family breaks

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Family Christmas Market Break in Copenhagen, 27th December, 3 Nights, €1048!

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Want to go away for Twixmas this year? Enjoy a Christmas market break in Copenhagen. Experience the magic of Tivoli Gardens as it is transformed into a winter wonderland.

 

Open since 1843, Tivoli Gardens is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. Over one million people descend on Tivoli at Christmas time, to experience one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. It is lit up with 500,000 fairy lights and has Christmas decorations at every corner. Tivoli Gardens is now open from the 16th of November to the 5th of January, making a Christmas market break in Copenhagen a great choice for all the family, either before or after Christmas. 

christmas market break in Copenhagen by The Travel Expert
 

 

 
There are theme park rides in Tivoli Gardens throughout the year, but at Christmas time there are added light shows, market stalls, and top class concerts. It is no doubt one of the best places to soak up the Christmas atmosphere.
 

 

 
Of course Copenhagen offers so much more than Tivoli Gardens. Enjoy some of the excellent cuisine that Copenhagen is renowned for, or shop along the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe.

No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without visiting The Little Mermaid. Personally, I wasn’t overly impressed by her, but the kids should enjoy the story behind it. When in Rome and all that…
 

 

 
Something that does live up to the hype are the pretty streets of Nyhavn. The multicoloured houses are an Instagrammers paradise. I loved pottering in and out of the numerous coffee shops, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Copenhagen
 
Read: My Guide to Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen
 

 

 
I found a great deal staying in the 4-star Scandic Copenhagen Hotel. Located just eight minutes walk from Tivoli Gardens, this is ideally located for a Christmas market break in Copenhagen. This modern hotel has family rooms available that are similarly priced to standard rooms, and include a free buffet breakfast and free WiFi.

copenhagen christmas market break
 

 

 
Treat the kids to a Christmas market break in Copenhagen this year – what a wonderful way to spend Twixmas and keep the festive spirit alive.

Fly from Dublin to Copenhagen on the 27th of December, and enjoy a three-night stay in the Scandic Copenhagen Hotel with breakfast included for just €1048, based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing.

 
View flights here €146pp 

View hotel here Family Room €464
 

 

 
This Christmas market break in Copenhagen contains affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.

 

Sarah

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Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs – Why You Should Visit & My Top Tips

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With 57,600 fairy lights, 90 Christmas trees and 3 tonnes of snow, you can imagine the excitement when we arrived to Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs Longford Forest. 

 

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ was on repeat on my Spotify playlist, and despite the fact that it was only the 8th of November, I was as excited as the kids! We were fortunate to be invited to Center Parcs Longford Forest for the opening in July, and after a fabulous few days we couldn’t wait to return. Temperatures in July were over 20 degrees. During Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs the average was only 4 degrees, but surprisingly that didn’t matter.

 

instagram center parcs

 

The outdoor swimming pool reminded me of the Blue Lagoon – the combination of the hot pool (29.5 degrees) against the crisp cold air was invigorating. Cycling around the resort was just as enjoyable as it was during the summer time, once we were wrapped up with hats and gloves. Even the biodegradable snow suited the temperatures perfectly!
 
winter wonderland at center parcs
 
All we could see from 5pm was thousands of fairy lights lighting up the resort. The whole village was illuminated – it was an amazing sight. Garlands filled with twinkling lights lined the lake, and massive Christmas baubles beamed in the village. The Christmas tree at Santa’s Woodland Workshop is 10 meters tall and has 4,450 lights! The whole experience was magical and one that all of us throughly enjoyed. It was, to coin the phrase from Center Parcs – Epic Family Time. As I write my my 12 top tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, I am already planning my next visit…

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 


 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 

1. If price is a factor, book a Woodland Lodge. 

All of the lodges in Center Parcs are modern, spacious and well equipped. We stayed in a Woodland Lodge during the Winter Wonderland experience and an Executive Lodge during the summer. I found very little difference between the two, especially if you are staying for a short break. The executive lodges have house-keeping services, TV’s in all rooms and all bedrooms are ensuite – but otherwise they are very similar. 

woodland lodge at center parcs ireland
 

 

 

