Center Parcs is a well-known and popular holiday resort in the UK, with 6 locations dotted around England and Ireland. Each location is unique and is nestled in wonderful woodland and forest surrounding visitors to give them the best ambiance and chance for adventure.
We have been to Center Parcs a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it, though we know not everyone understands how its worth the money. Cora is a big believer that a holiday in the UK isn’t a holiday and I get it.
There is something about hopping on a plane, boat or train and heading to a completely different country. But there is something about staying close home, having home comforts and changing things up a little, even just for a few days.
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Is Center Parcs Worth it?
First, we have to look at the concept and meaning behind the creation and ideation of Center Parcs. That will help anyone struggling with if it is really a break or just living somewhere else for a week and still doing all the cleaning etc.
The Center Parcs concept is to provide short breaks in the forest, bringing families together and back to nature with high quality accommodation, a range of outstanding leisure facilities and more than 200 indoor and outdoor activities, all set within a protected and enhanced woodland environment. – Center Parcs
Center Parcs is more than staying in a place like home and paying for activities you could find cheaper elsewhere (though I completely understand that train of thought). It is a place that really allows you to connect and do something you wouldn’t normally do and feel safe doing it but I will touch more on that later in the post.
What’s Included In A Center Parcs Break
Something I was never quite sure about was what was actually included in a Center Parcs break. We had been a number of times but because we didn’t fully go to exhaust all the ‘freebies’ we didn’t fully know what we had paid for.
The most obvious thing is your accommodation, of course that is what you booked, whether to fit in 2 people or 8 people. Your accommodation might also have some extras included but I will touch on that next.
The next thing is activities, most people grasp the concept that activities are not included and are extra money on top of the accommodation you already paid for. But there are a couple of things to be aware of, more on that later.
These are things you have full access to and can fully use to your heart’s content, these are the non-accommodation things you get included with your Center Parcs break.
- Adventure playgrounds
- Subtropical Swimming Paradise
- Up to 400 acres of woodland to explore
- Watersports lake
- Sandy beach
- Free Ella’s Kitchen baby food in selected restaurants
- Miles of paths to walk or cycle
In all fairness, there aren’t many places you can go, get your accommodation and an array of activities and amenities included in the price so I think this is great. You have full use of the swimming pool, playgrounds, woodland to walk in and space to ride bikes.
The accommodation is what you will have already looked at and what type of lodge you would like and how many bedrooms you need for your family.
We have a helpful post of the different types of accommodation at Sherwood Forest if you get stuck and want a closer look at what you can get, check it out. Many of the other resorts will have similar accommodation to give you a brief idea.
There are a couple of added extras in this which will change the price so if you are looking for a couples getaway you might want and added hot tub or scale your accommodation down.
Center Parcs isn’t just for families and children, it is an amazing place to go for a long weekend as a couple to relax and enjoy some well-spent time together, we actually went for our honeymoon and loved it.
If you have never been before or don’t have any friends with top tips (we have a few) then you might be looking to know exactly what you get in your accommodation and what you need to take to Center Parcs.
- Towels (accommodation use only, bring your own towels for use in the pool area)
- Foot stool for children in the bathroom
- Three dishwasher tablets, tea towel and washing up liquid sachet
- Pots, pans, utensils, cutlery, plates and bowls
- Microwave, induction hob, kettle, toaster, oven (excluding some apartments)
- Small fridge and freezer
- Cot (linen not included) and high chair
- Bed rails (available on request from Guest Services, subject to availability)
- Furnished private patio with brick-built barbeque stand (excluding Hotels and Apartments)
- Iron and ironing board
- Log burner
- Free Friendly wifi
To see a more comprehensive guide on what to take to Center Parcs click here. We have a full list of things you might not have thought about, along with tips and tricks to make life easier and cheaper.
A quick note, if you are going and you have friends and family that want to visit for the day, they are welcome to but would need to book a day pass. This gives them to use to all the things that are included in a Center Parcs break but only for the day. We have a full breakdown of if a day pass is worth getting and tips to maximise your usage.
