I can’t tell you how excited I was about our first family holiday to the new Irish Center Parcs last month. I have always wanted to go, ever since I knew about their existence in England. It was the amazing looking indoor swimming pool that sold it to me – I just love a good swimming pool and throw in a few slides? Well I’m as happy as a turkey on St. Stephen’s Day!
As the accommodation is quite expensive we decided to go for a long weekend during the early part of their Winter Wonderland season and stay in one of their apartments which was the cheapest option. The Center Parcs site seemed quite vast and I knew we had to have accommodation close to all the main facilities as walking longer distances can sometimes be an issue for my husband (he has Multiple Sclerosis) and the apartments were very close to the Center Parcs village. There were lodges close to the village too but in order to guarantee being close you had to pay extra on top of the cost of the lodge which, as we were doing this trip on a shoestring, wasn’t an option.
But then I got a phone call two weeks before our trip to inform me that we had been given a free upgrade! To an executive lodge which couldn’t have been closer to the facilities. Brilliant!
Everything about checking in at Center Parcs was slick and quick. The check in is a drive through. You bring your car straight to your lodge to unload it and then, as it’s a car free site, except for the check in and out days (Monday and Friday only), you take it to a car park where you leave it for the duration of your stay.
Our accommodation was all on one level which, as stairs can be an issue for my husband, was perfect. This allowed me to leave my husband and little man to take the car back to the car park. We weren’t quite sure of the walking distance back to the lodge so it was better for me to do it in case it was a longer walk.
The lodge itself was warm and cosy. We’d stocked up at Lidl on the way so that we saved money on eating out. It’s worth knowing that although the accommodation at Center Parcs is pricey you can make it a cheap break if you don’t eat out too much or at all. And, as I keep telling everyone, you have to remember that unlimited entry to the amazing waterpark is included in the stay which makes the accommodation better value for money.
I have to say that our Center Parcs break was by far the easiest trip away we have had since my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over five and a half years ago. You see, travelling with an invisible disability can be tricky.
For a start we have to think about the proximity of our accommodation to what we plan to do as sometimes walking isn’t a problem for my husband and other times it is. We’re not really beach people, well we are for a couple of hours but then we get fed up, so we’ve always holidayed to places where there is sight-seeing too. Naturally a lot of the time this has been cities so we’ve had to stay near to the centre which is more expensive.
Something else we need to be aware of is where the public toilets are. As holding on until we find one isn’t always an option. I find myself naturally seeking these out whenever we go anywhere, even to a church wedding – I always make sure we know where the toilet is!
As fatigue is a big part of my husband’s condition we always need to make sure that we don’t undertake an activity or day trip where he has no option for resting part way through the day.
At Center Parcs there were plenty of public toilets and like I’ve already said our accommodation was in the perfect location – so no big long walks and somewhere to easily retreat to should fatigue take over. So big ticks all round!
Our break was just so relaxing, we were so impressed with Center Parcs. The Winter Wonderland was magical, we’re hoping we can go again when our little man is older and will find it all exciting. We did have lunch out and there are lovely restaurants varying in price and different tastes, plus a take away service too. In the village there was a small selection of shops selling “nice things”, I’m a bit of a shopaholic and I do love a good browse!
The waterpark was fantastic, we were restricted as our little man is so little but we still had great fun introducing him to water and splashing around in the pool.
We will definitely be back. Although it is expensive, it’s an ideal family destination and also caters very well for my husband’s condition. In the future should we have to pay extra to guarantee that our lodge is close to the centre? After all, as one of my friends said, we wouldn’t be doing that for convenience but out of necessity. But then, in fairness to Center Parcs, I’ve never asked them if there are any special considerations for people with invisible conditions so maybe there is, I’ll have to ask next time we book.
And trust me, there will be a next time!