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I’d wanted to visit Center Parcs for over a decade, however, I simply ruled it multiple times out when I found that the cost of visiting was equal to five nights all-inclusive in a resort in Europe.
Luckily, thanks to some hints and tips from friends and loyal fans of Center Parcs I managed to get a reduced rate. Since then we’ve been using these cost-cutting measures to visit Center Parcs multiple times a year.
In this post, I’ll be discussing how to save money at Center Parcs and while not all of these strategies might be right for you, you’ll likely find one or two things you can do which can save you hundreds of pounds of your trip.
1. Visit Center Parcs When The Cost Of Accommodation Is Reduced
One of the largest expenses you’ll run into when booking a holiday to Center Parcs is the accommodation.
In some cases, the cost of visiting can be the equivalent of going to an all-inclusive resort in Spain for five nights.
However, there are cheaper times to visit Center Parcs which can save you up to half off the peak prices.
Avoid The School Holidays
Of course, the first rule when it comes to saving money on any holiday either in the UK or abroad is to avoid the school holidays and Center Parcs is no different.
In fact, the difference between the week before the school holidays and the week of the school holidays in the pricing charts for Center Parcs is one I see often shared between friends and family in sheer horror and disgust.
An while I totally agree, it’s supply and demand and so many of us with little choice do have to pay those premium costs or take children out of school and risk getting a fine as a result.
However, you’ll save at least 50% by going outside of the school holidays (when compared to visiting in the school holidays).
The exact savings will depend on the type of property you choose to stay in during your visit to Center Parcs.
For example, if you stay in a one-bed cottage you may only save £400 however if you’re staying in a treehouse the savings will be in the thousands.
Don’t Go At Christmas
There’s no doubt that visiting Center Parcs at Christmas is magical, however that magic comes at a price.
As an example to stay in one of the one-bedroom apartments costs around £500 more the week of Christmas when compared to a ‘standard’ week.
Again, this is for the cheapest property at Center Parcs. The one-bedroomed apartments. The difference in price for larger properties is in the thousands once again.
If you do want to go during the Christmas period, then the cheapest time to do so is the first couple of weeks of January.
Alternatively, the first few weeks of December are also much cheaper than over the Christmas period.
Personally, I feel that visiting Centre Parcs on these more affordable dates during the same period still comes with 80% of the magic of visiting over Christmas Day or New Year itself – And probably with less of the hassle too!
Avoid Weekend Breaks
I appreciate this isn’t specifically ‘time of year’ related, however, based on personal experience I’ve found that it costs around the same amount to visit Center Parcs from Monday to Friday (midweek break) as it does from Friday to Monday (weekend break).
As a result, you get longer at Center Parcs and it’s likely to cost less money!
For example, a mid-week break (4 nights) is £379. However, that Friday if you were to come for 3 nights over the weekend it would cost £359. So the extra one night by staying midweek in this example costs just £20.
Another way of looking at it is that the cost per night of visiting midweek is £94.75 based on this example. Whereby the cost per night of visiting over the weekend is £119.66.
2. Staying In Appartments & New Style Lodges Instead Of Executive Lodges & Treehouses
There’s a variety of different accommodation options available at Center Parcs to accommodate those travelling solo, as a couple right up to those travelling as a family or small group.
Depending on the resort you visit you’ll likely find that the accommodation options are split into four price categories;
- New Style Lodges
- Executive Lodges
Appartments are the cheapest form of accommodation at Center Parcs and are often in a building block rather than situated independently within the woodland. They are suitable for up to three people.
New Style Lodges can sleep up to eight people in total and come with anything one to four bedrooms. These are the entry-level lodges at Center Parcs and come with basic features.
As such you’ll tend to find they cost around £100 more than an apartment (for a one or two-bedroom depending on the time of year).
Next, you have executive lodges these are either two-bedroom, three-bedroom or four-bedroom lodges and have additional space and additional features when compared to the standard or new-style lodges. These additional features can include a games room, hot tub or sauna.
Unsurprisingly, all the additional extras included in your Center Parcs lodge come at an extra cost of between £200 and £500 depending on the extras, the size of the lodge and the time of year.
Finally, there are treehouses. These are the high-end accommodation at Center Parcs and I believe are all four bedrooms as standard (accommodating up to six people).
The treehouses retail for between £1,800 and £5,000 depending on the time of year you’re looking to visit.
The treehouses are set in convenient locations near the main services area of the park but also discussed and spaced out giving you plenty of room and privacy during your visit.
They come with private parking spaces outside of your apartment (instead of you having to unload and then move your car to the standard car park).
