Added on Saturday 19 March 16
I think Center Parcs make for great autism friendly holidays. In this short review i’d like to detail some of the things I like and how it relates to being autistic and spaced out.
Center Parcs are holiday parks located in woodland locations around europe. They are designed around families so you stay with your friends in small houses which are dotted around the woods. There are hundreds of houses in total varying from small flats to giant games lodges with their own hot tubs etc.
My single favourite thing about Center Parcs is that there are no cars allowed within the park. Everyone gets around on bikes / trikes and it’s very safe.
Cars are a real problem for me. They really limit my freedom. At home I am surrounded by roads which I don’t like to cross alone so that limits where i can go.
Often it’s not the distance which limits my adventures but the number of road crossings to get there and back.
At Center Parcs I feel free. I can adventure in the woods with my friends and have fun. My friends are less stressed too as they know I am not going to get run over.
We think all the staff went on a training or perhaps they are so use to kids they just apply the same approach to auties.
Either way the staff have always been wonderful. Both big things and little things.
For example they didn’t mind lion going on the high ropes adventure course with me (they figured out a way to strap him in a harness) and they also react well when we ask them to explain things slowly etc.
Smaller things also count. I go around the park supermarket with my friends and often get very spacey and bouncy. Rather than get grumpy or annoyed they tend to join in. One year (the night after a particularly bad shutdown) they gave me a ‘little shopper’ sticker and literally made my day.
I didnt feel like i was unwelcome or a "problem" to be hidden. I had fun and they helped.
I am use to having too hide my autism. But at Center Parcs I can relax and be more bouncy if I feel that way. The staff are super friendly to spaced out visitors.
I can be quite adventurous when with my friends providing support. Over the 5 holidays I have been climbing, kayaking, golfing, archery, crossbows, up the high ropes, played ping pong and exploring the forest on segways and quad bikes.
Not bad for someone who’s normally pretty shy! All of this was done even though I could not speak.
With Center Parcs we get into a good pattern. We do a morning activity after breakfast, then I nap, we do an afternoon activity, and I nap again then after dinner we do a final activity before I head to bed.
This works really well and I get lots done.
The staff on the activities are very kind and helpful and will make sure I am included even if I am being a bit slow.
One of the main activities is swimming. We swim lots and lots at Center Parcs. They have great adventure pools with lazy rivers and slides and rapid.
You can also relax in a hot tub or a ‘cabanna’ which is like a cool little hit within the pool.
I really like the pools. They can get a bit loud, so last time i had my ear defenders with me and hide somewhere quieter when it got to loud.
Another thing i like is that the "kids" area (with all the really cool water park stuff!) does not have a maximum age. They welcome everyone who enjoys it rather than setting an age limit. Its fun to be able to play, rather than be limited by a rule regarding age.
I eat most things and there’s lots of choice at Center Parcs. They will also do little things like swap out parts of a meal.
On our first trip I had a very bad shutdown due to loud alarms. I did make it to our big meal but I was very tired and spaced out.
We asked nicely if they could do me a banana milkshake as fizzy drinks were problematic. The staff were great and even though it wasn’t an official drink they made an amazing banana milkshake and put umbrellas and a flake in it.
A small thing, but after such a hard day it really cheered me up.
Center Parcs also has a really good toy shop. Every time we have been I have brought a small Lego model to build.
My friend tend to play big complex board games which are a bit too challenging when I am tired. So while they play board games I build Lego models.
I hope that helps to provide some insight into why Centre Parcs is my favourite holiday destination. For some it would be extremely boring but for me it’s just the right mixture of an adventure when I want it and a relaxing comfort when I don’t.
Image used under creative commons, from http://www.centerparcs.co.uk/press/