While you might be a little begrudging to pay for extra activities (which is understandable) there are some we think are worth it. Other than that there is so much you can do to keep everyone entertained and for free!
Here are the some of the things you can do for free at Center Parcs;
- Go swimming
- Go on a walk
- Feed the wildlife (birdfeed and nuts – they sell it at parc market if you forget)
- Childrens Disco from 6.30pm
- Adults Disco from 9pm
- Play on the playgrounds
- Build a sandcastle at the beach
- Ride bikes (take your own to make this free, alternatively click here for handy information on how to hire bikes)
- Play board games in your lodge (these are not included, you would need to bring your own)
- Paddle in the lake on the beach
While you might not think that is much to do, it actually is. Due to the vast amount of space and woodland to explore you can easily take a different route each day and have a completely different experience. Also if you are there from Monday to Friday you will have 3 full days and 2 half days (depending on the time you arrive and leave).
We found we wanted to spend most of our time swimming as there was so much to do in the subtropical swimming paradise. It includes an area for infants and toddlers along with young children (most have a pirate ship), water rides and rapids, jacuzzi’s for the adults and a normal swimming pool.
Also if you love swimming you can actually have access to the swimming pool from 10am on arrival day to midnight on departure day, so you can fit in plenty of swimming sessions before leaving for home.
Activities that are to be paid for vary in price from what the activity is to age and duration. You can find a comprehensive list of activities here on the Center Parcs website. Alternatively, here is a list of activities we think are worth the extra cost.
There are many activities that are too short, overpriced or simply not worth the money. Some of these are personal preference, we booked my niece onto a hair-braiding session for 20 minutes at £7.50 which I found was a little steep for the time and what you get but she really wanted to do it.
But on the other hand we booked a session for two at pottery painting and the booking was £12 for two and then once there you choose what you want to paint – prices vary.
Though the pottery painting is more and seemingly more expensive once you are there you can choose who big and expensive your item is to paint which is where you can save money – especially if you are with children as you can go for a smaller item to save money and time.
There are a large handful of places to eat out at Center Parcs, some of these restaurants also deliver to your lodge. The basic concept is a takeaway but from one of the onsite restaurants. We really utilised this option on our first visit as we loved staying in on a night and relaxing.
The main concept of the style of accommodation is that you can save as much money as you want or spend as much as you want when you are there. Each lodge/apartment has a kitchen and dining area so you can create a lovely home-cooked meal, just like you would at home and save spending money on going out to eat.
There are many benefits to this as you can tell, as a family that has 4 people to feed, 3 times a day and snacks in between, the cost of your holiday all of a sudden is skyrocketing in price. The nature of the resort is also a place where you can snuggle up in your lodge and relax on the sofa just like you would at home.
But there is also the option to treat yourself and go out for dinner, whether you want to dress up or go in your clothes from your muddy afternoon walk. The atmoshere of the resort is very relaxed and friendly which is what makes it so nice in my eyes.
Though there is plenty of options of how to dine, where to dine and how to save money on food I don’t think it is a huge factor in deciding whether Center Parcs is worth it.
If you are really looking to upgrade your stay or make your life easier look at getting a welcome pack, these are food and drinks packages that are delivered to your lodge for your arrival in the resort.
I do however think it is a good thing to remember that you can take your own food, shop at where you like to shop (tip go shopping and bring it to the resort with you to save money), get the things you and your family like and enjoy eating in rather than out.
If you have ever looked at booking Center Parcs and immediately got put off by the price it was probably because you were looking at the peak time of visiting. School holidays and the odd week in December are the most pricey, as this is the most desirable times to go for families.
There are some extra activities and special events that are held at Christmas so it might even be worth looking to have a festive fun-filled holiday in December. We have a post on what there is and if visiting for Christmas is worth it.
When you are looking to book your accommodation you might want to be flexible with your dates as this can really help you save and get a better price. If you know you can only go in the month of July, look for the cheapest week.
Though if you can avoid school holidays then I would as you will find the price drops significantly.
This is where we found our trips to be worth the money as we got a much better rate on the accommodation which brought the price per person down.
