Center Parcs Port Zélande: Our Money Saving Tips & A Review – Our Family’s Perspective

 

Main sign at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

Well, after living abroad for over seven years, I heard from both British and Irish friends and colleagues rave on about their experiences here, our family has finally taken a trip to Center Parcs – this time Port Zélande, here in the Netherlands.   There are nine Center Parcs in the Netherlands to choose from but with a family member in from the US staying for a week there, another joining for a weekend, I thought it would be great if the kid & I joined in for the week too.  Plus their mom lives in Zeeland, so she’ll come to visit the grand kids, etc.   While we were first going for just the weekend, we changed our mind and made it a 6 night stay instead and took advantage of a last minute deal!

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TOP TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY

  • BOOK OUTSIDE SCHOOL VACATION WEEKS

My first tip is to book a weekend when your school has a study day (or teacher training day) on the Friday and/or Monday.  This avoids needed to take the kids out of school AND avoids the expensive school holidays.  Of course, in some countries they don’t mind you taking the kids out for a few days here or there or even a week but in the Netherlands it is not allowed.  Also here in the Netherlands, they try to break up vacations into regions (Noord, Midden en Zuid Nederland) so the entire country doesn’t have off the same times off with the exception of Easter and Xmas.   So if you visiting NL from abroad, you might score a deal since breaks aren’t always the same – see below for the 2019 -2020 year.    Dates for the next two years can be found here – but they are not 100% set in stone yet!! Also, keep in mind, while you cannot access your units until 3 pm, you can start using the facilities at Center Parcs early so I would recommend packing a swimming bag separately in the car so you can get on site, have lunch and use the pool!

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  • CHECK PRICING OFTEN & COMPARE THE VARIOUS COUNTRY SITES – NOT JUST YOUR OWN!!

While booking last minute can sometimes go in your favor, sometimes the prices sky rocket!  After working in travel for 8 years, there is no strict rule to this.   Two weeks ago, I watched the prices fall from €699 to €499 over the course of two days… so we waited to see what our weekend (27 July to 2 Aug) would do.   Unfortunately, our dates haven’t done the same.   Right now on Tuesday for a Friday arrival the rates are €679 – so they dropped a tiny amount.

PRICE UPDATE:  TWO days to go before arrival and only 2 units left – price is now back up to €879 – so you don’t always win with last minute!  And then five hours later, back down to €679!  ha ha – what the heck!    Will check again tomorrow and update!  Back up again!!

We however, decided to come in on Saturday and stay for a six nights instead of paying €1,499 for the week, I’m paying €1,149.  Booking very early can sometimes save you money – but this is not always the case.   For example, if I were to book the same apartment, same week next year – it’s €1,952!  But you get free bonus’ like 3 free activities and the ability to pick your location – which normally costs €33.  Not worth it to me!

I personally think the reason our particular week has not dropped so much is two things.  1.] we are in the middle of a heatwave in the Netherlands and as this is Zeeland and by an amazing beach – the location is top! 2.]   UK schools are just now out.  Our old school just got out on Friday.  Many UK families come over via Stena Line or Eurotunnel and drive up as they are looking to take advantage of the various Center Parcs on the mainland and enjoy their summer holidays!

Don’t always book using your own country site.  Be sure you look at the country of the park at which you are staying.  I checked Port Zélande prices on the France site, Dutch site, UK site and German site and I often found different rates for the same dates.   German was the most expensive – often by €300 – €500 per stay!!  Don’t worry if you don’t read the language, turn on google translate and your website will change.

When you are shopping for your trip, be sure to check the pricing on Wednesdays – they have a special called “Waanzinnige Woensdag” where they offer special pricing when you book on Wednesday (most times €50 off)

Right now, you can play a memory match game on the Dutch Center Parcs site and you win a prize.  I don’t know if you can win more, but I keep winning a code to take €150 off an upcoming trip between September ad March – tempting!

  • DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT & NEED FROM YOUR ACCOMMODATION

Depending on which country of course, all Center Parcs resorts offer various ranges of accommodations.   Some offer camping but most offer various accommodations from safari tents, cabins, apartments, 2-10 person cottages from comfort to Premium to VIP and some even offer tree houses or kinder cottages with private playhouses in your own garden.  But they all have beds, bathrooms and cooking facilities – but you do have the option of booking your accommodation with meals included, so you don’t need to worry at all if you don’t want to cook.   You do pay a premium for things such as having beds made in advance and bath towels brought in, en-suite bathrooms, bread delivered daily, views over water, so you have to decide how much you really need these things and whether it’s worth the additional costsWe saved €8 per person x4 by bringing our own bath towels.  Of course I forget a bathmat (remember it if you are brining your own towels)! Also keep in mind that you’ll spend a large amount of time away from your accommodation, so you may not need all the bells and whistles for the extra premium upgrades.  Of course, if you have small kids who need to return for naps daily, you might want the extra room and bedrooms, need a bathrub vs a shower, etc.  We do not and for that reason we took a two-bedroom apartment at Port  Zélande.   Again:  Check-in starts at 3pm and check-out is 10 am, but you are welcome to use the park for a full day on both your check-in and check-out days.  You cannot bring your car onto the property until after 3pm on your arrival day and then only to unload and you must go bring it back to the main parking lot (5-10 minute walk back at our particular property).

  • BRING YOUR OWN BIKES

If you own bikes and it’s an option, bring them.  You can rent bikes (min 2 days) but the cost of a bike trailer can often cost less than bike hire but offers much better value for money as it can be used time and time again.    This particular park is not that big so it’s manageable but other parks are very large.   But it would be handy to have bikes to pop over to the beach, and go off site and explore.  But part of the reason we are here is for our kids to be with their cousins who live in New York and are here for vacation so we will stay put. If it were just us, we’d have rented bikes and set off on an exploration of the nearby towns for sure!

On Wednesday evening, as the weather was nice, we walked over to Natural High Brouwersdam and it was a 15 minute walk and it was fine without bikes.  In addition to bikes they have skelters, family bikes like this one which Maebh sat on for this photo so this could be an option for others!

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For those who are not 100% mobile or those not wanting to walk, you can rent a golf cart for the ENTIRE week and use that to get around.  Not 100% sure of the price but they were all sold out when we enquired if it was possible to get one for a day when Oma & Opa were visiting.

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As they are not fully mobile, we were able to rent the last two wheelchairs for a day at €5 each – which was worth it to get them around the park.  The kids helped us return them in exchange for a bit of a wheel themselves.

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  • DOWNLOAD THE CENTER PARCS APP

It’s very handy and makes check-in super easy by pre-filling in all the guest details, etc.  There is a map of the park, contact numbers, but what I like the best is that all the park activities for each day are listed and bookable online there.   Each day you can see what is happening, what time and how much it costs.

Prepare your stay

You can organize everything up front.

  • Check your booking information
  • Choose the location of your cottage by booking ‘Preferred location’
  • Check all the opening hours and the park map
  • Check restaurant menus and book a table
  • Book extra Cottage Services or restaurant arrangements
  • Order groceries to be delivered to your cottage
  • Book Activities as far as 6 weeks in advance so you are certain of availability

Here you’ll have to manage your kids’ expectations – or at least I will with mine or you’ll be broke.   My kids know that we will NOT be booking tons of expensive activities daily.  At 11 and 9, they get it and are very easy-going kids.

