You may think that a Center Parcs last-minute booking would be the only affordable way to travel to your favourite holiday camp. But there is another way. Take a looking at visiting a Center Parcs abroad.
I went on my first Center Parcs holiday in early 2013. My wife and I went with our three children aged four, three and one and I dreaded it. But within a day, I had changed my mind completely. The accommodation was great and there was so much for us and the children to do, we had already started planning the next holiday before we left.
The one downside was the cost. We were lucky enough to go out of school holiday season and it was a last-minute decision. We then looked at booking some time there when the schools are off and saw some quite eye-watering prices. Although they like to deny it, we all know holiday companies like to charge us far more, just because they can.
So we went on the search for a cheap Center Parcs holiday.
Why Center Parcs?
Center Parcs was founded back in 1968 in the Netherlands and has slowly expanded across Europe, finally reaching the UK in 1987. In total there are 26 sites in Europe, with several more in development. They cater mainly for families and provide lodges set in secluded forests. Apart from two days per week, cars are not allowed in the park which provides for a tranquil experience. There is plenty to do on site, either for those feeling energetic or for people who fancy a rest.
Is it that expensive?
In the UK, yes. Out of season prices are reasonable, but anytime else will see prices rocket. Booking your accommodation isn’t the only cost you need to consider either. You, of course, have to think about purchasing food and spending money on activities. Swimming is free, but nearly everything else will cost.
A cheaper Center Parcs alternative?
Center Parcs anywhere but the UK. As I said earlier, they have sites across Europe and many are within a three to four-hour drive from Calais. Fortunately, in Europe, the company doesn’t find it necessary to increase their prices by at least 50% during school holidays.
Take a look at the table below. I have compared prices from five sites – two in the UK and the others from Belgium, Netherlands and France.
(Prices are correct 22/04/17. Exchange rate of 1.19 Euros to £)
|Elveden||Longleat||Erperheide||De Kempervennen||Le Lac d'Ailette|
|28th August (4 nights)||£1099||£1199||£404.69||£469.04||£489.96|
|1st September (3 nights)||£659||£699||£312.87||£390.60||£404.91|
|4th September (4 nights)||£429||£479||£284.42||N/A||£376.49|
As you can see, I have used dates at the end of the summer holidays (2017) into the start of the new school year. You’ll notice that the cheap Center Parcs sites are always based in Europe and that price difference increases by even more during August. Staying in Belgium instead of Longleat could save you just under £800. That’s almost £200 per day!
Is there a language barrier?
There certainly isn’t in the Netherlands and Belgium. The majority of people that speak Flemish/Dutch can also speak English. When we spent our week in Erperheide, we didn’t meet one staff member that wasn’t fluent in English. Guests came from all over, not only from Belgium but also the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Shows for the kids were presented in several languages so that everybody could understand. My children also enjoyed the kid’s clubs and there were plenty of other English children there.
Are activities expensive?
Nope. In fact, they are far cheaper at the Center Parcs in Belgium. For example, horse riding was about a third of the price compared to the UK. Other activities and kid’s clubs cost less too.
This was the only part of our holiday that I considered costly. Unlike the UK, in Belgium, we were only provided with a microwave in our lodge. This made cooking for ourselves almost impossible, so we ate out every night. One of the buffets we ate at, cost around £70 for the five of us. I found this slightly expensive when my three children hardly eat a whole meal between them. The food is nice though, and all tastes are catered for.
A few other costs that you will need to consider when travelling abroad.
Insurance. To Belgium for a family of five, you should be looking in the region of £10. Also, check that you have valid car insurance. Most policies cover you for 30 days when driving abroad.
Breakdown cover. You don’t want to get stranded on a foreign motorway if you don’t speak the language! As you’ll be parked up most of the holiday, I would only take out cover for the day you leave and the day you return. This should cost anywhere between £20 and £40.
Ferry/train travel. Travelling from Dover to Calais, a return journey will cost in the region of £100 during peak times.
Exchange rates. Withdrawing money or making purchases don’t need to cost you much if have the right card. Read more about exchanging money abroad with the Halifax credit card.
Most of the points above are covered in my Find out more about cutting the cost of your holiday to Europe.
And, as I get asked this quite often, Center Parcs does not offer any cashback deals from the likes of TopCashback or Quidco.
Is it worth it?
Definitely. Everybody I have spoken to that has visited a site in the UK has agreed on one thing. They want a cheap Center Parcs holiday. Even with the added cost of a Channel crossing, booking abroad during school holiday dates could halve the cost of your holiday.
Click here to visit the Center Parcs site to see the savings you can make on your next holiday.