Last minute weekend break with a 7 year old. We decided on CenterParcs Longleat for a post-Christmas weekend break. We arrived late at night but everything was all set up ready for us when we got there.
We decided at the last minute to take a trip to CenterParcs Longleat for a couple of days of daddy/son bonding time with the 7 year old. CenterParcs prides itself on its massive year round occupancy rates and this weekend was no exception, with most accommodation types booked up despite it being the first weekend after the Christmas holidays when everyone should be feeling skint and rested.
Now, for those of you who have never booked at CenterParcs before, their website is an absolute joy to use. The accommodation types, prices etc are all logically set out and it is easy to make your selection. All hotel providers should take a leaf out of their book. On the Tuesday we booked a two bedroom place for £399 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights but on Thursday we found out that my brother was going to come too so we needed to change to a three bedroom if it was possible. A quick call to their helpline and we were quickly sorted out for an extra £100 (and they let me cancel a bike that I had ambitiously rented and then decided against!). Great customer service.
We arrived late on the Friday night and the keys were waiting for us with security. Normally you have to drop off your things and then take your car back to the car park but due to the late hour, we were allowed to keep the car by the accommodation until 9am the next morning. Even the security guys are friendly and helpful.
We have stayed at CenterParcs Longleat before and this time due to availability we had effectively downgraded to a 3 bedroom woodland lodge from the 3 bedroom executive lodge that we had last time. We were very pleasantly surprised last time by the standard and this time was no different at all. The lodge was obviously a little older than the last one that we had but everything was in working order and very clean. The thing that astounds you when you get there is that EVERYTHING is provided – plates, pans, casserole dishes, can opener, bottle opener, teatowels, oven, toaster etc etc. Don’t take anything for the kitchen at all. They even leave dishwasher tablets out for you. The beds were neatly made with comfortable duvets and pillows freshly fluffed.
Up we got in the morning and straight down to the subtropical swimming paradise. The changing rooms always feel a bit grubby but that is pretty much the only fault that I can pick with CenterParcs at all. Once you are in the pool, it is nice and warm, there are lifeguards around and with waves every half an hour and waterslides, it is a great fun experience for kids. In the past we have rented a cabana by the pool where you get drinks and a tv and your own private area. This is pretty much the best way for non-swimmers to relax as space around the pool area is at a premium. The pool was busy but not crowded even in the outdoor heated area.
Our lodge was quite a long way from the main Plaza area but it was still only a fifteen minute walk through some nice woodland scenery. Many people have bikes or hire them there too. Some people were on Segways, which I am DEFINITELY doing next time!
In the afternoon we went down to the Village area where there are tennis courts, mini bowling, mini-golf, an arcade area, climbing wall and a lake among other things. There’s a good atmosphere down there but it doesn’t feel very well laid out inside, with the booking area hard to find if you come in through the wrong door. Mini golf was expensive (£8 for one adult and one child) although admittedly it was for "unlimited time". The arcade machines were also more expensive than they need to be.
For food, there is a range of options – restaurants like Strada are on site; you can order a delivery from some of the venues or you can cook yourself. There is a supermarket onsite which has everything that you will need – decent quality food, nappies, a few DVDs and lots more besides. They will also deliver your heavy shopping back to your lodge for you which is a very good idea.
There are also lots of activities for kids – many of them bookable in advance. Nature walks, swimming lessons, archery… the list is long and well worth looking at. Babysitting is also available in the evenings, as is a crèche in the daytime.
For kids and adults alike, CenterParcs works well. On principle I shouldn’t like it, but actually I do. Yes, I will still refer to my accommodation as an "executive shed" but I have always been impressed by the standard of the accommodation and the cleanliness of it. Most importantly, CenterParcs make it easy for families. Will definitely go again.
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