I have been quiet here at Plus The Dog just lately, and it’s because we have been away!
Yes, we braved the holiday camp and went to Centre Parks for a mid-week break with reinforcements in the form of some of the grandparents.
First of all, I should say, there is no affiliation to Centre Parks here, no incentive to comment either positively or negatively. Just one Mama’s opinion. That is all.
We could have taken The Dog with us, but chose not to. Instead we left her with another grandparent, so we knew she was ok and didn’t have to worry about her in the lodge while we were enjoying ourselves. This was great, except we had to play stop-The-Dog-from-eating-the-sick on the duel-carriageway because The Girl was so excited on our way there that she couldn’t keep her Haribo down!
Rain, vomit and one doggie drop-offs later we made it in one piece, not too long before we were allowed into the lodge itself. You’re allowed to arrive earlier but realistically, with travel time and two children we were never going to get there too much before the allocated 3pm lodge entry time.
Despite the rain I was desperate to hire bikes, and The Girl loved the trailer we got for them both. The Boy was less keen but he warmed up to the idea over the week. At least it kept them dry! I enjoyed riding the bikes. We live in a busy suburb of London and I hate riding bikes here, but in the leafy, quiet woods where cars are not allowed in between unloading at the lodges on day 1 and reloading at the end of your stay, I really enjoyed the bikes.
I had always considered Centre Parcks as an expensive holiday, and I think it could be if you’re not careful. Mid-winter though, and with teenies we were not desperate to do any zip-lining or clay pigeon shooting or boating. We paid for the bikes and a few sundries in the (actually only slightly) overpriced on site shop. Other then that we didn’t spend anything else. We self catered, used the bikes and the (amazing) pool every day, went on the play-park and made the most of the lodge and it’s sauna as well as the company. We hardly turned on the in-lodge TVs. That said, between 4 adults, mid term time and mid-winter, the lodge price was reasonable. The same lodge over August Bank Holiday quadruples in price, and suddenly, even split between 4, it gets pricy pretty quick.
The pool is truly amazing. It’s a little tired in parts and hasn’t changed for many years, but if you’re two and a half, it’s flippin’ awesome and if she is happy, pretty much so is everyone else. Had there only been 2 adults and not 4 it would have been a different trip, far more intense. At least this way we could leave smalls with grandparents, albeit for short periods, and at least try the new ride, the slides and the rapids. Not that the toddler let us go down the slides alone for long! It perhaps says more about us as a couple that we were more interested in exploring the adventures in the pool on our own then using the grandparents to babysit at night so we could go for a drink, but I suppose it dosen’t help that The Boy is still unpredictable at night in terms of how often he wakes up.
After a few hours in the pool and a bike ride there and back we were all pretty done in by late afternoon, and although we did use the play-park a coupe of times it was often too wet and cold and dark to get the most out of it. I can see why going in the summer when the days are longer means you get more out of your day here. We would have used the built in bbq if it hadn’t rained & gone dark by 4pm!
The lodge itself is nicely set out, with plenty of bathrooms and open plan living. The way the lodges are set out means you do feel like you are in the middle of nowhere because you can’t really see the other lodges from the back of most of them. We had regular visits from a pair of Muntjac deer, squirrels, robins and even a stoat. The deer were alarmingly brave and not phased at all by a two year old waving and shouting in excitement through the window.
The addition of a private sauna in the lodge is a bit random, but we did use it, and enjoyed doing so. Again, I imagine in the summer when you are in and out of the lodge on the patio outside more it would get more use. I suspect the lodges with hot tubs get more use then the saunas.
The lodge was generally clean and housekeeping appeared every day to keep it in shape. We had to move the furniture a bit to fit the cot into any of the rooms and the double beds swallowed you up (which isn’t great when you’re trying to breastfeed a baby!) The Boy decided to sleep even less while we were away so I got used to trying to feed in a bed is way too squishy for my liking.
The ‘master bedroom’ boasted a ‘hydra bath’ which frankly is the most pointless thing ever. We had to google how to use it (thank you Mummy bloggers! Someone else apperantly has the same issue). It was very loud and did come on randomly half an hour after whoever was using it turned it off and got out. Also, the designers of those things clearly aren’t women...the vents that push out the air cover most of the bottom of the bath, meaning when it is off you’re sitting on the bobbly vents and when it’s on, nowhere in the bath provided space for a female to sit without cold air blasted up your ‘who-ha’ in an attempt to make bubbles.
On the whole we enjoyed our stay. Everyone had a good time and we didn’t run out of things to do. The length of stay was about right, and while you can arrive early and leave late outside of the lodge times, realistically, the 5 day break only actually works out as 3 days of activities. Still, for a short break and a change of scenery that is equipped for children and is great for the whole family, Centre Parks did a good job for us. Just take numbers, twice the number of adults to children should about work...