My top 10 tips for Center Parcs

My top 10 tips for Center Parcs

  • We love Center Parcs and have been quite a few times with Finn. I think we love it so much because Finn is in his element with the swimming & exploring the forest. He’s always shattered at the end of the day so we then get a chance to relax. I know people say it can be pricy but we try to keep the costs down. Hopefully these tips will help.
  • Go Swimming first
  • We always pack a bag for swimming and keep it handy for when we arrive. That way we can park up, get some lunch & go swimming. I think we make the most of the first day then & avoid the car park queues. The gates open about 3.30 for you to drive round to your lodge but we find it really busy at this time & you just waste your time queuing. I think its better to go swimming then wait for the queues to die down and drive straight round. We do similar on the last day but pack up, park the car and then go swimming and make the most of our last day.
  • Take Supplies & Shopping
  • The Parc market on site can be quite expensive. We usually bring things from home & go to the Aldi close by (Whinfell). We take our own fire logs, toilet roll, dishwasher tablets, snacks drinks etc… to keep costs down. Stock up on alcohol as well as this is expensive in the Parc market.
  • Pre Book your activities
  • Once you’ve booked your break you can start to book activities. I try to spread the cost of these by booking one every few weeks or one a month. That way you don’t have to spend a big amount when you get there. You can also pre book restaurants with a deposit. I use the app to book all my activities and you view your itinerary on here to see what you have booked.
  • Cook in your lodge & eat out at lunch.
  • We find eating out at lunch time a lot cheaper as a lot of the places have set lunch time menus. It’s also easier for us with Finn as we can then relax in the evening. We cook a few nights & just take easy to make things that way we can keep the costs down.
  • Look around for the cheapest weeks
  • We find staying Monday- Friday in term time a lot cheaper than a school holiday break or a weekend one. Also when you go to book you can scroll through the weeks to find the cheapest ones. If you’re not too tied down to set dates it’s definitely worth searching to find the cheapest week for you.
  • Pick your lodge for your Budget
  • We’ve stayed in the apartments, executive & the more basic lodges and I think they are all really nice. The executive are obviously nicer but if you are doing it on a budget I wouldn’t be put off by going to a more basic lodge. You can pay extra to stay in a central location but we never bother with this and don’t find it too much of a walk.
  • Take your bikes
  • You can hire bikes there but it can be expensive. We always take Finn’s bike or scooter, there’s plenty of bike racks so take a lock.
  • Make use of the free activities
  • There’s plenty of free things to keep you occupied there’s swimming, a beach & sandpit, parks and a massive forest to explore. We make sure we take advantage of these. We go for a walk through the forest each day and we’ve done bug hunts ( take a cheap magnifying glass) or a nature hunt. I also love the bird hide as well so we always have a walk to that. There’s a few soft plays as well so usually we go to the lakeside inn and have a drink while Finn plays in the play area.
  • Take Snacks/ Lunch for around the pool
  • Now Finn’s getting older we can definitely spend more time round the pool so next time I will take some snacks or lunch a few days so we can make a longer day of it. The subtropical swimming paradise is heated to about 29 degrees and has plenty of places for you to sit.
  • Plan your day around the quieter times
  • The pool is always busier first thing & after lunch so where possible we avoid these times. We also try and avoid the restaurants at busier times as well just to make it a bit more relaxing.
  • I hope you find these tips useful and I’d love to hear yours in the comments below.
  • Jodie. X
  • Belfast

    Belfast

    We recently visited Belfast for 2 nights & fell in love with the city, everyone we spoke to was so positive and inspiring about the troubles. It was amazing to see the City’s regeneration. Here’s a few of the places we visited & my tips for exploring Belfast.

    Airport Bus

    We got the 300a from Belfast International airport into the City Centre. It was then about a 5 minute walk to our hotel. This was the most cost effective way I found of getting into the city centre at £10.50 each return. It took around 30 minutes.