The treehouse accommodation at Center Parcs is also more spacious indoors and includes additional features such as a sauna, hot tub and games room.
During the peak season, a family looking for a four-bedroom lodge could save up to £3,500 by staying in a standard or new style four-bedroom lodge instead of one of the treehouses.
Assessing the needs of your stay and the people you’re travelling with should help you to ensure that you’re going to stay in a style of accommodation that is both fitting and affordable.
I know friends who’ve stayed in executive lodges but actually never found the time to use the facilities such as the games room or sauna.
In this case, the additional £200 or so could have been used on additional fun on-site activities instead.
3. Bring Your Own Bike
While you can walk around the grounds of Center Parcs, we’ve found it easier to cycle. Especially if you’re staying further away from Guest Services etc.
You have two options when it comes to cycling at Center Parcs;
You can either bring your own bike from home with you, using a bike rack or depending on the size and available space in your car by simply popping it in the boot.
Alternatively, you can hire a bike upon your arrival at Center Parcs. Simply pick it up when you arrive on-site and drop it off before you return home.
Unsurprisingly, however, the cost of hiring a bike at Center Parcs doesn’t come cheap. While the prices vary depending on the type of bike and accessories (i.e. helmet) you choose to hire, as a rough rule of thumb, we’ve found it costs £30 to hire a bike for one week and an additional £30 deposit which will be returned to you upon the safe return of the bike at the end of your stay.
If you plan to visit Center Parcs as a couple then hiring two bikes is likely to set you back £60 which is a similar cost to a bike rack.
So if that’s what’s putting you off bringing your bikes to Center Parcs then I’d opt to purchase than instead and you then have the bike rack for future visits.
4. Don’t Buy Food On-Site
While the on-site grocery store at Center Parcs has a wide variety of foods, toiletries, magazines and gifts it should come as no surprise that the price of items is between 10% and 30% higher than at alternative-mainstream supermarkets (i.e. Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Asda etc.)
You can leave Center Parcs during your stay. Therefore in some cases it maybe worthwhile travelling to the local supermarket instead of the ParcMarket – especially if you’re staying for five nights or a week.
We’ve therefore always opted to stop at a supermarket on the way to Supermarket (usually around 10 miles from the park so nothing melts between the supermarket and arriving at the lodge).
The same applies to the Center Parcs food packs which can be purchase during the booking process. We compared the cost of the same items in this pack to the likes of Tesco, Aldi and Asda and unsurprisingly found that the supermarkets were significantly cheaper.
Depending on how many people are travelling and how long you’re staying at the resort, this can save you anything from £30 to £100 per person.
5. Opt For Cheaper Or Free Activities
There are hundreds of different activities to choose from at Center Parcs, which is one of the main reasons families fall in love with the resort (there really is something for everyone).
However, the price of activity can vary significantly. For example, 9 holes of adventure golf cost £7.00 meanwhile 15 minutes on a Quad bike is £35.00 and 45 minutes of clay shooting is £29.00.
Take a look online at the activities available at your Center Parcs resort and decide which more expensive ones you can swap out for more affordable, or even free alternatives.
6. Compare All Center Parcs Resorts
The price between Center Parcs resorts can vary, even when you’re looking at the same dates and the same style of accommodation.
For basic new-style lodges, I’ve found this to be anything from £50 to £250 difference however, for executive lodges and treehouses the difference can be up to £1,000.
For example at 4 nights in a Treehouse at Whinfell is £2,699. However, the same 4 nights in a Treehouse in Woburn is £2,999, an additional £300.
However, there are two caveats to this money-saving tip that you need to be aware of;
The first is that it’s just important that you check the distance from your home to the cheaper resort as the additional travel costs could make it a false economy.
The second is that not all Center Parcs resorts are the same. Some offer a wider range of activities, some have newly modernised lodges, and others a larger swimming pool. As a result, you want to ensure that the cheaper resort offers everything you want to do on your holiday to avoid missing out.
10. Pay For Activities In Advance
One way we found being able to have an activity or two booked without having to count it into the ‘holiday spending money was to pay for activates in advance.
This was we could know we had got an activity booked without having to add to the overall spending of the holiday.
We also liked doing it this way as the activity was then secured and we didn’t have to try book at the last minute and we could also book the activities in advance and spread the cost of the holiday over several wages instead of in one month’s wage.
You can book activities easily once you have a booking and login details, through the app or on the website. You can either pay a deposit or pay in full for the activity.
You can also change the time of the activity as long as they have space at the time you want to change to.
You can book pretty much any and all activities through the online platform along with spa treatments at Aqua Sana.
