Happy days. We were primed by the phone with the radio blasting away in the lounge, and when it did ring the poor guy at the end of the line was subjected to our squeals of delight! Once we got on air and answered two questions, one for me, to answer a kid’s question, it was on Peppa Pig, and one for Lara, an adult question, which was to do with measurement. We were then told we had won a family holiday to the new site with vouchers for activities thrown in too. How perfect!
Once we had got over the excitement of winning, we had the pleasure of planning out great family holiday. One tip I would give to you if you are planning to visit Center Parcs is to plan your activities before you go if you can, it helps you to organise your trip, and by pre-booking it and also secures your places on your chosen activities that may get filled if you don’t.
Arriving At Center Parcs Woburn
Another top tip is to use the really handy on-line check-in, which you can do to save time queueing needlessly to do so on arrival, really worth doing.
To make getting around the site a little easier you could always download the app they have, which I found really easy to use and very helpful for booking activities, and finding our way around, even booking a table at one of the restaurants.
There are two cash-points at the site and also free Wi-Fi which is handy. If you can’t take your own bike, there is no need to worry as there are plenty of bikes to hire for all ages and requirements.
Once you arrive you will be provided with green wristbands, which will be your keys for the rest of the stay, and these were really handy and a great idea. They not only open your accommodation but also any lockers you may need around the site also. You also have the option to go ‘moneyless’ with the system they use to link up your wristband with your bank card, to save you having to carry around your wallets or purses everywhere.
Don’t forget with plenty of restaurants you can reserve a table in advance to be really organised, and also the ParcMarket Express gives the option of having the groceries delivered to your lodge before you arrive.
Once we had parked the car and taken the bikes off we went to get Siobhan’s trike, we were so excited for her to try it out as she has always struggled with a bike (she has Autism) and the helpful contact at Center Parcs booking department had suggested a trike might be a good option for her. Pre-booking the bikes is another top tip, it makes it much easier to be able to arrive, and then go straight to the Cycle Centre Shop, where you can pick-up your hired bikes quickly and be on your way. Don’t forget to pick up your free bike locks with your bike too. It has very convenient opening hours between Monday and Friday of 11 am to 8 pm, and on the day you leave you can return the bikes between 8 – 10 am.
It was perfect, not even a shaky start for Siobhan, she was off on her trike confident and mobile, we really couldn’t have wished for a better start to our holiday. If your child has coordination issues due to a condition such as Autism, I would highly recommend trying a trike as it has been a revelation to us.
The lodge we stayed in was a New Style Executive Lodge with two bedrooms, both with en-suite, modern and open plan in style. With everything we could possibly need for our family break, including a daily maid service from very friendly and efficient staff. The lodges are fully equipped even with hairdryers in each bedroom. Complete with flat screen TVs in each bedroom as well as the lounge area it was well equipped for our excited girls! The back of the lodge had a convenient BBQ area with a table and chairs, we took full advantage of the great outdoor area and were out on the first night toasting the giant marshmallows which you can buy at the Center Parcs supermarket, the ParcMarket Express.
We did shop in the ParcMarket Express the day that we arrived and as we did so quite early, about 12.30 pm, we had it all delivered just after our check in time to our lodge which was 3 pm. I would recommend this (top tip) it is so handy to have it all ready and delivered so you can put the kettle on and feed the masses! Either that or as I have said earlier plan to have your groceries at the lodge upon arrival which you can do as you book on-line.
The first night we explored the ‘garden’ area of the lodge which was, to everyone’s delight a huge forest full of plenty of space to explore and relax. The girls were beyond happy when in the first ten minutes of our exploring night, we saw a deer! What a wonderful introduction to the site, we were on constant ‘owl watch’ from day one as we noticed on the maintenance vans that there were plenty on site. We didn’t see any but our neighbours managed to see one on the night before they left. We saw plenty of wildlife though so we weren’t disappointed, with squirrels and rabbits all around to spot, especially early in the mornings.
Everything you need is housed very neatly within the accommodation, and for families with children the prospect of an en suite is very exciting. Certainly for our children they loved the fact they had an en suite and a TV in their rooms. Their only niggle was that the street light was right outside the window of their bedroom and it shone into the room at night.
Restaurants and Café’s
You will be spoiled for choice with the variety of places to eat and drink at during your stay at Center Parcs as you have the choice of twelve different places to choose from. We did a mixture of eating out at the different café’s and restaurants for a couple of lunches and evening meals and the rest of the time we used the BBQ supplied in the lodge and shopped at the ParcMarket Express to make our own meals. There is also the option to order in a takeaway if you prefer, which is really convenient, if no one feels like cooking or dining out. At a glance here is what to expect in the way of where to eat out;
- Cafe Rouge
- Dexter’s Kitchen
- Leisure Bowl
- Rajinda Pradesh
- Sports Cafe
- The Canopy Cafe and Bar
- The Pancake House
- The Shearing House
- Vitale Cafe Bar
- Takeaway service
We ate out at Cafe Rouge, The Sports Cafe, Starbucks, The Shearing house and Huck’s and found with them all that the service was excellent and the food was all great quality. It’s always a nice treat to eat out when you are on holiday and we were really spoiled for choice here, it was nice not to worry about cooking for a few meals. Such a different experience to be able to all cycle to dinner or lunch with no traffic but other cyclists and pedestrians.
