A recent 4 day break at the newest Center Parcs venue in Woburn Forest with three generations really illustrated how tricky it can be for companies to offer literally something for everyone. My professional antennae was buzzing as various members of my party swam, watched the swimming somewhere cooler, booked somewhere to eat that suited everyone’s timetable and palate, tried their hand at laser clay pigeon shooting, cycled, arranged a birthday surprise, lounged in the lodge to catch up in sleep lost due to an early rising toddler, soothed aching limbs in our private sauna and relaxed into a luxury pedicure to name but a few of the activities we fitted in.
The thought of people going on breaks together in groups is all very well in the cold light of planning, but often the reality when mixing generations is a balancing act of priorities and compromise. Alongside this, its regularly the case that the location and practical arrangements for activities often mean that whilst they might be fit for purpose, those who are also trailing along to watch and snap a few opportune photos are not catered for quite so well. Center Parcs do seem to have paid attention to this dilemma in their master planning of the site at Woburn Forest and made sure that the juxtaposition of activities and places to watch, hover and be available with a camera are close and cater for everyone’s preferences.
The wealth of activities on offer is mind bogglingly vast and these are helpfully captured in various leaflets scattered about the park which enable you to locate just what you’re after under the tempting titles ‘Rainy Days, Family Time, Eating Out, What’s On, Little Ones and Grown ups’ and my goodness you’ll need to gather one of each and give yourself time to peruse through- ideally with the other members of your group, to select and gently plan what and how you’re going to fit it all in; asserting your priorities and blending them with compromise.
Much of what is on offer requires a wallet being opened but with many of the experiences quite unique and relatively small groups participating they are worth the effort of leaving the pool area to join in and create some special memories. The branding of these experiences has a clever legacy with strategically placed logos and imagery that implies that family harmony is a guaranteed outcome and certainly my family and the families I observed were all having an enjoyable, if not exactly relaxing break! I’m reminded of my luxury pedicure each time I now reach into my bag for a nail file as you can see from the image here.
Of course, the test is actually not only participating in the activities but interacting with the staff on site. How do they work with families in ways that are respectful, safe and engaging? Awfully well in fact. Each person who we connected with over the weekend was bright and tuned in, paid attention to the whole group and generally made sure that we were all enjoying ourselves. Getting this right across the age groups is impressive and deserves positive acknowledgement.
The ease in which activities, restaurants and information is accessed and shared is hugely helped by the free wifi and info points and the moneyless wrist bands which double up as door keys and payment points mean that you don’t need to be weighed down with bags and keys. Clever and certainly family friendly.
So intergenerational breaks can work. Get the location and the options right and everyone can have their (birthday) cake and eat it too.
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