We are Center Parcs veterans. If memory serves me correctly, we’ve been eight times now. It may be seven – I’ve slightly lost count.
If you’re thinking of booking a Center Parcs break, take a look at the site map to see where the accommodation is in relation to the activities. The majority of the action takes place at the Plaza (swimming, shops, restaurants) and the Jardin des Sports (lots and lots of different sports). You can pay a bit extra to choose the location of your villa and it’s well worth it to cut down on travelling time.
We stay in the original style executive villas in the Maple area at Longleat. We first stayed a five minute walk to the Plaza (Ash area – 800 numbers) but the last three times we have stayed behind the Plaza (900 numbers), just a two minute walk from the Plaza. The slight downside of staying here is it’s just that bit further to the Jardin des Sports.
There are several advantages to the executive villas. One of the biggest is they have a dishwasher. In my humble opinion, a holiday isn’t a holiday if there’s no dishwasher. How can it be a holiday if you have to keep washing up? They even provide the dishwasher tablets!
The villas are spacious and the bedrooms all have ensuites and plenty of storage space.
I’d forgotten that housekeeping staff pop in every day, just like in a hotel. It’s a bit weird because they tidy your personal stuff. Imagine how mortified I felt that they’d carefully folded the sweaty running gear I’d left on the bed to air!
The downside is there’s no washing machine. In any Center Parcs accommodation. Yeah, I know, who wants to wash on holiday? Well, me, actually. Kids are dirty things at the best of times and they’re worse when they’re in the countryside doing outdoor activities. Doing a couple of loads on holiday takes the pressure off when you get home and also stops you running out of clothes when you get home. Plus when your swimming towel has already been on the floor of the communal changing room three times and you know you’re going swimming another two times you might want to wash it – I know I do!
Center Parcs have been busy updating and refurbishing their accommodation, but haven’t got round to updating the original style executive villas at Longleat yet. They were new and modern when we first stayed seven years ago, but nothing has changed – not the furniture, the carpet, the colour scheme or the pictures on the wall. There is new crockery and new table mats though!
You need to think about how you’re going to get around. You can walk, but if you have lots of activities in different places at different times it can be tiring and time-consuming. Most people hire bikes. You can hire bikes for kids, even bikes with stabilisers, as well as toddler trailers or baby seats. Lots of people take their own bikes.
Some really stupid people (us) take four of their own bikes, but with no room in the car for a fifth, someone (Mummy) has to go without. They think there is no point hiring only one bike (there SO is), so they take bikes on holiday that they don’t use and spend an awful lot of time walking up and down the hill.
There is a free ‘land train’ which circles the park and is a great way to get around IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TOO FAR. It got from our villa to the Jardin des Sports very quickly, but the return journey took half an hour (compared to a 20 minute walk, albeit an uphill one with kids moaning) because it quite literally went around the houses.
There are over 200 activities on offer at Center Parcs. The sheer number and variety is quite overwhelming. To get the activities you want, whether football, tree trekking or glass painting (it’s not all sport by any means), you need to book online in advance. It’s hard to know what to choose. Before the holiday we booked geocaching as a family, aerial adventure for my eldest and quad biking for Daddy. Then a walk through the Jardin des Sports reveals all the things we could have booked if only we’d thought about it – roller skating, badminton, mini golf, table tennis… So we booked table tennis and 10 pin bowling during our stay too.
There aren’t many bargain activities at Center Parcs, but a real bargain is mini golf and mini bowling. You get both activities for £15 for a family of four – and they were kind enough to let five of us play for £15 too. (We all breathed a sigh of relief when good-at-everything younger son came second in the golf after coming a shocking fourth in the bowling and sulking about it.)
When booking activities, don’t forget to consider the time and location – do you have enough time to get from one to the next? What will the rest of the family be doing while one of you is horse riding? Will you leave yourselves enough time for swimming, because that’s what we all really want to do at Center Parcs? And can you afford it? The cost does add up and is it really worth more than time spent swimming and your kids’ faces lighting up as they rush from the slides to the wave pool because they’re so excited?
If you’ve got friends and family who would like a slice of the Center Parcs action, they can! You can get guest passes for £20 per person per day. Your guests can stay from 10am until midnight and, once on site, can do everything you can do – swimming, activities etc. Our recent holiday was the first time since 2003 that we’d been to Center Parcs without Grandma and Grandpa, but they couldn’t stay away completely. They visited for the day and were subjected to four days’ worth of missed chatter from my daughter.
That’s just a little bit of our Center Parcs experience. We really do love it. If you want to ask anything, stick a question in the comments below and pop back the next day – I’ll do my best to answer it.
This is an unsponsored post. I genuinely loved Center Parcs and have paid for many holidays there out of my own pocket and intend to do so again in the future.