2. Book a lodge close to the village centre

With rain being a common occurrence during Irish winters, I would recommend paying an additional €49 to stay in a lodge close to the village centre. Although we loved cycling, it is nice to walk to the village and the swimming pool if the rain is heavy – wet saddles are not very pleasant either! This is also a great solution for anyone who doesn’t want to rent bicycles.

winter wonderland center parcs

 

 

 

3. Enjoy a cosy night in

Pop down to the Parc Market when you arrive and pick up some supplies and some fire logs – you can buy three for €6. Treat yourself to dinner from the extensive Dining In menu and light the fire! We did this the night we arrived and it was a great success. We ordered four different types of cuisine: Pizza, Thai, Indian and Asian, and all meals were delivered to our lodge at the same time. The pizza was a big hit, and I loved the prawn rogan josh. Prices were reasonable too, you could even order a bottle of wine to your lodge for €13.95! Make sure you order early, as popular delivery times get booked out. 

dining in center parcs
 

 

 

4. Book a Santa Visit

You need to book the Santa Experience separately. The cost is €18 per child and parents are free. Each child receives a gift and a free photograph afterwards. We thought this was great value. Envelopes will be left in your lodge, one for children to write their Santa letters, and another for parents to help keep the Christmas magic alive… There is a post box in Santa’s Woodland Village where the kids can post their letters before their visit.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Depending on the age of your children, try to book a Santa visit at night time. The Woodland trail is all lit up and it adds to the experience. If the night time slots happen to be booked out, don’t panic. Santa’s Woodland Village is lit up every night and you can walk through it anytime. The Santa visit lasts about 10 minutes, so if you are booking a restaurant, book the time for a half hour after your scheduled Santa visit.  

winter wonderland at center parcs longford

 

 

 

5. Pre-book restaurants

I tried to book restaurants two-weeks in advance, and still only managed to get 9pm slots. You don’t have to pre-book the Sports Cafè, but it can be quite noisy and I didn’t think the food was as good there as it was in other restaurants. If you have young children it is vital you book restaurants in advance, especially if you want early sittings. The restaurants are extremely family friendly, with kids play areas and great kids menus.

There isn’t evening entertainment in the resort, with the exception of live music in Cara’s Restaurant every Saturday and Tuesday at 8.30pm. We booked Cara’s for Saturday night and really enjoyed listening to The Dixie Micks. The menu was limited, but the food was very tasty.

caras restaurant at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
We also enjoyed Bella Italia. We dined there twice and found the food great, and reasonably priced. There is a wide selection of pasta dishes, and not just the typical spaghetti bolognese. The Cacio e Pepe pasta: a mix of roast chicken, pancetta and pecorino cheese in a tasty wild garlic and black pepper sauce, is delicious. I had this during the summer too! I also love that they have a Piccolo kids menu for 3-6 year olds (€6.95) and a Grande kids menu for for 7-11 year olds, (€8.95).  I’ve been told that the Carbonara isn’t great so maybe avoid that! 

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

6. Pre-book activities

Popular activities like the Aerial Adventure, where you Zipline across the lake at Center Parcs, get booked out very early. We did this during the summer and loved it – well it scared the hell out of myself and Cormac, but the kids loved it! Luke and Alex wanted to book it again but it was booked out throughout the weekend – I can’t say I was too disappointed…

center parcs longford forest ireland
 

 

 
Festive activities like the Festive Pony Rides and Festive Chocolate Chefs (age 3-7) are particularly popular with younger children and also need to be booked in advance. You don’t need to pre book too many activities though, one or two activities should be ample on a short stay, as you will probably spend a lot of time in the pool.

winter wonderland at center parcs longford
 

 

 
We really enjoyed the Festive Treasure Trail. It is a super family activity and one I would encourage all families to do. We were given a map with nine wooden markers to find around the forest. There were clues on each one and once we had all nine, we had to report back to the booking desk to collect our prize. We were competing against lots of different families and I was surprised how competitive we all were. However despite racing around the forest in just over an hour, we came 4th! It was a simple but very enjoyable family activity and a great way to explore the whole resort. Price is €5.50 for children under 12 and €6.50 for 12+years.

treasure trail at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Luke and Cormac loved the Laser Clay Shoot. It was Luke’s first time to try this and he was a natural. He not only came first place within the group, but he set a new record score for Center Parcs Longford Forest – he was delighted with himself. I have no doubt it was due to too much Fortnite, but it was a great achievement nonetheless! Price €27 per adult, €23 per child.

