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Thoughts on a Decent UK Get-away for Easy R&R?

I’m in a predicament. My good wife is keen on an easy R&R break over that long weekend for the Jubilee etc, for the two of us and our 6-year-old boy, and is suggesting, indeed is very keen on, a trip to a centerparcs place. Activities on tap, feet up, easy times etc. A big change from our usual simple cheap & cheerful cottage away.

For me however, it sounds more like my vision of a prison sentence hell. I have an allergy to organised things in organised ways in what sounds like a sausage-machine holiday situation. Anathema to me really. And it’s not exactly cheap either; circa £300 / night excluding food etc. Food options seeming to be just the usual high street stuff, no doubt at captive audience prices. I can’t help but think there must surely be better and more satisfying ways to spend such money for time out on easy feet-up R&R in this country.

Am I just being a curmudgeonly git? Have any of this good community got any experience of these places? Should I be more open to new experiences?

And my main question - does anyone maybe know of any UK places / situations where one can find the organised activities etc on tap, have easy R&R etc, but with more imaginative food options and situations etc? I’m just curious to know what other broadly similar options might look like before - as I currently see it - agreeing to be doing what seems potentially like signing my Jubilee weekend away.

Center Parcs:

Depends a bit on which location, but I would say:

Positives:

-Everything fairly close by and lots of options, if you like sporting or spa-related activities

-Tropical swimming paradise is fun, if you like humongous waterslides and relaxing drifting around in the lazy river (a heated pool with a current)

-Kids love it

Negatives:

  • Price at weekends or school holidays is ludicrous

  • Activities at weekends or school holidays likely to be crowded

  • If you’re seriously good at any of the activities, they may not be for you, e.g. the bike rides won’t be long enough; you can’t actually swim lengths in the pool etc

If it is just the two of you, without kids, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it on the Jubilee weekend (which is also school half term). Go for weekdays on a non-school holiday week, it will be nearly empty, you will have your pick of the activities, and the accommodation is less than half the price.

You asked about alternatives - for £300 a night what couldn’t you do?

Hotel du Vin package? Some other luxury spa hotel with sports options?

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Thank you, @Comtes86

I should have said - we have a 6-year-old boy to consider as part of all this. I think this is one of the reasons why centerparcs is on the agenda.

I agree though and have also mentioned similar to wife - Jubilee weekend is half-term and invariably going to be busy and then some.

We were previously thinking to shoot over to North Corfu for 3-4 nights to old familiar haunts, using independent flights & AirBB, but prices for that are high for similar half-term reasons, and the recent flights mess-ups and the risk of losing our hard-earned holidaying money etc has rather put us off that idea.

We went to Landal Darwin Forest, which is near Matlock. It was a massively scaled down version of Centreparcs. Good cabins in nice wooded surroundings. They had a small restaurant, bar, swimming pool and some other things like crazy golf.

Lots to do round there such as Chatsworth, various caves and loads of walking. However, having endured loads of ‘Four in the bed’ episodes, this kind of place is pretty common. You just have to pick your area and the size of park.

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I feel your pain. You may have a lucky escape - when I idly checked availability at centerparcs for those dates a few weeks ago, all the ones remotely close to us were already fully booked - although I was only looking at the central/southern England locations to be fair.

This would also be many people’s idea of hell, but you could consider popping through the tunnel and going to one of the big French campsites - we’re going to a Sandaya one this summer. If you don’t want to camp the chalets are bearable, especially at the more expensive end, and a damn sight cheaper than centerparcs. Your 6 year old will spend the whole weekend in the pool given half a chance and you can relax knowing you’re never too far from a decent steak-frites.

(Appreciate I’ve ignored the ‘UK’ part of your request there…)

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I quite like Bluestone in Wales. There are restaurants but I’ve found self catering the better option (especially for wine…!).

The park itself lends itself to good walking trails, but plenty for a kid to do too.

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We’ve been there too, and to the Center parcs near Penrith. I completely agree with what you say about Darwin, a scaled back version of Center parcs. It rained a lot while we were there but it was good quality and well done. On balance I think the adults preferred Darwin and the kids the Center parcs. I don’t think we would choose either given the prices if it was just adults looking for R&R.

We’ve also been to landal and Center parcs abroad but I know that is not the question….

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Really recommend Clydey Holiday Cottages in Pembrokeshire. A small site of about 10 houses.

It’s large enough that kids will have others to play with, but not massively institutionalised. Large indoor pool (helpful with Welsh weather…), games room, indoor play area. Hot tub. Stunning coastline and beaches within 30 mins drive. Family run, very friendly.

Lots of animals on site and a real ritual is daily feeding of all the animals that the kids are totally encouraged to get involved in. From memory the pig is fed first (kids give him food on a fork) then the goats, then the rabbits. The chickens are fed after the kids have collected the eggs, then the alpacas and sheep get fed. It all takes about 45-60 mins, there’s a good buzz.

