Center Parcs holidays during school holidays are pretty pricey. We wrote a blog recently about the £10,000 Center Parcs holiday, although that was for rather plush accommodation admittedly.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to make Center Parcs better value.
Some guides offer rather obvious tips which you've already thought of (e.g. 'visit during term time!'). We will try to avoid those.
Other guides suggest penny pinching which is just too much hassle to be worth it (e.g. 'why not leave the Center Parcs site and play table tennis at a local leisure centre to save yourself £7!').
Hopefully our tips for saving money at Center Parcs will be of some use.
1. Head for Center Parcs Europe
This may sound a little drastic, but visiting a Center Parcs resort in Europe is a big money saver if you are a planning a week's break during the summer school holidays. It probably isn't worth the extra hassle for a weekend in winter once you factor in travel times and costs.
For example, we found a week at Center Parcs De Vossemeren in Belgium was £1025 for August 2022, compared to £2048 at Center Parcs in the UK. That's almost exactly half price.
The European Center Parcs are run by a different company which means that the pricing structure is completely different. You'll often find 'flash sales' and discounts at the European Center Parcs which you don't get at the UK Center Parcs.
We found that you usually get the best prices on European Center Parcs by booking through the French version of the website. For some reason, the prices vary a bit depending on which website you book through - but the holiday is the same. Use your browser's translation tool rather than relying on your GCSE French.
Some Center Parcs in Europe get very similar reviews to the UK resorts, whereas others score much more poorly. Some European Center Parcs have been rebranded from other resorts rather than being purpose built as Center Parcs.
Five European Center Parcs which get good reviews and which aren't a huge drive from the UK include:
Of course, you need to add on travel time and cost.
A reasonable estimate is that travelling to a Center Parcs in Europe will cost you about £300-£500. The savings for a week's holiday in August will vary, but I've seen many examples where you can save £1000 or more. See our guides to the best Center Parcs in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Of course, you'll need passports already or the cost of getting them will wipe out your savings...
2. Get clever with holiday dates
If you are keen to stick with Center Parcs UK then the next step is to get a bit clever with booking dates.
A lot of advice guides suggest you book a midweek Center Parcs during term time, but that advice is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard to the majority of Center Parcs customers.
Some more practical things to try:
3. Whinfell Forest and Sherwood Forest are usually cheaper than Woburn Forest or Longleat Forest.
We've done various price comparisons of Center Parcs over the years.
Generally speaking, we've found Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire to be a little cheaper than Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire. Elveden Forest is mid-priced.
For example, a two bedroom lodge in August 2022 at Whinfell Forest started at £2028. Woburn Forest was £100 for the same grade of accommodation, Longleat Forest was £200 more expensive.
Reviews of Center Parcs in the UK are admirably consistent so you are as likely to have a good time at any of them.
Of course, it's not worth driving an extra 300 miles to save yourself £100. However, if you live half way between two resorts then I would go for Whinfell Forest or Sherwood Forest over the others.
4. Bring your own things as much as possible
As you'll have guessed, buying things onsite at Center Parcs is a bit pricier than off-site. They've got a captive audience and you will pay for the convenience of having everything provided.
Sometimes you'll decide to cough up and just pay extra to make the whole thing more enjoyable. At other times, you can easily save yourself some money.
Some popular ways to save money:
5. Consider which accommodation upgrades you really need
We've written a long blog post which compares the different types of Center Parcs lodges. It explains what you are getting for your money by upgrading.
The gist of it is that you are choosing from:
There are also sub categories of lodges including 'newer' and older versions.
If you go for the cheapest accommodation (which is what we did) then the main things you don't get compared to higher grades are:
If any of those are absolutely essential to you for a holiday then you'll need to upgrade. Otherwise, I would go for a Woodland Lodge and save yourself some money.
Woodland Lodges are still pretty decent. You get towels provided, log burners, kitchen facilities and a patio or similar outside space.
6. Book Center Parcs early
There is a last minute page on the Center Parcs website, but my experience is that booking early is usually better value.
This is because the cheaper accommodation gets booked up and you'll be left paying for an upgrade that you don't really need.
I compared a couple of 'last minute' prices and found that the savings were pretty modest - or non-existent.
For example, a midweek holiday at Whinfell Forest in a 2 Bedroom New Style Woodland Lodge was £679 on the Last Minute Page, starting on May 2nd 2022 (I searched on April 27th 2022). The same accommodation was only £20 extra if booked three weeks later. If you booked the same holiday for May 1st 2023 (a year later) it was £569 - a whole £110 cheaper.
I then found a 'last minute' weekend at Elveden Forest for £999 in a 3 Bedroom New Style Executive Lodge starting on May 6th 2022. The same holiday a year later was £899. That's £100 cheaper (starting on May 5th 2022).
I am sure there are good last minute deals sometimes, but I wouldn't hold on for a bargain if you know when you want to go on holiday.
7. Fill up a 3 bedroom lodge instead of booking 2 x 2 bedroom lodges
Center Parcs holidays are priced per accommodation unit rather than per person.
So, two families of three people will get much better value if they are willing to share accommodation. I appreciate this one is only relevant for a small number of people but the savings are considerable.
For example, 2 x 2 Bedroom New Style Woodland Lodges will cost you £4396 at Whinfell Forest for a week in early August 2022 (2 x £2198).
For six people, that works out as £104 per person, per night.
A 3 Bedroom New Style Woodland Lodge will cost you £2528. For six people, that is £60 per person, per night. That's a whopping saving of £1868 over the week.
8. Get the best value whilst you are there
I've read several good bits of advice about how to get better value from Center Parcs once you've arrived.
Some of my favourites include:
Holiday Park Guru Blog
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