We decided before we went that we would choose one bigger activity per day to do and then decide what smaller things we could do together when we got the the site.
We chose the Aerial Tree Trekking on first day, which was very adventurous and exciting for us all! I am a little scared of heights and Siobhan our oldest was very nervous about doing it, we spent about an hour and twenty minutes doing the trek through the trees, with plenty of guidance and support from the excellent staff there. To get through the course you navigate yourself across ropes, over tyres and the fun bit is the section of zip wires!
Siobhan (our 14 year old with Autism) was really scared and it took a while to convince her that she could do it, just to take the first step was really hard. But I have to say the staff went right around the whole course with her, supporting and encouraging her all the way, which I was so grateful for as it was the boost she needed. We all felt a sense of achievement once we had completed the whole trek and would really recommend to do it as a family if you get the chance.
We had a lovely time trying our hands at Pottery Painting Studio, with so many pieces to choose from it was fun just deciding. Lara, our youngest chose a word to paint ‘Family’ and Siobhan, our teen chose a cute little cat to paint, no surprises there as she just loves cats. It went so quickly and the girls really loved this activity, they wanted to do it all over again as soon as they had finished. Once they had painted the piece we left it overnight at the studio where they glazed and fired them and when we collected them the following afternoon we were all thrilled with the results. A lovely way to unleash your creative side and we all enjoyed doing this together.
Water-sports was something we were all keen to do, so we took a very leisurely trip around the lake on the Pedalo Craft Hire , following the ducks and ducklings! It was lovely and relaxing and the kids loved the fact that we were at the back doing all the work! We also hired two Double Canoe’s and all did a bit of work navigating around the lake, I had a few close calls nearly colliding with a pedalo, but it was a fun hour and the kids really loved the experience too.
We did lots of the other activities that don’t necessarily need to be booked ahead, such as badminton, squash, roller skating, swimming, and teddy bear making. All easy to book and a lot of fun, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise was a big hit with the kids, who wanted to go daily. We even went down the Tornado, if you like the thrills and spills of going down a huge scary slide all together on a dingy , enough room for four, you will love this. We braved it once but it was three against one not to try it again as us girls were a bit scared for a second time!
There are so many different activities to try out not forgetting the Aqua Sana for a pampering treatment from the experienced staff at the Spa, I didn’t manage to fit any treatments in this time but it is on the list for next time. I did buy some Decleor products before I left though, and found the therapist’s very knowledgeable and helpful.
To conclude If you are weighing up to go to Center Parcs or not, I say go. It is a great family break with plenty for you all to do, with the benefit of a car less site leaving plenty of road space for you to cycle around the site to your hearts content. You needn’t worry about being without the essentials in your lodge as they are fully equipped with everything you could possibly need, all the mod cons. They are a home away from home.
There are convenient bike stands outside each lodge to lock your bikes up on, and you will find these all over the site which is so handy. With free Wi-Fi and a handy app to navigate you around the site you have no need to worry about getting lost.
You can plan your whole stay before you get there on-line, which is really useful to get organised and also to budget your stay. If you haven’t booked an activity which you really want to do, don’t worry, the booking staff are very helpful and will always try their hardest to find a time to book you in, or suggest an alternative.
I like the versatility of the fact you can opt to cook yourselves or eat out at the site. Also the sheer range of options to eat out in will suit every palette.
Not only do you have the places to eat and the ParcMarket Express, but also there are plenty of shops to satisfy all tastes and ages.
- The Refresh Newsagent.
- Aqua Sana Boutique – Beauty Products.
- Just Kids – Toys and Games.
- Treats Sweets.
- Time For Shade – Sunglasses and Jewellery.
- The Store Room – Gifts and Homewares.
- Aquatique – Swimwear.
- Spirit – Stylish Clothing.
- Sportique – Sportswear.
We found that if on a budget (given the price of a break at Center Parcs), you need to plan carefully and budget ahead to make the most of your stay, otherwise you could end up disappointed if you were unable to take part in some of the activities due to a dwindling budget.
Also from the point of view of Mr MFT he felt that there could be extra activities for men such as shooting, fishing and paint balling that he felt he would have liked to have taken part in if given the chance. There are lots of things to do without spending a great deal, so even if your budget won’t stretch to a great deal, you will find there are a lot of activities you can all do as a family that are either free (Subtropical Swimming Paradise) or that won’t break the bank.