We often compare a trip within the UK to a package holiday abroad, somewhere like Spain or Greece to fully compare whether Center Parcs is worth it. As these holidays can be similar in price (depending on the time of year etc) then you might want to know which you should be putting your money towards.
I chose to pick 2 other holiday destinations that might be where else you would look to go as a family, Butlins in the UK and the other in Spain with TUI. Below is a table to show what is included in each trip for a family four, accommodation style and transport.
This is based on a family of four, 2 adults, one child under 5 and the other child from 6-12 in age. I noted if things like swimming and if food were included in the cost to give you an accurate look at whether Center Parcs is worth it for you. I also picked the same dates the last week in July to catch the start of summer holidays so the prices are at the peak as many families will choose those times to go away.
|Holiday Type||Accommodation Style||Self Catering||Number of Nights||Travel Included||Activites Included||Total Price|
|Butlins||1/2 Bed Standard Room||Yes – No kitchen||4||No||Swimming, disco, some shows and arcades.||£658.00|
|Tui Spain||2 Bed Appartment||Yes||7||Flights Included||Swimming Pool||£1546|
|Center Parcs||2 Bed Lodge||Yes – Included Kitchen & Dining Space||4||No||Swimming Pool, Beach, Playgrounds, Disco||£1099|
While you might look at this table and think even going to Center Parcs I have to pay for getting there, if you choose the nearest to home, it doesn’t have to cost you much more than a full tank of petrol. Also, all these options are self-catering so you would be required to purchase food whether eating in or dining out at each location.
Also though Butlins may look like the winner on the table, it actually isn’t as you don’t have access to a kitchen you can’t cook and save money that way. Forcing you to either eat on-site or order a take away to the complex, which I honestly wouldn’t want to have to do for four days.
I purposely chose the cheapest option of each booking to fully compare what you could get as the base price for each holiday.
If I were basing my research on whether Center Parcs is worth it, I would definitely say yes. The amount of space, activities and the standard of accommodation makes it worth it for me.
Though if you were looking to get a little more sunshine for your money to deal with TUI to Spain is also good, as you can get 3 extra nights for an extra £447. Bear in mind that with the TUI holiday you would still be looking at booking transfers to and from the airport or driving and paying for parking.
Is a Trip To Center Parcs Worth It?
If we step back and take a look at the monetary value of what you get in a Center Parcs break then you can see that you don’t just get a room to sleep in and are expected to eat on site. The accommodation styles are very well laid out, clean and up to date along with having some cosy features and practical amenities such as a kitchen, dining space and log fire.
Moving onto the things that included in a Center Parcs break I would say that the stay is totally worth it as you can swim all day if you wanted to, explore the vast woodland and you have the knowledge that your children and yourself can explore and ride bikes throughout the resort with no fear of cars or accidents.
That to me is where the holiday becomes worth it as not many of us are lucky enough to live on our own land and have the space to roam or let our children play on the streets without the fear or a car coming. I love this concept and honestly think it is one of the biggest reasons so many decide to book a holiday at Center Parcs.
I also think the choices of activities are slightly endless, though it isn’t quite a Disney World holiday it also comes at a fraction of the price and is in the safety of your own country. Activities are family-friendly, you can do things at your own pace and pretty much all the activities provide the equipment so you don’t have to worry about packing any extras.
I also value Center Parcs as being a holiday destination as you truly feel like you are away from everything you needed a break from. It is also a really great place to come and spend 4 nights if you aren’t a fan of flying but still want to feel like you had a holiday.
Overall what I think I find true value in with Center Parcs is the options to make it as lavish and luxury as you like or to keep it as minimal and budget-friendly as you want. I think the options of how you spend your holiday is completely up to you and it provides you with everything you could need to have a great holiday without adding any extras.
If you have decided to take a look at a Center Parcs but wondering which location you should choose, we have a great breakdown that can help you decide which is the best location for you.
We definitely feel Center Parcs is worth it and have suggested to many friends and family to go and try it and see for themselves. I personally love the idea of being able to ride a bike freely and not worry about vehicles and being able to explore and area of woodland without getting lost completely.