laser clay shoot at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Myself and Alex opted for the Festive Roller Skating. It is a handy indoor activity if the weather is bad. I didn’t find it particularly festive, but I was delighted that despite being 30 years since I has last on skates, I was able to keep up with Alex! Price €9.50 per person.

roller skating at center parcs longford forest

See more info on activities and restaurants in my Ultimate Guide to Centre Parcs Longford Forest

 

7. Don’t miss the Light and Sound Show

The Winter Wonderland light and sound show takes place over the lake every Sunday and Wednesday evening during Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs. Unfortunately it was lashing rain during our visit, but nevertheless, the 9-minute animation was really impressive. There are animals, fish and even snowmen projected on to the water, with the North Pole and Santa Claus in the finale. It takes place right outside The Pancake House so it might be an idea to pop in for one of their delicious ice cream sundaes before it starts! I am told they have mulled wine and mince pies too.

pancake house at center parcs longford forest

 

 

 

8. Check out the shops

I was really surprised by some of the prices in the shops. Luke picked up a Harry Potter Lego set in JustKids that was cheaper than Smyths. I bought a lovely Christmas decoration in The Store Room – it wasn’t particularly cheap, but was a lovely souvenir. You may not have considered it, but you may pick up some Christmas gifts in Center Parcs. Ask about the 10% off promotional evening – this is on twice per week.

christmas at center parcs
 

 

 

9. Come early and stay late

Although the official check-in time to your lodge is 3pm, you can access the resort from 10am. Similarly on the day you are leaving, you need to vacate your lodge by 10am, but are free to stay and enjoy the facilities as long as possible. We did the later and enjoyed a fabulous day at the pool…

swimming pool at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

10. Spend your last day at the pool

We loved the subtropical swimming pool during the summer, but it was equally as good this time. We tried all the slides numerous times but our favourites were the Wild Water Rapids (need to be a competent swimmer), and Tropical Cyclone – a tube ride that we could all go on together, (minimum height 122 cm).

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 

 
Once you have checked out, you can leave your suitcases in your car, return your bikes and walk down to the pool. The pool is quieter on changeover days too. You can shower afterwards, dry your hair in the vanity room, and leave for home feeling refreshed. There is a cafe beside the swimming pool so you can even pick up lunch there. The chicken wraps and burgers were tasty – as fast food goes, it was pretty good. 

cafe at center parcs longford forest

There are large cabanas in the Subtropical Swimming Pool. These are equipped with TVs, towels and soft drinks. Priced from €50 for three hours, they can be a great help if you have a small child who needs a nap, and older children who want to stay at the pool. 

cabana at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

11. Bring warm clothes and a back pack.

Remember just because you are on holidays, don’t forget you are in Ireland! Gloves and hats are a must if you are cycling, and don’t even think about wearing skirts on a bike…Most people tend to dress casually, even in restaurants. Backpacks are a Godsend for the pool and are easier than hand bags when cycling.

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

12. Just book it!

If you haven’t already booked it – do it! Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs is an amazing family experience and one that all the family will love. If price is an issue, check out the prices for midweek (Monday – Friday) rather than weekend, (Friday – Monday).  Winter Wonderland short breaks start from €459 for a family of four in a 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge. Christmas and New Year short breaks are also available – you can dine in the resorts restaurants, or even cook a turkey in your own lodge! However if you are unable to go this year – all is not lost! You can book Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs for 2020 already. For availability and prices visit CenterParcs.ie

winter wonderland at center parcs lights
 

 

 

Like this post? You might like:

How to claim money back with the Spend & Save scheme

Ultimate Guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest

How to save money at Center Parcs Ireland

 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 
 
 
Note we were guests of Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, but all views, as always, are my own. 
 

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Best Travel Deals

Halloween Break at Port Aventura World & Ferrari Land, 3 Nights, 2ad & 2ch, Flights, 4* Hotel & Park Passes, €1019!

PortAventura, Spain

Spend the Halloween break at Port Aventura and Ferrari Land this year. Treat the kids to a weekend away with this super deal, which includes flights, hotel and park tickets!