There’s no on site catering, but there is a freezer full of ‘Cook’ ready meals which you can take and pay for when you leave on an honesty system.

We went three times when my kids were around 6 and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Great place to hang out, but a good base to explore a beautiful part of the world as well.

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Have been to Center Parcs once. Agree with all your negatives. Positive is the amount of fun our then 3 or four year old had in the water spaces. Am not personally keen to return as find the fees hard to stomach for the quality of the offering in the UK. You could look at somewhere like Lower Mills in the Cotswolds as an alternative.

A colleague uses Center Parcs in France and Belgium at greatly reduced costs as apparently we do not share school holidays. If you happen to be based close enough to ports of the south east it wouldn’t be too arduous a trip. I swear by the 30min crossings via the tunnel.

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Completely agree - that is what I was hinting at before. Both landal in Belgium and Center parcs in Holland. Both good value largely for the reason you say….

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Send wife and child. Stay home with a mixed case of wine goodies to to toast HRH!

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I’ve done Center Parcs in the UK. Never again. Thetford in February is cold

I’ve also done Center Parcs in Holland a couple of times. Even in holiday times, it was cheaper than the UK, despite the ferry and extra driving. If memory serves, it was cheaper to get top of the range there, rather than bottom of the range here. Last one was staying in a marina flat here. I think Center Parcs here is a different company to Center Parcs there.

everyone speaks english, more exciting for the kids, more relaxing for the adults.

Obviously pre Brexit, so things may be different. And depends where you are in the country.

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We’ve done the centerparcs thing a few times - when the kids were young. The kids loved it so it was a good trip, and I relaxed into it and enjoyed mucking about with them. But pricey, busy, full of other people’s kids (who are clearly not as lovely as mine!) have to book for everything. But a pint and game of snooker with father in law when things had quietened down was great.

What we’ve done, and I much prefer, is to rent a cottage at Easter/ May in south Devon, where weather can remind you spring and summer is around the corner. Fleeces on for buckets and spades on the beach. We’ve rented places with a games barn - table tennis, snooker etc. Which is great fun. If the place has a decent kitchen you can find something good to eat and drink, light the fire, dig out the board games. Super!

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Only done Center Parcs once - expensive, poor quality accommodation, only redeemed to a degree by the indoor swimming pool which was enjoyable. More memorable was a week in the Netherlands at Holiday park Kijkduin, just outside the beach resort of Scheveningen which itself was on the outskirts of The Hague.
It was easy to get to Rotterdam from Felixstowe and the local public transport was naturally superb - so easy to get to Den Haag and then to Delft or Leiden, both great places to while away an afternoon. Rotterdam zoo was also a good day out for our 4 year old.

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You can avoid both planes and the UK rip offs if you take the train. Have a look at European train timetables to see how far you can go (Venice to Luton just took us two days, but probably could have been done in one and a bit). Even Centre Parc type places would at least look different if you found one in France, but you could get to somewhere civilised in the Loire or Alsace easily.

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We have had several stays at center parcs Penrith over the years with children, not my cup of tea but worth putting up with for peace and harmony from the other half and the kids had a great time , no real need to pay for extra activities as the pool is great
Advantages of being able to take in your food and wine for the few days so no real need to eat out in the on site restaurants other than a bite at lunch or coffee

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We went to Landal parks in the Netherlands a couple of years ago. Including channel tunnel ticket it was around 1/3 of the price of the equivalent week at Centerparcs in the UK.

The on-site food options were good for kids, but not great, the basic self-catering facilities were fine for most things. The kids (then 8 & 4) loved the pool and slides in the swimming complex and there was plenty to do in the park and surrounding area to keep everyone satisfied with an enjoyable week away.

Think it was about 4 hour drive from Coquelles.

We’ve been to Center Parcs maybe 5 or 6 times, though not for a couple of years now.

Overall my view is more positive than some of the other posts on this thread.

We have young kids and they’ve always loved it - the swimming pools are great fun and the parks are good for walking around with the kids whether on foot, scooters or bikes, there are nice play parks/soft play areas dotted about and a good range of activities, though we tend to avoid the organised paid for stuff.

The accommodation is basic but acceptable. The restaurants are pretty average/poor high street type places and we tend to avoid, taking our own food/wine etc, though the kids like the pancake place so we usually relent and let them go there. There are places where you can get a perfectly pleasant coffee or beer or snack or whatever.

It is extremely convenient for us. I hear what people are saying about going abroad but for a quick break, Friday to Monday or whatever, it is hard to beat for convenience, Whinfell is less than 2 hours from where we live and I don’t have the stomach for spending a day driving somewhere and back for short break.

What I would say is that we enjoyed our subsequent visits more than our first because we knew our way around, what to do/avoid etc.

The major downside is the price during school holidays, which, of course, is when people mostly want to go.

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Centre Parcs in France is often cheaper as well

at least it used to be a while ago.