If you’ve got twins, let’s face it – you’re going to be in need of a holiday. As Douglas and Arthur’s first birthday approached, we decided we would like to celebrate as just the four of us, before a family celebration the following weekend. It felt like a big ask to find somewhere that we could feel was a break for us, as well as allowing the boys some fun new experiences. After a bit of research, we thought Center Parcs would be perfect, and we booked a 4-night, midweek break.
One of the draws of Woburn Forest was that it was only around an hour’s drive from home. Typically we hit traffic, which added thirty minutes to our journey, but thankfully the boys didn’t complain too much. We were welcomed by a friendly staff member, who gave us directions to our lodge, and off we went. After a delightful and unnecessary tour of the super-large car park (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this was due to my poor navigating, or John’s interpretation of my instructions) we eventually pulled up at our lodge and were delighted with the surroundings. Woburn is still the newest parc, having opened in summer 2014; so has some ‘growing in’ to do. Nevertheless we still felt we were going ‘back to nature’, surrounded by beautiful tall trees.
As well as being the newest parc, Woburn is also the smallest resort, meaning we found it extremely easy to get around. This also maximised the time we were able to spend out of the lodge as we worked around nap times.
Although the lodges are placed quite closed together, not once did we feel overlooked or as though we were too close to our neighbours. Apart from crossing paths occasionally as we left/came back to the lodge, we wouldn’t have noticed them at all.
We opened the door to our 2-bedroom Executive Lodge using our wristbands (no faffing about with keys here!) and entered into a spacious open plan kitchen/diner and living area. Full length windows and doors looked out onto our own small patio and barbecue area, surrounded by wild grass and ferns. Our ‘Welcome Pack’ of groceries was laid out on the table. Everything looked clean and well-maintained. Each bedroom had its own en-suite – one with a bath and overhead shower, one with a walk-in shower. The bathrooms were placed back-to-back with the bedrooms spaced at each end of the lodge – this was great noise-wise as we felt we could make use of all the facilities without disturbing the boys if they were sleeping.
The kitchen was well-equipped. We had an oven, toaster, kettle, microwave, coffee machine, and dishwasher. The cupboards and drawers were well stocked with crockery and utensils too.
The utility cupboard had a chalkboard door, and the housekeeping staff had left us a welcome message, which was a nice touch.
Around the Parc
The Village Square
The main attraction at the Village Square is the Sub-Tropical Swimming Paradise, but it’s also a hub of places to eat.
Here you’ll find:
- Cafe Rouge
- Dexter’s Kitchen
- Leisure Bowl
While visiting the Village Square you can also indulge in a little retail therapy as part of your relaxation!
Here are the stores you can visit:
- Aquatique (swimwear)
- Just Kids (toys and gifts)
- ParcMarket Express
- Spirit (clothing and accessories from brands such as Joules and Fat Face)
- The Store Room (gifts from brands including Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater)
- Treats (sweet shop)
A wide range of sports, craft and children’s activities are held within the Plaza. Like the Village Square, there are also places to eat and shop:
- Rajinda Pradesh (Indian restaurant)
- Sports Cafe
- The Shearing House (Gastro-pub)
- ParcMarket (The park’s own mini supermarket)
- Refresh (Newspapers/refreshments)
- Sportique (Sports shop)
- Time for Shade (Sunglasses)
Also on site is the Aqua Sana Spa, so it’s well worth trying to grab a few hours away from the kids if you can! I enjoyed a back, neck and shoulder massage. The therapist joked that she could tell I was a mum of twins from the knots in my back!!
Looking along the lake towards The Pancake House.
Do we need to take food?
If, like us, you find yourself tied to nap times, or just want flexibility, it is worth taking some basics and standby meals. Be aware that restaurants can get busy and it makes sense to book in advance online if you can. We found though, that eating early with the boys at around 5pm, this wasn’t necessary.
The parc has its own takeaway menu too. We ordered from Dining In twice during our stay. The food was perhaps a little on the pricey side, but it was tasty, hot and arrived in good time.
