So we bit the bullet and booked a last minute deal at CentreParcs in Elveden for a short holiday break with friends (who also happen to have twins – 3 year olds – eeek, double headache!!!). We packed the car to within an inch of its life and set off not really knowing what to expect as we had never been to a resort or “village” (as CentreParcs like to use) that is solely for families.
When we arrived I felt like I was at a modern day version of Kellerman’s (that’s the family resort in Dirty Dancing – as if you don’t know this. Don’t lie! Of course you do!) Which isn’t bad, it’s just different for me.
The resort was well laid out with lovely contemporary wood lodges and the environment was teaming with wildlife. The amount of activities that you could pre-book was amazing (which is where you spend the money) and you don’t need to hire bikes. We didn’t and we were able to walk from the furthest set of lodges to the main centre with the restaurants and swimming pool within 10 minutes. Might take you a bit longer if you have toddlers that what to stop and explore constantly.
We booked a Woodland lodge for Fri – Mon about 3 weeks before the date we were going. This enabled us to get a last minute bargain.
So lets begin with the negatives:
- We ordered an extra cot before we arrived so there would be 2 in our lodge for the girls to use. When we arrived we found them in a cupboard and 2 single beds in a bedroom. Mr G had to spend the first 15 minutes of arriving to take the mattresses and duvets away from each single bed and balance a cot on each base. If they go to the trouble of asking and charging us for the cot then why not ask where they are to be set up? (Yes this may sound really picky but this is supposed to be a relaxing and ‘easy’ family orientated holiday.)
- Our wood lodge had an overly sensitive fire alarm. It would go off when we open the hot oven door, that had no food cooking inside it and all the windows and doors open. This obviously went off every time the children were in bed! Story to follow below regarding fire alarm and oven!
- Supermarket on site was over priced. Try and pack everything you need and bring it with you and use it as a last resort.
- Cars were to be placed back into the car park so that it was a “car free zone” after you unpack. But some people chose to ignore this and kept their car parked at their lodge which spoilt the view through the trees and the feeling of being surrounded only by woods. These cars were left a notice on their windscreen telling them they will be written a ‘strongly worded letter’ if they don’t move their cars. Well whose going to be afraid of a ”strongly worded letter’?! Obviously these cars didn’t move so I say FINE THEM! Make some money from the lazy so-and-so’s who can’r drive 5 mins to the car park. Every car license plate is taken before arriving at the resort so it is very easy to know whose car it is and charge the card!
- There needs to be more family changing rooms at the swimming pool because when it gets busy it is hard to entertain a grumpy tired cold child when you can’t get into a room.
- Pancake house restaurant was AWFUL! I ordered a banoffee pancake that was £7.80 – which in my opinion, is very expensive but the photo looked like it was worth it and I ADORE pancakes. When it arrived it had barely a strip of half a small banana, no sprinkles of flake, small scoop of ice cream and lots of cheap aerosol cream. When tasting the pancake, it had a metallic chemical after-taste that was so bad I ate the ice-cream only and left the rest. We commented to the waiter that all the food was bad and she could see how much food was left and we didn’t even get a discount! Oh and it took AGES to arrive at our table and there was only 6 tables out of a possible 20 (?) in the whole place that had customers! AVOID THIS PLACE!
- Centreparcs is expensive. Be selective on how many activities you book to watch costs and eat back at your lodge as much as you can.
- No washing machine in lodge.
- Wifi didn’t work in our lodge which was supposed to. This is a pro and a con. I like things to work when they are supposed to but on the other hand I like being off the radar on holiday.
But now for the positives:
- Easy walking access to everything.
- Wood lodge well equipped with fire burner, tv , dvd, tvs in bedrooms and 2 fridges (even though they didn’t get very cold).
- Ooodles of wildlife that came up to your living room door that excited and amazed the kids.
- Lodge well laid out (even though they are a little dated) with “wings” that contained the bedrooms. They were far enough away from the living room and each other as the kids all went to bed at different times.
- Every restaurant on site had ambles of space between each table, which meant we were never in anyone’s way with our double buggy and had loads of manoeuvrability. They all had a “baby station” which consisted of a microwave and bottle warmer for you to use. And most had a soft play area for the kids or access to an outside adventure play area.
- Swimming pool facilities were amazing. It has everything you need and more by the pool side from cots (YES COTS!), buoyancy aids, chairs, an air tap to help blow up your inflatables, zoned areas for different aged kids with water as hot a bath and a room big enough to fit everyone’s prams. All of this is free! Food/drink places are also inside the dome without getting dressed/undressed so you could really spend all day there.
- Zoggs baby inflatable seat was an excellent buy. The girls loved sitting in them and just floating around – it also meant our hands were free and we had more control and stability. We were able to enjoy the big pool, wave machine, lazy river, lagoon pool and adventure cove. We also found that placing the Zogg on the floor in the changing room and positioning a girl on top in the seat without their legs through provided an extra safe pair of hands when we had to dry/dress ourselves or the other sibling.
- Mr G gives a big thumbs up to the water slides!
- You are still allowed to use facilities all day on the day you check out so the day is not wasted.
I have to give a special mention to the prompt response we received when our oven stopped working. Our friend burnt dinner and not only did we have the fire alarms going off, thick smoke filling the lodge and surrounding woods but the oven then stopped working completely! We thought it was down to the burnt spillage on the bottom of the oven but when we rang services for assistance, we had two lovely men arrive within 15 minutes on a Saturday evening. We were most impressed and even more so when it turned out the fault on the oven not turning back on was nothing to do with burnt dauphinoise potato but a part that happened to stop working at exactly the same time this calamity occurred. They had it all repaired and fixed within 15 mins and were on their way. Now I did not expect that excellent service, at that time, and so swiftly!
If you are going to go to Centreparcs, either book a year in advance or very last minute as I do not feel it would be worth the same at full price. I feel paying the discount price is actually the right amount to pay for this place but I would definitely go again. In fact we have already booked up for a week next year and I can’t wait.