I was really keen to go for a little family holiday on the girls’ first birthday, and settled on a Centerparcs Longleat Forest long weekend. We paid just under £600 for a Friday to Monday holiday in a two bed ‘executive’ lodge in early September. I do think it’s an expensive option but, having twins, we only get to celebrate a first birthday once so we wanted to do it in style! It was a bit cheaper on various other dates, but I wanted to be there for their actual birthday.
I was quite nervous about going away with the girls, even though we had been away previously (see here) – silly things like having enough room in the car for our things, not fitting the pushchair in places, how long they’d be happy in the car, etc. I tried looking around online for a blog describing a Centerparcs holiday with twin babies, but couldn’t really find anything so I thought I’d write my own, and try to remember as much detail as possible.
We arrived a bit early, so we could have a wander round and get our bearings before the ‘rush’ at check-in I had heard about. There was a bit of a queue at the entrance, but it was moving quickly. Pulling up to a booth where we were given a map and our lodge key. We then parked our car in the nearby carpark, and had a walk around the place with the pushchair as we weren’t yet allowed into our lodge. We got a few snacks for the girls in the Parc Market, which we LOVED! Yes it’s quite expensive, but you’re on holiday and paying for convenience. They had everything you could need, even baby items such as swim nappies, wipes, dummies and baby food.
We were extremely lucky that we were given a very well-placed lodge – number 352! It was a 10-15 minute walk to the Plaza, where lots of restaurants, shops, the swimming pool and Parc market were located. We just walked everywhere the whole weekend, we never felt the need to use the land train or bikes because we enjoy walking. We were quite surprised at how quickly we were able to walk around the entire village, even with the pushchair it never felt like a particularly long walk. There is a land train available around the site, if walking or cycling isn’t such an easy option.
Once our lodge was available, James walked back to pick up our car and drive it up to our home for the weekend. Cars are only allowed on-site on Mondays and Fridays (check-in and out days) so for the rest of your stay it feels so peaceful and safe. We unpacked all our bits and made ourselves at home, and sorted out taking the car back to the car park later that evening.
On booking we requested two cots and two highchairs, and to be completely honest we weren’t surprised to find only one of each in our lodge. This was the only ‘hiccup’ we had all weekend though. We called guest services and they told us someone would be at our lodge as soon as possible with an extra highchair and cot. This did take quite a long time to get sorted, but I imagine it’s a busy time for them with everyone arriving at their accommodation.
We booked a two bedroom ‘executive’ lodge for our weekend. The living area was great, the girls really enjoyed playing in the open plan space. We moved the coffee table to block off the living area if we were cooking and needed to keep the girls contained in a safe space. The girls were confidently crawling and pulling themselves up but not walking by this point.
The double bedroom was absolutely huge, with a TV and large en-suite. It had both a shower cubicle and a bath, which was a requirement for us with the girls as they always have baths. We did forget to bring our non-slip bath mat, so we just had (a bit of a slippery!) bath without it, but I did notice later on that you can request bath mats from guest services which is really handy.
The girls stayed in the twin bedroom, which was something I was worrying about before we went. The girls do not sleep in our room at home, and we wanted to keep it that way on holiday, but I was concerned that two cots wouldn’t fit in the empty space around two single beds. We ended up pushing the beds together right up against the en-suite door (we weren’t going to be using that bathroom anyway) to create as much space as possible in the room. It was cosy, but there was more than enough room for the cots this way. The room also got nice and dark which was perfect for daytime naps.
Baby Sensory Class
Having one-year-old twins, I didn’t want to book many activities for the weekend, just in case their routine didn’t go to plan and we weren’t able to make any and end up wasting our money. You have to pre-book and pre-pay for all activities, and they’re quite expensive. There wasn’t that much available for children their age anyway, but that wasn’t a problem for us. We did book a baby sensory class for our first morning there, which took place in the Activities Den.
It took us a good 20 minutes to walk there from our lodge, but it was a beautiful morning and the walk was so picturesque! It took us a bit longer than expected to walk because we had the pushchair – there’s quite a big hill to get down, and usually you would just take the steps, but we had to use a very long zig-zagging boardwalk to get there.
The class itself was a nice activity for the girls to do, and it was a well structured half-hour. There were plenty of colourful and light-up toys for the babies to play with, we sang songs, played with a parachute, and made a keepsake glow in the dark handprint. I would say the girls were probably the oldest there, with most of the other babies unable to crawl or even sit up.
The class cost £8 per child, lasted for 30 mins, and took place at 9.30am.
Use of the pool is included with your stay, and the pool looked fantastic so we had to give it a go! To be honest… it was quite a stressful experience!! The actual swimming was wonderful, but trying to change two babies who can’t stand up in a fairly compact changing room was quite tricky! I don’t take the girls’ swimming regularly at home, so this was quite a new experience for all of us. The only time they had been swimming before this was at a private pool, which obviously is a bit more relaxed.