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  • SAVE ON GROCERIES & OTHER ITEMS

I’m not too keen on making a meal plan each week and tend to make meals based on what is on sale at the store that week and what my family likes, but here I suggest you make a meal plan before you go. Bring your own food & cook meals there but don’t do your ‘main shop’ at the ParcMarket as it could be expensive.   Use the shop as a place to top of your milk, bread, etc.   While not a money-saving tip – more of an fyi – you can have groceries delivered to your unit.  There was a small shopping trolly in our unit so that was super helpful.  By having breakfast & lunch at your unit, it will save you.  Sure an occasional meal out is fine but not every day!  The cooking facilities are there – use them!   A tip on how to save some money at ParcMarket – go in around 6 pm before the store closes – you can often find yellow sticker items with a reduced shelf life and reduced price – cakes & sandwiches tend to be the items you’ll find most.

Keep in mind you are holiday so your “meals” shouldn’t be too time consuming and elaborate as you’d make at home.   Also until you are in the unit, you are not 100% your equipment and cooking arrangement you have.  You might not have an oven like you have at home but will have a magnatron – personally we skipped using it all together and cooked on the stove top – but others find it perfectly fine and use it often.    If you are fine using it, then you might be okay having a pizza at at home one night too.   Here are some easy meal ideas which we used for our trip.  Where you can make some stuff at home and bring it with you, so you can just heat it up on the stove top and make the sides.   Less time in the kitchen and more time with your family on vacation!!  

Of course winter vacations, you can make more hearty meals, but this is what our family is eating during our summer vacation.

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Funny story,  I once met a man who brought his potato peeler with him on holidays to Portugal – as he loved to cook and it was his favorite utensil.  At the time, I thought he was crazy.  But it wasn’t until we were in our unit and I was looking at what utensils were supplied and guess what – NO peeler.   If you are like me, you own every kitchen gadget and have a well-stocked house.  In fact, I have a really nice Oxo peeler I bought about 15 years ago and I love it.  So I’m questioning myself why didn’t I bring it?  I did bring my cheese microplane, my favorite, sharpest knife and my milk frother – but I didn’t bring my peeler – but I should have just like that man!!   Also, as I was making dinner, I could have used one very large pot to boil my pasta – instead I had to use two small ones.  So I’ll now always remember to bring a larger pot too – it won’t take up as items can be stored inside.   Oh yeah and pot holders – thankfully I brought some tea towels for drying so I used them, but with out it, moving this bolognese and boiling pots would have been pretty hard without potholders so bring a pair!!!   Oh and there was one frying pan – so for me that was fine with my meals but that could be an issue too…. see simple meals are best!!

I did check in the ParcMarket for these items and you can buy both for cheap – peeler is €2 and pot holders are cheap too – if you really needed them.  I ended up buy pre-grated carrots so we’re fine and used my tea towels for potholders.   When we back the next day the last peeler was gone – ha ha! 


I’m sure it goes without saying, but if you are coming from a place where you are driving – SAVE € by bringing stuff from HOME.

Here is small list of items you’ll use and you can bring from home and doesn’t require cooling – as you can’t get into your room until 3 pm.

  • Seasonings like Salt, Pepper & favorite spices – all small and can easily be brought back home.   No need to bring every jar you own – just pour a few tablespoons into small baggies if you think you’ll only use a bit here & there.  
  • Sugar
  • Tea Bags
  • Olive Oil & Vinegar (think salad dressing)
  • Tin Foil, Cling Film & a zip lock few baggies (if you use them)
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Napkins or Kitchen Roll
  • Dishwashing Tables  (no need to bring an entire box – just grab one for each day (plus two extra) drop in a ziplock bag)
  • Dish Soap
  • Liquid Hand Soap for the bathroom.
  • Garbage Bags – I bought a roll of small ones for €2 so not expensive at all 
  • You could buy bagged ice at the shop or bring empty plastic ice trays (if you are like us and really like ice in your drinks)
  • Some people bring bird seed to leave around your deck to encourage birds to visit.  But we stayed at the marina at Port  Zélande – there were enough squawking seagulls start at 4:30 am – – they were SOOOO LOUD!   One morning around 7 am  there as this awful squawking through the house is awful – thankfully the hubby and kids slept in the other room.  Most people would not want any more birds visiting.  I’d say save this for if you visit parks in the woods and you want to attract nice small birds.  Click here to watch the video – well it is more of sound and a photo of a baby chair. 

Whenever we stay at hotels and there are toiletries or tea bags & sugar, etc. which we don’t use – we take them home.  So we have a big basket for the guest bathroom and a place in the cabinet in the kitchen for tea bags, so when we go on trips I take a baggie with a dozen individual sugars and a variety of tea bags.   The small bar soaps are very handy to take with us when traveling to use in the shower.

If you were to purchase all this stuff, it will add up and can easily be brought from home and what you don’t use bring home.   Also bringing stuff like your own swim goggles, sunscreen, towels for room & beach towels, buckets & spades. Swim jackets and water arm bands are available free of charge at the pool, so no need to buy or bring your own, if you need them for small kids.

  • DON’T FORGET IN ROOM ENTERTAINMENT

While you have loads to do on-site and in the the summer won’t send too much time in your room with older kids, smaller kids will need some things to do in the the unit for downtime.

  • Wifi was VERY slow – in the day and age of free, fast wifi not sure what was going on.  On the UK site it says all parks in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium include Wi-Fi as standard.  I put on my iPhone hotspot all week for the kids.
  • Coloring books, paper, pencils & crayons.  Of course, ParcMarket has this stuff to buy in case you forget it.  They had a coloring contest too which could be fun for the little ones.  My 9 year old took a page but never got around to doing it. To win the prize which this week was a small Orry backpack, you had to have your entry in before Friday or Monday morning by hanging them on the display board near the cash registers. 
  • Books to read before bed.
  • Board games or card games – we brought our favorites =  Stap Op,  Kwartet & Pesten
  • While our Premium apartment here at Port Zélande didn’t have it a DVD player, some parks/units have DVD players – (check your booking).  If you want to create a home from home environment before bedtime. It can also help if you want to cook a meal in the kitchen or recover from your morning’s activities. We did have two TVs, just no DVD players!
  • BOOK AGAIN IF YOU LOVED YOUR TIME AT CENTER PARCS

If you have a great stay and know you want to visit again, then make sure you take advantage of Center Parcs’ ‘Come Back Soon’ offer.  They will send you an email with all the details following your stay making booking easy. You get vouchers to use on site for each lodge booked and a low price guarantee, meaning that if you see the price lower between booking and your arrival, you can contact them and they’ll amend your price to reflect that. It does mean you’re responsible for keeping an eye on the price but if you’re going to book anyway it’s a nice way to get some extra benefits and a bit of a deal. Center Parcs don’t often offer deals so make the most of this one!    Based on my price checking above, you know I’d be all over that checking it far too often!

OUR REVIEW OF THE PARK

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CHECK-IN

Since I downloaded the app, I had already pre-filled in our names, birthdates, car registration, emergency contact information so that helped expedite the check-in process.  All of the Center Parcs locations are traffic free sites, however, at check in time you are able to retrieve your car from the car park and temporarily take it up to your lodge so you can unpack. It does tend to get pretty busy at 3 as everyone goes at the same time.  However, if you wait till around 3.30/4 to go and get your car, you will get straight out and avoid sitting in a car park for a while!

