I'm saving £400 going to Center Parcs abroad – here's why it's cheaper for my family than the UK parks | The Sun

WHEN mum loves a city stay, dad dreams of the beach and the kids just want to chill out at Center Parcs, it's hard to tick all the boxes.

But my family of five think we've found the perfect solution to our downtime dilemma by ditching the Brit breaks and going Dutch instead.

We're paying about £400 less at Zandvoort Center Parcs in Holland, just a short train ride outside Amsterdam, next spring, compared to staying at one of the five Parcs in the UK.

Our pounds stretch further abroad, with a better standard of accommodation, €30 (£26.22) of activities vouchers and the choice of which lodge to stay in, all included in the price.

Even once you add in travel costs, I reckon we'll be paying about £150 less than we would be here and getting a better holiday just a stone's throw from one of Europe's most vibrant cities, with the beach a stroll from our lodge.

There's lots of free activities at the European parks, with a massive indoor play area that would put the small soft plays at the UK Center Parcs to shame, a petting farm and kids' club sessions included at Zandvoort.

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We're making the most of an early booking discount of 20 per cent and an offer for families travelling with kids, which takes more than €300 (£262) off the price.

A quick glance at the UK website tells me that the cheapest three-bed lodge at Whinfell in the Lake District for the same week at the end of March would be £1,048, jumping to £2,248 for the following week in school holidays.

Meanwhile, at our closest Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, the week would cost £1,108, going up to £2,358 for the first week of the school holidays.

One thing you need to pay attention to on the European sites is that a €30 (£26.22) booking fee and a tourist tax per person, depending on location, will be added before you pay.

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So while on the UK site, the price you see is the price you pay, that's not the case in Europe.

For our break, the discounted price for a premium cottage for six is €646 (£564), but the final price with tax and fees for my family of five is €811, which works out at about £708. 

You also need to weigh up whether the travel time and costs make it worthwhile.

A return ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland would be about £235 return.

The petrol costs would be roughly the same for us to travel to Whinfell or Amsterdam.

Cheap flights, a shorter ferry journey from Dover to Calais or catching the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam in under four hours could also be options, depending where in the UK you live and how many people are travelling.

And it's worth thinking about how you usually pay for your holiday. I was given the option of putting down a deposit by bank transfer and paying the final balance the same way in January.

When paying by credit card, I had to pay the whole amount upfront.

My top tip for making sure you're getting the best price possible is to check out the same week at the same location on all the different Center Parcs websites.

There's a big €169 or £147 price difference for our holiday if you book via centerparcs.nl (the Dutch site) compared to booking with centerparcs.be (the Belgian site).

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There's also French, German and European sites, so it pays to check them all to make sure you're getting the best deal.

With a Formula One track next door and the legendary Dutch tulip fields just coming into bloom, I think we'll have plenty in the area to keep us busy, if we can drag our boys away from the pool and all the activities on offer.

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