We had a feeling the changing room might be challenging, so we put our swimming things on underneath our clothes (including the twins) before we left. There’s a buggy park before you get to the changing rooms, so we grabbed a baby each and my rucksack, and left our pushchair there. Trying to navigate everything one-handed with a rather heavy baby was quite difficult (opening lockers and doors etc) and we both agreed it would all have been a lot easier if we just had an extra adult pair of hands!
We didn’t bring towels to save space in our luggage, and it said you could hire them at the pool for a small fee. I can’t remember exactly how much, I think around £2 per towel (which is quite a lot really, I think next time I would take towels!). These were available from a little shack inside the pool area (after you’ve walked through the showers) along with floats for children. We got a couple of little float jackets for the girls which were really good.
We had a swim with the girls in the main pool, and then spent most of our time in the toddler pool. This was a great little shallow area, with fountains and various games, slides etc. I felt really safe the whole time as well, with attentive life guards around. The girls were a bit unsure but soon started to enjoy themselves – it was probably just a bit overwhelming! With older children I could see the pool being a whole day out, there really is so much to do, but for our girls we only stayed a short while. It was also extremely HOT in the pool and changing area!
Getting changed afterwards was the worst part, with the changing rooms being really hot and trying to dry off two (by now, crying) babies. There are family changing rooms, but it still seemed a bit cramped with two babies and there was only one changing table. We had to change them one at a time and then have one on our lap, as we couldn’t put them down on the wet floor and they weren’t yet steady enough to sit happily on the bench without worrying they’d fall off. Then one of us had them both on our lap, whilst we took it in turns to get ourselves dressed! I was pretty stressed out and sweating by this point, so it came as a welcome relief to all of us when we stepped outside the pool area and the fresh, cooler air hit us.
So all in all, I ended up quite stressed out, but I look back on the swimming very fondly and I’d still recommend giving it a go! This will definitely get a lot easier as the girls get older too.
Evening Meal (Bella Italia)
To celebrate their first birthday, we treated the girls to dinner out. James popped out when the girls were napping to scout out the best play area! Most of the restaurants seem to have a children’s play area which was a really nice added touch. We decided on Bella Italia, and booked an early table (I think around 4.30pm to suit the girls dinner time). We chose a table right by the soft play, so the girls could go and explore while we enjoyed a drink. This is something we’d never really had a chance to do before, and it was LOVELY!
The restaurant was easily accessible with the double pushchair, and we left it parked up by the till. The place was so spacious and the staff were really accommodating to our needs. There were only a couple of other families in there at this time, which was perfect for us. They gave us some crayons and paper for the girls (which they promptly tried to eat) and a really good kids menu. As we had already been doing baby led weaning for 6 months by this point, we were confident there would be plenty of things they could choose from. They shared some chips and fish goujons, and ham and mushroom pasta. The kids meal deal included pudding, so they also had some mini donuts and a chocolate brownie with ice cream! A special birthday treat which they thoroughly enjoyed!
Overall the meal experience was absolutely wonderful, the restaurant was so family friendly and just what we needed. A perfect end to the day.
Checking out was a very similar process to when we arrived. We packed up and James walked down to get the car while I looked after the girls. We loaded up, followed the exit signs, dropped our wristband into one of the handily located bins, and that was it!
Some things I would do if we went again with young children:
– Take your own baby bedding. They provide cot mattresses but no bedding. We used single bedsheets on the mattress, and the girls slept in sleeping bags which we brought with us.
– You’ll need things like washing up liquid, gloves, etc! They did provide 3 dishwasher tablets which was just enough for us, but the girls were still drinking from bottles at this point so we also needed to wash up by hand. I was quite surprised that basic things like this weren’t provided, so if you can fit these things in with your luggage – do! Of course it’s all available at the on-site shop, but it’s more expensive.
– Dress minimally in the pool! Our girls were wearing short wetsuit-type things, and I get the feeling they got too hot really. I think they’d be fine in a simple Happy Nappy and maybe a little costume over the top.
– Book early enough to get a space at the creche! James and I noticed they have a creche, but we booked quite last minute and they didn’t have any space left. We were a bit gutted as we were hoping we’d get a bit of rare time as a couple, maybe a spa treatment or lunch together, but it just wasn’t to be. When we go again, we’ll definitely be taking advantage of this if we can.
As Centerparcs ‘virgins’ we weren’t really sure what to expect from this trip, but we came away with some amazing memories and are planning to go back again. We are not the kind of people who like to go to the same place twice, which tells you how much we enjoyed it! We’re planning to go again for the twins’ second birthday, and hopefully they’ll be able to do a few different activities and we won’t be slaves to the routine so much by then. From an adult’s perspective, even with young twins it was such a fantastic place to go for some peace and quiet, and to enjoy feeling part of nature. I look forward to writing a blog post about our next visit!
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