In a nutshell: Famously, Center Parcs is known as ‘the holiday the weather can’t spoil’ and with good reason: there are so many activities to do onsite - from a Mad Hatters’ tea party for little ones, to indoor racket sports, pottery painting, cup-cake making, an amazing spa, swimming - the list goes on and on.
Our mum did a weekend break in January with her husband and 6-year-old daughter at the Center Parcs in Woburn Forest near Flitwick.
When’s the best time to go?
Because of all the indoor activities laid on, there really is no better time to go to Center Parcs. We had a cold and wet weekend and the weather didn't matter at all as we did lots of indoor activities.
However, they have great outdoor activities too - a boating lake, and outdoor abseiling - so you could go in different seasons and have a totally different experience each time.
Top tips to make Center Parcs work for you
1. Make the most of the self-catering facilities
While there are plenty of restaurants there, including:
- Las Iguanas
- and all are very family friendly, the lodges have fantastic kitchen facilities and lots of utensils, as well as a nice dining area.
So if you’re coming by car and are organised enough, you can save on eating out by having a few meals in.
You can order essentials boxes before you go too - we had one waiting on arrival (costing £55) which included bread, cereals, sausages and bacon, tinned tomatoes, milk, oil, squash, tea coffee - and buy food at the onsite shop (they have a great selection of frozen dishes and basics).
2. Know your budget
Accommodation is one small part of a trip to Center Parcs - you can spend BIG time there if you’re not careful. Work out your daily budget so you know how much you have to spend on activities once you’re there. They are great value, but doing a lot of them will soon add up.
3. Plan the activities before you get there
With number 2 in mind, you might want to go through all the activities in advance and decide exactly what you’re doing before you go - and don’t be tempted to book any more once you're there (easier said than done).
We had a few activities booked in before we arrived, including:
- Mad Hatters’ tea party for our daughter (£28 for 3 hours, included snacks and she came away with 2 cakes)
- a couple’s spa session (spa treatments start at £39, or you can just use the spa - which is one of the best we've ever visited)
- family pottery making - £5 each and then you had to pay for your items to paint (the cheapest was £11 and they went up to around £25).
When we were there we also booked a 45-minute bowling session which cost £35.
We also had 2 meals out at around £50 each - but had one meal in our lodge with food we’d bought from home.
There are so many activities to choose from, and SO much we could have done - for example hair braiding (10-minute session for around £7).
It's worth noting that the sub-tropical swimming pool is free so making that a daily morning or afternoon activity (the kids will love it!) will save you some cash.
Note that there are some amazing flume rides and water rapids but children have to pass the heigh restrictions or they won't be allowed on (our 6-year-old was disappointed not to be able to do do all of these).
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4. If you do eat out - book before you go if you can
- especially the pancake house. There were definitely more popular restaurants and not-so-popular ones at Woburn - Strada got busy so if you’re with children you might want to book your table.
We were disappointed not to be able to have lunch at the pancake house on Sunday around 1pm - the wait was going to be around 45 minutes. Definitely advisable to book.
5. Think about going with another family
The lodges were very spacious - we stayed in a 3-bedroom lodge which we could have shared with another couple with an only child - which would have halved the accommodation bill to around £250 - very manageable and would leave you with more money for activities.
6. Consider a weekend break
Even though we only did a weekend stay at Center Parcs, it felt like much longer - probably because we’d done so many fun things!
We all agreed we could easily have stayed a week: but the weekend option does let you enjoy the activities for a few days without forking out so much cash.
Would you recommend it?
Absolutely yes. We had a fantastic stay, and our daughter loved it. Being an only child, the fact she could go along to the children's activities and mix with other kids was great.
We'd definitely consider going again - maybe in the summer to test out the outdoor activities. But if we do we'll definitely be budgeting beforehand and making a plan of which activities we'll do each day.