Equally on Friday whilst everyone was packing up and leaving we parked the car and spent the next 4/5 hours there. You need to leave the lodge by 10 am and people were going home after that but you can still use the day and facilities if you wish. We went for a swim in the morning then grabbed some lunch before setting off home. For us, this felt like we had a full 5 days of the holiday rather than 3 days and 2 half days.
Over the years they’ve added different types of accommodation at Center Parcs, from apartments, treehouses and waterside lodges but our favourites are still the woodland lodges. As you’d expect they do ones from the basic up to the most luxurious. We stayed in a 4 bedroom one and it easily slept the 7 of us without any issue. The lodges are fully equipped with bedding, towels, and everything you’d need in the kitchen. You will, of course, need to supply the food but plates, glasses are there. In the bedrooms, you have the bedding, pillows and a hairdryer.
The lodge that we stayed in was right on the edge of the property. Every morning I’d go for a walk in the forest and managed to get some photos that I’m really pleased with. We had 3 children staying with us and their favourite thing to do was leave some food out and see which animals made an appearance. Firstly the pigeons made an appearance, followed by ducks, blue tits, a pheasant and then squirrels and their favourite muntjac deers.
All the lodges are self-catering, you can take food with you or there is a small supermarket on site which sells all the brand stuff you could need. For the most part, we ate at the restaurants on sight. You have a few Starbucks coffee houses, Bella Italia, Hucks, Pancake House, Sports Bar, an Indian restaurant and a few others too. They cater for every type of diet, Hucks is like an American Grill, Sports Bar serves bar snacks and hot dogs, burgers etc. Then you have Bella Italia, the Indian restaurant and also restaurants near the hotel, and you can also order a takeaway which covers pizzas, Chinese and everything in between.
The food isn’t that expensive, the supermarket only really does brand items so that can feel pricey but the essentials we usually take with us. Of course, this is a holiday so you don’t want to be spending the whole time cooking your meals but you could if you wanted to.
This is what most people go for and they have everything you could think of. In previous visits, we’ve tried to do as much as possible, tennis, squash, go-karting, snooker, bowling, the whole lot. This time we wanted a more relaxed time. We booked a few things before we got there so we didn’t miss out on anything. We booked up the family quiz, the children’s segways, archery and a wood weaving class. On top of that, we went bowling, played pool, badminton, crazy golf and also the boats. All the activities you need to pay extra for and this is where the money goes. The prices on some things are fine, on others, it gets really expensive.
The real benefit, if you have children, is to use the swimming pool to your advantage. This is free to use as much as you want. Plus it’s huge and great fun, you’ve 6/7 different flumes, waves, hot pools, a lagoon, beach area, an outdoor pool, a whole pirate area for younger children plus a Starbucks inside, you can also get food and drink all within the pool area.
It’s so easy to go way over budget on any holiday and Center Parcs is no different. If you can share the lodge with family or friends then that could be a big saving straightaway.
If you want to do certain activities or eat at a particular restaurant then book these in advance of the holiday.
Grab as many essentials before you arrive. If you can try to get things like snacks, toiletries, the basics before you arrive, this will save you money in the supermarket as they soon add up.
Swim, swim, swim, the pool is free so make use of it. It’s huge there and you could easily spend a whole morning or afternoon there. The children loved it and we went in a few times if your children are a little older you could relax while they go off swimming.
Enjoy the forests, I quite happily went off for a morning walk in the trees and I saw many people running in the mornings. Make use of all the free space and you’ll grow to love the fresh air.
Above all enjoy the break, I’ll finish with some of my favourite photos that I took while there.