Center Parcs With Babies

Part of my role as a Center Parcs Family Blogger involves taking a family break at the Village of my choice. We decided to visit Sherwood Forest on a Monday to Friday break. We’d never been to Center Parcs before, so we were very excited! We were joined on our break by Dani and her family from It started with a Squish.

This was also our first EVER family holiday, so we didn’t have a clue what to expect. As a result, we packed a LOT! We’d heard tales of overpriced shops and there being nothing for young children to do, so we took loads of food and toys with us, as well as the nappies, zillion changes of clothes, bottles and everything else that goes with having an 11 month old and a 2 year old! We had requested an extra cot and highchair in the property, so at least travel cots were something we didn’t need to pack!

It took us around 2 hours to get to the camp, and we were expecting there to be huge queues to check in. This was not the case at all. We arrived at 3pm, and it took 5 minutes to get from the gate to the check in hut. We’d done the online check-in process, so we just had to give our booking ref and villa number. It took literally 60 seconds to check in and collect our keys – all from inside our car, drive-thru stylee.

Our villa was a 3 bedroom Woodland Lodge. It had everything we needed, and plenty of space for the kids. I loved the forest feature wall in the living area, and the floor to ceiling chalk board was pretty epic too! There was plenty of room in each of the two twin bedrooms to fit a cot, so Sam and Sydney had a room each. The Lodge was well decorated and clean. 

The kitchen was well stocked, and we received a Family Grocery Pack, which was a lifesaver! It had
everything we needed in terms of essentials, plus fruit, bacon, eggs,
sausages, Teabags, coffee and chocolate digestives! YUM! There was plenty of room to store our Phil n Teds double pram in the cupboard by the front door – we didn’t even have to fold it! I’d happily stay in a Woodland Lodge again with young children.

Our lodge was about a 5-10 minute walk from the Village Square (When pushing a double pram)! It was a nice walk, and the paths were great for pushchairs. The kids loved watching the wildlife as we walked along. (Rabbits, squirrels, ducks, swans and geese were all regularly spotted on our walks to and from the Village Square).

The Parcmarket was very well stocked and reasonably priced. It was in line with normal Supermarket prices, without as many special offers. We visited every day to replenish supplies, and it was never overly busy, and the queues weren’t bad.

There was enough room in all of the shops for our Phil n Teds double pushchair. We had no issues navigating at all, and we spotted several side by side pushchairs being used in the village, too. The shops were all well presented, and some of the prices were lower than the High Street!

I have to share my Epic Fail moment with you, though….. I bought a flashing, noisy yoyo from the toy shop for £6.99. We left the toy shop and I immediately set about showing hubby my moves. (I was pretty good at yoyo’ing back in the day)… I flicked the yoyo over, and BOOM! the loop undid itself. You guessed it. My yoyo flew off my hand, and straight into the lake, never to be seen again! The moral of this story: always check your knot is secure!

Outside, there was so much greenery Sam was in his element. He loves being outdoors, and had a smile on his face the whole time we were at center parcs. We had ducks, swans and squirrels at our back door every morning, wanting breakfast. We did a lot of walking, and saw all of the outdoor play areas, the Nature Centre and we stopped for a coffee at the Forrester’s inn. We even found the Treehouses! (I want to stay in one of those when I win the lottery)!

We visited the pool (Sub Tropical Paradise) twice during our stay. It was amazing! There are 2 large “buggy parks” outside, which you can leave your prams in. We bought a bike lock for £3 from the supermarket, and secured our pram to the bars in the buggy park. We were worried we’d struggle getting two babies changed simultaneously, but the family changing rooms made this an easy task. You enter from the “dry” side of the cubicle, then once you’re changed, you leave via the “wet” side. This is great – until people forget to unlock both doors before leaving the cubicle. There were a lot of empty family changing rooms we couldn’t access from the “wet” side on our 2nd visit, so we had to squeeze into 2x single ones. The lockers require £1 coin to lock them. This is returned when you open your locker. We needed two to fit all of our things into them. The pool is free for guests to use.

There is a designated children’s pool which is great for young kids. Our two loved the wave pool best, though. Syd was in a rubber ring, and Sam was in a life vest (which can be borrowed free of charge from the side of the pool), and the rubber ring we bought him from the shop inside Sub Tropical Paradise. They both loved the choppy water when the waves started.

The pool is so big, we didn’t manage to see half of it! There are loads of slides, rapids, an outdoor pool area and spa pools as well. There is also a poolside bar, which serves food. There is a large seating area at the side of the pool, so non swimming guests can come and watch the fun, and you can stop for refreshments during your trip to the pool. The cabanas offer a private space for you to relax during your pool visit. They seat up to six people and are suitable
for groups and families. We spent around 2 hours in the pool on each visit, and didn’t think cabanas would be worth it for us. They sound great if not all of your party wants to “get wet” though.