    Bullitt Hotel

    We stayed at the Bullitt, which I found on Lonely Planet as one of their top picks. I fell in love with this hotel straight away with its cool & quirky decor and super friendly staff. From the minute we checked in the staff were so friendly and gave us the best tips for the area and offered to book trips for us.

    We stayed in a Dinky room, which was Dinky but perfect as we were hardly in the room. The bed was so comfy & there was a big rainfall shower and a mini fridge so everything you need for a few nights away. Bullitt provide you with a bag to hang on your door each evening with your preferred time for your breakfast in the morning, they then filled it with granola & yogurt, fresh orange & a piece of fruit.

    We also had a bigger breakfast one morning in the Bullitt lobby , I had Eggs Benedict & Stu had the Meaty One Brioche. Both were really tasty & the price was reasonable.

    Bullitt has its own roof top bar Babel, where we had drinks one evening. The views were amazing but as it was freezing the outside area was shut. It would be even better in the summer.

    Bullitt Lobby Breakfast Bullitt

    St George’s market

    As soon as we arrived we headed to St George’s market for lunch. There was an amazing choice of food stalls and we decided on paella & patatas bravas which were both lovely. It was the day after St Patrick’s day and the atmosphere was brilliant with a trad band playing. Definitely visit if you are there over the weekend.

    Black Taxi Tour

    Without a doubt the tour we did with ‘Taxi Tour Belfast’ was the highlight of the trip for both of us. We were picked up by Joe from our hotel in his Mercedes mini bus and spent a fascinating few hours going round the political murals of Belfast. Joe was so intelligent and gave us a first hand insight into the troubles and told us what it was like for him growing up in Belfast at the height of the troubles. We visited the international peace wall, falls road & Shankill Road areas. He was so knowledgeable and answered all of our questions, I think we both went with our own pre conceived idea of what happened but left with a totally different insight. We both said it was honestly one of the most interesting things we have ever done and I think if you’re heading to Belfast you should definitely put this on your list.

    Crumlin Road Gaol

    We visited the Crumlin Road Gaol using a discount voucher we got with Booking.com and really enjoyed our visit. It was really interesting to get an insight into how the prison used to be run & life as an inmate. Our guide was really informative and answered all of our questions.

    Hop on Hop off open top Bus

    On our last day we decided to do the hop on hop off bus as there was still quite a few places we wanted to see. We had another voucher through booking.com so we got it at a discount. We got off at the titanic museum, Stormont (which is well worth a look round for the beautiful views) & the crown liquor saloon. It was nice to get an overall view of the city & the guides were all really friendly and knowledgeable about the city.

    Victoria Square Dome

    As we got off the bus the tour guide suggested we go to the Victoria Square Dome for views around Belfast. It was free and you go up to the top floor for 360 degree views around Belfast. There was signs pointing out all the landmarks.

    Mourne Seafood Bar

    I found Mourne as it was highly rated on trip advisor and we wasn’t disappointed. We both had mussels and were really impressed they were so tasty & fresh. We also had sides of champ & truffle fries and really enjoyed the meal.

    Chubby cherub

    On our second night we visited the Chubby Cherub, we are off the Date night menu which was 2 courses and 2 glasses of wine for £29.95. We had the bruschetta & crostini to start and Meatball Linguini & herb gnocchi for main. We loved the food & the quirky cosy style of the restaurant.

    Bars

    We visited a few bars both on friends recommendation and ones I found on Lonely planet. Here’s a few we loved.

    Crown Liquor Saloon – this pub is a national trust property and dates back to 1885. It was really interesting to see all the old style features & we had a nice lunch in there.

    The Dirty Onion- in the cathedral quarter with live music most nights.

    Cathedral Quarter – this was right near our hotel and there was loads of really cool bars, definitely start your night out in this area.

    Duke of York- this the coolest little pub & the Murals surrounding it are well worth a look at.

    Muriel’s cafe bar – Muriel’s was a few doors down from our hotel & had the best gin menu! The atmosphere was brilliant on the Sunday.

