There's something that bothers me about paying a lot of money to have a holiday in the UK, but Centerparcs have perfected UK holidays for families with small children
Centerparcs (unlike certain companies that I shan't name *cough* Kuoni and British Airways *cough*) have a really easy to use website for people to either browse around or book on. Once you go onto the Centerparcs website you can pop in the dates that you are looking at and the park that you are looking at and it shows you your options. You can browse accommodation types quickly and easily. It also lets you scroll through different dates so that you can find the cheapest time to visit.
We booked a 3 bedroom executive lodge which set us back £429 for a midweek 4 night break. We also added in early arrival for an extra £35 which allowed us to get in early and use the facilities. In the end, we got an e-mail offering us a £100 upgrade to a 4 bedroom executive games lodge, which had a sauna and a games room, complete with pool table. We took this up.
A four bedroom place comfortably fits eight people - it is massive, with a huge upstairs living area and kitchen. All four bedrooms have en-suite facilities.
All lodges come with a cot and high chair. We called up in advance and got an extra one of each free of charge. Impressively, the confirmation of this addition was straightforward and the email confirmation arrived before I had put the phone down!
You can also pre-order shopping to be in your lodge and a host of other things.
There can be a bit of a queue when you drive up to any Centerparcs venue, but they get things done as efficiently as possible and your information pack is waiting for you. Staff are friendly and helpful from the moment that you drive in.
Our pre-booked cot and high chair were waiting and the lodge was beautifully clean.
We've been to Longleat and Woburn and although Woburn is smaller, I prefer it. There is a much more homely feel here, whereas at Longleat you feel like you have to walk miles to get anywhere - not easy with toddlers.
The waterpark is great, with lots of slides and smaller pools for toddlers. It's not just a bit great - it is a lot great! A lot of thought has gone into it and it is almost as good as some of the bigger US equivalents. Our kids loved it.
'The Plaza' is one of the two hubs of the park contains lots of activity rooms for kids (painting, messy play, disco etc) which are all at extra cost but not stupidly priced. Badminton, squash, table tennis and a hundred and one other sports are all available on site. The sports facilities are well-maintained and clean.
Eating and Drinking
There's quite a lot of restaurant choice - Strada, Cafe Rouge, Hucks etc and there is a range of deliveries to your accommodation as well if you want a night in. All of the lodges come with great kitchens as well though.
There is a very good mini-supermarket on site that has pretty much anything that you will ever need on holiday. It has a good range of food that can all be prepared in the comfort of your own home.
For mums and dads who want a few hours off, there is the Aqua Sana spa, offering a wide range of treatments as well as half-day and whole-day experiences.
I cynically call it "an executive shed", but it is actually very swish accommodation. The furniture is comfortable, with nice sofas and a big family dining table. The kitchen is fully equipped with everything that you have at home. The beds are comfortable and the linen feels fresh and clean. Our games room even had some games in it.
The Little Things...
Of course, it is the little things that make Centerparcs properly family friendly. A few of these things that jump out are :
1. The supermarket has toddler-sized trolleys :)
2. The staff are, without exception, friendly and chatty. It's now reached a point where I am accosting random members of staff with strange questions in order to find a grumpy one.
3. There's a little beach
4. There's ducks
5. Nothing is "rip off prices", whereas most resort-style venues screw you.
The bad things...
Not really found any yet, but I can't have a purely positive review so I am going with :
1. The chopping board isn't flat. Not even remotely flat. Is it designed like that?!
Things that I would like to see...
1. A playmat. I don't expect one, but I think that it would be cool to have a five foot by five foot playmat that doubles as a map of the resort in the house. :)
2. Going forwards, Centerparcs could bear in mind that their houses are designed for small children. Whilst the kitchens look sleek and cool, they also have too many sharp corners. It's a bit of an accident waiting to happen.
Great holiday and comparatively cheap if you are lucky enough to be able to go out-of-season. Centerparcs has one of the highest occupancy rates of any hotel chain in the world, so prices in school holidays are eye-watering!
Whilst Lego have the monopoly on building blocks for older children, there's plenty of choice on the market for younger children. We took a look at the Mega Bloks First Builders Pack with an 18mth old and a 7 year old....