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A Trip To Center Parcs, Elveden Forest – UK

Growing up, I ALWAYS wanted to go to Center Parcs, lured in by the promo video of a wave machine and biking through green forests.  Whilst my mum and dad still haven’t taken me, my sister recently got the chance to pay Elveden Forest a visit.

Center Parcs - Map

Where’s the wave machine?

Who: Georgina, husband, Abbie (3 yrs), Sam (9 months) plus another family, so four adults, two toddlers and two babies in total.  

Where: Center Parcs, Elveden Forest.  

Booking: 

We made our booking direct on the Center Parcs website.  We looked at Elveden Forest and Longleat to see if one was cheaper but they were more or less the same and there was better availability for the accommodation that we wanted at Elveden Forest, plus it was slightly closer to home.  We opted for a Monday-Friday term time stay in two ‘3 Bed New Style Executive’ lodges in the Central area as we didn’t want to have to cycle around the site with the kids in tow.  We paid extra to select the lodge numbers in advance so that we could be in the Central area and be next door to each other.  We were in lodges 784 and 785 in the Maple section.  There was an unexpectedly high £25 credit card fee.  

Elveden Forest location:

It took us less than two hours to get from NW London to Elveden Forest.  The satnav took us along A-roads to get there but it’s pretty easily accessible from the M25 and then M11.  The final stretch of road is undergoing some pretty serious roadworks so I imagine that it might get very busy at peak times.  We passed signs for the RAF Museum at Duxford and considered stopping there on the way home, but it’s fairly pricey for a family so we’ll leave it until the kids are old enough to enjoy it.  

You can arrive on the morning of your booking and leave your car in the car park while you use the facilities.  They then open the gates at checkin time so that you can drive in and unload everything.  You then have to return your car to the car park for the duration of your stay, unless you have a Disabled Blue Badge.  We arrived just after checkin time (3pm) and made our way quickly through the checkin booths (you checkin from your car, and can save time by entering your details online in advance) but then had to wait in a fairly long queue in the car park as everyone was returning to their cars to drive to their accommodation.  

The Accommodation:

We booked two ‘3 Bed New Style Executive’ lodges that were next door to each other.  They were two halves of the same building which was great for us to spend time all together and then also be able to just hang out as a family in our own lodge too.  

We had three good sized bedrooms (two double and one twin, all with just enough room for one cot) and three en suite bathrooms (one with a bath, two with showers.  Each lodge has one cot and one highchair as standard (proper wooden cots, but bring your own sheets) and more are available on request (you may be charged extra for this).  There was a step available in the bathroom and they can also provide stairgates for accommodation that is on more than one level.  The bedroom curtains were pretty light and we struggled to sleep well on the first night so ended up rigging up some basic ‘travel blackout’ with bin liners and sellotape!  Looked ridiculous, but did the job.   We had our trusty Cot Canopy Breeze with us and used that over the cot.

Homemade travel blackout!

Homemade travel blackout!

The main living area has a well equipped kitchen (microwave, fridge with a small freezer, gas oven and hob, kettle, coffee machine and dishwasher.  We had everything that we needed in order to cook basic meals and it felt clean and well maintained.  They provided some initial supplies of tea, coffee, sugar and dishwasher tablets, and you can opt for a basic food package to be delivered to your lodge when you arrive.  There is a dining area with a table and a lounge area with a TV (all the basic channels including CBeebies) and two sofas.  For some reason I had thought that there would be a washing machine (there wasn’t) so make sure that you take enough clothing for your trip.  

There were sliding doors from the lounge into the patio area with a BBQ (you have to buy disposable BBQs from the shop to use with it), and a sauna!  One point to note in case you need the phone for work etc is that we had terrible mobile phone reception in Elveden Forest.

Watching the ducks on the patio

Watching the ducks on the patio

Daytime childcare and activities

There is an overwhelming amount on offer at Centre Parcs, and it can all be prebooked online.   We didn’t book any of the leisure activities in advance, but decided to book the kids into a few childcare sessions so that we could have a bit of grownup chillout time.  We booked the babies into ‘Bumblebees’, the crèche for under 3s, and the 3 year olds into some activity sessions. 

Center Parcs - Bumbleebee Creche

They all had a great time, and I was very impressed with the staff and facilities.  The facilities were all clean and bright and the staff seemed very kind and helpful.  I was given a summary card after each of the baby crèche sessions.

