Tips for Visiting Center Parcs With a Baby or Young Childrenby Jodie Keith
I’ve just got back from my first weekend away at Center Parcs in the UK - we visited Woburn, the closest Center Parcs to London - we had an absolutely amazing time and I would highly recommend to all families! Center Parcs are extremely well equipped for babies, children and families, but we definitely discovered some tips and tricks during our visit that I wanted to share.
Do I need to bring a travel cot and highchair to Center Parcs?
Short answer: no! In the cupboard in your lodge there should be a travel cot and highchair. If there isn’t: call guest services and they’ll be able to bring you one.
I did find that the highchair was really dirty, which was a little disappointing, so be prepared to clean the highchair to your personal standards, but it was amazing that this was provided! High chairs are also readily available at the restaurants throughout Center Parcs.
We didn’t use the cot - it remained folded up in the cupboard the entirety of our stay - so I can’t personally comment on it, but it looked to be a wooden cot with a mattress, and it did look as though some bed linen was provided.
Do I need to bring bed guards to Center Parcs?
If your baby or child isn’t used to sleeping in a single bed, you might be a little worried about them falling out during the night. In our lodge, we had a twin room - for some reason, in my mind, I had expected one of the beds to be against the wall (I’m not sure why!), but this wasn’t the case - both beds were in the middle of the room, meaning my son could fall off the bed on either side. At home, my son’s bed is enclosed, kind of like a mid-sleeper with a shelf stopping him from rolling off onto the floor, so this was a big change for him.
A quick call to guest services was all that was needed to remedy this, though - they promptly dropped off two-bed guards to the lodge for us which were easy to pop onto the bed and felt very secure. Next time we visit, I would probably call ahead of our visit to see if these can be ready at the lodge when we check-in and to guarantee they are available for us.
Sounds strange, I know, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our lodge had a chalkboard - we could tick 'messy play' straight off our list for the weekend, that's for sure! The cupboard door was painted in chalkboard paint, providing an excellent source of entertainment for my 3-year-old, especially in the early mornings and when unpacking upon first arrival. If you forget to bring your own chalk, there’s plenty available in the on-site supermarket.
Don’t want too much walking? Pay to choose whereabouts your lodge is!
Woburn is a very small Center Parcs - one ranger told us it is their smallest site - but it is very hilly. You can, of course, rent bikes, but if you have a baby in a pram you might prefer to walk. Some of the lodges could be a good 10+ minute walk from the main villages and activity centres, but you can pay extra when booking your holiday to choose what area your lodge is in, so if being a long distance from the main villages is a game-changer for you, pay the extra to choose.
Don’t pack too many activities in
It’s very easy to get tempted to book lots of activities in before you arrive, seeing as there are so many amazing activities on offer. When you book the activities online, it gets put into an itinerary on your online account so everyone knows where they need to be - this also helps you to visualise your activities.
It’s easy to think that your day can fit lots in, but be careful - you need to account for the travelling distance between each activity. Some activities could be a fair 10-20 minute walk from one another, and any parent will tell you that travelling time can easily be doubled with an inquisitive, excited young child or a baby that needs feeding! When we visit again, we’ll pay more attention to the locations of the activities when we are booking them, and aim to book activities close together on different days. For example, booking all The Plaza activities we want to do on one day, and any activities located at The Village on the next.
I’d also recommend allowing time for last-minute activities - my son saw the boats on the lake on day one and was begging to go on every day, so we just knew we had to make time for the boats before we left. We also booked face painting last minute, and I saw lots of other children begging their parents for teddy bear making, cupcake decorating, pottery painting and more!
Visit the playgrounds early in the morning
If your children are early risers like mine are, you’ll find there’s not much to do in the mornings. We found that using these early starts to visit the playgrounds were the best bet for an emptier visit - Woburn has an impressive playground at The Village, whereas the one at The Plaza is much smaller (albeit seems more popular!). Although - be warned - Starbucks isn't open early... so you'll want to take a cup of coffee to the park in a travel mug with you!
Utilise the soft plays in the restaurants!
We only visited the soft play in the Leisure bowl - which was perfect for younger babies being only a flat soft play surface with some soft play blocks and not a big climbing structure - but there is, apparently, soft play in each of the restaurants. If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet whilst you have some food or even just to grab a hot cup of coffee in peace - soft play is a great bet!
Do I need to take armbands or a swim vest to Center Parcs?
Short answer: no! Another great thing about Center Parcs is that free swim vests are provided in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, meaning you don’t have to worry about packing armbands or a swim vest of your own. They should be hanging on a rack near the changing rooms, and you’re able to just help yourself. There were different sizes available, and my small 10 month old fit in hers with ease.
FREE baby food at Center Parcs?!
Yep… you read that right! Every restaurant at Center Parcs provides free Ella’s kitchen baby pouches and a microwave to warm them if you want to. You can order them on the regular menu by scanning the QR code and ordering like normal.
If you’re planning on going to Center Parcs with a baby soon - have an amazing time and enjoy it!