 

Port Aventura World is a great place to go during the Halloween break. The park is decked out with lots of spooky decorations and there are enough frightening characters and scary creatures to satisfy kids of all ages. Younger kids will also enjoy the Sesame Street characters that sing and dance in Halloween costumes. Make sure you catch the amazing Halloween show on the gloomy lake and stay till closing time to catch the spooky fun parade.

Halloween Break at Port Aventura World and Ferrari Land

What I love about this Halloween break at Port Aventura and Ferrari Land is that the kids can still enjoy Halloween night at home. I’m not sure about you but my kids always want to be at home to go trick or treating! You will be flying from Dublin to Barcelona Reus ( closest airport to Salou ) on Wednesday the 1st of November and return on Saturday the 4th and staying at the 4* Sol Costa Daurada hotel in Salou, which is located only 2 km from the Park. Hopefully the weather will be good enough to spend a day at the beach but if you are unlucky the hotel also has an indoor pool as well as a host of activities for all the family to enjoy. 🙂

Halloween Break at Port Aventura World and Ferrari Land

The price includes a two day park ticket to Port Aventura and Ferrari Land, which you can buy in advance with Attraction Tickets Direct. Read my top ten reasons to visit Port Aventura World and my blog on Ferrari Land to see all the amazing attractions available.

Click here to book flights  Dublin – Reus €239pp

Click here to book hotel: €216

Click here to book theme park tickets:  €59 per adult, €51 per child.

 
Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note that some links above are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

 

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In The Media

Staycations and Short Breaks on RTE’s Marian Finucane Show

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As the summer draws to a close why not grab a last minute getaway. I have city breaks in Madrid, Lisbon and Rome, and Irish breaks in Kilkee, Belfast, Enniscorthy, Enniskerry and Westport. Here are my recommendations for staycations and short breaks as discussed on RTE’s Marian Finucane Show this morning.

The Travel Expert, Sarah Slattery on RTE's Marian Finucane ShowFollow me on facebook

August break to Madrid

Late August is always a good time to get a deal and this year is no exception. Kids are ready to go back to school and those looking for a September break tend to overlook late August, when in fact, prices are much lower. ClickandGo.com have matched the low airfares with some good city breaks. I like this deal to Madrid, it combines sightseeing, sun and shopping all in one! You can take a tour of the Royal Palace and shop till you drop on the Gran Via – one of Europe’s finest shopping streets. Madrid is also home to Europe’s largest Penneys so there is shopping here for everyone! There is over 3,000 restaurants, so its safe to say it’s a foodie destination and there is enough bars and clubs to satisfy any night-owls. Fly with Aer Lingus and enjoy a three night stay in the four star Via Castellana hotel for only €240 on the 28th of August. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Lisbon break with river cruise in September

Although the Algarve is one of our most popular holiday choices, the capital, Lisbon is often overlooked. You can choose to go for a holiday (which I did) and stay in one of the beach resorts, or take a city break and stay in Lisbon itself. Temperatures rarely get higher than 25 degrees in Summer and lower than 14 degrees in Winter so it is a great choice for city break. The old style trams are the best way to get around the city and there are numerous sights to see, including The Belem Tower (defence tower), the Castelo de Sáo Jorge  and the Cristo Rei, which is a large statue of Christ that you can climb and see great views of the city. There are some great restaurants, cafes and music clubs, all very reasonably priced. I went with my kids and there was lots for them to do too. The Aquarium is Europe’s largest and well worth a visit. If you have time take the train to the ancient city of Sintra and some of the nice beach resorts along the coast. Theholidayshop.ie are offering a three night break in a central four star hotel from €339 on the 25th of September. They are also including a free river cruise too. Click here for more details.
short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Cheese & Wine Tasting Weekend in Rome in November

Rome is a great city break destination at any time of year, but personally I think it’s better to go in the winter time, as it’s less crowded. There is so much to see in Rome it doesn’t matter how many times you go, you will always find something new to discover. I found a great deal on travalue.ie where they offer a FREE cheese and wine tasting evening, when you book a two night stay. The price for flights and a two night stay in the popular three star Galileo hotel in November is only €199 per person. They also have offers in September and October from €326 per person. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Christmas Market Breaks in December