We ate out several times during our holiday, and stopped for drinks a few times too. We always found the staff to be friendly and courteous, and the service was excellent everywhere – except maybe in Dexters. The fact there were only plastic forks to eat with was a huge letdown, and the lack of table service stopped us ordering anything else from the menu, as we’d already bought and paid for our mains before we considered dessert.

Hucks was a completely different story! We joined Dani and her family for a meal here, and had an amazing time! The kids loved the large indoor play area, and there was a large menu. The kids meals were self service, this meant you could take your little one’s plate to the counter and pile it high with as much of the kids options as they wanted. You could also go back for refills. This was a brilliant idea, as it meant they could be busy eating while you waited for your food to be cooked, so no hungry, impatient kids!

Our waitress gave all 3 kids a helium balloon which she wrote their names on, and tied to their chair. She then addressed them by their names for the duration of our meal! There was even a Magician doing tricks at your table. He certainly gave us all something to think about while we ate! I’m veggie, and there were lots of food choices for me in Hucks.

The food was gorgeous, and they catered well for special dietary requirements. Syd has a dairy and soya allergy, and the chef came out to discuss children’s options for her. He couldn’t be certain she could eat the kids food, so he made her a chicken breast just to be sure! This was served with broccoli at my request – Syd loved the special treatment, and I was very impressed with the service and the fact they went the extra mile on such a busy night. The prices were about on par with TGI’s, so very reasonable in my book. There was plenty of space for our pram and for two highchairs, and I’d highly recommend it to families with young children.

Sports Cafe is located within Jardin Des Sports. There is a large soft play centre inside, plus two large play areas outside. One for under 5’s and one for over 5’s. There is also a huge amount of indoor sports available in Jardin Des Sports, too. It is the ideal place to go on wet days, if you don’t fancy swimming. Whether you want to play in the arcade, play snooker, pool, table tennis or just relax with a coffee.

The food at Sports Cafe was good, and the children’s meals were great too. I liked the fact there was a free to use soft play centre inside. We were lucky enough to have great weather, but this would have been perfect if it had been wet.

We had hire bikes for the duration of our stay. I got a trailer for the back, so I could pull the kids along, and leave the pram at home. I am not the fittest person in the world though, and I haven’t ridden a bike in a good 10+ years, so we ended up walking more than we rode! The bikes have to be parked up just outside the Village Square too, so I wouldn’t have managed to carry them both around the shops etc.

We were booked up to do bowling while we were away, but Sam’s nap time ran over, so Dani and her family went bowling without us. They said it was great fun, and that they enjoyed it a lot. 

I was treated to a lovely detoxing mud wrap treatment at Aqua Sana
spa during our break. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip for me. The therapist was lovely, and she explained everything she was doing. I loved the fact they provided me with a towel and robe for my treatment, too. I felt very relaxed afterwards!

On the Thursday, the weather turned, but luckily the kids were booked into the time out club (creche) for the morning, so we could enjoy the Spa. We have never left the kids at anything like this before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The staff were lovely. They took us through to see the play area, and we explained Syd’s allergies, and gave them the bags of food and nappies we’d packed for them both. They do provide snacks and juice in there, but advise you take your own if your children have allergies, or are fussy. We left them both happily playing with the staff, and went off for some quality time together.

Daddygeek and I haven’t had much time to ourselves since we had the kids, so this was a
real treat for us. It took us 5 minutes to walk up to the spa from the
timeout club. Once we’d changed into our complimentary robes, we met up
in the spa. I’ve never been to a spa before, so have nothing to compare
it with, but I was very impressed! We spent around 2 hours using the
various steam rooms, saunas, experience showers, relaxation areas and
the pool, before heading out to collect the kids. My favourite area was
definitely the Aqua Meditation Room. It was a pitch black, circular
room, with comfy seats. In the centre was a large fountain, which
reflected water patterns onto the ceiling. It was amazingly relaxing,
and I could have stayed in there all day!

When we went back to
collect the kids, they were both playing happily. Syd had slept for
almost an hour (something she never does for us)! They were both given
report cards, which showed which activities they’d enjoyed, food and
drinks they’d had, naps, nappy changes and any issues. I really liked
this, and thought the Time Out club was brilliant! We will definitely
use it again, next time we visit center parcs!

All told, we are definitely Center Parcs fans! We had an amazing holiday, and all 4 of us were sad to come home. We are already planning our return trip (hopefully to spend my 30th birthday in their Winter Wonderland this November)!

We did not get bored once during the day, and the fact there was no phone signal or internet access in our villa didn’t annoy us once! Next time, we won’t bother taking food – we will buy it all on site. We won’t hire bikes again, until the kids are completely pram-free, and we will pack DVDs and books to keep us occupied in the evenings.

DaddyGeek has posted his take on the holiday, too – his review is a bit funnier than mine!

This is not a sponsored post. We received the trip, and some of the activities as part of my role as a Center Parcs Family Blogger, but all words and opinions are my own.

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