Our first family trip to Center Parcs De Kempervennen – October half term 2017 – 3 Boys & Me

Our first family trip to Center Parcs De Kempervennen - October half term 2017 - 3 Boys & Me - who knew?! This October Half term we decided to do something a little different. We don't often go away at this time of year to be honest, but if we did, we would tend to take our 3 boys to Center Parcs in England. We've had many a happy trip here, Elvedon, Woburn, Longleat and Sherwood - we've done the lot over the years and really enjoyed them all. I really wanted to take the boys on a bit more of an adventure, so back in April time, we decided to book a trip to Holland, to a highly recommended resort - De Kempervennen. Several of our friends had been here so it was time to give it a go. Before I head to a new place, I always look around to see what other people have to say about it, for some reviews and to read others experiences of the place. With this in mind I wanted to share some of our experiences to help others considering a trip, so here you go - Center Parcs De Kempervennen - October half term 2017 - 3 Boys & Me....... Wanting to get there as soon as possible, and anyone else with 3 children squashed in the back of their family car will know why!, we decided to take the EuroTunnel - Le Shuttle - to make a speedy crossing. The sat nav said that it would be just over 5 hours door to door and this was a pretty accurate estimation. We live in Kent, so are less than an hour away from the Folkeston crossing point. We booked a regular ticket out and a Flexiplus ticket back. Flexi plus is very expensive in comparison to a regular ticket, but making the trip back for the first time we wanted to reassurance we wouldn't be stuck with the boys waiting for hours if we missed our crossing time. As it turned out this was money very well spent as we go stuck in traffic on the outskirts  of Calais and missed our estimated crossing time by over 3 hours. The boys loved the novelty of driving a car onto a train, and on the way back had the benefit of stocking up in the flexiplus lounge - My teenager found this particularly exciting as he was able to make his own Starbucks hot chocolate and load up on fizzy drinks, crisps and popcorn for his trip home! Once on the other side of the tunnel, it was almost all motorway. Motorways overseas seem so much quieter than ours, and the hours flew by. There were plenty of service stations en route, and we made a stop there and back. You may need change (50 cents) if you need to use the loo so do bear this in mind! When we arrived at Center Parcs, it was its normal efficient check in procedure. We had actually arrived a day late for our week long stay due to two of the boys schools not having finished, so it was really quiet for us. Im not sure if this is always the case. You do have to park and get out the car to check in, but we were able to stop right outside, again this may have been because we were arriving on a non change over day, and all this may have been done at the regular check in booths had we turned up the day before. We were most impressed with our villa. We had booked a VIP villa, the main reason for this is because it was so much cheaper than we are used to paying in the UK and that we had heard that the accommodation standard is a bit different to what we are used to at home. We had a good sized 3 bed villa in a very central location, 2 good sized bedrooms and one much smaller (more like we are used to here), 3 bathrooms - one just a toilet, one was a wet room with a shower and a sauna, the last had a spa bath, taps shower and double sink. All very modern and in tip top condition. A large lounge area with ample seating for all, a log fire, a table for 6, a well stocked kitchen (far more crockery, glasses etc than at home), 2 different coffee machines, a kettle and toaster a hob and a microwave. Please note, there wasn't an oven, this was a bit of a pain but only marginally!! As part of our VIP package we arrived to our beds made up, (please note this is not standard at the European resorts), Towels for all, (again not standard and 6 EUR a pack if you need to hire separately), and best of all, a fresh bread delivery on a daily basis! It was great waking up to fresh rolls, current buns and croissants on your door handle each day! The park itself is lovely. It felt much quieter that the UK resorts, one waitress said to us that there is a very different mentality with the English guests, where by we feel we have to book everything and go from one activity to the next, (we can certainly be guilty of this!), whereas the local guests tend to take things much slower and see how the day takes them. Bikes seem to be less popular here and are the one thing that seemed to cost as much, if not more than at home. We paid almost €200 for 5 bikes for a week but this was also money well spent as we went to the ski centre daily (more about this to follow).Booking restaurants is definitely advised, there are 4 main restaurants, 3 which require bookings. We ate in all the restaurants and they were all great. A steak house, an Italian, an "everything restaurant!!" and a buffet restaurant. One of the things that stuck out was the amount of animals at the park, this was lovely. Each day they have sessions for cuddling the small animals, feeding the larger animals, and watching animals like Otters get fed. Animals ranged from day old Ginea pigs, chickens, hens, goats, pigs, deer, donkeys, cows, sheep, otters - the list goes on. The central area also has a stream full of large carp, and lots parrots and other birds flying free. We have lots of highlights of our holiday, but the best was definitely the skiing at Montana Snow center. Its a great place with a nursery and main ski slope with 2 travelator style lifts and a button lift. They offer lessons here from private lessons to group beginner to advance classes for children and adults taught separately. Our older two had skied before, and with all the boys being so excited, we decided to book our youngest son 2 private hour long lessons. These were brilliant, his instructor Tom on the first day, and Mike on the second day, took him from total novice having pretty much never even walked on snow let alone skied, to being moved into the advanced group on day 3 and ending up starting to learn parallel turns. He also took on most of the regular jumps too, and even, (accidentally), took a trip down the moguls! All the equipment is practically brand new, the center staff were all lovely and extremely helpful. Snow suits, gloves and helmets can be hired too and passes are sold for an hour, a day or a weeks free skiing. The Aqua Mundo (swimming pool) was also lots of fun and the boys took a daily trip here too. I even went down the rapids which are much tamer than the ones in elvedon which scare the living daylights out of me! The also have an activity, several days a week, which starts before the pool opens. White water rafting saw the boys charging down the rapids on foam raft type things, with scrum hats and lifejackets for protection. This hour long activity was bundles of fun and I only wish we'd had the chance to do it more than once! On the 3rd day, we started finding painted rocks, hidden around the park - oh my goodness the excitement this caused, not only with the boys but for me too!! On the back of these rocks, was a message asking us to head over toe Grimsby and Cleethorpes Rocks Facebook page and share our finds. We now know that this is a huge group, with people painting and hiding rocks all over the place. I wonder if Holland is the furthest these little rocks have travelled? we plan to re-hide them now we are home in London and have bought some special paint and sealant to paint our own! Head over and join their group - its lovely!! This trip was lots of fun, we enjoyed every part of the holiday and the boys came back absolutely exhausted which is always a good sign. For me personally, it was great to see the tables and iPhones taking a back seat to, not only fun activities, but also board games and games of cards. We went through quite a few fire logs and an open fire is a great plus at this time of year. If you fancy a trip, there are early booking discounts and also late booking availability with discounts and I'm pretty sure you, like us will find its also a lot cheaper than the ones we have here. Do come and share your experiences if you've been or if you go and I hope this review has been helpful! Nina 3B&ME  

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Nina is a documentary photographer and mum of 3 boys based in Bexley Village.