CHECK-OUT

Key drop at check out at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

There is no official check out process where you have to see a person.   You simply  drop your key into the box above on the way out near the reception according to your zone to make it easier for them.   You are asked to just strip your beds of their sheets and duvet covers and put them into the red large plastic bags left on your bed on arrival.  You can drive your car onsite early, load it up and re-park it in the main parking lot and continue to use the property or leave.  We went swimming, used our bowling voucher and then ate lunch at the beach before driving back home!

OUR ACCOMMODATION

We chose to book a 4 person, Premium Apartment near the marina for our 6-night stay.  We paid extra to have beds made for us when we arrived and there was a small box of supplies in the kitchen like one sponge, a few dishwasher tablets, etc.  It’s not much but having the bed already made to me was worth it.  When you leave you are to just take off the sheets and put them into the big red plastic bags left for you.. simple enough.   As we were booking the accommodations last minute to join family members already visiting, we figured we didn’t need too much space and wanted to save money, so we took the least expensive option (well, camping might be but that is NOT our thing!) .  Plus after 3 nights, I think it will be just the three budgies as the 6’8″ person who needs the most space is home working.  We knew our until was #970 as it was the last unit left free for the week, but you can pre-book your location for a fee of €33 –  if it’s important to you to know which unit you are staying in.  Perhaps you want to be next to your family member (like my two sister-in-laws) or closer to the pool or perhaps far away from water as your little kids – for us we didn’t really care, but you do have an option [again for a fee].  Looking back now, if I were to pick an ideal apartment in the marina area, I’d say #900 is great – west facing so you get sun, an end unit and you are on the ground floor – so you can sit outside at your table while your kids crabbed on the small pier.

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Overall our accommodation #970 was fine for us.   We had two bedrooms, a good size bathroom with a rainforest shower (no tub), a kids stool and potty seat.  Dining table with four chairs and a baby stool [which we used for storage].   The kitchen could have used some extra storage space – like a small shelf long the wall where you can put your stuff – as I have to use up 1/3 of the counter space storing my items.   We had a couch which was only just big enough for us all.  Two televisions – one in our room and one in the living room and a small patio – but it was tiny so we didn’t use it all – only to store our crab equipment actually!  While there are no washer/dryers in the units, there is a laundromat near the main entrance open every day so you can wash your clothes.  You buy a token at the main desk – and soap is included in the machine so no need to bring or buy anything!!!

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Our balcony is the one with the bright yellow trim.  The balcony up top (#973 I think) would be much better and much larger.

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Two of my SILs chose to be next to each other at #197 & 198.  But one of my sister-in-laws accommodation #198, upon arrival, was pretty bad and not “cleaned”.  She found cigarette stubs everywhere at the entrance and a used razor outside.   Also found the place incredibly small for herself and 4 kids – then when she walked up the spiral staircase, she encountered the most dirty carpet in the world. She was afraid to take her shoes off. And you know how kids roll around – yuk!   She paid €1,600 just for the accommodation for a week vacation, she would like to be comfortable  – not hate where she was and I totally agree!  They went over and took a look, agreed it was dirty and thankfully they were able to move her to a different lodge and she’s happy but no longer next to her sister.   If the guests do not dispose of their butts in the ashtrays provided under the sink, you’re going to see them all over the ground until Center Parcs picks them up – they will not go away on their own for a long time!  Most cigarettes have filters are made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that is very slow to degrade in the environment. A typical cigarette butt can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose, depending on conditions!   We have been on site for 6 nights and they are still there along with the dirty old discarded razor – seems no one wants to touch the gross butts!  I only know this because my other SIL stay at #197 for the duration of her stay… otherwise I wouldn’t have gone over to look but we visited her and saw the butts/razor were still there.

Also look at this mix match half plastic, half wicker table set up in the garden – yuck!

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RESTAURANTS

We ate at ONE restaurant on site at Center Parc Port Zélande – Nonna’s on our last night.  The food was quite good – the majority of us had pizza and they were very accommodating for the five vegans among our group of nine!    The waitstaff even broke out into a dance and all the kids in our group joined in.   So funny… here is a video of the action.


TIP:  If you are looking for a table right NOW, always check with the restaurant directly. 
Even if the main booking desk says they are full and there are no reservations available until hours from now, and the app says there are no reservations available – go to the restaurant and ask.  We were told no by the general reservation desk but then when we walked up – NINE of us sat at two round tables next to each other!  So often people book tables in advance and no show.  Perhaps they forget – for whatever reason they do not come to their reservations.  And as they are not accountable for a fee – they don’t call or care.  So tables are sitting empty and the restaurant doesn’t communicate it back to general reservations as they are busy to don’t think  about doing so – so people miss out!  If we didn’t ask we’d assume they were full and they were not. 

We did eat at the Brouwersdam Beach a few times – which I really like as I LOVE Dutch Strandpaviljoens!    

  • STRANDPAVILJEON BROW

On Sunday, my SIL brought us to Strandpaviljoen Brow which was a simple 10 minute walk from Center Parcs for lunch to celebrate the birthday of her oldest daughter V who was turning 10 the next day.  The other set of grandparents came for lunch so it was extras special for the grand kids.

This place has a nice vibe – I loved the decor.   There was a kids area with a tv playing Finding NEMO and some coloring pages – which I thought was nice and in view of the parents area.  Outside was a small play area and just by the deck was the giant Water slide where you could watch people be dare devils.   It was too windy for to sit outside this particular day but on a nice warm day it would be beautiful!  I wanted to go back for dinner one night, but they close at 7:30 pm so it was not an option.

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I didn’t get to go into the beach shop to have a look around and never got back to have another look.  Probably for the best as I’d end up with another pair of reef flip flops.   For my meal, I had the Vegan Poke Bowl and didn’t opt for the Salmon on top but you can.  It was also delicious and something I’d make for dinner at home.

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  • NATURAL HIGH BEACH CLUB

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We ended up at Natural High Beach Club here THREE times – one with our family for dinner and one with my SIL and her kids and one for lunch on our last day.  First time I had a Poke Bowl Natural High which and then the second time a Poke Bowl Beef Teriyaki – both very good and both I will make a  version of such at home for our family.  For lunch I had the Falafel burger – also yummy!

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  • Outside seating is first come first serve so when you see table finishing you have to pounce to take their spot.   If you want to sit inside, I recommend you call for to reserve a table.
  • While it’s only my opinion, but it’s a pity they close their beach shop each night at 6 pm.   I think they should stay open til 8 pm or 9 pm, so those having dinner can go browse and purchase stuff.   Maybe they did a CBA on this and it was not worth it??
  • Vegan menu doesn’t exists.  Your only option is a poke bowl without fish on top and french fries!   They will not adjust the menu for you what so ever  – it even says it on the first page.

NEARBY BEACH

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One of the greatest things about this property is the ability to walk to the nearby beach.  It is called BEWARE BEACH.  Not sure if that is a made up name or what but during the day, the beach area near Natural High is a really busy active beach for wind and kite surfing and not one for sunbathing and you really have to BEWARE!  Sure there are areas for you to do that but the area where the Natural High Beach Club is – that is for the sports – check out all the kites.   Near the restaurant and in the late afternoon early evening when the kite stuff is done, the kids played so it does calm down but today was super cool with all the activity.