If your babies are weaning, there are ‘stations’ within the restaurants with microwaves and jarred food, which you can help yourself to if required.
Is it easy to eat out with the babies?
We only managed a couple of meals out but the two places we ate at were Huck’s and The Pancake House. We enjoyed both. One of the great things about Huck’s was the children’s buffet – for older babies and children there’s no need to wait for an order if they’re getting ‘hangry’, just help yourself at the buffet (Douglas and Arthur had pasta with meatballs and polished it off). The Pancake House had a great selection of pancakes, crepes and waffles. There were colouring sheets at the table and a small soft play area.
Will we need bikes?
We didn’t pre-book bikes as we weren’t sure we would get the use out of them. We packed the Mountain Buggy and thought we’d just get around with that. However, once we saw the layout and landscaping of the village (it’s pretty hilly), we changed our minds! Plus of course, it just looked way more fun and a part of the Center Parcs experience! So, in the end we hired 2 adult mountain bikes and a trailer for the boys. (I think they are suitable for 6 months+, though I think Douglas and Arthur might have been a little too small then).
How easy is it to take twins swimming?
We went swimming twice during our stay and just accessed the parts of the pool that were appropriate for us. The baby/toddler pool is a walk-in pool, so is shallow enough at the edge for babies to just sit and splash around, which is nice. There were a couple of water activities in this area too to interact with. By far our favourite part though, was the Lazy River. This is a circuit of waist-height water with a gentle current, for use with inflatables. A friend kindly lent us two single floats so we used these. It was great fun floating around with the boys, there were sections of bubble jets and fountains to splash in. The entire pool complex is heated to a balmy 29.5C, too.
No need to worry about finding your locker on the way back either. If like me your brain is slightly addled from lack of sleep and you can’t remember what day it is, let alone your locker number, fear not. Tap your wristband on a terminal and it’ll tell you where your belongings are!
How baby-proof is the lodge?
We found the lodge generally very safe and we felt happy to let the boys crawl around the bedrooms and living area. The only slight hazard was the granite fireplace hearth and its sharp edges.
What about cots and high chairs, do we need to take our own?
The high chairs that Center Parcs provided were perfect for the boys. They were sturdy, wooden high chairs with a wipeable tray attached. The cots were folding wooden cots. They were fairly sturdy when assembled but quite small. Douglas and Arthur have cot beds at home so I think they felt a bit restricted but if your babies are used to standard sized cots, this may not be an issue for you. The mattresses seemed clean and firm. We took our own cot linen as it’s not provided as standard.
What activities are there suitable for babies?
Aside from swimming, we took the boys to a ‘Sensory Playtime’ session, suitable for crawling babies to toddlers. Held in the Activity Den within the Plaza area, it was a brilliant session with a good balance of adult-led singing and free play for all the children. There was a soft play area to explore, and a range of sensory toys. Also suitable for babies from 4 months are the ‘Swimasong’ sessions held in the pool. For older toddlers of 18 months and older, there are ‘Mucky Pups’ messy play sessions.
On the beach (about to eat sand…)
Unfortunately when we arrived there was only one cot and one high chair in our lodge. Two of each had been requested upon booking, and I had telephoned the week before our stay to double check that this was still noted. We also later had an issue with the maintenance of the cots as we found there were screws missing. These problems were both resolved within a couple of hours, but did put a slight dampener on our stay.
With one of our takeaway orders, we received the wrong food. This was quickly rectified though, and the first order we kept without charge.
The ‘Sensory Playtime’ class we booked in the Activity Den.
Cycling. Even when we had no particular plans, cycling around and exploring was just a really pleasant experience.
The housekeeping staff were all friendly and courteous. One in particular made our day. We returned to our lodge from a morning to find she had left two teddy bears on the high chairs, with a note saying ‘Happy Birthday’. It was such a sweet gesture that really made our day.
All in all, we just loved our time at Center Parcs – so much so that we’ve already booked our break for next year! We can’t wait to go back!
Find your own break at Center Parcs here