    John Hewitt- a traditional pub & owned by the man who made Jawbox gin, so definitely worth a try while you’re in there.

    Love & Death inc- this had good happy hour & good cocktails.

    The Spaniard- a really cool rum bar, it was packed even on a Monday night.

    Birthday trip to London 

    Birthday trip to London 

    We’ve just returned from 2 days (child free) in London to celebrate my birthday so I thought I’d share my favourite places we visited. 

    Hotel Indigo Tower Hill 

    We stayed at The Hotel Indigo about 5 minutes walk from The Tower of London and a few minutes from Aldgate Tube Station. I wanted to be close to the City/ Southbank area and this was in a good location. We got a good deal with it being a Sunday and were really lucky to get an upgrade, the views were amazing. The room was fairly big with a super comfy bed, amazing  rainfall shower and even a complimentary mini bar with Water, soft drinks & cereal bars (especially appreciated after sampling the Gin bars around Bermondsey the evening before). 

    I’d definitely recommend this hotel for exploring this area of London and hopefully we will be able to return soon.

    View from our room
    View from our room
    Hotel Room


    Maltby Street Market 

    The first place we headed to was Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey. This is a street food market with a few bars that let you eat your food at their tables if you are having a drink there. We loved it! There was such a wide variety of food and a great atmosphere. We had an amazing burrito, Gyozo from ‘ the Gyozo Guys’ & sampled some Gins from Jensen and Little Bird Gin both of which I loved. If you love street food Maltby Street is definitely one to put on your list. 

    Maltby Street Market
    The Gyozo Guys
    Little Bird Gin
    Little Bird Gin

    José Tapas Bar  

    On Saturday evening we went to José tapas bar on Bermondsey Street. We love tapas so I’d researched the tapas bars in the area and I wasn’t disappointed. Every dish we tried was extremely tasty & Fresh. We had the Croquetas Caseras, Mussels ,Mixed Cheese with quince & Jamón Ibérico. The portions were quite big so we found this plenty. Along with the food, two glasses of Rioja and two beers the bill come to £56 (including service charge) which was really good considering we both agreed it was some of the best tapas we’ve had both here and in Spain. It’s quite small and you can’t book so be prepared to wait but it’s definitely worth it. 

    José Tapas Bar
    José Tapas Bar
    José Tapas Bar
    José Tapas Bar
    214 Bermondsey

    After our Tapas we went to 214 Bermondsey, on Bermondsey Street a few minutes from José. As part of their Sunday Social offer they have a gin flight for £11 (usually £18). I’m a recent convert to gin so loved the idea of tasting different gins and guessing the different flavours in each.We had the Orient Express, you are given 3 different gins (Colombo, Ophir and Star of Bombay) and Bermondsey tonic water without being told which is which. The answers are in an envelope to be opened once you have made your guesses. It was a fun way to taste the different drinks. The staff were really knowledgable and friendly and their was a really good choice of drinks. 

    214 Bermondsey

    The Breakfast Club 

    On Monday morning we headed to The  Breakfast Club on Southwark Street, near London Bridge. We visited 2 of their other restaurants when were in London last time so definitely wanted to try this one. There was a big queue even on a Monday morning, it was definitely worth the wait though and shows how good the food is. I had the Huevos Al Benny with Home style potatoes & Stu The full Monty, we were both really impressed. It was Definitely needed after sampling the gins the evening before. 

    The Breakfast Club
    The Breakfast Club
    The Breakfast Club

    Borough Market 

    We visited on a Monday so Borough wasn’t fully open but what we did see we loved. There was a street food market with lots of different stalls, but we visited just after breakfast. Next time we go to London we will make sure we visit when everything is open as the range and quality of stalls is amazing. 

    Borough Market
    Borough Market

    Monmouth Coffee 

    I’m a coffee lover and quite a few people recommend Monmouth to me, I loved their coffee and the range is so wide. We went for the blend of the day and really enjoyed it. Well worth a visit if you are a coffee fan. 

