Center Parcs is an expensive holiday, as Ireland is discovering. Our Travel Editor has ten tips to help you save money...
It's expensive. But exactly how expensive?
That's the question exercising the minds of mums and dads all over Ireland, now that the Subtropical Swimming Paradise has powered up, guests are checking in, and the dust has settled on Longford Forest's opening weekend.
Lead-in rates for an entry-level woodland lodge at Center Parcs Ireland start from €399 for four-night breaks in November.
Check the rates during school holidays, however, and you're in for a surprise. This August, for example, the same lodge costs up to €1,399 for a similar stay.
While access to the 3,500m2 pool complex is included in the price, most of the 100 or so activities (prices here) cost extra - from €32pp for aerial tree trekking, for example, to €35/€25.50pp for bike hire or €7 for a badminton court.
Those prices vary by age and season, and some activities only allow children accompanied by paying adults... another thing to watch out for.
Getting a precise overview of costs can be tricky, with lodge prices changing all the time based on demand and Center Parcs only allowing you to see actual activity prices if you have an active accommodation booking.
"This isn't done to hide pricing, but to make sure everyone creates and account so that they have a seamless booking experience," it told the Irish Independent.
Here are a few tips to help keep those costs down.
1. Book early and share
Obvious, but important. Advance bookings tend to bag the best rates at all Center Parcs resorts - plus they give you the best choice of lodges.
Another way to save money at Center Parcs? Share the lodge.
Splitting the cost of a three or four-bed lodge with grandparents or a group of friends makes the price-punch a little easier to absorb on a per person basis. Plus, the pool, spa, activities and car-free campus make for great multi-generational breaks.
2. Use Tesco Club Card points
Tesco Clubcard offers €10 off accommodation at Center Parcs for €2.50 in Clubcard vouchers. The maximum redemption is €40 in vouchers, giving you €160 off your break. Note, these can only be used for new bookings. T&Cs apply.
3. Book midweek, school-term prices
Prices skyrocket at busy times - which tend to be school holidays. That's a shame for parents with kids in school, but not for those without kids... or with toddlers.
As we publish, for example, lead-in prices for four nights midweek in a two-bed woodland lodge from October 21 start at €459. One week later, during October mid-term, the price jumps to €1,149 for the same lodge.
4. Use the 'Come Back Soon' offer
Departing guests booking another holiday within 31 days get a lowest price guarantee (see the break advertised for less, and the difference will be refunded), a €50 resort voucher and two free guest passes. You'll get an email about the Come Back Soon (promo code CBSOON) offer soon after leaving.
5. Cook in
Eating out adds up on any holiday. Center Parcs lodges are self-catering, with a solid collection of utensils, pots and pans, microwaves, ovens and dishwashers. It's worth doing a shop before you arrive, and planning to eat breakfasts and/or lunches at base, for example, before enjoying dinner out.
6. Bookmark the special offers page
Center Parcs' special offers page is where you'll find the discounts... but you need to actively watch, as they change all the time. As we publish, term-time autumn breaks are available from €429 in a two-bed lodge, while four nights over Christmas (Monday, December 23 to Friday, December 27) cost from €1,199.
7. Bring your own bikes
Bike hire costs €35 for adults and €25.50 for kids for the duration of a short break (helmets are extra again). You can save that by bringing your own - though obviously, you'll need to invest in a bike carrier.
8. Watch the weekends
You may assume weekends are more expensive, but this isn't always the case. As we publish, for example, a two-bed lodge costs €1,149 midweek during the October half-term, but €699 from Friday to Monday (November 1-4). One reason is that school starts on the Monday. It could be something to work around...
Looking at the calender, I note that Longford Forest's 'Winter Wonderland' set-up lasts from November 8 to December 31. January could be a month for value, as the resort returns to normal and Ireland's Christmas financial hangover kicks in.
9. Don't forget the free stuff
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is included in your rate. It's a genuinely brilliant attraction, crammed with slides, indoor and outdoor pools, lazy rivers, whirlpools and more, and will gobble up hours of your time.
In addition to that, you can walk, cycle, use the free adventure playgrounds or hang out on the lakeside beach (admittedly more appealing in summer than winter).
10. Pack towels
A micro-saving, but it all adds up. Resort towels cost €2 a pop to rent in the pool. You can save on every swim by bringing your own. Alternatively, a walk-in 'Haystack' dryer costs €1 and can dry a couple of people at once.
1. Toddlers and Younger Kids
2. Children aged up to 11
3. Outdoor activities
4. Aqua Sana Spa
Pól was a guest of Center Parcs.