Saturday, May 25, 2024

Revealed: How British families are forking out up to £1,499 for a four night stay at Center Parcs across the UK – while our European neighbours get all the fun at a fraction of the cost

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Britons planning on a Center Parcs holiday in the UK could save nearly £1,000 on their accommodation by opting for a European site, it can be revealed today.

The price of holidays at 32 of the chain’s sites across England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany was found to vary wildly in peak school holiday periods.

The costs of four-night stays for a family of four during five separate weeks in May, July, August and October were compared by experts at consumer champion Which?.

They found average prices for UK resorts were ‘considerably higher than prices paid elsewhere in Europe’ and Brits could save ‘hundreds of pounds’ by going abroad.

Across the five weeks, the average price for accommodation at a UK Center Parcs was £1,435, while Germany averaged £857 and the Netherlands £866. Savings could also be found in France, with an average of £1,098; and Belgium where it was £1,121.

When MailOnline delved deeper into the figures for the last week of August – from the 26th to 30th, the cheapest price was in the Netherlands with £566 at Parc Sandur. In Germany it was Park Nordseeküste at £634, while the cheapest in France was Les Trois Forêts at £746, and in Belgium it was Les Ardennes at £755.

This was well below all the UK sites – with Longleat Forest in Wiltshire at £1,499; then Elveden in Suffolk, Woburn in Bedfordshire and Sherwood in Nottinghamshire which were all at £1,399. The cheapest was Whinfell in Cumbria but this was still £1,249.

Longleat Forest in Wiltshire was the priciest Center Parcs UK site, costing an average of £1,649 for four nights for a family of four, across five weeks during school holidays checked by Which?

Longleat Forest in Wiltshire was the priciest Center Parcs UK site, costing an average of £1,649 for four nights for a family of four, across five weeks during school holidays checked by Which?

Whinfell Forest in Cumbria was the cheapest UK Center Parcs on average across the five weeks examined by experts at Which? at £1,299 for four nights for a family of four

Whinfell Forest in Cumbria was the cheapest UK Center Parcs on average across the five weeks examined by experts at Which? at £1,299 for four nights for a family of four

PRICES FOR FOUR-NIGHT STAYS AT CENTER PARCS RESORTS ACROSS EUROPE
DATES  UK  FRANCE  BELGIUM  NETHERLANDS  GERMANY 
May 27 – May 31  £1,449  £597  £777  £707  £661 
July 29 – August 2 £1,429  £1,472 £1,355  £1,210  £1,175 
August 19 – August 23  £1,439  £1,419  £1,281  £995  £949 
August 26 – August 30 £1,409 £1,143  £1,070  £872  £803 
October 28 – November 1 £1,449  £857  N/A  £645  £699 
AVERAGES  £1,435  £1,098  £1,121  £886  £857 

France had the biggest savings in May’s half-term holiday where, without factoring in travel costs, a family could save £852 on average compared with booking in the UK.

Center Parcs prices for last week of August 

Four nights for a family of four, staying from August 26 until August 30, 2024

UK

  • Elveden Forest, Suffolk – £1,399
  • Longleat Forest, Wiltshire – £1,499
  • Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire – £1,399
  • Whinfell Forest, Cumbria – £1,249
  • Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire – £1,399

FRANCE

  • Le Bois aux Daims – £961
  • Le Lac d’Ailette – £780
  • Les Bois-Francs – £772
  • Les Hauts de Bruyères – £789
  • Les Landes de Gascogne – £1,244
  • Les Trois Forêts – £746
  • Villages Nature Paris – £995

NETHERLANDS

  • De Kempervennen – £1,029
  • De Eemhof – £969
  • De Huttenheugte – £720
  • Het Heijderbos – £969
  • Het Meerdal – £858
  • Limburgse Peel – £591
  • Parc Sandur – £566
  • Port Zélande – £995
  • Park Zandvoort – £1,149

BELGIUM

  • De Vossemeren
  • Erperheide – £772
  • Les Ardennes – £755
  • Park De Haan – £1,149
  • Terhills Resort – £943

GERMANY

  • Bispinger Heide – £969
  • Park Allgäu – £1,064
  • Park Bostalsee – £720
  • Park Eifel – £755
  • Park Hochsauerland – £720
  • Park Nordseeküste – £634

Researchers at Which? found that at £1,449 on average for May, a UK Center Parcs stay costs 143 per cent more than the average cost of a comparable break in France at £597.

Over the same week, the company discovered British families could save an average of £788 in Germany, £742 in the Netherlands and £672 in Belgium.

Meanwhile, those booking in the October half-term can find the biggest savings in the Netherlands, where a four-night break costs £804 less on average than in the UK.

Using the £1,449 average, this means that a UK Center Parcs break is 125 per cent dearer than a Dutch equivalent at £645.

During the summer holidays, the firm found Germany was the cheapest Center Parcs destination in each of the three weeks checked.

The end of the summer break offered the biggest savings.

A stay at a German Center Parcs between August 26 and 30 came in at £803 on average, which is over £600 less than a stay in the UK at £1,409.

