I’ve been visiting Center Parcs for years now since I was a child going for our summer holidays with Mum and Dad, but I have never been in the winter and I have to say I think I preferred it. I didn’t notice any real difference in price for going during the winter wonderland event, we went during term time as both the children are not of school age so the prices are always cheaper during these weeks.
We also paid extra to have a cabin that was close to the parks center and to have early check in both of which were well worth the money. The early check in meant that we didn’t have to leave our car in the car park and wait until 3pm to move it to our lodge to unpack instead we drove straight to our lodge when we arrived at about 11 am (after getting slightly lost driving through the massive car park) we were also allowed to get into our cabin an hour early at 2pm (I have to admit we saw the cleaners were finished with our cabin a little before 2pm so we did go in a little bit earlier then this) This extra hour and the ease of not having to enter the mad dash to get our cars out of the car park and then crawl along the one way system of the park to get the car to the lodge in order to unpack was brilliant. It meant that whilst everyone was still trying to get their car out of the car park we were already unpacked and had the car back in the car park by 3pm.
I would also highly recommend getting a cabin close to the center if you have small children. Some of the cabins can be quite far from the center so if you are like us and would want to go back to your cabin for naps/ meals / emergency outfit changes then a 2 minute walk rather then a 15 minute walk can make a big difference. Being so close also meant that when we used the pool we just carried Jake instead of using his pram so we didn’t have to leave the pram outside the pool. (Though I must add there are ample pram parks outside for which most people locked their prams up with a bike lock but we preferred not to)
The park itself was wonderfully decorated with fairy lights and Christmas scenes which looked great at night and every Wednesday and Sunday there is a free firework display over the lake. There is a Santa’s grotto which we visited for £10 this includes a family photo with Santa and a toy for the Child, upon entry to the grotto a well dressed “elf” asks you the child’s age and they are then given an age and sex appropriate toy by Santa, Jake’s was a lovely stuffed reindeer which is embroidered to say “my first Christmas” all in all I think for £10 this was great value for money.
As Jake is still quite young there wasn’t a huge amount that we could do with him. We usually went on a long walk each day with Jake in his pram and Jamie and I with a Starbucks in hand. we went to the pool a couple of times but didn’t stay longer then about half an hour as Jake would start to get tired and or cold – although in a couple of years we could easily spend half a day in the pool as the older kids seemed to love it. The only other activity we did with Jake was a “paint a pot” of which we made a “my first Christmas” plate with Jake’s footprint on costing us £14 I can’t say that Jake enjoyed this as he slept through the entire thing, but Jamie and I had a good time!
Center Parcs in my view couldn’t really be more child friendly if it tried. Almost every restaurant has a soft play which if free to use and they also have free baby food that you can just help yourself to and a microwave to heat up you own food, this is something I have never experienced anywhere else. The cabins come equip with a cot and high chair, we were given an extra to use free of charge as we had two children that required it. Brilliant.
All in all we really enjoyed our break at Center Parcs and are looking forward to going with Jake when he is a little older so he can enjoy all there is to offer for children.