We’ve just returned from our first ever Centre Parcs experience. Whilst the memories are still fabulously fresh, I thought I’d share our top Centre Parcs tips and tricks to help you enjoy a great holiday there too.
We stayed at Longleat Forest in Wiltshire. We booked only a few months in advance therefore availability was a little scarce and so we chose a three bedroom sauna lodge.
It was more than big enough for the four of us and I’d say would comfortably fit a family of six (plus an infant bed/cot). Every bedroom had an ensuite too which is a great bonus if grandparents/teens/another family are sharing with you.
Overall we really enjoyed our stay at Centre Parcs. We didn’t have amazing weather but there wasn’t too much cold or rain – which for England in March is slightly miraculous!
We all loved being outdoors and getting so much fresh air and exercise. Waking up to the birds singing and squirrels playing on our patio was also a real treat.
However there were a few things I wish I’d known beforehand to make our time here even more amazing. Hence, the creation of this article.
You may be thinking a few things right now…
Are these Centre Parcs Tips & Tricks relevant for me?
In short – yes. We are family travellers so there’s plenty of tips for those travelling with kids however a lot of this content is relevant for absolutely anyone and everyone visiting Centre Parcs.
Which parks do these Centre Parcs Tips apply to?
We visited the Longleat Forest resort but generally Centre Parcs resorts follow the same format so the advice shared here is relevant for whichever Parc you are staying at.
Hopefully you feel this is a read you need ahead of your Centre Parcs break. So settle down and get comfy, here goes…
Top #10 Centre Parcs Tips and Tricks
Centre Parcs Tips & Tricks #1: Location, Location, Location!
There’s a good reason this one gets placed at the top of my centre parcs tips and tricks list. We learnt the hard way how important your lodge location is. Especially if you have young children.
Some lodges are a distance from amenities and therefore travelling to and from is long-ish (and sometimes uphill!) journey.
For a small additional fee, you can pre-book your exact lodge when you book your stay online. I’d really recommend doing this rather than leave to chance.
If you’re mega fit and minus young kids, the location may not be an issue for you. But for those who want to be out and about a lot and have either little legs on board or some mobility challenges, it’s definitely a consideration.
#2: Check in online and arrive early (with a packed swimming bag!)
Check in online a few days before arrival to ensure quick and smooth entry to the Parc.
You can access the Parc from 10am so it’s best to get there for opening so you can get the most out of your stay. You’ll also get the best parking spot in the car park.
Some of the spaces are a little walk from the village centre and amenities. Take note of where you are parked so that you don’t spent 15 minutes walking around and around swirling your car key fob mid air trying to locate the flashing car lights (guilty).
The ‘Subtropical Swimming Paradise’ facilities at Centre Parcs are awesome and provide so much fun for all the family. Pre-pack a swimming bag so you can grab and go once you arrive.
Swimming towels are not provided so make sure you bring your own otherwise the onsite shop will set you back £20 per towel (ouch). Childrens life jackets are also provided free to charge so you can save space by leaving these at home.
#3: Grab your bicycle and get your bearings
If you have your own bikes, take them with you to save on the cost of hiring. If you have hired bikes, trailers etc then make the cycle centre your first port of call after parking.
Once you’ve collected your hire (or unmounted your own from the car) then its worth using your first half day exploring the Parc to get your bearings. It’s also worth downloading a site map ahead of your stay so that you have it to hand – mobile and internet signal onsite is not great.
Click on the relevant link to download the maps for:
When it was time to collect the car and get to the lodge, one adult went to the car and drove up to the lodge. The rest of us cycled there. It was a good strategy to get everything where we needed it at once. It also meant the kids didn’t spent 30 minutes queing to get out of the carpark.
If your lodge is not close to the carpark, it’s an idea to leave the drivers bike locked up near the carpark. When you return the car after dropping your luggage off they can then cycle back easily.