Between August 19 and 23, Which? claimed that travellers could save just shy of £500, and £254 between July 39 and August 2, compared to staying in the UK.

While travel costs could push these prices up, spot checks by Which? suggests that families could still save once they are factored in – particularly if booking ferries well in advance.

It was noted that Center Parks in Belgium and France are the easiest to reach from the south of England.

For example, Park de Haan in Belgium is approximately just over an hour’s drive from Dunkirk, while Calais is around two and a half hours from Center Parcs Le Lac d’Ailette.

Which? revealed that at the time of writing, a return ferry to Calais for a family of four could be booked for £147 during the October half-term or £165 during the May half-term.

Ferry prices are based on a family of two adults and two children travelling in a Ford Fiesta, with no pets or additional roof luggage.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, can be reached via ferry from Hull, Harwich and Newcastle, or by driving a few hours from Calais or Dunkirk.

Center Parcs De Eemhof has the lowest price in October – £505 for four nights.

It is approximately a one-and-a-half hour drive from the Hook of Holland, with a return ferry from Harwich available for £188 at the time of writing, according to the consumer group.

Center Parcs operates sites in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire

Center Parcs operates sites in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire

Center Parcs has 27 sites in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (as shown above)

Center Parcs has 27 sites in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (as shown above)

A stay at the Center Parcs at Le Bois aux Daims in France will cost £961 for four nights for a family of four in the last week of August

A stay at the Center Parcs at Le Bois aux Daims in France will cost £961 for four nights for a family of four in the last week of August

Center Parcs De Eemhof in Holland has the lowest price in October - £505 for four nights

Center Parcs De Eemhof in Holland has the lowest price in October – £505 for four nights

A stay at Les Bois-Francs in France for a family of four will be £772 for four nights in late August

A stay at Les Bois-Francs in France for a family of four will be £772 for four nights in late August

Amounting to a total cost of £693, that is a saving of £606 compared to Center Parcs Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, which is the UK park with the lowest available price that week – at £1,299 for a four-night stay.

Travel costs for getting to Center Parcs in EU

Travel costs are the cheapest for the five weeks compared by Which?

NETHERLANDS 

  • Flights from London to Eindhoven, from £227 return
  • Flights from London to Amsterdam, from £326 return

GERMANY 

  • Flights from London to Hamburg, from £302 return

FRANCE 

  • Ferry from Dover to Calais, from £167 return

BELGIUM 

  • Ferry from Dover to Dunkirk in France, from £163 return

Which? does advise, however, that holidaymakers should factor in longer journey times, with a ferry crossing to the Hook of Holland taking more than seven hours.

Flights are also available from London to Amsterdam from £326 return for a family of four, which is the cheapest price across the five weeks. For London to Hamburg, returns start at £302.

While most of Germany’s Center Parcs locations are not close to airports, the best option is Bispinger Heide park which is 40 miles from Hamburg Airport. Flight costs will add at least £302 to the total.

Naomi Leach, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘While UK holiday parks offer families an easy way to explore the great British countryside, our research has found that casting your net further afield could make your break more affordable.

‘Those holidaying in the May and October half-terms stand to make the most significant savings, but even during the summer, a family could save hundreds of pounds on their accommodation costs.

‘Do factor in the cost of transport and travel insurance to ensure the swap is worthwhile and always double-check European parks have the facilities and activities you expect.’

As for the UK sites, Whinfell was the cheapest on average across the five weeks at £1,299 for four nights – while Longleat Forest was the priciest at £1,649. 

A Center Parcs UK spokesman said: ‘Despite sharing a brand name, Center Parcs UK and Center Parcs Europe are entirely separate companies which operate very differently.

‘At Center Parcs UK, our unique offering attracts loyal guests, a high number of whom return year after year – last year, we welcomed approximately 2.2million guests and had continued occupancy of around 97 per cent.

‘We continue to invest heavily in our facilities, accommodation, people and the woodlands in which we operate.’

From demand for bookings to operational costs, travel expert NICKY KELVIN reveals why Center Parcs prices can vary so much

Center Parcs is a popular holiday attraction for many British families who are looking for a fun packed break for the family here in the UK, however the costs to stay at sites across the UK can be significantly higher versus other locations across Europe.

There are a number of factors but these include demand for bookings, operating costs, supply and completely different market conditions. Some of the demand is driving by Brits opting to stay in the UK as opposed to travelling abroad, as they automatically believe they’ll make savings this summer, especially with the cost-of-living crisis taking its toll on many families’ incomes.

A number of the sites in the UK are also considered to offer more premium attractions and therefore are priced slightly higher than other park locations across Europe.

My advice would be to shop around for holidays and to consider all of the add on such as travel cost, car rentals, food etc. prior to booking.

It’s always advisable to set a realistic budget before looking for a holiday which can help when selecting the best location for a family summer break and one key way to tackle this head on, is to book an all-inclusive package.

NICKY KELVIN is editor at The Points Guy. For more of his tips, click here

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