How to save money (and be mindful) whilst holidaying at Center Parcs

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

We had such a lovely few days at the Woburn Forest Center Parcs site this August that I really wanted to document it.  After all I primarily established the blog in order to record family moments – special or otherwise – so that when I look back these years will be less of a blur than they may perhaps have been.

However, I also feel awkward about writing these sort of posts that can appear self-indulgent – who else apart from my Mum really wants to read about our extremely mundane holiday?!

And now, somehow, I find that it’s only one week away from the halfterm holiday already.  In fact some children may well have already broken up and I am asking the question ‘how have these weeks gone by so quickly?’ So it’s ‘now or never’ to write a brief summary of the best bits of our stay at Center Parcs a couple of months ago.  I figured you never know this post may help anyone who is booked in for an up-coming autumn break there too.

Center Parcs does have a bit of a reputation for being a place where money can fly out of pockets before you can say ‘archery anyone?’ so I thought I’d share some of the activities we do at my ‘happy place’ (I know it’s sad that Center Parcs is my ‘happy place’ at the moment but it does make family holidays so easy) that don’t cost a penny.

Basically I want this to be a gentle reminder that if anyone is going away this month then spending can be reigned in, and also we don’t have to organise every hour of every day for our children.  In fact we have visited this site on three separate occasions now and rarely book many of the organised activities at all.   cp7

Mornings are generally either filled with swimming in the fantastic facilities that are free to use once on site or playing at the ‘beach’ that there is around the lake. Either way the lodge is near enough to get back to for lunch, and snacks can be taken to sustain everyone throughout the morning if need be.  The kids have a great time splashing around the ‘lazy river’ and twin 2 particularly loved the slides on the pirate ship this time round while twin 1 enjoyed getting up close to the ducks on the lake and communicating with them in her own special way – she does a fabulous and very guttural ‘quack’ very enthusiastically.

Whilst the little ladies nap our eldest is fairly content with pottering around the lodge and one day, on this visit, decided to sit and draw the ‘forest’ behind our accommodation.   Having to improvise, as I hadn’t packed any paper he used kitchen roll instead.  He is not a particularly keen artist and it was lovely to see him being so observant of our new  surroundings without me prompting him.


Later in the afternoon after venturing out again (which could easily be to one of the playgrounds or softplay areas which are obviously free to use too) this time round the kids would explore the woodland behind the lodge – collecting sticks, pine cones or maybe doing a spot of ‘bug hunting’.   Watching them reminded me of how remarkable the world can be when viewed with a ‘beginniner’s mind’ and how naturally mindfulness comes to our little ones as they became engrossed in their woodland wanderings.

I was extremely grateful to get the chance to see them all ‘playing’ together for one of the very first times – just bumbling around freely in the trees just beyond our little patio.

It would have been hard not to feel mindful during those few days away – even the sky looked more blue than usual as I took a few moments to really look at it. Trying my hardest to adopt a ‘childlike curiosity’ to viewing the environment when I got the chance.

What’s lovely about all these ‘best bits’ of the holiday  is that they didn’t cost anything – just enjoying each other’s company and the simple pleasures that the site had to offer us.


We have already booked to return to our ‘happy place’ in 2017 and will endeavour not to book too many activities again…even when the pressure mounts as the children get older… this space 🙂

What are your children’s favourite pastimes when on their hols?

Do they end up adding lots of  expense to the holiday?

Do you think that being on holiday gives everyone in the family more of an opportunity to be mindful of their surroundings and the people they are  with?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Pink Pear Bear
Diary of An Imperfect Mum
Two Tiny Hands
Diary of an imperfect mum


  1. October 17, 2016 / 10:36 am

    I am heading to Centre Parcs for our first time as a family in November and am hoping that it worked be too expensive! I didn’t know that they have soft play and parks that are free so this is reassuring! I know we will be fine if the weather is dry as we love a good walk in the forest but if it rains I am concerned that my little boy will get bored. I am looking forward to it though as I have many happy memories from when I was a child.

    • October 18, 2016 / 8:15 pm

      Ah I’m confident you’ll find enough to do rain or shine. Have fun x

  2. October 17, 2016 / 3:28 pm

    Yay! You know I love Center Parcs and I tend to avoid the expensive activities too. Our little guy isn’t 1 yet so obviously that’s much easier as there is very little suitable for him anyway but even as he gets older I hope we will encourage him just to enjoy the surroundings like your lovely kids did! Ellen

    • October 18, 2016 / 8:14 pm

      Ah thanks so much for commenting El, yes I know you’re a CP fan like me too. You’re little one will be enjoying walking in the woods before you know it! x

  3. October 17, 2016 / 8:01 pm

    This is great timing for me as we are going to Centre Parcs next month. We have been before but it’s a good reminder not to go mad and book all the things! We have booked Father Christmas, but other than that we will just hang out at the pool I expect! x #bigpinklink

    • October 18, 2016 / 8:12 pm

      Ah pleased it’s a helpful post – have fun, you can’t go far wrong hanging out at the pool x

  4. October 19, 2016 / 10:22 pm

    I used to live just round the corner from Centre Parcs and the woods there are lovely. Pretty walks and nature spotting are free and never get old! #FridayFun

    • October 19, 2016 / 10:35 pm

      Totally agree – thanks for commenting x

  5. marissaclaire1980
    October 21, 2016 / 11:50 am

    I too love to take my kids out to nature. Much much better than malls and game arcades.

  6. October 21, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    Aaaah yes I must say I have always viewed centre parcs as a money pit, but you’re right it doesn’t have to be. Especially when your kids are young…I am sure the 15 year old step daughter could find a way to spend money in the forest… I love the pool at centre parcs and the best part is it’s totally free and you could literally spend hours in there. Thank you for sharing at #familyfun xx

  7. October 22, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    Some really wonderful tips and that capture of your little boy drawing in the great outdoors is so precious. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

  8. twotinyhands
    October 23, 2016 / 5:10 am

    Ahh great ideas and it’s never too late to submit a holiday post. My man is still a little young to demand things when we go away and is quite happy exploring the ground outside. We tend to go camping or staying in youth hostels so he has lots to explore as every new place is new!! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

    • October 23, 2016 / 9:22 pm

      Yes you are certainly a pro at exploring the outdoors with your little man x

  9. October 26, 2016 / 2:40 pm

    I so want to go to centre parcs but cannot afford the holiday let alone the activities but hopefully one day.
    thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

    • October 26, 2016 / 6:18 pm

      One day lovely lady and I’m sure you find fun around and about you anyway. Thanks for commenting. x

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