For some reason, when I posted on to Facebook that I was off to Centre Parcs for a weekend away, I got a lot of derisory comments. They ranged from "There's no Nobu there" --- er Duh! to "No high heels", again, super duh! I am the queen of research. While these friends may have been taking a good-natured, albeit, sarcastic swipe at my perceived inability to holiday in a non-luxury property - I have come back with glowing reviews and a super-helpful guide to holidaying in Centre Parcs.
Let me put it out there, these holidays are a bit daunting. Wondering what to pack, how it will be etc etc. You are not heading to a beautiful beach where swimwear and kaftans can be worn with a surety that one will be lounging in sunshine. Centre Parcs are an active holiday and one must, like all good scouts, be prepared!
I went to Elveden Forest. It was beautiful, lush, our accomodation was very much in heart of the forest. Deers and squirrels came by the villa in the morning to beakfast on the bread we put out the night before. The accomodation was clean, not as basic as I was led on to believe. The beds were super-comfy (or I was super-tired). We biked everywhere, a very hands-on and brimmed with loads to do. Here are my top tips:
1. What to Wear
I sensibly packed a lot of training clothes and the only pair of shoes I took were my running shoes. I spent the day in my gym-wear, it was comfortable and perfect for biking around, playing badminton, tennis and laser-tag with my son!
2. What to Pack
Apart from training clothes, take a few pyjamas, swimwear, a couple of warm hoodies and a rain cover. I also had a lightweight bag to carry on my back for kit. It is easily available for sale there too. For kids, follow the same principle. Just add on a few sweaters in case it gets too chilly.
The food there is not too great. There are plenty of options for a quick lunch on the go, but for dinner, a meal at home was the best way to feed the hungry munchkins. The on-site supermarket is slightly expensive. But anything you forget is available to buy - which is a huge comfort! I went (taking on-board some very wise advise) armed with casseroles of Indian curries like Rajma, Chole etc. which were cooked at home and heated there. The rice was eaily boiled in the full kitchen which came very handy. We also took snacks, makings for tea etc - but all this is easily available in the supermarket.
Pre-book everything! It gives you a planned agenda and no time is wasted thinking what to do now! The website is great and also book a pushchair for the little ones if one is required. There is lots and lots to do - it is one holiday where the nothing-to-do situation does not arise!
5. Rent that bike
The first thing to do is to rent a bike for everyone. It is great fun and the only practical way to navigate the long distances. Spend the first few hours getting a feel for the layout by biking around. It will also save time when you are trying to get the kids to say laser tag at the Outdoor centre if you roughly know where it is!
If you are going to Elveden forest - plan on one afternoon/evening at the indoor, heated pool complex. Rent a cabana, the kids will have a blast going up and down by the slides, the food in there is pretty ok too. This would hold true for the other properties too.
And best of all, kids sleep like logs exhausted by the full, fun days.
So Centre Parcs has the full eStylista seal of approval! Perfect for a quick break away.