We’ve been to Centre Parcs a lot since we had the kids. After getting back from our latest trip with an almost 2 year old and almost 4 year old I thought I would share my top tips for going away with babies and toddlers.
• Definitely make the most of not having to fit into the school holidays. Check out local authority websites to find out when the schools are off so you can travel for less. It can be hundreds of pounds cheaper to go Mon-Fri during term time. If you can just go at the weekends, then book as early as you can. Also don’t let the time of year put you off! We have been lots in winter and had just as much fun!
• We have stayed in all the different types of accomodation and my favourite was the old school Comfort Lodge. The Exectutive ones may come with extras such as housekeeping and luxury towels but to be honest were not worth the extra expense. Our cleaners would always come when the baby had just gone up for a nap so we never got the full benefit of that. The towels felt just the same as the ones in the cheap lodges and I couldn’t see any other differences other than fresher decor. But costing up to £300 more, I will take the slightly more worn carpet and use that extra money to have fun out of the lodge! We never pay to pick what area we stay in as after trying out 5 different areas I have found none any better than the others. Being close to the village centre is a major bonus for walking with the toddlers, but save the £55 they ask for the privilage and spend that on some activities for the kids and just enjoy the walks!
• The lodges come with great cots, high chair and stairgates. This makes travelling a lot easier when you don’t need to pack as much. You also feel really safe while in your lodge knowing they are fitted out with families in mind. Our coffee table even had rounded edges.
• Take lots of food. Seriously it is expensive. We alway just bought the kids juice and snacks at the pool. But this time we met a family who had been coming for years, they told us to bring packed lunches into the pool area in our swim bags. There are loads of seats when you go into the Subtropical Swimming Paradise so you can take towels and a bag in with you. They even have little playpens to put the smaller children in while you get the ready or for you to have a breather . Will save you a fortune – for example, it cost us £7 for two drinks and 2 cookies! Out in the resort itself there are lots of great benches to have a picnic and in the resort centre there was even a small sitting area where you could bring your own food to eat.
The kitchens in the lodges are very well equiped and the big dining table makes eating there a great option. If you are eating out, book the restaurants you want to eat in as soon as you can as they can get busy. You have to pay a deposit when you book which can be really great, when you turn up some of your bill is then already paid! I highly recommend The Lakeside Inn for Sunday lunch. They cater really well for small children and serve up their dishes exremely quickly. Huck’s Grill also had a childrens buffet which is a godsend with small tummies that get hangry!
• There is no denying it can be a money pit. The activities on offer are incredible but choose wisely! (Top Tip: stay clear of the pottery unless you are prepared to spend a lot. You pay a huge deposit them also have to purchase the individual pieces to decorate. A good way to spend the kids’ Christmas pennies!) Some activities only last for ten minutes but can set you back £20. There are lots of free things such as soft play areas at most of the bars, play parks situated around the site, a small beach if it’s warm enough, and you can make your own nature trails around the site. For under 3’s the pool opens half an hour early to allow them to have some quiet time this is amazing! If you want to take advantage of the activities then there are many to choose from for the under 5’s. From sensory play to baby mover clssses. For the older ones there are superhero parties and chocolate making classes, as well as all the activities in the pool.
The adventure golf is brilliant fun and the eldest hasn’t stopped talking about it. The pony trecking was also great. Take your own bikes if you can- saves you a fotune then you can just hire a trailer for the kids if you want. The kids really enjoyed going around in a trailer and also on their little balance bikes or scooters.
• If you want to take advantage of the pool or just to go out to lunch without the kids then there is a creche available and let me tell you it is well worth it! We have used the babysitting service too so we could go out for dinner a bit later. Check the website for details it can open up new options and gives you the feeling of having a proper break!
• We have tried arriving early, we have tried arriving late! But it is always busy and there are always queues. The best thing to do is let one person out at the entrance with the kids to go for a walk, while the other queues up to go through the arrivals gate. This saves them getting fed up. You go for a walk around the site and meet up. You can get into your lodge from 3pm but the car park gates don’t open until 3.30pm so you can walk to the lodge and settle in with the kids and send one person back to the car park to drive up with your stuff. Pack the buggy and a bag with snacks and essentials that can easily be taken out the car when you arrive.
•If you are struggling for space then there is the option to leave your buggy at home and hire one when you get there, could be really handy if the toddler is just about out walking full time but still needs the option to give their legs a break – you can walk for miles around the site!
• The supermarket on site is brilliant and has everything you would need if you run out, it also has a selection of dvds incase you forget yours!
My essential checklist
• Childrens bedding
• Baby monitor
• Wellies and outdoor clothing
• Swimbag and coolbag
• Food and wine!
• Phone chargers (mobile signal was pretty poor but the free WiFi was fantastic)
• Bag of toys and DVDs for the kids
• Towels for the pool
• Socks with those grippy bits on the bottom! (The lodge floors can be slippy and the socks help them run about safely! Learnt from experience.)
• Blanket. If you get a leather couch them a snuggly fleece is good when you are up watching Peppa Pig at 6am!
• The kids cutlery and sippy cups
I can’t recommend it enough for young families there is just so much to do and you will make some amazing memories!
What would be your top tips for trevelling to Centre Parcs? Let me know your experiences, as always I love hearing from you!