We also used the boys scooters a lot around the resort too – they loved whizzing around on the smooth pathways. If you are bringing your own bike, cycle equipment or scooters, please remember to bring padlocks.
Centre Parcs Tips & Tricks #4: Pre-Book almost *Everything*
If you don’t want to experience long queues or disappointed faces then you’ll need to get organised.
I’m naturally a more ‘go with the flow’ kind of person and the thought of meticulously planning every day in detail sends me a little quivery. BUT I have to admit I was so grateful we had pre-booked most of our restaurants and activities.
Some of the queues at meal times were a little crazy and mix that in with tired, hungry kids it wouldn’t have been a pleasant one hour wait, eek!
The kids activities were also really booked up so we couldn’t add on a few activities once we arrived, which was a shame. But it’s a great reason to come back I suppose!
Same applies for pre-booking the Aqua Sana spa – book early as its always super busy. Although we didn’t visit this time, I have been to a number of times as a day guest and can confirm it’s amazing and definitely worth the money!
#5: Bring some cleaning supplies and food essentials
Whilst there are plenty of restaurants and cafes onsite, as well as a well stocked convenience store, you’ll save yourself time and cash if you bring a range of your own supplies.
Each lodge comes with some basic cleaning materials but its worth packing some extra supplies, especially if you don’t have a daily maid and cleaning service.
It’s also worth bringing along some basic food supplies such as condiments, tea, coffee, bread, milk, butter, fruit and cupboard snacks. Oh and olive oil for cooking – I always forget that one.
Whenever we go anywhere self catering, we order a click and collect from the nearest supermarket to where we are staying. This is a great option to consider if you are travelling some distance to the Centre Parcs and don’t want fresh food to spoil.
The lodges come with a DVD player so take along a few of your favourites movies to enjoy some down time. We also took our 10 in one board game set and enjoyed some old fashioned family fun.
If you are staying in cooler months then you its worth bringing along your own crackle fire logs. They do sell them onsite but they are far more expensive than elsewhere.
#6: Pack for all weather
Centre Parcs is predominately outdoor resort so make sure you’ve packed clothes to account for all weathers.
The kids loved splashing in puddles and mud so wellies and all in one waterproof suits came in really handy. If you’re visiting in the colder months then remember hats, gloves and scarves. It can get pretty chilly in the forest.
My theory: as long as you are warm and dry, the weather is irrelevant!!
#7: Report any lodge issues immediately
Seriously if you have any issues with your lodge get in contact with Guest Services immediately.
Centre Parcs pride themselves on delivering a first class customer service. They take complaints really seriously and will be on the case quickly to resolve any issues.
Centre Parcs Tips & Tricks #8: Collect your car for departure as early as possible
On your departure day you’ll bring the car from the car park to your lodge to load it back up again. Only trouble is… so is just about everyone else.
The narrow roads are packed with people and parked cars and it’s all a bit chaotic. So, set your alarm early get the car and pack up.
#9. Stay and play on your last day
A 10am check out always peeves me a little as I feel like I’ve been robbed of a day. However… you can actually stay in the Parc and continue to enjoy the facilities until late afternoon on check out day.
If you speak to concierge and explain you’ve vacated your lodge, they are happy for you to keep your access bands until mid afternoon. Which means you can still enjoy the swimming pool fun – yay!
#10. Bag a bargain with a ‘come back soon’ offer
Centre Parcs offer guests a ‘come back soon’ offer whereby if you book another Center Parcs break within 31 days of your holiday, you’ll receive;
- The lowest price guaranteed
- £25 money off voucher and
- Free cancellation insurance
This discount can be really useful if you want to visit during school holidays. Like almost every holiday destination, Centre Parcs is a lot more expensive to visit during school holidays. You can book your next visit up to 18 months in advance too which is really handy.
That’s a wrap on our top Centre Parcs tips and tricks for now! I hope you and your family/friends have an amazing, relaxing break – please share your experiences in our comments box below.