    Monmouth Coffee

    Tate Modern

    We then headed along the Southbank to the Tate to check out their new viewing terrace on the top floor or the Blavatnik building.The views across London are amazing I’d definitely say it’s must visit. It’s free to enter the Tate but their is donation points around the building. 

    Tate Modern Viewing Terrace
    Tate Modern Viewing Terrace
    Tate Modern Viewing Terrace
    Tate Modern Viewing Terrace

    Sky Garden

    We went to the Sky Garden twice we were that impressed by it. Once at our pre booked slot of 3pm (book a week in advance) and once in the evening where you can just walk up. Although booking for a table in the evening needs to be done in advance so I’d recommend checking out the website for the best advice on how far in advance to book. There are also restaurants that are bookable. The views are incredible and we were lucky enough to see sunset which was amazing, we then went back a few hours later to see London at night. The bar was expensive a glass of prosecco & a pint was around £16 but I think the views more than make up for this and it’s worth it as a treat. You obviously don’t have to buy any food or drink while you are there but it was a lovely way to toast my birthday. 

    Sunset at Sky Garden
    Sky Garden
    Sky Garden
    Sunset at Sky Garden
    Sunset at Sky Garden
    Sky Garden
    Sky Garden
    Sky Garden at Night
    Sky Garden
    Sky Garden

    Pizza Union

    We wanted something quick for tea before our train home and after a quick look on trip advisor decided on the Spitalfields branch of Pizza Union. We loved the Pizza and it was extremely good value at around £21 for 2 12 inch pizzas, a Nutella dough ring dessert & a large Peroni. The ingredients were really fresh & both pizzas were full of flavour. The service was extremely quick as well. Definitely worth a visit if you fancy a pizza and are close by. 

    Pizza Union
    Pizza Union

    Swan Hotel & Spa, Newby Bridge 

    Swan Hotel & Spa, Newby Bridge 

     I thought I’d share with you our favourite UK mini break, the Swan Hotel in Newby Bridge Cumbria. We absolutely love this hotel, we’ve already been with Finn twice with more visits planned for this year. 

    The hotel is right next to the river Leven which was lovely when we visited in the summer to sit outside. In the grounds there is an adventure trail and park which is brilliant for children. We visited when I was pregnant and again when Finn was 3 months and 11 months old and both times we felt really comfortable and welcome with a baby. 


    My absolute favourite part of the hotel is the various lounges, there is a library and a lounge with open fires. The library has plenty of toys, books and board games for children and we loved sitting in there in the afternoon with a coffee or in the evening with a drink knowing Finn could play and we could relax. There is also other lounges with open fires, when I was pregnant we spent hours there one afternoon reading and relaxing and when we returned with Finn we made the most of nap time to do the same.


    The hotel also has a pool with jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Finn really enjoyed the pool as it was always quiet enough for him not to feel overwhelmed. When I was pregnant I had 2 spa treatments and they were both amazing (and I’m very fussy with being a beauty therapist.)

     The rooms are all decorated really homely they have a shabby chic feel but are still modern. They are big enough to fit a travel cot in​ as well and plenty of room for all the baby stuff you inevitably have to take. 


    The food is also always really good. I think it’s difficult to find a hotel that does good quality but reasonable priced food. The Swan definitely does this though, we have enjoyed every meal we have had there and always choose to eat at the hotel  when we stay. It is traditional pub food with a twist.  The Breakfast is also lovely with a wide selection made to order.
    The hotel is that relaxing we don’t always venture out but we have visited other areas of the lakes including Cartmel,   Bowness and Ambelside. Which are all within easy reach. One day out we really enjoyed was getting the steam train from the stop a few minutes walk away to Lakeside where we visited the Aquarium. We then went on the boat on Lake Windermere to Bowness, this was a lovely way to see more of the Lake District. 
    I honestly can’t recommend this hotel enough, every time we have been we feel like we have been away for a week as we are so relaxed. 
    Here’s a link if you want to have a look for yourself. Swan Hotel