11. Take Advantage Of The Come Back Soon Offer
After each visit to Center Parcs, the person whose email was associated with the booking will receive a “come back soon” offer. This offer lasts quite some time (28 days) but can be a great way to make a saving on a holiday to return.
Some friends of ours and ourselves often use this code to book our next trip to start the savings early. You can use this on most types of accommodation if not all ( rules may change over the course of a year or even months).
You can use the code to book a holiday up to 18 months in advance so even if you are looking for the same time next year you can use your code to get a head start. You can also get a £25 voucher to spend while at the resort which can help pick up a treat for yourself, the kids or just use it on food.
12. Dine Earlier In The Day
Center Parcs has a variety of places to dine out for both breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can really splash out on food if you wish to. If you are looking at saving some cash but still want to watch the pennies look at heading out for lunch rather than dinner.
Some of the major chains such as Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge often have meals at lunch that is just as delicious but cheaper as it’s part of a lunch menu.
This can give you that dining out experience without having the major cost of an evening meal. You might also find it quieter during lunchtime than dinner time for eating out.
Then for your evening meal, you can have a relaxed night in the lodge and enjoy something you have brought with you.
13. Buy Fire Logs In Advance
Something I associate with Center Parcs is the log fires, it was something we loved on our very first trip and something we look forward to using every trip (unless it’s peak summer and you really don’t need a fire).
You can buy a set of logs in the Parc Market in the village area in each resort but these can often be quite costly so if like us you like to have a romantic cosy fire but want to save money where you can we suggest buying these in advance.
Get the logs that come in the packs that burn away with the logs, you can find them in a number of supermarkets or places such as B&Q. For an even nicer evening find those with the crackle in them for a lovely sense of having a real fire in your lodge.
You can get much larger packs for your money and so even if you don’t use them all on this visit you can save the leftovers for your next trip saving you money again.
14. Book As a Group
A great way of saving money or at least making the most of the money spent is by booking as a group.
For myself and Cora to go to Center Parcs for the weekend it’s around £359, that’s £179.50 per person. However, if we pay more, get a larger lodge and go as a group (six-person lodge) then the price paid per person can easily be under £100 each.
This of course can differ depending on when you plan to go, time of year, week or weekend and school holidays. Look around for prices in this case but if you want to go as a group or family look at sharing a lodge and splitting the cost.
The standard lodges with 4 bedrooms come with 2-3 bathrooms and large living spaces so you don’t have to feel too closed in and it means you can share cooking and cleaning up duties along with saving money on the overall holiday.
15. Pack Extensively
When it comes to what to bring to Center Parcs, the more you bring with you, the less you’re going to need to buy while you’re here. However, bringing all this stuff with you can be a hassle in itself so make sure you believe that you’ll genuinely use it during your trip – otherwise you’ll not be saving money or stress.
It’s no secret that items are expensive at Center Parcs so bringing the likes of a small first aid kit, a towel, and some colouring books can make all the difference.
16. Don’t Pay To Arrive Early
One of the activities you’ll be prompted to add to your Center Parcs booking is an early arrival. The cost of this ranges between £20 and £50 depending on the resort, and is, at least in our opinion a waste of money.
You do not need the early arrival pass in order to access the Center Parcs facilities (including the Subtropical Swimming Paradise) from 12 midday onwards on your day of arrival.
All the early arrival pass provides you with is the ability to drive to your lodge one hour prior to the gates opening for other guests. This can save you some time, but for us personally, the cost is not worth the hassle saved.
Instead, we opt to arrive around 1pm and head either for lunch or to the swimming pool. Then we’ll move our car from the car park to our lodge at around 4pm – 5pm when the initial rush of people has quietened down.
This really is the best of both worlds, as the swimming pool and restaurants are often quite as guests are busy leaving and arriving at the resort meanwhile it also providing less hassle driving from the car park to the lodge and unloading.
17. Avoid The Gym
The gym at Center Parcs is certainly one of the more affordable activities. However, we still don’t believe it’s worth the money. That’s because the facilities inside the gym at all the Center Parcs resorts we’ve been to are minimal, to say the least.
Instead, we recommend getting your exercise in through other more engaging activities or walking / running around the 4 acres of woodland that surrounds each location.
18. Find A Center Parcs Alternative
Sadly, you can’t save money on accommodation at Center Parcs by bringing tents or touring caravans. However, if you’ve not already booked your Center Parcs trip then it might be worth looking at some of the Center Parcs alternatives available across the UK.
The concept of Center Parcs has gained in popularity over the past decade. Therefore many companies have established themselves as an affordable alternative to those left wondering whether Center Parcs is worth the money.