Center Parcs - Sam's Summary Card

The toddlers did chocolate making on one morning, and had a pirates and princess party on the other morning, and parents were invited to return to the session a few minutes before the end to see a short (and very cute!) performance.  

Center Parcs - Abbie in Activities

Weeks later, our daughter is still talking about the activities!  The childcare sessions are around £20+ for a three hour session, and well worth the money if you’re happy to leave the kids in the capable hands of their staff.  

After the Pirate & Princess Party!

After the Pirate & Princess Party!

We spent the rest of our time scooting around the site, swimming in the pool, playing at the small beach area, playing mini golf, having picnics and taking a pedalo out for a ride.  We also hired a bike with a baby seat so that our toddler could have a ride, but as our lodge was right in the centre of the park we didn’t need it to get around.  The weather was gorgeous while we were there so we made the most of our time outdoors and didn’t investigate any of the indoor activities.  

Center Parcs - Cycling

The site is huge and it didn’t feel particularly well signposted – it took us a while to realise that some of the signs were aimed at cyclists rather than pedestrians, and took us a long way round the central area as cyclists aren’t allowed to cross the street in the very centre with the restaurants and shops.  The activities, shops and restaurants were well staffed, but I was surprised not to see any general staff around just to help with directions and queries.  

Evening babysitting

We prebooked evening babysitting services for a couple of nights.  You are charged £1 per babysitting session by Center Parcs and then pay a fee (I think that it was around £7/hour) directly to your babysitter.  The online booking system allocates different time slots and we weren’t able to book identical time slots for both lodges.  I called them in advance and they explained that their booking system simply didn’t let them do this, but once we were actually at Center Parcs I phoned the main Guest Services number and it was no problem to change the booking.  The babysitters were varied, one was a qualified nurse while another was simply someone who worked in one of the cafes on the site during the day.  

Food and drink

During the day we cooked breakfast in our lodge, had lunches in restaurants or made picnics, and then in the evening we had a couple of BBQs and a couple of nights out at restaurants.  

Eating in – If you want to keep it simple and cheap, just plan your meals and take everything you want to have with you.  You can BBQ on your patio (you are only supposed to use disposable BBQs purchased from the on site shop) or cook and eat in the open plan kitchen diner.  You can also order takeaways to collect or to be delivered to your accommodation.    

Eating out – There are plenty of picnic spots around the site, and a number of different restaurants to try out.  We tried out Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Pancake House and Hucks, and we had pretty good food in most of them (apart from the Pancake place which we really didn’t enjoy).  If you have small children then these restaurants are ideal.  They are all well equipped with a kids menu, highchairs, a soft play area, quick service and accommodating staff.  

Overall

We had a wonderful time at Centre Parcs.  It was definitely the type of holiday to share with friends or family, as long as you all have the same idea of what kinds of things you want to do, and how much you want to spend on activities, food and drink.  We were incredibly lucky with the weather – I’m sure that we would still have had a good time if it hadn’t been as good, but we really enjoyed just chilling out in the sunshine.  It was the perfect sunny midweek break with friends.  

 

Georgina’s Center Parcs Packing List (Toddler & Baby)

* Travel

Car seat and buggy

Scooter and helmet

* Sleeping

Cot sheet and Cot Canopy Breeze

Baby monitor

Muslins and Grobags

Tomy starlight dreamshow

* Clothing

Baby – Vests, sleepsuits, day clothes, socks, coat

Toddler – Underwear, day clothes, pyjamas, coat, shoes, wellies, hat

Us – Casual clothing, flipflops, wellies, trainers, swimsuit

* Feeding

Bottles, formula powder, steriliser, bottle brush, splash mat

Food pouches, kids plates, sippy cups, bibs

Picnic blanket

Ingredients for easy kids meals – bread, cheese, tuna, mayo, sweetcorn, butter

Kitchen towel, Dettol spray, cleaning cloths, washing up brush, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid, matches, teatowels

* Toiletries

Nappies, nappy sacks, wipes, hand gel, travel changing mat, nail scissors, bath thermometer, hand soap

* Swimming

Swimsuit, swim nappies, goggles, floatation vest, rubber ring

Swimming towels

* Toys

Baby toys, books, colouring

2 comments

  1. Moira granger

    We are going next year with grandchildren and this was very helpful. Thank you x

  2. Malcolm R Assheton

    Excellent thank you. We are going next week with my son, his wife and two grand children and I could not easily find on Center Parcs web site if a washing machine was included.

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