Saturday 10 December 2011

Center Parcs Elveden Forest for Christmas

This December marked Harry's fifth trip to Center Parcs Elveden Forest, and our first trip with Mia, as well as being the third time that we've visited just before Christmas. We are lucky because we can visit in term time, which means that the cost of the holiday is fairly reasonable. This time, because of the new addition to our group we upgraded to a three bedroom villa - a new style executive three bedroom lodge. This Christmas we were visiting with an almost three year old and a six month old.

Among other benefits, executive lodges have free wi-fi, a daily maid service, whirlpool bath and sauna. The fully equipped kitchen was provided with a small amount of washing up liquid (you'll probably need more), dishwasher tablets, sponge scourer, cloth and tea towel. The bedrooms had televisions and hairdryers and there was a DVD player in the living room. Although towels are provided, you'll want separate ones for the pool.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest

The lodge came with a sturdy and clean highchair and cot (you need to supply your own cot bedding). Unfortunately we have yet to find a satisfactory location for the cot in any of the lodges we have stayed in - it will only fit in the largest bedroom, and you need to either rearrange the furniture to squeeze it in beside the bed, or push it into a corner where it blocks the entrance to the bathroom. In our lodge one of the bathrooms had a toddler step which was very useful, and Harry was also particularly taken with a large chalkboard on the wall and coloured chalk.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest

There is a well-stocked grocery shop on site, and the prices are pretty reasonable, certainly comparable to one of the big supermarkets (although they don't carry the special offers that we tend to base our weekly shop around). If you are looking for more choice there is a good sized Sainsbury's on a retail park minutes up the road in Thetford.

You can enter the village on the morning of your holiday from 10am, but you can't take your car onto the site or enter your accommodation until 3pm. You can use the Subtropical Swimming Paradise from 2pm. Try not to arrive at 3pm on the dot as you will get stuck in a queue to get into the park - arriving just half an hour later can make a big difference.

We've found Center Parcs to be a fantastic place for a holiday with our young family. The lodges are comfortable and well equipped. It's great to be able to spend so much time out in the fresh air, and we've always found plenty to keep us busy. Center Parcs is also a really good place to holiday with extended family or friends, as everyone can have their own space yet still spend plenty of time together.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest

Harry loved the Subtropical Swimming Paradise this holiday, especially the childrens' pool with two slides and an area for splashing around and playing with sand. The changing areas however can get quite busy. Visiting during term time means that there are lots of babies and very young children, resulting in queues for the family changing cubicles which include a baby change table. You need to leave your pushchair in a large communal area outside, not a problem for us with our scruffy thing but might be a concern for some.

One criticism we have of Center Parcs is that additional activities can be very expensive compared to equivalent activities outside the park, although this doesn't seem to deter people. The prices are clearly displayed around the village and on the website, and they can be booked online before your visit or during your stay (subject to availability). We've managed to holiday here a number of times without paying for any extra activities (well, apart from the Aqua Sana - but that's a special treat!) so look out for my other post listing of some of the things that you can do around the village for free.

In addition, don't necessarily expect a peaceful and quiet woodland holiday here - the military airbase nearby means that there can be quite a lot of aircraft noise, including first thing in the morning and sometimes also into the early evening.

I'm not complaining though, visiting at Christmas in particular is a really magical experience, and you can take advantage of a few extra free seasonal attractions, such as the singing reindeer and a firework display. For an additional cost, to get into the Christmas spirit you can visit Father Christmas in his grotto, go ice-skating or take part in a variety of festive themed activities and crafts.

I'm sure that we'll be back!

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