We went to Legoland & actually had fun
Over the Easter holidays we finally bit the bullet and took the kids to Legoland... 'where awesome awaits'. This isn't a paid review by the way. I wanted to write about it because we had visions of this expensive, horrible experience that would leave both the husband and I scarred for life and never wanting to do anything nice with our kids ever again. BUT. We were all smiling at the end of the day. This came as a huge surprise and dare I say it, we might just take the kids there again. Here are some tips that you might find useful if you are ever tempted to brave a theme park with your kids.
1. Look out for ticket deals: Tickets are so freaking expensive! Unless you are made of money (in which case pay the whole fair and get the fast-passes why don't you), family tickets do add up, especially when adult and kids tickets cost the same (thanks Legoland). As it so happened, the Evening Post were doing a promotion where you buy the newspaper each day and there was a voucher to collect. We jumped on this deal late in the game so only managed to get 2x discounted tickets this way. Then we used a voucher from the back of a cereal box (think it was a Kelloggs one) which got us 50% off a second ticket when you bought one full price. If you shop at Tescos, you can find deals online in exchange for your Clubcard points. What I'm trying to say is, do some research and you might find a way of paying less (you can then spend this money on the next points!)
2. Fast-passes and Priority parking: We then looked into the fast-passes (called the Q-Bots). Not cheap but what would you pay NOT to have to stand in a queue with bored kids?!
We decided to wait until we were there to assess the queues as it wasn't any cheaper buying it online beforehand. In the end the kids just about managed the queues without any major melt-downs so we saved money there.
We did however decide to buy a priority parking ticket. It cost slightly more than a normal ticket but is totally worth it. If you arrive early (we got there just before 9am), you will be able to park really close to the entrance.. literally a stone's throw away. Not a biggie when you arrive as you all have loads of energy, but great for when you are going home and trying to get the kids back to the car. You know that feeling.. it's the end of the day, everyone is exhausted.... why is the car parked so far away?!
3. Try to go on a week day: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest times and you may as well forget the school holidays. Lucky for us, we had an inset day on the Friday just before the Easter break started so I was patting myself on the back for arranging to go on this day. What I later learnt was that schools are off at different times in the UK, so half of the school kids were actually off that day (and quite possibly all at Legoland). Because of this, it was quite busy. But as the other half of schools were still open, it was manageable.
4. Measure your kids' heights: If you have little ones, make sure you measure their height as a lot of the rides have height restrictions. Our daughter just about made the minimum height so apart from 1 ride (which none of us would have liked anyway.... it's deceivingly called Mia's Riding Adventure but I think my son, possibly even my husband would wet themselves), we were good to go!
5. Plan your trip: I know this sounds so lame and takes the fun out of being spontaneous, but we've been there before; You arrive somewhere, have no clue where you are going or what you are going to do, and then you get into an argument with your partner whilst you try and figure it all out... and the kids are being annoying in the background. Just the thought of it stresses me out.
Because of this, we decided we were going to be organised, and it totally paid off! After the kids had gone to bed one night, we printed out a map of Legoland, searched all the rides online and ranked them from 1-3; 1 being the rides we liked the most (and thought the kids would enjoy), 3 being the ones we would do if we had time to kill. Based on the rides, a route was drawn out!
6. Do a combination of going the the farthest rides first as well as the busiest ones: Based on the rides that we liked, we decided to walk to the end of the resort and work our way back. We entered the resort through the gates next to the Star Wars and went straight to the Nexus Knights Kingdom, followed by the Laser Raiders - two of the more popular rides. However, we were one of the first in so we took a detour and went on the Vikings River Splash as it was on the way and there was no queue. When we got to the Nexus Knights Kingdom it was a walking queue (no waiting) and we waited about 15 minutes to go on the Laser Raiders. Later on in the day, the signs stated the Laser Raider queue was up to 1 hour - That's a long way by any account! We were quite relieved that we'd gone on it earlier and got it out of the way.
7. Keep the kids occupied when you are in the queues: I don't know about your kids but mine are a freaking nightmare to queue with. They have no concept of personal space and will pick on each other, which then leads to someone hitting, crying, getting told off. This continues on a repeat. It's like torture. So I packed an entire backpack full of snacks. No joke. My bag was stuffed with biscuits, crisps, chocolate, sweeties, dried fruit, popcorn and a water bottle for each person. I packed the treats into a few small ziplock bags and handed one out at every queue, and after those were demolished I just threw food at them every time they opened their mouths. It worked. Luckily, no one vomited.
8. Eat slightly before or after lunch-time and bring your own food: This was a great tip that I read somewhere and it worked out really well. We stopped by the picnic benches around 11-11.30 and had our lunch. Because of this we got to go on shorter queues when people stopped for lunch around noon.
9. Stop for toilet breaks whenever you see one: For a place that big, we didn't think they had enough toilets. At one point we had to walk back to the toilets, which was minutes away when one of our kids needed to go (after refusing to go during said toilet break). Sigh.
10. Give everybody a break: Sometimes you try and keep it going and you end up pushing everyone to breaking point because you want to squeeze in as much "fun" as possible. It's not worth it. Take a break. Have an ice cream break when it gets too much. Let the kids run around in Miniland or Duplo Valley as a reward for successfully standing in loads of queues. Sit by the grass and let the kids play with Lego... watch the world go by for a couple of minutes.
11. Pack your kids' swimsuits: Drench Towers looks like loads of fun, and we know for a fact that our kids would have stayed there for hours. We brought the kids swimsuits, towels and change of clothes. Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived! The kids were disappointed but it was short-lived because... whatevs. Nothing we could do so they had to just deal with it.
12. Stop by the Lego shop: Oh I know... "What? Are you crazy?" I hear you say. Take a deep breath for the onslaught of "Please can I buy this?" and "Oh, I really want this!" We walked around 3 Lego shops which were dotted around the place and in every one we told the kids to put everything back. But there's one shop as you are walking back to the entrance past Miniland where they sell Lego bits. I wasn't particularly impressed, but the kids and the husband got some pieces that were cool once combined with what we had at home. It's also nice to have something to remind you of the place.. until you step on a Lego piece during the night, in the dark.
13. Bring pyjamas and toothbrushes: If you stayed as long as we did (9am - 6pm), you are going to have some really tired kids by the end of it. Before we started the long trek back home, we got the kids to change into their jim-jams, and brushed their teeth in the car park to redeem ourselves of all the crap they'd be allowed to eat all day!
Final words.....? Quoting what my neighbour said to me: The only way to get through the day is to truly believe you are a child again. If not.... good luck. :-)
If you are wondering what our favourite rides were: We all loved the Squid Surfer as well as the Coastguard HQ, and my guess would be my daughter's favourite was the Dragon whilst my son really loved Laser Raiders.