Center Parcs Europe in the School Holidays?
Like many others I absolutely love a break at Centre Parcs! The parks make an ideal place to get away for a few days; located in beautiful surroundings and with so many activities right on your doorstep. It is no wonder Centre Parcs is so popular with families as there is so much to do for every age. However these wonderful facilities come at a cost and this is very much apparent in the school holidays when the prices sky rocket!
When it came to booking our August summer holiday back in 2014, the thought of going to Centre Parcs crossed my mind for just a second before discarding it upon realising how ridiculously expensive it would be. I should add that although we had a toddler at the time so would normally have avoided a holiday in the school holidays like the plague, we wanted to go away with my school aged step son and so like many other parents, we were bound by these dates. Not wanting to pay for the cost of flights, we deliberated on where we could go that involved driving only. We also wanted somewhere that had good facilities for our then 17 month old and the 7 year old, keeping the kids happy was important! Out of interest I decided to check the prices of Centre Parcs in Europe, thinking it would be almost as much I was pleasantly surprised to find it was significantly cheaper than Centre Parcs in the U.K. We weren’t afraid of driving abroad either as we had driven all the way to Spain and Italy, one and two years previously. Eventually we finalised the details of our August holiday; We would stay Friday to Monday at Centre Parcs Erperheide in Belgium and then drive to Germany where we would stay Monday to Friday at Parc Bispinger Heide. On the way to Belgium we would also stop in Bruges for two nights. Because European school children go back to school in August, prices go down towards the end of the month. We booked our holiday for the last week of August coming back a few days into September. Even with the cost of the ferry the holiday still worked out at about half the price of staying at a U.K Centre Parcs.
Center Parcs Belgium
Bruges is only a a 1 hour and 20 minute drive away from Calais and made a perfect place to stop en route to Erperheide. We stayed two nights in a self contained modern lodge which was essentially in the back of somebodies garden. Bruges is a beautiful city and although we only had one full day here, we had fun walking around the pretty streets and the kids loved going on a boat ride, exploring Bruges’s canals. We then headed off to Centre Parcs Erperheide located on the opposite side of Belgium but still only a just over 2 hour drive from Bruges.
Center Parcs Erperheide reminded me of every other Centre Parcs I have visited. Here you find all the usual offerings; a great swimming pool, market place, lodges nestled in a remote forest and many activities to choose from. We had chosen the cheapest option for accommodation and so stayed in their basic lodge and basic accurately sums up the description of it! The décor was bland but I suppose it still had everything we needed and was clean enough.
In the heart of Erperheide is the the Swimming pool aka the Aqua Mundo along with the usual restaurants and a shop. I was very impressed with the pool, it has lots of fake trees around it and was nice and tropical looking. There were several water slides which my step son loved. Unfortunately my daughter decided on the second day that she hated water and so the two of us spent a lot of time sitting by the pool, luckily there many playpens around to contain her in 🙂
The best part of Center Parcs Erperheide if you are going with children has to be the huge indoor play centre (the ‘Baluba’). As well as being basically a big soft play centre with lots of slides, there is also a mini go kart track and best of all a Lego area. At 17 months old my lazy daughter still couldn’t walk so could not use most of this facility however she loved the Lego area and playing with the large soft lego shaped bricks whilst chucking the actual lego everywhere! The play centre at Erperheide is definitely the best I have been to so far. There are also many other activities available at Erperheide although we didn’t end up booking anything. We found the kids were entertained enough with the swimming pool, play centre and the various outdoor playgrounds dotted around. Since our trip there is now a farm and pony centre which I’m sure the kids would have loved too.
I noticed that we weren’t the only British family either there, There were a fair few others that also had the right Center Parcs money saving idea :). Overall I thought Center Parcs Erperheide was a fantastic place for a family break, it had all the great things about Center Parcs for a much cheaper price. I Perhaps would have paid more for a slightly more luxurious lodge though.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything about the German Center Parcs Bispinger Heide as on the last night of our Belgium trip my partner broke his collar bone! He ended up getting a taxi to the local hospital which apparently comes recommended. With his shoulder and arm immobilised we decided to cut our European holiday short and head back home.
Center Parcs Het Meerdal, Holland.
The following May, after deciding we would like to go away in the May school holidays we once again decided to look at Centre Parcs abroad. After some research we settled on Center Parcs Het Meerdal in The Netherlands, a 4 hour drive from Calais. Amazingly the price came to around £200 for a 3 bedroom lodge in the school holidays…Bargain! The reason it was probably so cheap is that there is no school holidays in May for European children so there was no increase in price for that week. Something to bear in mind.
Het Meerdal is situated in the Limberg region of Holland and the park sits on a large lake. It is apparently the first Center Parcs to have opened in Europe. Just like our experience with Erpeheide, Het Meerdal has a lot to offer families. There is the Market Dome which is nicely done inside with several restaurants. Here there is also a large attractive pool area with an awesome long wild west slide. Also located in the Market Dome is a soft play area and a mini golf course which we had fun playing. Outdoors there is plenty of things to do, there were a few great playgrounds and one day we hired a go kart for my stepson and walked around the lake. It was surprisingly quiet at Het Meerdal that week which made it quite peaceful and wasn’t a bad thing. For theme park fans there is an Amusement Park located next to Het Meerdal named Toverland which has many roller coasters and other rides. The kids weren’t really into rides then so we didn’t visit but there is a discount available to Het Meerdal visitors.
Despite choosing the cheapest accommodation again, the lodge was much better than the Belgium version and was surprisingly spacious inside. Again we thoroughly enjoyed our second European Center Parcs experience at Het Meerdal.
If you can brave getting a ferry or euro tunnel and driving abroad then I certainly recommend staying at a Center Parcs village across the pond. We found that the European Center Parcs offered all the same amenities as the British ones for a fraction of the price even in the school holidays!