We’ve been on two holidays since our family grew to four – both to Center Parcs Elveden Forest. I booked the first holiday last September as a surprise for Gary’s big birthday. And we loved it there so much, we booked again for a few weeks ago.
The thought of going abroad with two small children practically brings me out in hives. I get so stressy about organising things like holidays. I worry about not forgetting anything, but not taking too much; being covered for every eventuality, without spending a fortune on excess luggage, etc, that I think while the girls are tiny, we are likely to stay in the UK.
I can’t wait to explore the world and introduce the girls to new cultures. But I’m happy to wait until the nappies, four outfits per day and the many tins of formula are out of the way. Then we can all relax a little more and I won’t spontaneously combust before I get on the ‘plane. There are lots of people love travelling with little ones, but I think they are more laid back than me.
I visited Center Parcs many times when I was a child and simply loved it. I’ve got really fond memories of happy, family times there and I wanted to recreate some of these for our little family.
And neither trip has disappointed. The first time was a special treat and we stayed in an exclusive lodge, which was super luxurious. It had a hot tub, games room, daily maid service and allocated parking. It was lovely, but more than anything we loved Center Parcs as a whole. So I was interested to see what the new three bedroom woodland lodge we booked would be like.
Our lodge was really lovely. Clean, modern and comfortable, with the trademark beautiful views of the forest. There are a few bits which are handy to take with little ones, but overall, it was well equipped.
Remember cot sheets, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid, extra toilet roll and bin liners. There is a travel cot and a highchair already in the lodge. And the guest services were happy to provide an extra of each for us. There was space in both the twin rooms for a travel cot too. The girls slept really well (probably partly due to being exhausted from all the exercise).
There are nice little touches in Center Parcs lodges, like the blackboard wall which kept Lottie entertained for ages. And the outdoor furniture and space for a BBQ in nice weather. I’d love to go in summer.
The wildlife in the forest are pretty unbothered by people and Frankie and Lottie were delighted to be visited by ducks, squirrels, geese, deer, and even a little weasel each day.
The first time we went to Center Parcs Elveden Forest, we booked a few activities for the children. They did enjoy them, but they certainly weren’t what made our break memorable. So this time, we didn’t book anything. There were lots of reasons for this. Firstly, the girls adore the swimming pool, which can easily entertain them for a morning, and is included in the price. Secondly, they just adore being free to run around and explore. The lack of cars means kids can pretty much run free, and our girls are in their element doing just that. As soon as Lottie got out of the car, she knew where she was and was so excited.
If I’m honest, until the children are a bit bigger, I probably wouldn’t book much again. It made for a much more laid back break to come and go as we pleased and enjoy nice walks, whatever the weather. We swam every day, spent time relaxing in the lodge while the girls napped, went for wanders in the forest and the beach and had the most lovely time.
Eating out or in
One thing I would like to see improved at Center Parcs Elveden Forest is food offerings for people with allergies. We ate out at Bella Italia one night and there was only one meal that Frankie could eat being dairy and soya free, which she didn’t particularly enjoy. Having said that, we were happy to eat at home and sometimes it’s easier than trying to entertain toddlers in a restaurant. Gary and I ordered from the take away menu one night. We had an Indian, which was so nice, I’d definitely recommend using that option if you’re there with little ones.
Overall, I could not recommend Center Parcs highly enough for holidays with little ones. It’s like a little bubble amidst a busy life where you can relax, laugh, enjoy and make special memories. My last piece of advice though is that if you are taking little legs with you, make sure you have wheels or carriers for them. We tooka single buggy and a carrier and Lottie did use the buggy after she’d done a lot of walking.