In late 2018 Sam I discussed going abroad for our 2019 family holiday. Little H starting school in September means this would be our last opportunity before needing to pay crazy school holiday prices. But Christmas came and went. Then I started back at work. Yet still nothing got booked. One evening over dinner Sam suddenly mentioned that he wasn’t sure he could be bothered with a holiday overseas. I sighed with relief – on top of everything else going on I couldn’t face sorting out a foreign trip, let alone going on one, with Little Z so young. So with that, our Center Parcs holiday plan was born.
We’re actually big fans of the ‘staycation’ so deciding to stay in the UK felt very natural for us. Since becoming parents only 1 of our last 5 holidays has been outside the UK – our trip to The Netherlands in 2017 which was amazing but a little more driving than we’d contemplate with Little Z at this point. But I digress… Ordinarily I would research for a cottage or similar, like when we went to Norfolk last year. But again, I was still adjusting to being back at work so I didn’t want the mental load of organising that too. So we decided that we’d give the Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest a try. Sure, it is inflated price-wise but the parks, pool, other conveniences and access to additional (paid) activities means that it felt like a nice stress-free option for this year.
Day 1 – Monday
I wish I could say we had a calm trip but that would be a lie. I started to feel under-the-weather whilst packing on Sunday and I didn’t feel any better on Monday. But we still managed to get the car loaded and out on the road by 10am as planned with the girls happy in the back…for about 20 minutes. After that Little Z, who was due a nap, started to grumble but remained wide awake. Meanwhile, Little H had managed to slump down in her seat a bit and complained that she had a tummy ache and was also “bored”. After an hour and a half of a progressively more grumble Little Z, she gave in to her slumber and remained that way for the last 50 minutes of the drive. Little H’s moaning continued on-and-off so in the end we just ignored her until we were close enough that she could play ‘Spot the Forest’.
We couldn’t check into the “villa” until 3pm so we parked-up and went to grab some lunch at Cafe Rouge. For the first time we got Little Z a meal of the kids menu and the girl demolished all of it. Hungry lass. After a little wander round we were able to get into our accommodation and Sam unloaded the car. The girls were kept amuse by watching the various creatures that kept wandering upto our back door – ducks, squirrels, swans and geese. It was chucking it down with rain so he got pretty soaked. I find 3pm check-in quite stressful when the girls like their strict routine. I had to get their rooms set-up and then took Little Z to the on site supermarket to get supplies as she hadn’t had her second nap so was flagging. By the time we got them both to bed and ate our dinner, I was more than ready to crash out on the sofa.
Day 2 – Tuesday
We were all much calmer the following morning. The girls has both slept well so they were perky. As a birthday treat, I had a ‘Lava Shell Massage’ booked for the morning. I put Little Z down for her nap, left Little H and Sam playing then headed in the pouring rain. I’d opted for a 25 minute treatment and it was lovely a relaxing, working out some of the tension that has been building in my left shoulder. After that I headed back to my little gang and we had lunch. After lunch, we all headed out – this time in just the drizzle – as Little H and Sam were going to a ‘Crazy Science’ class where they did loads of fun experiments including slime and a bicarb-vinegar volcano! Little Z and I popped to the on site outdoor clothing store to see if I could get Little H some waterproof trousers as I’d forgotten hers and the whole week was slated to be continual rain. We lucked out and got the last remaining rain suit in her size. And it was pink. It went down very well!
Day 3 – Wednesday
My birthday. It can be really hit-and-miss having a birthday with small kids but this one turned out wonderfully! Sam and the girls had got me a few little presents which was lovely – Little H was also so patient waiting for me to open them! We had a really relaxed morning and let Little Z have a nap like normal. Whilst she was sleeping Sam took Little H out to explore the parks so that I could have a little bit of quiet time. Then once Little Z was up we went out for an ‘external’ visit to Rufford Abbey Country Park. We had a carvery lunch at one of the onsite restaurants, mooched about the gardens and found another park for Little H to play on! Little Z also enjoyed some swing action and played on a large xylophone! Sam and I also treated ourselves to ‘take away’ for dinner (I had teriyaki salmon with udon noodles – SO good!) and I had a lovely hot bubble bath!