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One day we were having our dinner at Natural High and the kids saw a big mound.  When the kids were finished and asked if they could play at the mound – sure… no problem.  Then when we got over to them, we noticed it was a giant hole purposely dug out by Perry’s Beach Club – so you can swim in it.  We didn’t have our swimsuits and it was evening so a bit nippy and we never got back, but we’ll remember this place and for our next trip to Zeeland, perhaps we can visit it.

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STAFF SERVICE

All the staff were very friendly and nice – especially the various EHBO staff who wrapped S’s toe each day at the pool.  Job at the outdoor terrace near the Adventure Factory was very friendly and talkative too!    We did hear a few British families but the vast majority of the guests were either Belgian or German followed by Dutch.  So all the workers speak Dutch, German and English so no issues whatsoever!

GAMETOWN

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Our kids love an arcade where you can win tickets and cash them in for what we call “cheap Chinese made plastic junk“.   Our first night, the kids and I heard there was live music at the Dome, so we went out to see and when we saw the arcade we went in for a about 45 minutes – it was fun!   I gave them both €20 credit on cards and they went to town.   We agreed that they’ll save their points up and at the end of their vacation, we’ll pool them together and see what we can win.  So it’s no surprise, they’ll spend a fair bit of time here.   During our trip to De Haan last year, I hit the 1,000 ticket jackpot!  On our first night, I didn’t hit the 1,000 yet only 500.  Maebh hit a 300 jackpot. She had about 700 ticket credit, I had 2300 ticket credit and Soren considerably less, around 200 or so, but he plays action games –  while we play gambling games.   We went back a second night and played more… same thing – us gambling games and Soren on sporty games.  Then Soren spent about 20 minutes playing racing and throwing games and air hockey with his new friend too – so that used up the last of my credits.  Finally in the end, we had a total of 5,600 tickets to pick a prize.  We selected a 4,500 large, inflatable unicorn pool floatie and then some unicorn poop and some jumping putty.   They promised not to beg me to return to the games room but it was fun!

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ENTERTAINMENT

There was free live music and shows – including kids shows in the late afternoon featuring Orry and characters.   Our kids are 9 & 11 so they didn’t care about seeing the show – but my SIL took her 3 year old who enjoyed it.     We did enjoy the man singing at the piano outside the bowling.

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  • CRAZY BINGO

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On Saturday night, the kids and I participated in Crazy Bingo.  It was not cheap at €12 per person – but we thought it was a fun night out and did it anyway.   Sadly, we didn’t win anything but came close a few times  and had fun!  The best part was the music card…. the hosts would hum tunes using a kazoo – then you’d have to shout out the song and then mark the card. … our 11 year old knew so many songs – I was impressed!

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  • FAMILY TRIVIA NIGHT

On Monday night, the last night N was with us, we went together for Family Trivia night and we were given lucky #21 pointer.  The questions are all in Dutch and German – so for those who do not read or understand either, they would struggle.  The first round we came in second by ONE POINT – we were a bit bummed ha ha.  Soren was responsible for the buzzer the first question, but when we learned you get points for being the fastest to answer Nils took the buzzer in his hand.  Second round we won – our prize a platter of fried food [ha ha but considering we just ate dinner no one wanted this fried platter].

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Then we tied second with a few others – that round winner received voucher for mini-golf.  Then we won the final so took home the grand prize by ONE POINT as well – a voucher for family bowling!  With a hubby who knows a lot about everything – I’m somewhat not surprised we won!  I’ve been trying to get him to go with me to the English speaking trivia at a bar near our house for months!  

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ACTIVITIES – SO MANY TO CHOOSE

There are so many activity options at Center Parcs it is hard to decide what to do. We hardly scratched the surface in terms of taking advantage of what was offered.  This is just a sample of the activities = but I know there are even more and something for everyone.

PAID ACTIVITIES

Paddle Boats & Electric Boat Hire
PADi Diving Course
Glow in the Dark Bowling
Beach Games – Volleyball
Beach Carts
Body Boarding
Laser Gun Battles
Windsurfing Lessons
SUP Lessons
Mini Golf
Kite Surfing
Segways
Pottery workshops
Pony Rides
Table Tennis
Bike Rentals
Water Jump
Aquapark – Inflatable waterpark
Kids Paintball

FREE ONES

AquaMundo – including slides, wild water, lazy river and turbo tunnel
Live shows & music
Playgrounds
Beach
Nature walks
Play soccer
Use the volleyball net in the main courtyard

WHAT ACTIVITIES WE DID

  • AQUA SPLASH

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When the second set of grandparents were visiting, my SIL put her oldest kids on the inflatable water zone – Aqua Splash.  As the youngest didn’t want to do it after a half hour, my daughter took his spot and did it for a bit.  It was quite difficult for her being small and not that strong.  From the pier, my husband called to anther dad to help assist my pushing her up over this one area to get to her other two cousins – thankfully or she’d be stuck.

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It’s €10 per child for 1 hour and you must have a swim diploma to do it – which they have so we’re good!  My kids love the show ‘Wipe Out” and this is along that idea.   In the end, Soren never did this activity – and to my surprised, he wasn’t too bummed out.  Had his new friend suggested they do it together, I’m sure that would be a different story.   This type of activity is more fun when you are together with someone your own age and strength.

  • KIDS PAINTBALL

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Soren did this 1 hour session at 1 pm during the hottest day we were at the park.  Not ideal but we booked it the day before and as the session was only held 2x when we were there, we didn’t want to him to miss out.  They say wear long sleeve shirts and long pants but they do provide padded vests and over suits to protect clothing but other kids were wearing shorts.   He could have worn shorts and would have been cooler.  As it’s kids paint ball the FSP (feet per second) is not as high as adults but if you were to get shot at close range it would pinch.  He did get a shot in his neck which stung but his helmet and suit should have covered him… perhaps he was unzipped a bit??  They told them not to shoot closer than 3 meters or 1 obstacle minimum.  This was the only activity he really really wanted to do and often talked about.  He wanted to do this for his birthday so this was so great he could do it.  And as expected, he LOVED it.

He made it into the final so it was he and one kid from Germany. But the kid was being told by his brother, who was already out of the game and safely behind the fence, where S hiding was so he was able to sneak up behind Soren (who unfortunately didn’t see him coming) and was shot behind at close range (less than 1 and a half meters).  So he lost – but to him it was unfair!  So he was a bit bummed to have not won and made it a point to tell the kid at the end his win was not really fair…  Overall,  he had a lot of fun out there and the only way it would be more fun would be if he was with a friend.  I have a feeling we just opened the paintball can 🙂

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  • MERMAID SWIMMING

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The activity that Maebh wanted to the most was Mermaid Swimming and it was fantastic for her and her cousin V.  Ever since she saw a girl with a tail and fin a few years ago on Ibiza she has wanted to try one.  In fact, as added motivation to get through her swim diplomas, I promised her one after completion but have not yet got it for her.   I don’t see them in the store and the ones online look terribly cheap.  My SIL says they pulled them from the shops in the US due to safety.

As expected, it looks easier that it was.  She said it was not – she struggled a bit not being the tallest and strongest swimmer – she didn’t quite slide through the pool like Daryl Hannah but loved it anyway! Afterwards kept saying how amazing it was – very sweet! It was €10 for 1 hour and was well-worth it.  I highly recommend booking it for any mermaid fans.  I also loved that they took the 6 girls to the pool in the spa area where it was quiet and the instructor would teach them.  The main pool area was sooo busy – she could never have done it there.   Like paintball, this won’t be the end of the mermaid tail.

