Mr Gist and I were longing for a holiday, but our most recent edition at just a few months old and all the fuss that goes into flying, let alone with a little one and Mr Gist’s snobbery for luxury travel, precluded anything abroad. We needed something a sensible drive away, somewhere we could pack the car sky-high with nappies, toys and supplies and decamp with our children, but most importantly was comfortable, family-friendly and somewhere that I could manage to get past Mr Gist and his exuberant travel tastes. That said, he didn’t have much say in the matter as he managed to sneak in a trip to Abu Dhabi with his father, so I figured I deserved the break. After a bit of deliberation, we settled on Centre Parcs.
We’d always heard a lot about Centre Parcs but hadn’t ever visited before; talk to anybody about it and in most cases, you’ll find that they’ve either been, or know somebody who has. The most recent site, Woburn, wasn’t too far down the road, so everything was bundled up into the car and off we set in the first week of December 2016.
Centre Parcs Woburn Accommodation
After a swift arrival and check-in, we drove through what felt like a small town in the Bedfordshire forest in the pitch black to find our cabin, which proved rather troublesome in the dark; I assume Centre Parcs try not to add to the area’s light pollution, but it was a rather stressful experience trying to navigate the park’s dimly-lit roads with a screaming new-born in the car. Nevertheless, we eventually made it to the cabin and made our way in.
Impressions of our two-bedroom woodland lodge was, at first, promising. Entering into a brightly-lit underfloor-heated open plan living area, it was evident that the lodge was more than suitable for our needs, a large corner sofa, fitted kitchen, master bedroom, twin room with ensuite and family bathroom being the main highlights of our family accommodation. Set back from the road, the lodge was private and relatively quiet. Outside, there was a barbecue and a table, which would be a nice place to enjoy a late evening in slightly warmer months
It was only after settling in and having time to take a proper look around that we became disappointed; it’s the little things that really matter. One of the bathrooms didn’t have any soap provided, the toilet paper was wafer-thin with no spares provided and more disappointingly, the cleanliness was poor; cobwebs, ‘hair’ in the bathroom (gross) and a dinner plate in one of the kitchen cupboards covered in leftover food from previous guests.
Yuck, Centre Parcs, yuck.
We tried on two occasions to contact guest services to report our dissatisfaction, but the number given remained unanswered on both of those attempts.
Despite that, we managed to enjoy the cabin. The log burner was a great edition and added to the warmth of the lodge, plus it gave Mr Gist something to feel all manly about. The large open-plan living space was great for us and the kitchen, in spite of the horrible dinner plate, was well equipped and had most of the utensils that we needed throughout the course of our stay (although we were short on glassware).
Centre Parcs Activities and Entertainment
As parents, it’s really the breadth of activities that Centre Parcs offers families that makes it such a great place, although it is worth noting that everything is pretty much extra on top of the accommodation price. From badminton and rock-climbing, to a creche and sensory classes for little ones (Mr Gist took our youngest and they had a great time), there is a lot to fill out one’s schedule at Centre Parcs, although babies and toddlers are grossly underserved.
The jewel in the crown however really is the subtropical swimming pool, a vast and sprawling centrepiece featuring a lazy river, several flumes (which Mr Gist loved) and indoor-outdoor heated rapids. With all week entry available to guests included, this was an excellent destination and something both adults and kids could love together, especially when the weather turned and indoor activities were the only option.
The park itself was lovely, close-to-nature and quiet. There were plenty of places for long afternoon walks, plenty of wildlife (mainly bold squirrels) and a lovely boating lake, which hosted a firework display on one of our evenings. This was lovely for the kids.
I had my nails done on our first day and Mr Gist had a half-hour massage at the Aqua Sana spa with Elemis treatments, a real highlight for adults; we certainly hadn’t expected such a high-end spa at a family holiday destination.
Food at Centre Parcs
If self-catering isn’t your thing, there are plenty of daytime and evening dining options such as high street chains Starbucks, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, plus The Pancake House, serving up a range of sweet and savoury pancake-based options. The service at these establishments didn’t blow us away, didn’t offer fantastic value for money and get extremely busy, but they offer convenience particularly after a day of activities with the family.
An onsite grocery store with bakery provided plenty of options, plus an on-site takeaway and delivery service give the option of food delivered straight to the cabin.
Centre Parcs Woburn Review
Tucked away in a forest, Centre Parcs is like a bubble, all about a concentrated and quality stay with your family whilst exploring the sprawling park, its activities and pool. After checking-in, you don’t need to leave the site until the end of your stay. From this perspective, it is a fantastic destination for families, particularly those with slightly older children, perhaps over the agree of three.
We liked the car-free strolling, the pedestrian and sedate atmosphere and the self-contained feel of the holiday that allowed us to maximise our time together and enjoy it as a family.
Centre Parcs is not a budget option, high-season setting families back an eye-watering £1,898 for seven nights and even more for luxury lodges, although we managed to bag ourselves four nights for £499 in the first week of December. Undeniably, it’s a great place for kids and in turn parents, a convenient holiday destination packed with activities with plenty of outdoor space, but the cleanliness of the accommodation leaves a lot to be desired.
Millbrook Rd, Bedford MK45 2HZ