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Family Days OutLucy Writes

Center Parcs – is it worth it?

By June 10, 2024No Comments

At the end of the May 2024 half-term we went to Center Parcs – Elveden Forest. The children are now 14, 11 and five and finding the ideal mini-break is a bit of a challenge. After booking the 4-night stay online, I put a post up on my personal facebook page for advice on what to do, what to take, useful tips etc. The first thing to be posted was: Rob a bank! Ok, the trip itself wasn’t cheap; £890 for 3 bed woodland lodge for 4-nights (5-guests) and this included kids bike hire for the duration of our stay.

Don’t worry, I am not going to write about the entire trip in excruciating detail – instead my summary of our family trip to Center Parcs is below:

  • Check in – we arrived at midday in two cars and breezed through the drive-thru check-in system and parked without a hitch in the giant car park for a few hours until we could check in at 4pm. The whole process was easy and made for a good start to the stay.
  • The pool – I have been to CP before, but not with three kids. On the first day we spent 3-hours in the pool and not once did I mutter to myself; this is hell, quite the opposite in fact. My son grew in confidence hourly and the girls bonded like never before and threw themselves down every slide possible and flew down the rapids over and over and over again. I did the same! Yep – this gerry mum did all the things – and it was great. At times the pool did get very busy but at no time did it feel overwhelming – it just seemed to work. Tip: going at 5pm is a great time!
  • Food – we took a supermarket home delivery with us and it worked well. It meant we had everything for hungry post-swim kids and didn’t have to use the parc supermarket much – just for doughnuts! We ate out at the sports bar one night – and I have to say the food was really good. One of my daughter’s got a free biscoff ice-cream which of course made her experience doubly good.
  • Lodge – We loved our lodge and all of the visitors we had to the patio area; geese, moorhens, muntjacs and squirrels. I won’t ever forget the line “look there’s a squiiiirrel!!” said on repeat by all of us, all day long. If you haven’t been to CP before there are masses of squirrels around and the look of joy on the kids faces when they saw one was priceless. The lodge had two loos, 3-beds (we made it work) and a huge sofa that was perfect for exhausted people at the end of a mega day. The beds were comfy, had lovely crisp white sheets and there were plenty of towels for us all. The gas oven wasn’t great. I tried to cook those make-your-own croissants and they did not go well at all. Tip: take food you can cook on the hob or BBQ.

  • Bikes – at the time of booking we booked bikes for the kids. These were easy to collect, expertly fitted and the only slight issues was there weren’t any helmets for us to borrow – usually loads. I gently mentioned this to one of the guys, and he immediately grabbed some of the returned ones, sanitised them and handed them to the children. As an apology, he sorted out bikes for Dan and I free of charge! I didn’t think I would want to cycle around because I wouldn’t have my full eye on my son, but as soon as we all got going this wasn’t a worry at all. The cycling was safe (all visitor cars are in the main car park) and we all absolutely loved it. Seeing the kids peddling around without a care in the world was nothing short of beautiful – all three zooming along shouting “squirrel” will forever be in my heart.

  • Other activities – we did the arcades,a boat trip and glow badminton, and that was it! There really is no need to pre-book loads of activities – swimming and cycling alone tick all the boxes and actually when we did badminton, someone got hit by a racket and there were tears – nothing like that happened in the pool. The lake was nice though, we hired a katakanu (double sided rowing boat) and it worked out really well – don’t forget the suncream for things like this.

I highly recommend CP for people of all ages. It was perfect. We got loads of exercise, the children grew in confidence before my eyes (the rapids made sure of that!) and as I was on my own for part of the trip, it was totally manageable as a one-parent trip. I loved that it was busy but not heaving, that you could just get on with your time there and didn’t have to ‘mingle’ with other families if you didn’t want to, the outdoor play park (by the bar!) was superb, there was time off phones (all of us!) and it worked.

Center Parcs just works.

The highlight? The rapids. The bikes. The freedom. The phone-free time. The children being together and enjoying it! and, of course, THE SQUIIIIIIRRELS!


Downsides? The oven as mentioned above and the only other thing I can think of is that the pool staff seemed a bit glum and disinterested – that said, maybe looking after 1000 people in a tropically-hot screamingly-loud swimming area does that to a person.

So – is it worth it?

ABSOLUTELY YES! If you plan food and activities carefully and take the right things with you (swimmers, goggles, lots of food) then it really is worth it.

We are already planning our next trip to CP for October half-term and I never thought I would say this after a few traumatic holiday experiences over the years -I think we have found the place that works for us and I cannot wait to go back with the kids + next time a stop at the spa!

Lucy x

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This post is not sponsored by Center Parcs in any way and is the view of Lucy Baker only.

Lucy Baker

Lucy Baker

Lincolnshire-based Lucy Baker is the founder of Geriatric Mum blog and mum to three children who are age 12, 10 and 3. Lucy had her last baby at 43-years-old - which is why this blog was born.

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