  • BOWLING x2

 

One day to celebrate cousin V’s 10th birthday, 11 of us bowled.  As we won passes for 55 minutes of bowling at the Grand Prize of the Family Trivia, we went back and bowled again on Friday at 10:30 am before swimming and heading home.  TIP:  Lane 5 & 6 are the best lanes for bowling with kids as they have the gutters which can go up and down so kids and adults can both bowl together.  A simple push of a white button puts them up for down.  But they are hidden so don’t expect big medal rails to come up … they are there.   I was also told you have to book this at the desk as you cannot book these lanes on the app – but when I checked the app I have an option for both  KIDS BOWL and normal bowl options so I think you can – but the person didn’t select the correct one.   As you see – I am TERRIBLE and my hand turns left when I bowl so I often end up with ZERO points.    

  • HIGH ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE

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All five kids (except the 3 year old did this 50-minute glow-in-the-dark session.  It was not so easy for them and Maebh wanted to quit twice as she is afraid of heights but pushed on with encouragement from her cousin V.   It was impossible to take a photo inside so me and my SIL enjoyed a tea and some peace and quiet for a few minutes while the kids played and the youngest bounced and roamed nearby for a bit inside the Adventure area (safely of course).

  • PONY EXPERIENCE

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Bad weather cancelled the original session but they were able to make it up again on Thursday.  Maebh did this 45-minute session with 3 of her cousins – 2 kids to 1 pony.  They make the pony even more beautiful by brushing the mane and tail and braid the hair and decorate it with colorful rubber bands.  Then the kids saddle up the pony and take turns in a small circe in the park.

  • GREVELINGENMEER BOAT TRIP WITH OMA & OPA

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As Nils’ mother and husband came to visit the six grand children,  him and his sister before their family returned to NYC, we all decided to go out on the 90-minute boat trip. around the Grevelingenmeer which is the lake that was created behind the Brouwersdam as part of the Delta Works project in the 70’s and 80’s.   It was a lovely trip around the area…. very pretty scenery out on the Grevelingenmeer.  They did narration in German, English, Dutch and French.  The kids were a bit bored after a while and all went inside to the toy area but I enjoyed the scenery and fresh air with full sunshine and silence!

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Photo credit:  Center Parcs
  • CRABBING AT THE MARINA PIER

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We spent several afternoons crabbing at the marina.  It was here where Soren met some friends too.  While not 100% free as you have to buy some stuff to start off – it can provide hours of fun!    You might already have a bucket or you can buy a crab one for €6.  A net is another €5 euros.  Unlike the UK set up where you put your bacon in a pouch inside the net, drop it to the bottom, a crabs walk in and you pull up the basket, here it’s a bit different.   They have this little fishing line with a clothes pin on a string and a reel – which was €7.  Often times the crab falls off the line if he is not really holding on or you pull too hard/fast.  Part of the skill is to get him up.   Essentially you can make this yourself, but we bought two – one for each kid.  And sure enough one broke – so we had to get another – so I carefully used the broken one and joined in.  You can just use the net and forget the line, but you’d have to lurk in the shallow area and just grab them so it’s best to do both – like we did.  At one point, both kids left to use the bathroom and Nils and I were there – just two adults crabbing and having fun alone.   So many times we had our large crab bucket fill to the top with crabs.  One time Soren brought them all to the other side of the pier where there were other families crabbing and not catching much so to give them a chance. Then Maebh dumped the second batch of crabs half way giving the crabs a choice to go left or right… within seconds a boy ran over and scooped up tons.   

The main character, Orry, even stopped by for a photo opportunity with the crabs 🙂

Soren crabbing with Orry at Center Parcs at Port Zélande

After our second time crabbing, I got creative and tapped some 5p coins to the clothes pin to make it heavier as they took a while to sink….  and then after a few hours of crabbing, two one of our clothes pins fell off the line into the deep water.  Another broke in two pieces – but as I had three heavy-duty clothes pins at our unit I cut the string, re-wrapped the new heavy-duty clothes pins on and tied coins on again for added weight …these were much better than the original!   I’m telling you S & I could enter a crabbing competition here at Center Parcs Port Zélande.  He thinks we’d win with the number of crabs we pull up in a half hour.  This does exist off Cromer Pier each year.   

As we were packing to leave, we agreed that we would not take our souped up crabbing stuff with us as we live no where near the beach and if we did return, we’d re-purchase the equipment.  It’s going to break again and not good quality.  But instead of tossing it or having the room cleaners toss it, let’s first see if we could find a family to donate it to.  At 10 am on a Friday the most busy change over day – no one was crabbing.  As it was windy, we took the stuff inside and left a note – FREE TO TAKE / GRATIS!  Within a few minutes – a family with three boys came by and took the stuff!  Great it will be put to good use this week!!

PARK FACILITIES

  • SWIMMING AT AQUA MUNDO

We spent time every day at the water park!  It’s free (well included) and the kids loved it.  Though it is not as large and exciting as the Center Parcs pools you see online …. but as it is our first time, they were not totally disappointed.  But they did say it’s not Duinrail’s Tiki Bad – and I totally agree.   But we still had fun daily!     I didn’t bring my camera in but my SIL took these for us.   

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There is a smaller kids slide which Nils some how creates a tsunami at the bottom each time.  A larger one with double or single tubes, a small outdoor pool, a wave pool, indoor section with a current section and then a wildwaterbaan which is our favorite – and we go on it over and over again!  I hear other Center Parcs have faster ones – we’d love a faster one.  

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You can bring food into the pool area, but we didn’t.  We didn’t even bring our towels into the pool area and set up at a table all day like others.  We just left everything in our lockers – which you need a €1 coin to lock.   A tip – if you are thinking about doing this – go early (10 am) or go late (6 pm)  – don’t try and find a table mid-day or on rainy days – you won’t!

There is a drinks / ice cream section at the pool but we didn’t go anywhere near near it.

Also by son’s large toe nail had an infection last year so was nearly falling off so each day we had to have it taped by the EHBO staff.  Their first-aiders did an amazing job with him – taping it up.

WOULD WE RETURN TO PORT ZELANDE PARK?

Yes, absolutely but before we’d return to Port Zélande again, we’d like to first try a some different Center Parcs.  Not sure yet which one as each one I’ve look at has something appealing to each of us!  I think  De Vempervennen due to location and closer proximity to North Brabant but Het Heijderbos in Limburg looks great too with the fastest wildwaterbaan and all the activities they offer.

  • I’d  bring extra pillows on my next trip!  I’ll put them in my extra large, vacuum seal storage bags (as we have a vacuum here) to make them fit – as each bed has a single flimsy pillow and I do like to have more than one pillow when I sleep.
  • If I was to return to this particular park and choose to stay in the same category, Premium Apartment, I’d select, an apartment on the end of left side of the marina facing the boats (944-942) – so you see the sunsets.  Or one of the first units at the start but on the left side beginning with #901 – so I could sit outside on my chair and have a view of the kids crabbing from your deck, the boats and the sky.   Here is a legend of the pier so you see the rooms and here are the views!   Though the more I think about it – if we were to return to this property, I think would probably select a different category – something more spacious.  Mainly because when my 6’8″ hubby stretches out on the couch, it doesn’t leave much room for the rest of us three!!IMG_3336IMG_3381

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

  • CREATE A SECTION OF NON-SMOKING TERRACES IN CERTAIN GROUP OF UNITS.

