godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Travel With Kids - UK

Review: Woburn Forest, Center Parcs

Center Parcs Woburn

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Even walking to the swimming pool is fun at Centre Parcs. It was freezing, but who wouldn’t want to balance on a log?

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:

Me, Rich, Bilbo (3), Harrison (6 months), my mum Sue, and another family with dogs in another lodge.

Booking

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. The 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 paid your accommodation fee, EVERYTHING else costs extra, except for the swimming pool. A couple of kids, school holidays, and many activities and Center Parcs aren’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 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.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Toasting Marshmallows in our lodge.

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. In the end, they put on a little show for the parents. If you’re in a group with a few kids or siblings to drop off together, this is probably a lot of fun, but for a solo child, not so much.

Hobby Horse Crafting

Bilbo did this with his 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.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Bilbo made an awesome Hobby Horse.

Mini Jet Skis

Jet skis were 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 10 am.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Trying out the scuba boats

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.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017

Our stay would have been as fun and enjoyable had we not booked any activities. We had great weather but it was freezing. Even the lake froze, and the play parks were closed for 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.

Accommodation

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Bilbo loved the chalkboard in the lodge. Every day we wrote new messages and drew pictures.

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. I loved the chalkboard door and a bowl of colorful 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, which allowed us to keep spending down and get the kids in bed at a reasonable time. Drinking wine in front of a cosy fire was heavenly. The shop on site 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).

Wildlife

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 deer have even been spotted. Bilbo absolutely loved looking at them out of the window and encouraging them with nuts.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Watching the wildlife out of the windows is great fun. We spotted squirrels and pheasants.

Facilities

As you’d expect, the surroundings at Center Parcs Woburn are 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 wristband 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.

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Harrison enjoyed hanging in the pen. handy when you’re trying to get everyone dry. He also had a cheeky nap in there too.

Summary

godberstravel, godberboys, centre parcs woburn, January 2017
Bath time in the lodge was so much fun, the tub was big and had jacuzzi jets.

Center Parcs Woburn was a 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

Read our other travel reviews

The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure and Top Tips for A Great Visit

Koh Samui with Kids – Top Ten Tips for a hassle-free stay in Paradise

Thai Cooking Class on Koh Samui

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