Holidaymakers shocked by the price of Center Parcs breaks in the UK could make significant savings by booking a park in Europe instead, Which? has found.
Which? compared the cost of a four-night stay for a family of four at 16 Center Parcs sites across England, France and Belgium during four peak periods; August and October half terms this year, and February half term and the first week of the Easter holidays next year.
The consumer champion found that on average, the cost of a UK Center Parcs stay massively outstripped the prices paid on the continent, with a UK stay coming in at £1,274 on average, compared to £833 in France, and £701 in Belgium.
As the most-visited brand in Which?’s recent survey of UK holiday parks, Center Parcs is consistently popular with guests – though negative comments about the price were common. It scored just two stars for value for money, and was described by one respondent as “second-mortgage expensive”.
Opting for a holiday park stay abroad could however be an easy way to secure significant savings. The biggest price differences could be found for bookings over October half-term and Easter, partly due to differences between the school calendars here and in Europe.
Before travel costs, a family of four staying for four nights in a French Center Parcs could make huge savings of over two-thirds (69%) of the cost of a UK break. While a four-night stay over Easter 2024 would set a family back £1,259 on average in the UK, the same break could be had for just £392 in France. While still much cheaper than in the UK, staying in Belgium was pricier than France, costing £800 for four nights.
On average, a family could save 55 per cent opting for a Center Parcs resort in Belgium rather than the UK over October half term, with a four night break costing just £613, compared to £1,369 in the UK. The savings in France were almost as substantial, with the same stay costing £868 on average.
Even once return travel costs are factored in, families will still stand to save hundreds of pounds overall. Dunkirk is less than an hour’s drive from Center Parcs’ Park de Haan, in Belgium. At the time of writing, a return ferry trip for a family of four from Dover to Dunkirk could be booked for approximately £170 during the October half-term, with Easter dates not yet available.
Similarly, a return car ferry for a family of four from Dover to Calais could be booked for £125 return during October half term, and over Easter weekend a return journey via Le Shuttle can be booked for £179. Calais is just a 2 and a half hour drive from Center Parcs Le Lac d’Ailette.
The consumer champion found that holidaymakers could make further savings by booking through the French website (centerparcs.fr) instead of the English-language site (centerparcs.eu). Spot checks by researchers found that prices for Center Parcs in France and Belgium were £68 cheaper on average on the French website.
Travellers may also stand to make savings on additional activities when staying in a Center Parcs Europe resort. For example, archery costs between £19 and £26.50 at the UK’s Whinfell Forest park, while it costs just £14 at Belgium’s Park de Haan. Similarly, Laser Battle games range in price from £24.50 to £34.50 at Whinfell Forest, and cost just £15 at Park de Haan.
Visitors may also benefit from increased flexibility by opting for a European Center Parcs resort. While Center Parcs UK adds additional charges for changing your reservation, the European parks allow a single fee-free change to your reservation up to 21 days before your arrival.
Jo Rhodes, Deputy Editor of Which? Travel said:
“While a holiday park may feel like a quintessentially British holiday, our research found that it’s well-worth casting your eye beyond the Channel to snap up some significant savings.
“A family of four could save hundreds of pounds by choosing a Center Parcs resort in France or Belgium rather than in the UK, with the biggest savings over the October and Easter half terms. Just do your research before you go, to make sure your chosen park has the facilities and activities you’re looking for.”
Notes to editors:
In April 2023, Which? carried out spot checks of prices on centerparks.co.uk and cente
rparcs.eu for a four-night stay in a standard two-bedroom cottage/lodge on the following dates: 7-11 August, 14-18 August, 21-25 August, 28 August-1 September, 23-27 October, 12-16 February 2024, 1-5 April. The average price per country is the median cost for these peak periods.
Center Parcs Europe is a separate company, with 26 parks operating across Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Table of prices:
October Half Term 2023
February Half Term 2024
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at email@example.com.