We’ve been visiting the family friendly holiday hot spot, Center Parcs, for many years now that its become a real ‘we’re home’ feeling as we first spot the familiar landing bay in the reception, yet I’m always amazed at the “ooo, it’s expensive there” response we tend to get when sharing our holiday plans. Yes, you can stay in a state of the art treehouse, complete with all mod cons (I’m talking games room, saunas, hot tubs, you get the gist) but there are also more wallet friendly villas you can stay in and there is a way to enjoy a break at Center Parcs on a budget
There have been many occasions when our stay has been our only break of the year, but as the boys love it so much, and we can pretty much guarantee a fantastic time, we’ve compromised and budgeted in many areas without breaking the bank.
Out of season is always going to be cheaper. January seems to be the cheapest time of the year to go. Don’t be put off though by the thought of going in Winter, there’s still so much to do. If you’re not tied to school holidays you can get a midweek break for a really good price. As my kids are school age, I get the county school term dates online for the coming years and check for any weeks which are different from the majority of the country or where teacher trainer days have been tagged onto the beginning or end of a school holiday.
We managed a midweek break in the first week of September last year for an amazing price as most schools had gone back and so the prices were considerably less than the previous week. (we also bumped into lots of familiar Devon families that week who had spotted the price difference too!)
Book early after your visit
When you return from a break you’ll get a ‘come back soon’ offer where if you book within 28 days you’ll get free insurance, best price guarantee and £25 in restaurant vouchers. It’s so worth doing the above and booking your next break straight away, giving you plenty of time to save for your next break.
You can prebook any activities, where it’s also good to check out any special offers section. We’ve managed to get bowling considerably cheaper as well as a few other activities. It is worth pre booking activities as during busy times they get snapped up pretty quickly. It helps also so you plan an itinerary around them. There have been occasions where restaurants have early dining offers too with quite good savings just for eating slightly earlier.
The restaurants there are very good and the customer service is excellent, but if you are really trying to keep costs down then eat in. We do a supermarket shop en route and top up in the onsite Parc Market which also have good offers. The kitchens in the villas are well equipped so you can easily dine in and make your own packed lunches too. There are plenty of picnic spots around, as well as the beach and a glorious green to sit and watch the world go by.
During the colder months, there are places to sit and eat packed lunches in the plaza. You’ll never be frowned upon and I’ve even borrowed cutlery from one of the restaurants, seriously, they have nailed customer service there and nothing is ever too much trouble.
Take your own bikes
We’ve always taken our own to cut down on hire charges. You don’t NEED a bike though, it’s just the Center Parcs thing to have one. There are no cars so you can ride around safely, the company vans you see driving around will always give priority to pedestrians and cyclists, so even if you haven’t ridden a bike for years, you’ll feel safe getting back on the saddle. That said, there are land trains to get you from A-B when you’ve overdone it in the Rapids or are laden down with swimming gear and your packed lunch.
If you don’t own a bike and your brazen enough, ask to borrow one from a friend or neighbour, it’s only a few days and if you get a puncture or run into any difficulties the cycle centre staff are super friendly and have been really helpful when ever we’ve needed any type of cycle maintenance. Just remember to bring a lock though. Center Parcs do sell some for a couple of £’s so if you’re borrowing a bike you could give it to the owner as a thank you!
Swim, bike walk
There is so much to do at Centre Parcs, we often joke that you need a holiday to recover, but you’ll never feel pressurised into partaking in any of the activities and we’ve never experienced any hard sell. You can easily fill your days in the swimming pool, on bike rides or long walks. There’s a Rangers Lodges for the kids and some fantastic play areas for all ages as well as indoor soft play.
The villas are all very comfortable so you’ll be only too happy to return and relax after the above, many have DVD players included so a relaxing night in watching a film with a Chinese meal kit for 2 is always an option.being in the forest brings the advantage of lots of wildlife. We spend most of our time looking out through the patio doors at the animals and birds which come right up looking for food.
On our last break we were lucky to have a stag sit approximately 25 ft away and watched deer wander slowly past every day as well as a family of ducks watching us through the glass and woodpeckers flying in and out the trees. Honestly, Micheala Stachan has nothing on me when I’m there, I turn into a real nature geek!
Free baby food!
I know that feeding your baby is not going to break the bank, but many restaurants and cafe’s offer complimentary baby food. They also offer good value kids menus with meal, drink and desert offers, this is where the savings add up.
It works out cheaper if you can share accommodation with another family, they have villas with up to 4 bedrooms. I’m still trying to convince my sister that we can afford to share a tree house just so I can experience how the other half live for a weekend but she’s not quite got the Center Parcs bug enough to warrant parting with her hard-earned cash!
And that ‘s about it. You really can do Centre Parcs on a budget.
This is in no way connected with Centre Parcs, all opinions and photographs are entirely my own.