For many families, Center Parcs is the ideal holiday location in the UK as it offers a range of different types of accommodation. From one-bedroom lodges, hotel rooms, and apartments to epic party houses perfect for large groups, with balconies, water views, hot tubs, and activities suitable for everyone from babies to the elderly, it’s the ultimate break offering something for everyone.
It’s even largely weatherproof, as long as you don’t mind getting a little wet walking between buildings depending on where your lodge is. But Center Parcs’ popularity means the company doesn’t tend to hold sales to cut back on vacations.
While other family getaways will often entice people to book with discounts, Haven, for example, is currently running a promotion offering selected breaks for just £11.50 pp anyone who has been to a Center Parcs during the school holidays will know that he does not. tend to struggle to fill the spot.
Despite this, there are ways to reduce the costs of a Center Parcs stay without ruining the experience. Here are some of our favorites, both from experience and advice gathered online where Breakout fans congregate, primarily Mumsnet, Facebook and Reddit.
Choose your dates carefully
Although the jokes about how, for the $44 billion Elon Musk paid to buy Twitter, he could have spent a fortnight at Center Parcs during the school holidays are far from accurate, for now, there is no doubt that booking for school closing times is the most expensive trip you can get and, post-pandemic as with most things, prices have gone up even further.
But with careful calendar planning, there are deals to be had. First off, if you have kids younger (or older) than school age, congratulations, you can get the best prices if you go during the week. Take advantage of these days while you can, because the first time you try to book with term dates is a sad moment.
If you have to factor in school, in our experience the cheapest week of the year if the days fall correctly is the first weekend after New Years Day. Yes, it’s cold and a little spooky, but there’s still plenty to enjoy and we found that after the excitement of the holiday period, some downtime, squirrel watching, board games in front a fire and a weird activity or two was actually a great way to end the holiday season and bring the kids back to real life without too much angst.
It was also hundreds cheaper than later in the year.
Don’t forget to check INSET days if you have a random day off in the middle of the year, it’s a perfect opportunity to book a weekend without having to arrive late Friday night. In the meantime, if you want to do the magical Christmas-themed events, explore them in late November.
Some might say it’s too early to get into the holiday spirit, but if our family has something to do, those ‘grinches’ might change their minds when they see the price difference in booking for stay and see Santa at the end of November rather than once Advent has started.
If you’re happy to go on the spur of the moment, you can sometimes get last-minute weekends away, but these sell out quickly, so check back regularly as things develop. present, and know that the best last-minute deals are, perhaps predictably, those for next week.
When you book, think carefully about where you can cut the costs of extras and get to know the site you are on. We tend to pay an extra £60 to be in a lodge closer to the three key areas as our children don’t cycle and so if we end up further afield the walks of up to 20 mins each way to the swimming pool or the main activity eventually exhaust them quickly.
But if you’re happy to walk or cycle, you can safely be a little further. Also, when it comes to bikes, if you want to use them, invest in a bike rack for your car and bring your own, the cost of renting them for a family adds up quickly.
Plan your shopping
In the event that you arrive by car, as soon as you have booked your Center Parcs stay, find the agency closest to your favorite supermarket and book a click and collect time slot for the morning of your arrival.
You can order everyone’s favorite foods and groceries for all the nights you cook in the lodge, but beware, in some lodges the refrigerators are only under the counter, so space can be short. Plus, more importantly, you can buy the essentials you’ll need for your home away from home that, if you don’t plan ahead, will make you wince when you fill a basket with them at the Park Mart.
The Park Mart is a great place to stop for treats, family favorites for us are the blueberry muffins for the kids and the olive picking and deli counter for the adults, but when you’re trying to dine to assemble the ingredients for a meal or two with the costs mounting rapidly.
For us, the essentials to take with you outside: garbage bags, dishwasher tablets, toilet paper, paper towels, ketchup, dishwashing liquid, a sponge (they always give you one but a second is always handy). While Center Parcs specifies that only prepackaged logs are used in their woodstoves, when you see them in stores, even in a three-night package, they turn out to be expensive. We found Tesco selling these nearby, perhaps because they know people like us will be looking to buy them for their break.
We tend to eat out once a day but it’s not always a main meal because although they are mostly chain restaurants the prices are considerably higher than you would pay at Bella Italia or at the Café Rouge at your location. Main Street.
A Las Iguanas dinner, with prices offset slightly as you pay £5 a head before reserving the table, alongside a Leon and some pancakes, pretty much sets us up for a long weekend, except some extra Starbucks or ice cream. .
Take advantage of the free stuff
When you start looking at a Center Parcs break, it’s easy to get sucked into booking lots of expensive activities. But there are also plenty of free things to enjoy.
Given that Covid trips to the subtropical water paradise have to be booked in advance, but they’re free and with sessions available for three hours, they can take up much of the day. Children can also enjoy numerous indoor and outdoor play areas.
If you are tempted by activities, and the most fun Center Parcs stays must include at least one or two, book early to avoid disappointment and try to check the calendar to distribute them.
Everyone has their essentials: for us it’s the Off Road Vehicles for the children and the Twilight Spa for me, you can buy additional treatments while you’re there if you wish, but for me a plate of antipasti, a glass of bubbles and a moment of relaxation in the fragrant hammam while my husband goes to bed is the highlight of my weekend without having to pay more.
Whatever formula you sign up for, leave some leeway to enjoy an ice cream and have some free time, especially with young children. If it all gets too big, walk away too. Forced fun isn’t fun at all and once the money’s been spent you don’t get it back so there’s no point trying to entice a sobbing child into enjoying Weird Science if they’ve been absolutely traumatized putting on a white coat. It happens.
There are lots of things you can sign up for on the spur of the moment like bowling, pottery painting, arcades and usually a badminton court, but again, bring your own rackets if you can to save money on the rental.
Consider a trip abroad
Not everyone knows it, but Center Parcs is an international company with parks in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Not only are the prices generally lower, but often the school holidays vary a bit so that you can find yourself there at a quieter place.
Mumsnet and Facebook in particular have groups with people offering advice on this. This is a different type of holiday and should be thoroughly researched, as traveling to continental Europe for a Center Parcs holiday is not for everyone.
But if you like the adventure of long family rides, it might cost less, although you should factor gas and ferry costs into your calculations.
Know when to splurge
Whichever Center Parcs you go to and when you get there, once there, the car is parked and without much effort for the entire duration. At this point, enjoy.
There are some things you will find that are really worth it. For us, it’s a trip to the creperie on the last morning. Is that a lot of dough spent on, uh, dough? Yes. But it’s a fun rite of passage and how we say goodbye to our lodge until next time.
Offset costs where you can and enjoy your break. You deserved it.