I really wish there would be no smoking blocks/units.  Of course you cannot smoke inside the units, but I would prefer ones that you couldn’t even smoke on the terraces or balcony.   So that I can open my doors and windows and not smell and endless cigarette smoke at 6:30 am from the neighbour below AND both sides while I enjoy my coffee in the morning – or any time of the day for that matter.  Each morning when I woke,  early and alone for my ME TIME, I made a nice frothy cappuccino, opened the door and windows sit on the couch.  Moments later, the person below opens her door, sits down hacks up her lungs and clicked her lighter and started puffing away . Smoke rises right into our window.  So lucky me, I enjoyed my coffee with her second-hand smoke.  What a drag!    Sadly even in the afternoon when we come home for lunch, it happens – for some reason, we have neighbour who don’t like to leave their house – but sit on their terrace looking out over the water and smoke all day.  Last night was a later night for us so it was about 10:00 pm, two kids & I in our living room, window and door open getting some fresh air and watching tv – kapciht cans of beer and cigarettes on the terrace to the right one after another – – we cannot win! 🙂  I am going to really suggest this … I am sure it’s not so difficult to just take a block of apartments and make them all smoke free –  including their terraces.  In fact, I think it would be be welcomed by many!!   

I think I’ve covered it all but maybe I missed something?  Let me know!!  Do you reocmmend a Center Parcs here in the Netherlands that we should try next? I’d love to hear your input!

*NOTE:  This is not a sponsored post – simply me sharing my experience in the hope it will help others who are planning a visit!  I would, of course, come back and visit any Center Parcs with my family now that we got to experience first-hand how awesome they are.

 

License Plate Photo Game

If you have taken a road trip in the United States you probably have heard of and played the license plate game.   Every car in the US has a license plate with the name of the state where the car is licensed and a unique combination of numbers/letters and a motto.  Some are prettier than others according to the kids.

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Now in the digital age there are apps for tracking, but back int he day, most people just printed out a list of the states and you made a check mark on the ones you find.  But as we spent a month in New England last summer, our 8 & 10 year olds were keen on taking photos of all the different plates to see if they could get all 50.   And being a typical 10 year old boy, about 5 days into our trip, he deleted ALL the photos on his sisters camera wiping out all photos.  GRRR!!!  Anyway, we of course, we knew it would be a huge challenge, but it was a fun thing to do as we went around the various states and did our touristy things.   As we were visiting Cape Cod and Maine – both huge vacation areas in the summer, I was sure we’d see some cool ones.  And we did – Wyoming, Washington State, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado to name some.

Not bad that we got 34 plus some bonus ones.

The 50 States and the District of Columbia (HAVE THE ONES IN GREEN)

Alabama                        Hawaii                 Michigan              North Carolina      Utah
Alaska                            Idaho                    Minnesota            North Dakota        Vermont
Arizona                          Illinois                  Mississippi           Ohio                        Virginia
Arkansas                       Indiana                 Missouri               Oklahoma              Washington
California                      Iowa                      Montana               Oregon                   West Virginia
Colorado                        Kansas                  Nebraska              Pennsylvania        Wisconsin
Connecticut                   Kentucky             Nevada                  Rhode Island         Wyoming
Delaware                       Louisiana             New Hampshire  South Carolina
District of Columbia    Maine                   New Jersey            South Dakota
Georgia                           Maryland            New Mexico          Tennessee
Florida                            Massachusetts    New York              Texas

Alaska and Hawaii are the most difficult and we didn’t find them.  But my sister sent me a photo of Alaska on her recent move from Maine to South Carolina – so we can’t take credit for that super unique find!

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We consider these two, a US Government & Consul, to be bonus ones.

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But the most super cool one which we’d never expect to get was MEXICO!

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What I like most about the license plate game is that not only is it fun for the kids and easy to play.  It is also educational, because as the person plays, they learn the names of all the states that make up the United States of America.   And while our kids are half American, they spent more of their lives living abroad, so this helps with their knowledge and geography of the USA.

I mentioned we were in Maine for some of our trip, so of course, we’d get some Canadian plates too including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
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Not sure when our next trip back to the US will be but we’ll certainly be on the look out for the remaining plates.
Alabama                    Hawaii                  New York
Arkansas                   Indiana                 North Dakota
Connecticut              Iowa                      Ohio
Delaware                  Louisiana             Oregon
Georgia                      Montana              South Dakota

Florida                      Nebraska

If we’re in Orlando, I bet we’d find the rest of the plates super fast.

After I look at the list another time, how is it possible that after spending a month in New England, how didn’t we get a photo of a NEW YORK or CONNECTICUT plate??   Probably on the photos my 10 year old friend “accidentally” deleted after pushing tons of buttons when he shouldn’t have 🙂

Belgian Coast: Pinksteren Weekend

We just got back from a long weekend in De Haan on the Belgian Coast with family to celebrate the birthday of N’s father and sister with six kids and eight adults! We’re missing two more adults & four kids but about 5,500 miles keeps them away – for now.

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The Belgian Coast counts 13 seaside resorts in 10 coastal towns. A diverse region with all kinds of of nature, culture, beachlife and recreational opportunities.

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Photo courtesy of belgiancoast.co.uk/en/inspiration/10-coastal-resorts

De Haan, Belgium: Where we stayed and my favorite.

De Haan is located on the coast in Northern Belgium about 2.5 hours or 225 km away from our house. It’s known for its long beach and restaurant-dotted promenade and to me the nicest and quaintest area of the Belgian coast. The streets of the Concessie district are lined with belle epoque buildings, such as the grand town hall, housed in a former luxury hotel. Its most famous resident was Albert Einstein, who lived in the villa “Savoyarde” for six months in 1933 after leaving Nazi Germany.

There was even a gin shop where I got myself a bottle – super hard to choose!!

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The entire family stayed in The Hotel Astel.

The hotel has 20 rooms and our family room #25 was perfect. It was equipped with luxury comfort bed, LED TV with satellite channels, free wifi, USB charging points, ambient lighting, spacious and modern bathroom with bath and shower. In fact, to make it an extra special vacation, we opted for a holiday where no one had to cook so not only did the hotel provide a breakfast buffet we had dinner there too. It was very easy for the youngest kids/baby to go up to bed and we stayed down. At 8 and 10 we are far beyond those baby years.

One day the four of us visited De Panne’s beach area where Soren rode a skelter on the boardwalk.

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No one was interested in riding this with me 🙂

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While he was going back and forth loads of times, Maebh, Nils & I played in the arcade. It was there where I won the jackpot – 1,000 tickets on the Wheel of Fortune game.

So after dropping ¢40 or we ended up with 9,425 tickets to spend on cheap, plastic, imported from China crap.

The kids had a bit of play time on the sand with the rocket which they got with tickets at an arcade in Dublin before we moved.

Nils and I enjoyed a pint in a local beach cafe. The glass was enormous – biggest beer I’ve ever had!  I don’t like myself in this photo, but while I’m normally taking all the photos – I’ll post this one to show the size of the beer.  HUGE!!

Took me an extra long time to finish it but it was very yummy!

