I love Center Parcs, but visiting a UK site in the holidays will cost you a fortune. But stay in a European site and it can save you a lot of money. Take a look at my Erperheide, Belgium review to see what you can expect and how much you can save.
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.
A little bit about 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.
Why Erperheide Center Parcs?
Visiting a Center Parcs in Europe will often save you money. 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.
Erperheide is one of the closest sites to the UK. Once you reach France, it will take roughly 3 hours to drive to. Although in Belgium, it is situated closely to the Dutch and German borders so there is plenty to visit within driving distance.
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!
What do they have at Erperheide?
If you’ve visited Center Parcs sites before, you’ll probably know what facilities to expect. In Erperheide, you will find:
- Subtropical pool with child’s play area
- Indoor play area
- Children’s farm
- Pony rides
- Kids’ Safari
- Big Swing
- High Adventure
- Become a princess or knight
- Kids’ workshop
- Kids’ disco
- Wannabe chef
- Wannabe painter
- Kids’ shows
- Indoor sports
Plus many more!
Is there a language barrier?
There certainly isn’t in the Netherlands and Belgium. The vast 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.
Bike hire costs were similar to the UK.
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.
You can order a Table-Top Cooking experience. You can choose gourmet food, stone plate or a Barbecue grill and the food will be brought to your lodge, along with the equipment you need to cook.
All Center Parcs have shops on-site and Erperheide is no different. There is a clothing store with popular clothes from the likes of Only, Vero Moda, Speedo, Adidas and S’Oliver. On-site is also a toy store, which is actually quite reasonably priced.
If you fancy making your own lunches, then you can pay a visit to the supermarket. Again, this isn’t badly priced and there’s a decent range to choose from. I would say it’s slightly bigger than a Tesco Metro. And if it happens to be closed, there is a Shop24 that is open all day and night and provided essentials.
A few other costs that you will need to consider when travelling to Erperheid Center Parcs.
A visit to Belgium for a family of five should cost in the region of £10-20 for a short stay. Not only will insurance cover you if items are stolen whilst you’re abroad, but it can also help towards medical issues. Although you should hold a European Health Insurance Card which covers you for most medical treatments, that doesn’t include being moved back to the UK.
Also, check that you have valid car insurance. Most policies cover you for 30 days when driving abroad.
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.
Travelling from Dover to Calais, a return journey will cost in the region of £100 during peak times. Take a look at my post Which is best – Eurotunnel or ferry to find out more.
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.
What else is there to do near Erperheide?
Even though there is plenty to do in Center Parcs, you may fancy visiting some of the sites local to Erperheide. There is plenty to do and below are 10 of the best – all within a 30 minute drive.
- Manege Panhof – 3.6 miles (8 minutes). If you fancy something calming and picturesque, then why not take a horse-drawn carriage tour?
- Western Saloon Pony Express – 3.1 miles (9 minutes). Experience nature with a warm or cold drink, with or without a horse.
- Racelandkart – 4.2 miles (11 minutes). Here, you can experience go-karting, kids karting, pit bikes, laser gaming, crash football and VR Adventure.
- De Alpacaboerderij – 6.4 miles (13 minutes). You don’t get much cuter than an alpaca. Why not spend a couple of hours with them and even take one for a hike.
- Kleine-Brogel Airforce Museum – 6.5 miles (15 minutes). If you have an interest in planes or history, then this is the museum for you.
- Saraland – 8.3 miles (17 minutes). Providing over 25,000m² of indoor and outdoor entertainment. Things to do include an indoor playground, swimming pool, mini-golf, Virtual Reality, Magic shows and pirate bowling.
- Lago Pelt Dommelslag – 9.8 miles (21 minutes). A large subtropical pool with a wellness area to relax.
- Ter Dolen – 10 miles (20 minutes). A fabulous castle with a brewery. Something for everyone!
- Expo Kelchterhoef – vrije markt – 14 miles (26 minutes). Places to shop with antique stores, Flea & Street Markets and Shopping Malls
- Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Lommel – 15 miles (just under 30 minutes). A burial site for German soldiers from World Wars I and II containing over 39,000 graves. These sites make you realise how lucky we are today.
Any downsides to staying in Erperheide?
There was one issue we faced… Mosquitos!
When we arrived at our lodge, it was a little stuffy and very warm. Naturally, we opened all the windows and let it cool down and air. Around 20 feet away was a lake and some trees. Well, I say a lake, it was more of a bog.
Anyhow, by the evening we closed up and went to bed. 20 minutes later, my daughter said she was having trouble getting to sleep because of a buzzing in her room. Well, it turned out we had let in a swarm of mosquitos. That night I spent an hour swatting them and still ended up with loads of bites.
It meant that we couldn’t leave windows open during our stay, which spoilt it slightly.
My Erperheide review conclusion
Even with the added cost of a Channel crossing and the food being a little more expensive, staying at Erperheide Center Parcs can save you a lot of money.
Yes, the mosquitos were an issue, but it is something that we could get over and wouldn’t put us off staying again.
Click here to visit the Center Parcs site to see the savings you can make on your next holiday.