In the olden days, when I was a child (it feels like that sometimes doesn’t it!!) we visited Centre Parcs regularly as a family and loved it, so I had always said that when I had children, this would definitely be a place I would take them too. And so when the girls had just turned two, we booked our first family stay. However, when you’re taking your own children, there is a lot more to think about and I hadn’t been for such a long time I felt I needed to do my research. I needed some tips and hints from others that had taken children and I am sure a lot of you have all thought the same.
For those of you who haven’t been before, Centre Parcs is a holiday village set in woodland. It caters for all members of the family with so many activities on offer. From swimming, toddler music groups and art groups to magic shows, soft plays, playgrounds, and bowling, just to list a few. There are far more activities for older children and too many to list here. No matter what time of year you go, you will always have a great time.
I have made a list of 34 tips to make your stay at Centre Parcs with toddlers a little easier.
- You can’t get in to your lodge until 3pm, but you can use the facilities on-site – Pack all your swimming stuff separately so that you can park up, load up your buggy with all your bits and spend the morning swimming.
- Don’t hurry off to bring your car up to your lodge at 3pm if you don’t have to. Let the rush die down a bit and then go, and you’ll beat the crowds and get a bit more time in the pool.
- Alternatively pay the extra for the early check in. They let you through to the lodges at 2pm and you can be off exploring by 3!
- Book the crèche early – they get busy. They also do evening babysitting so you can get out or go to an evening spa session (3 hours with dinner).
- Phone head of your stay if you have twins and require an extra cot and high chair. They are free for multiples.
- You can hire a bike and double trailer for twins or two small children, but all bikes have to be parked in the bike bays, you can’t take them right up to the pool area, restaurants etc, so at times it is easier to have a buggy.
- There is a Tesco just 5 minutes up the road from Elveden so arrange a click and collect order before you leave home. This will save space in the car and is much cheaper than the onsite supermarket. There is also a lovely little farm shop that you pass on the way into Elveden.
- Advance book crèche and a spa 2 hour package for that extra treat.
- Take your own plastic bowls and cups.
- Most of the restaurants have free soft play.
- Door stops are useful to stop little fingers getting trapped in the doors
- If eating in, take easy cooked food and snacks and plan your day.
- Take a black out blind if they like it dark to sleep!
- The supermarket is well stocked but expensive so take basics with you – toilet roll, kitchen roll, wipes, dishwasher tablets, drinks and food etc
- Take a Bike lock for the pushchair.
- Depending on the age of the child, take scuttle bugs or scooters then you don’t always need the pushchair.
- The pools do have swim vests (floating aids) available but they are often too big for small toddlers.
- Don’t forget towels for the pool and swimming nappies.
- A twin float is great for the swimming pool and lazy river.
- The mixed changing cubicles have a changing table so what we did was one baby strapped to the table while one of us held the other, meaning whoever was free could get changed, then we swapped.
- Use the human drying machine in the shower area when you come out of the pool it saves time drying them in the cubicle only £1 for a family.
- The cabanas in the swimming area is bit of an expense but it’s worthwhile to have a base, there is usually a small square cot in them too. I got myself and the twins dressed in the cabana before we left the pool so less of a mission getting 5 of us ready in the changing rooms. They have heated chairs and a TV.
- You can take a packed lunch to the pool, or buy food at the lagoon bar.
- Take your own inflatables if you have them. You can get them blown up at the kiosks in the pool area.
- Look out for the beach area in the warmer months and ensure you pack buckets and spades.
- You can take your own bikes rather than hire.
- Rucksacks are useful to carry all your stuff whilst leaving hands free to cycle / deal with toddlers / push the buggy etc.
- Toy Box Tots come highly recommended. You can hire toys from them for the week and it gets delivered to the Parc. No need to pack toys to take with you.
- Some of the restaurants do takeaways to save cooking (Pizza, Indian etc) and the supermarket sells those takeaway bags too.
- Write a simple itinerary before you go and pre-book, then you spend as little time as poss arranging things when you get there.
- Download the Centre Parcs app before you go, too. It’s really handy for finding out what’s on, pre-booking and paying for activities before you go, and remembering what’s on your itinerary once you’re there.
- Most of the restaurants have baby feeding areas – a microwave, bottle warmer and baby food pots. It’s free!
- You’ll find CBeebies on the TV, and there’s a DVD player in the lodges if you want to pack some kids’ DVDs. You probably won’t need them, but you never know.
- Take the Grandparents!!
35. Enjoy your stay, have fun and make memories!
If you have any more tips, please do comment and let us all know.