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I had read that Blankenberge and my expectations were very low but I have to say it was pretty good. First we visited the SeaLife Centre with the group. Like all Sealife Centre, you meander through some areas with fish, see some seals, visit a touch tank and then you’re really done and end up in the gift shop. This place did have an outdoor area which was good and the kids climbed a bit but overall – I’d only recommend this place for little kids – who are impressed when they see a fish which they think looks like Nemo or Dory. But at 8 & 10, a few stingrays or shark going by a tank are not enough to keep them entertained for more than an hour.


If you are thinking about going to the SeaLife Centre – check out their website and the ‘Name Your Price‘ feature – where you can enter the date, # of tickets and amount willing to pay. We got our 11 tickets during our breakfast for ¢10.50 each vs. ¢18.50 at the door.

Overall this resort town does a great job with the beach cafes and kids play areas with huge bouncy castles along the Zeedijk. We ate at Havana Club and had a drink at a cozy, trendy place which was great – only didn’t serve food and some of us ere Hangry! 🙂

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Finally got to hold her youngest cousin!

Blankenberge, Knokke and De Panne and a all other towns [shown above] can be reached by taking the coastal tram – Kusttram. We tried to take it one day up to Blakenberge, but when we arrived at the ticket counter in De Haan and the women said they are in the middle of a strike and not sure if it will come and might just stop running. She suggested we take our cars instead. As my BIL & FIL was getting their cars, the tram arrived, full of people! Grrrr.

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Here are some more things you can do in the area when visiting the Belgian Coast.

1, Go to the beach and rent bikes or go-carts/skelters.
2. Rio Cinema. It’s a bit retro and tiny with ONE movie to choose from.
3. Golf at the Royal Ostend Golf Club.
4. Familiepark De Sierk – Playground with a circus theme for small kids 3-6 years old.
5. Visit Zeilschip Mercator in Ostende.
6. Walk Belgium Pier in Blankenberge.
7. Visit Serpentarium – the reptelienzoo!
8. Visit SeaLife Centre in Blankenberge. Tip: check out the ‘name your own price‘ feature on their website!
9. Themepark Plopsaland De Panne.
10. Walk through the Sandworm will art piece in the dunes.
11. Historical Atlantic Wall Museum where history and nature meet.

You can find more on this UK based website which has a LOT of information on where to eat, stay, etc. This post is not meant to do that rather share our time at the coast.

I really have nothing with De Panne – I think it’s a bit tired and rundown. Not many shops open on the beach – the beach cafes were drab. Unlike Blankenberg and Knokke – I’d personally skip De Panne on future trips to the Belgian coast. Then again, to be fair we didn’t go into the town or explore it more than the beach-front area.

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We drove by the Atlantic Wall Museum in Ostende which I really wanted to visit but I was the minority and the only person who wanted to visit so we didn’t. Being Dutch and having lived in The Netherlands for many years, they’ve had their fill of all things war. For me, it is history and I’d love to learn more about it and see first-hand exhibitions.

The last day together we visited Knokke, the resort town which is closest to The Netherlands, before heading back home. This town clearly has all the money – the guests and the shops were upmarket and the vibe at the beach club was great and the cars were top. We saw at least three Mazaradi SUVs!

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Parking is tricky – save yourself the aggravation find the Ijzerpark (underground) all other parking is one or two hours) or a long walk from the Casino.

Once the drizzle stopped, the kids rode skelter and an electric atv and then jumped in the sea a bit – too cold.

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–100% non electric for this guy!
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Cruising with cousins!
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Electric ATV for the lady.
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Brrr… too cold for me.

Overall, we had a great time together as a group. The coast was lovely and we’ll definitely be back in the future!

Ibiza: Cala Llonga

It seems as if all these beaches are our favorite, but Cala Llonga is one of the best for kids.  It is a horseshoe shaped beach with two large resorts in both sides.

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As for location, you can see on the map where it is exactly.

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Several restaurants and pubs in walking distance, plenty of self-catering apartments and the Sirenis Cala Llonga Resort is the all-inclusive hotel  up on the left which has a lot of great family friendly-activities including kids clubs, shows, etc  Like the Iberostar hotels we stayed at in the Dominican Republic only with the space the pool is not the amazing pools you have in the DR.  Anyway, I would LOVE to stay there with the kids.  I think the other on the opposite side is a Palladium and is an adults-only resort – it was at one time.

We probably have a connection here as this was the first location in Ibiza I stayed like 13 years ago!

Ibiza Family Holidays

The reason I do not have as single blog post here for the ENTIRE month of July is because we just returned home from a LONG 4 weeks on hot Ibiza, Spain.  The perks of having relatives living on the island during this particular summer!  I have so many photos and videos and so much in my head. Not sure if I’ll ever find the time to update this blog with details on where we went, what we did, but will post some of the photos and videos and go from there.

We spent time there in 2000, 2007 and 2008 but this time with a 7 and 5 year old was great! They are both active in swim lessons, but are not yet officially able to swim, hence the floats on the arms.

I’m trying to get back to updating the million photos I’ve taken during our trip.

D’alt Vila – The Old City!

Cala de San Vincent

Located on the North East part of the Island, Cala de San Vincent is one of my favorite places on the island.  After some very windy roads (insert sad face for our Maebh who gets car sick) you come to a beautiful beach area with some restaurants, a couple resorts & some apartments and shops.  The beach is full of white sand and there are no hidden rocks in the water.  This is ideal for young kids and to play catch or paddle boards without hurting our feet. The resort area is a mix of families and couples and a lot of Italians here.    My main gripe, actual only gripe is that there are no beach chair rentals down by the sea – they are all way back, so you’ll burn your feet running to the water. They do rent umbrellas, but worth purchasing your own for €20 at the start of your vacation vs. renting one each time at €6.  Plus with kids, you might be there all day or for an hour.

Cala San De Vincent Ibiza

I especially like the Dutch beach cafe called Restaurante & Chill Out – On The Beach Ibiza. The food was great, frozen margaritas and just a good vibe.  If I could have a bar there, it would be like this one even keeping the Dutch food for my family members – though I could pass on them.  The best I think for the entire island – we’d definitely return here on our next trip.

 

During this trip, the kids loved to look for the Pacha logo & store throughout the island and would like to buy all items inside. 🙂   Maebh did buy a sticker for her helmet.

 

Day trip to Formentera

FIFTEEN of us took a day trip to Formentera. We took the boat from the city so we got a great view from the water.

Poor Maebh did get seasick on the way over so we will always bring tablets for her.
When we arrived we picked up our pre-reserved bicycles – with a group this big you had to reserve.  Thankfully, Maebh’s belly was fine so loads of water playing.

Puerto de San Miguel

Nils spent a week in Seville for an event, so the kids and I had some free time.  We went on a glass bottom boat – perfect as I know Nils would have hated it.  It was nice but when the captain aka some local Spanish dude lit up a cigarette while sitting NEXT do a big tin of gasoline I nearly died.  And when we were smoked out of a cave from our boat fumes – other than that we survived. Would I pay to do it again – NO!! Not even sure if I’d go for FREE if it was going to be like this again 🙂

Lots of time spent by our pool

We had many beach days – so many swims in the sea but they also love the pool.


And after so many days in the pool with chlorine, their blonde heads started turning GREEN! Kid you not – read online to put in ketchup to offset it, it helps!!  I looked around at the shops in the tourist areas and at Decathalon for some swimmer shampoo but couldn’t find it.   Ketchup does the trick!

