Emily is Mum to two boys aged 7 and 4 and currently pregnant with her 3rd baby. She lives in the North East goes on regular day trips and likes to try and holiday further afield at least twice a year. Emily will be a regular contributor at Mini Travellers from now on, so look out for her posts!
In January, we had our third annual trip to Center Parcs Whinfell Forest. It’s become a family tradition for four generations of us (my grandparents, dad, hubby, myself and our two sons) to take a short break there as something to look forward to after Christmas. We booked the midweek break (Monday to Friday) for a bargain £289 for all 7 of us.
Myself (Emily), hubby (Chris) and boys, Harry (aged 7) and Joey (aged 4) on a quick stop at Glenridding on our way to Center Parcs. We love the Lakes, all year round.
For this trip, we stayed in one of the four bedroomed, two storey Woodland Lodges, which was spacious, clean and modern. The living, dining and kitchen areas are open plan, so it feels like there is plenty of space, even with two small boys and their assorted toys!
We tend to try to arrive at the site around lunchtime and then eat in one of the restaurants there before getting the keys to the lodge when they become available at 3.30pm. While the restaurants aren’t cheap, they are all on par with city centre prices. This time, we picked Bella Italia and all really enjoyed our meals. The cookie dough dessert deserves a special mention and made a pregnant lady very happy! The restaurants are all very family-friendly, making it much easier for the grown-ups to relax.
With full tummies, it was time to get the cars from the car park and head off to our home for the week. One thing I love about Center Parcs is that cars (with the exception of the staff vans) are only allowed up to the lodges on arrivals and departures days (Monday and Friday). The rest of the time, it is lovely to get away from the rat-race of city life and spend time walking from place to place. Although, it’s not always a slow walk for us… the adults have joined the kids with scooters which make getting up and down the little hills much more fun! Hubby and my eldest (7) love having a ride on their bikes every day too.
Once we were all settled in, the boys were keen to get down to the pool as soon as possible. The pool is quite unlike any other pool I’ve been to. Organised, clean, warm and with enough for the kids to do to easily keep them entertained for a few hours every day. What struck me the first time we went, was the genius of the system in the changing rooms; you go in one way with your outdoor clothes on and go out to the pool in your swim gear another way so the muddy boots never meet the wet tiles, thus saving everyone from the nightmare of filthy changing rooms. Simple but so effective! My boys are now 7 and 4, so past the ‘baby area’ and into the fun of the big slides, rapids and wave pool. There is also a quieter pool and a spa pool for any grown-ups who manage to find themselves child-free for a while!
I’ve often heard people say that Center Parcs is expensive when you get there, but we’ve really not found that to be the case. Most of the week, we cook food we’ve taken from home (tip: plan your meals in advance and the slow cooker is brilliant for putting on before you go out) and enjoy the free activities – swimming, cycling, board games and reading in the lodge, building dens in the woods, the soft play areas and adventure playgrounds, which means that getting a meal or two out and an activity each for the kids doesn’t seem too bad.
This year, my 7 year old chose to go on the Junior Quad Bikes as his activity. He loved it. The staff are really good at explaining what they need to do, and they get plenty of time actually on the bikes. The first time he went over the big ramps I had to look away, but he got around safely and had a brilliant time.
My 4 year old chose the Mini Jet Skis in the pool. It was the most boring thing I’ve ever watched as those things are slowwwww but he enjoyed himself and that’s the main thing!
As a family, we treated ourselves to a game of 10-pin-bowling and a trip to the Pancake House on the last night. The Pancake House is a must-do! Very, very big yum factor!
Then comes the worst bit of the break, packing up and going home! You know everyone has had a good time when all the way home is the talk of ‘next year we should try this activity’ ‘we still need to eat at that restaurant again’ – definitely too much to fit into a short-break so we will be going back for more!
Yes, that’s my 82 year old Grandma bowling…
For more reviews of Center Parcs, click here and search Center Parcs.