Christmas markets are very much back in vogue. Ryanair and Aer Lingus have added extra capacity to many cities throughout the winter with lots of low priced airfares available. I like Berlin as it has over 50 markets to choose from and something to appeal to everyone. Sip some mulled wine while enjoying Christmas carols at the traditional markets of Charlottenburg Castle or enjoy one of the Christmas Rock concerts at the Spandau Old Town market. Europe’s largest mobile toboggan run and ice rink are at the lively Potsdamer Platz market, so there is plenty of choice for everyone. For more info on Europe’s top Christmas markets read my blog here. The price for flights with Aer Lingus and a three night stay in the 4* Park Inn by Radisson Alexanderplatz is only €249 on the 7th of December. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane


City Breaks

For those who wish to stay closer to home, there are plenty of options here in Ireland.

 

August family break: Feather Down, Loop Head, Co Clare.

Recently I had the pleasure of glamping in Ireland’s first Feather Down tents. They have sites all over Europe and have only come to Ireland this year. They are in the grounds of a popular glamping site, Purecamping in Loophead. It is the perfect escape from a big city, you really switch off and it’s a great family experience. The ‘tents’ if you can call them that have 3 bedrooms, a private toilet, shower, stove and also a BBQ if you are lucky to get the weather. They still have availability in August, the price for a three night stay is €599 on the 12th or 19th of August. If you want a cheaper option the Purecamping furnished bell tents are pretty cool too and are priced at €75 per night. You can also choose an unfurnished tent from €35. No matter which option you choose you can avail of the excellent facilities on site, including yoga classes, sauna and a wood fired pizza oven. For more details, read my blog here.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Spa breaks

The difference between Monart and other luxury hotels is that Monart is Ireland’s only destination Spa property. It offers a unique adults-only environment and is situated on 100 acres – you will feel utterly relaxed here. Monart was recently awarded ‘runner up best spa retreat worldwide’, by Conde Nast Traveller. It was also named as Ireland’s best destination spa for four years in a row. If you are looking for a spa break, there is no doubt – Monart is the best!  They have a three night midweek break from €329 per person, on the 29th of August, other dates are also available at a slightly higher price. This special offer includes breakfast each day plus dinner in their renowned restaurant on one evening. You will have unrestricted access to the thermal suite and they are also including a 30 minute spa treatment. Monart is situated on 100 acres – you will feel utterly relaxed here. For more details click here.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

If three nights seems too long, the Rainforest Spa in Enniskerry ( Wicklow) have an excellent offer for a one night stay at the Summerhill House Hotel You will receive a glass of bubbly and petit fours on arrival, an hours use of the spa facilities, a treatment of your choice ( see website for exact choices), breakfast and evening meal – and all for €129 mid week or €149 at the weekend, available in August. Click here for more details.

Operation Transformation at Hotel Westport

If you have over indulged during the summer months and want to get in shape for Christmas, then the Hotel Westport’s Operation Transformation package might be just what you need! You can choose a three day break from €199 or a five day break from €309 from the 9th of October. This four star family run hotel have been running this program, twice a year for four years and they have proved very popular. You will receive breakfast and dinner each day ( where light options are available) and you can join in the many aerobics and wellness classes that are provided free of charge. There is entertainment nightly and no single supplement – so it’s a great way to meet new people. There is no pressure to participate in all the activities, it is very much a laid back approach, in fact if you do not wish to be assessed, that’s fine too. If you fancy a night out in Westport, he hotel is located only five minutes from the centre. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

Belfast overnight with Game of Thrones Tour

For any Game of Thrones fans, this is a must! The 4* boutique hotel, Tara Lodge is offering an over night stay with breakfast, and an action packed day visiting filming locations across Northern Ireland. Start your journey along the Causeway Coastal route visiting famous sites from the show. Stop for lunch before visiting the Giants Causeway. The price is only £72 per person and it is still available in August. Weekends are busy but check out their website for more details. The Tara Lodge is rated number 1 of 45 Belfast hotels on tripadvisor and receives excellent reviews. It is a family run guesthouse / hotel and offers friendly service and excellent value. Click here for more details.

short breaks at home and abroad as discussed with marian finucane

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. For my reviews and city break deals click here. To listen back to my chat with Marian, click HERE.

Sarah

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