Kids Foam Disco in Es Canar

Another super fun day was the FOAM DISCO PARTY at Popeyes Bar, Es Canar!   Yep, for kids! They loved it!  The area was fairly small so all the parents could sit and have drink ][ideal place for a frozen margarita but nope :(] and the kids could enjoy the foam party.  If they wanted to clean off, a lady had a hose but as you can imagine after hosing off kids for a hour, it was pretty cold water.   This place is Es Canar – probably one of the cheapest, no-frills areas of the island and very British (no offence British friends). It’s not as party-hard San Antontio but it’s not our favorite place on the island. Really the only reason to go to this place is for this party on Thursday afternoons! Otherwise I would just avoid it the whole area as there are far better places to spend your time while on island.

My phone was very hot so I couldn’t take more photos.  If Nils still has photos on his camera, I’ll post them here.

As Port de Sant Miguel was the closest beach and was very easy to park (most of the times – but on Sunday afternoon parking is horrible as the entire island including locals head to the beach).  It is a family friendly and easy going resort area so we ended up going here quite a bit.  And naturally we found a little place called Solicamp which we had drinks and ice cream while the kids played pool, trampoline, table tennis, mini golf, etc.  There were apartments upstairs, which would be a great place to stay and very convenient to the beach. We even saw a birthday party there but the type of place that they kids were never out of sight so easy for kids of all ages.  It is also right next door to the private medical clinic which we had to take Soren to for some high powered meds due to a bad ear infection – poor guy!
Also located at Puero de Sant Miguel is a small but very delicious place called Chiringuito Pascual. This is the place where Soren lost his second baby tooth while having an ice cream.
This place was a favorite of mine as they have yummy tapas, nice pizzas and good salads with giant shrimp, simple toasties for the kids and close to our go-to beach and they also were our toilet facilities. I wished they could make a frozen margarita too – clearly missing something here.
Tutti Frutti Man was conveniently around us every time so we often treated ourselves to a fresh fruit cup and once got the coconut.
and another nap.
One evening we went up to San Antonio to take in the sunset on the “Sunset Strip” but after walking around for a few minutes, we were quick to realize that €6. for a SODA was a bit extreme and it would be well over €50. for us to have a beer, margarita and two kids’ drinks and truthfully the San Antonio scene, no matter what the sunset was like is not us.  No offense to those who prefer this area – it’s just not us – in my opinion it’s  where the young Brits head for a rowdy boozy holiday in the sun. Personally, I find it a bit of a mess and the part of the island that I’d prefer not to stay with our kids and you don’t have to  – as there are other places much better.

Cala Salada

So we went up to Cala Salada and took int he sunset there.  The beach itself is way down a hole lot of stairs, but if you couldn’t make the steps, I assume one could drive down and pick you up.

I thought the kids might want to enjoy a sunset boat ride from Port de Sant Miguel – but after Maebh was sick on the boat already this trip, best to skip it.

I’ve read about a place called Hidden Bar in Cala San Vincent which was seemed like a cool place.  It was in fact cool, but there was so many tiny ants all over the tables, it sort of grossed me out.  Thankfully the second time we returned they were not there so it was just a once off dirty table probably.  The food was good – we had some appetizers and yummy drinks.  The kids area had trains, colouring stuff and mini golf – which was a tad bit pricey at 6.00 a go.  I’d suggest that be free to guests to entice them to stay while their kids have something to do.  All in all, it has so much potential…but between this place and it’s neighbor – Chill Out On The Beach would be my preference. Anyway, the British couple who ran the place have since moved on to Croatia and now a Dutch girl took over.  We’ll be back!
Another drinkie – this time in Santa Eualia.

 

Cala Llonga

My favorite beach on the island because the beach is very shallow so you have to walk out a good distance to be in deeper water so it is very easy to allow kids to throw a ball or play paddle ball up to their waists without fear of a drop off.  Tons of chairs very close to the beach, not too bad to find parking, endless dining options with bars, restaurants of all types and grocery stores so you can pack your own coolers.  Plus, we have good memories here as this is the beach resort which we first came to in 2006 – the same beach which we drank bloody marys all day (which I purchased tomato juice from the local shop) and hitchhiked up the hill in a Peugeot driven by a French family!  Our villa was just at the top but we were too drunk to walk 🙂

One of my favorite bars in the area is the Jam Shack – takes me straight back to Jamaica.   Next time, I’d like to eat here – as we only had drinks – oh and with daily Happy Hour from 5-8 pm, I can be in trouble! 🙂 If we ever stay on the island not in a house but a hotel or apartment, this is where I’d like to be located.

I’m a huge fan of grilled sardines and salad but clearly, our son is too! 🙂
Of course, if a super tall, hunky Dutch guy sits in front while I as trying to take a photo of Maebh :
Our sweet lady would often take a nap at the beach – so much sun and swimming – really wipes you out.   This is when the chairs and umbrella really come in handy!!

The first few days when the kid saw the pedalo boats, we made plans to go out on it.

Having never been on wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ll safely say I’d prefer to NOT do that again!

Hippy Market Las Dalias

One evening we went over to Las Dalias – Ibiza’s original hippy market.  It was packed with super-tanned, tourists looking at all the lovely stalls.  The kids attended the kid’s camp – a “supervised” area with crafts, games and toys. They loved it but at 5.00 per half four, per child, they only stayed in one hour.  Afterwards, we had a drink – I had a frozen margarita and the kids smoothies.

The kids loved the beach but also loved the pool – especially taking photos and videos with the underwater camera.

And this was just some of our vacation photos.  But what you see is that the island of Ibiza is a family destination.  It’s not just a place for clubbing and singles.

Scottish Borders: Family Vacation

We were very lucky to have been able to take a family holiday to Scotland to be with Nils’ entire family.  Friday, August 19 to Monday, September 5th, 2011.

Nils’ sister and their children, (2) and (5 months) came from Venice, California.  His other sister in from Den Haag, the Netherlands, other sister, and her partner and their son, (9 months) came in from Utrecht, the Netherlands.  Nils, me and our children  (3.6) and  (16.5 months) came in from Boston.

Nils’ biological mother and her husband also flew in for a few days for a visit.  Nils’ father and his wife, recently rented a home in Scotland. It’s about 1 hour south of Edinburgh and 20 minutes Northwest of Berwick Upon Tweed (England).  

As you can imagine preparations and logistics for all those people in one home took time but thankfully she is a pro at it.  We all had our own families special areas yet were all together at the same time.

As, Nils’ youngest sister turned 30 during our vacation so we celebrated by having drinks, presents and a little cake in the Allenton Inn garden.  It was really a nice time for all. The Inn has a lovely garden in the back complete with a small boat, which helped Maebh as she was not  walking nor quite able to stand up on her own. In fact, we ended up in the garden on the Allenton Inn quite a bit.  Here are some cute shots of the kids with their grandparents. 

 

Soren when not playing football or running around, spent time on his head! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first couple days after we arrived in Scotland, the weather was warm, sunny and just so nice we had to visit the local beach.  We were on our way there with others in one car but since V got car sick, they turned around and went home.  The rest of us went on.  Here are some shots at Coldingham Sands Beach – an award winning sandy seashore on Berwickshire’s rocky coast.   You can view the beach via a live webcam 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have so many more photos from this vacation on my old laptop.  One day I might get around to uploading those photos here.