Review: Woburn Forest, Center Parcs
Center Parcs Woburn
We chose Center Parcs Woburn in January as it coincided with my imminent return to work after my maternity leave. A mid week getaway before heading back to the daily grind.
When: January 2017
Cost: £374 (not including activities)
Accommodation: Executive 2 Bed Lodge, Central Area, No 733 Maple Area
Party: Myself, Rich, Bilbo (3), Harrison (6 months) and my mum Sue and another family with dogs in another lodge.
Booking was easy. I really liked that you could see a whole map of the site and pick which lodge you’d like to stay in. We were booking at a quiet time. Choice was possible but I suspect during peak times there isn’t as much choice unless you book ahead.
We got a pretty good deal £374 for 4 nights Mon – Fri. Center Parcs has a reputation for holding families with kids in school to ransom. Once you’ve parted with your accommodation fee, EVERYTHING else costs extra too, except for the swimming pool. A couple of kids, school holidays and a tonne of activities and Center Parcs isn’t cheap. Throw in the unpredictable British weather and you could probably get a 5* all inclusive in Europe for the same price.
TOP TIP: Set yourself a budget for what you’re prepared to spend on extras. If you’re on a budget you can save a lot of money by preparing your own meals.
Center Parcs App
I downloaded the Center Parcs app which is brilliant, it links with your booking and means you can book and pay for activities easily and everything you book shows up on your schedule.
Book Activities in Advance
You absolutely HAVE to book activities you really want to do as far in advance as you can, I thought I was pretty on the ball but as we got closer to the holiday more and more activities were unavailable. Since the spa has a lot of day guests and is linked to the hotel I highly recommend booking this as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.
Since we were on holiday with our toddler and 2 babies we were quite limited on the activities we could book so here’s my review of what we did do:
Pub Quiz – this was brilliant fun. The compere was entertaining and the quiz was easy enough that we got some questions right but hard enough there was definitely a challenge (luckily someone else in our team handled the maths round) This was the one night we ate out and the service was fast and efficient. Think American grill type food (there is not a huge variety across all the restaurants another reason to cook at home). We opted for the Monday night which was the perfect way to hang out with our friends and plan our week ahead.
Pirate/Princess Party – I thought this was a stay and play (bad mummy didn’t read the small print) it wasn’t and my 3 year old wasn’t too impressed about being left. The staff were great at helping him settle but in hindsight I wouldn’t have bothered with this. They sing songs, read stories, make crafts etc. at the end they do a little show for the parents. If you’re in a group and you’ve got a few kids to drop off together or siblings, this is probably a lot of fun but for a solo child not so much.
Hobby Horse Crafting – Bilbo did this with nanny, I wasn’t 100% sure this was great value for money but after watching him ride around with it yesterday I guess he’s enjoyed the experience of making it and the creative play.
Mini Jet Skis – this was fun Bilbo really enjoyed it and it is a great opportunity to get to the pool early in the morning as you do it before the pool opens at 10am.
Bowling: There were too many of us on the lane if I did it again i’d have booked two lanes – it costs the same. The session is on a time limit and running after a toddler and 2 babies meant we only just finished the game. The bumpers go up and down automatically for the kiddies which was helpful.
To be honest our stay would have been just as much fun and enjoyable had we not booked any activities. We had great weather but it was freezing. Even the lake froze over and the play parks were closed on a few days for safety reasons. But the cold made it feel even more magical because we wrapped up warm and embraced the chill. There is plenty of opportunity to let off steam. You can let the kids run through the woods, spot wildlife and enjoy the subtropical pool for hours each day.
TOP TIP: Be smart about your clothing, if you have great outdoor clothing ( puddle suits for the kids) you will have fun rain or shine.
The lodge we had at Center Parcs Woburn was perfect for the size group, we had a shower en-suite and a bath en-suite. Loads of space in the entrance to hang coats and leave muddy shoes. The lodge was warm and cosy. The beds were so comfy we slept like logs or maybe it was the fresh air. If you are using the cot don’t forget to bring your own linen. Loved the chalk board door and bowl of colourful chalk this was a nice touch.
The kitchen is stocked with almost everything you should need. If you are going to stick to a budget and cook a lot you may want to bring a few extra items with you from your own kitchen. We ate most of our meals in our lodge, this allowed us to keep spend down and get the kids in bed at a reasonable time. Drinking wine in front of cosy fire was heavenly. The shop onsite has all the essentials if you run out of anything. (think waitrose style selection and prices)
TOP TIPS: We brought Tupperware with us for putting snacks in and storing leftovers, we also brought handy things like foil, sandwich bags, condiments. You get a small sachet of washing up liquid and a dishwasher tablet, so bring these with you. There are no clothes washing facilities in the lodge.
We made use of the log fire, in particular our son loved roasting marshmallows.
TOP TIP: You can pick up logs, sticks and giant marshmallows at the very well stocked shop or bring your own (we did).
All of the lodges back onto scrub or bush and throughout the day we were visited by squirrels, pheasant and an amazing variety of birds. I’ve seen on reviews that there have even been deer spotted. Bilbo absolutely loved looking at them out of the window and encouraging them with nuts.
The surroundings at Center Parcs Woburn are as you’d expect open and natural. Cars have to be parked in the car park after check in.
The subtropical pool is brilliant especially for under 10’s. There are a few slides for the adults and older kids but I suspect teenagers might get a little bored. Lockers and the accommodation keys are managed by a wristband.
TOP TIPS: When you arrive you can link a credit card to your wrist band so you can pick up drinks and snacks at the pool. There are baby pens for babies. Not all of them have mattresses so a couple of extra towels are handy to lay tired little ones down for a nap.
Center Parcs Woburn was brilliant week. We came away so relaxed as the pace at which you enjoy Center Parcs is completely led by you. The cost wasn’t extortionate but we went off peak and didn’t max out on the activities. If we had booked at a peak time and paid almost three times as much, I don’t think I would be writing the same review.
- Keep your costs down by cooking your own food and preparing lunches
- Book the activities you really want to do as far in advance as possible
- The pool and the grounds are free make sure you leave enough time to enjoy them