Day 4 – Thursday
We decided to potter around the park today so we had a lovely slow morning. When Little Z went down for her nap, Little H and I went for a morning walk to the shop; Little H loves the mini trolleys they have for kids to lure parents in, haha! Once Little Z was up we decided it was time to brave the pool (or ‘Subtropical Paradise’). The facilities are really good with a main pool with a wave machine, kids pool area and various slides etc. I always find the process of going a little exhausting though as some guests will spend the majority of their stay in the pool so it’s always crazy-busy. Fortunately as it was the week it wasn’t too bad and we managed to get all four of us in there unscathed. We went in the main pool to start: Little Z looked a little confused by the whole thing whilst Little H showed me her amazing swimming as I’ve not seen her in the pool since she started swimming lessons 6 months ago! She also tried out all the slides in the new kids pool area which was pretty amazing!
When we eventually made it out of the pool, ee had lunch at the villa. Little Z crashed out for a sleep after her exertions in the pool – she had as much fun splashing in the baby section as Little H did on the slides. Sam took Little H out for a while to few supplies and have a scoot which meant I got an all too brief moment of quiet! It was needed as for the first time in a long time, Little Z took a lot of time to settle to sleep so the evening was a little less relaxed than we’d hoped!
Day 5 – Friday
Little H went to the park with Sam once Little Z had gone for her nap (although she didn’t nap for ages) and then they went to a Crossbow class which Little H loved. It was Robin Hood themed (we were near Sherwood Forest after all!) and they had to play out a whole little story. Little Z and I went to meet them and as a treat (for me more than anyone else, haha!) we then went to the pancake house for lunch; Sam had a goats cheese and caramelised onion pancake. I had a banoffee snack and Little H had strawberries and cream, polishing off almost every mouthful! Little Z had some food from home plus noshed back plenty of bits of pancake along with her veggies and cheese. Then after lunch we walked around the beach area and went to a couple of parks. Little Z was obsessed with all and every creature she saw; Sam had to actually carry her away from a swan she was desperate to stroke! After all the park activity we had a break at the villa where Little H watched a film to get some rest. Little Z refused to nap despite being in her cot for 1hr 45 mins, but at least we all got some rest. Then we buggied and scootered up and explored some areas of the park yet to be seen, including ‘The Country Club’ and the Treehouses. Come bedtime we were all wiped out!
Day 6 – Saturday
Today was an exciting day for us all because my Dad came over to join us for the day! As he lives several hours drive from us we don’t see him as much as we’d like. Little H was so excited about it and he arrived in time to see Little H and I do her final scheduled activity of the week – the Mini Captain’s Adventure. She and I both went out on the lake in a mini tugboat where Little H was the captain and I was the first mate. We had to steer it round the lake and spot the pictures on 6 buoys. It was really tricky to steer and Little H got a bit frustrated but it was a fun half an hour.
We all went out for lunch to Bella Italia, expecting it to be busy but discovering it was delightfully quiet. We got a table without ease and enjoyed a really tasty pasta lunch. Little Z was in her element with an entire portion of avocado to herself! It also kept her nice and full for her walk and bird watch session with Daddy after lunch; from what Sam told me she spent a good chunk of time following birds round near the beach and the pointing out every single one she saw from the buggy! My dad and I, meanwhile, took Little H for a second trip to the pool where the usual slide antics followed. Although this time it was far more chaotic with weekend visitors. Little H was a bit more confident in the main pool though and did a few more stints of swimming! I’m so proud of her.
We made it back from swimming just in time for Sam and Dad to head off for a Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting experience (Sam won and Dad came second out of the whole group!). I got Little Z down for a nap and Little H and I chilled doing puzzles and watching Mulan. Then we passed the rest of the afternoon until tea time just relaxing in the villa until Dad headed home as the girls went to bed. It was such a good day!
Day 7 – Sunday
A very relaxed start to the day. After Little Z napped for an hour we headed out on a day trip. Sadly the sun vanished as we set off and we got a bit soggy on the walk to the car. Went to Clumber Park and puddle dodged our way to lunch. Cafe rammed and chaotic so had to wait for lunch with grumbly Z and H complaining of a stomach ache. When lunch was finally done (which took 90 minutes +, although we avoided a torrential downpour) we went for a walk around a H perked up a bit but very up-and-down. We had planned to go onto Sherwood Forest but diverted back to CP and once back in the villa we all had some snacks and a rest. By bedtime the girls were both in quite good humour and feeling better, but just a bit tired. Once they were happily in bed, the packing commenced…