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Cheaper thrills for the savvy at theme parks this summer: Attractions They can cost an arm and a leg but planning ahead can significantly reduce your outlay, writes Jill Papworth

June 14, 2014

Jill Papworth



The sunny weather is here at last, but succumbing to the siren call of Britain's theme parks could swallow up several hundred pounds - once you factor in getting there, the overpriced food, photos of the kids coming down the water chute, ice creams and soft toys. So how can you keep the cost down?

Book ahead

Buying entry tickets on the day is almost always more expensive than booking in advance. For a family of four at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, the total gate price is pounds 165.60, whereas booking online would cost pounds 124.20. It's a similar story at Legoland Windsor (pounds 176.40 versus pounds 132.30) and Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey (pounds 132 versus pounds 120, or pounds 96 if you grab the early bird tickets).

If you are simply accompanying others, but don't want to use the rides yourself, check for a reduced price. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, for example, charges pounds 6 for an entry pass plus access to the maze, a water show and the Pleasure Beach Express, in contrast to pounds 19.99 for a peak-time adult wristband, booked ahead online.

Grab a two-for-one deal

Find deals on websites such as TopDogDays.com or MoneySavingExpert.com. Available now, for example, are vouchers on selected Kellogg's cereals, which can be used this summer at 27 attractions allowing one adult free entry with each full-price child or adult ticket.

Note that a few attractions, such as Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World in Hampshire, do not accept these discounts .

Cash in your loyalty points

Loyalty points can be cashed in for days out. Tesco Clubcard holders, for example, can convert their voucher points into tokens, worth up to five times the vouchers' face value, towards entry into many UK attractions.

At the time of writing, pounds 2 in Clubcard vouchers will get you pounds 10 of tokens towards entry at attractions including Sea Life centres, London Zoo, Fantasy Island in Skegness and Dinosaur Isle on the Isle of Wight, while pounds 12.50 in vouchers can be exchanged for a one-day ticket to Legoland Windsor, or pounds 28 in vouchers for a Legoland premium annual pass allowing unlimited visits.

Meanwhile, from 23 July to 12 August, Nectar loyalty points will be worth up to quadruple their usual value when used on tickets to attractions.

Take a package

A short-break package can sometimes offer good value if you plan to spend a couple of days at a park. A family of four with two children would pay pounds 226 for a two-day entry ticket booked in advance to Legoland Windsor. But a package deal, booked through the Legoland site with two-day park entry on 5 and 6 August, plus overnight bed and breakfast at the Holiday Inn, Heathrow, eight miles from the park, would cost pounds 20 less at pounds 206.

Take food and drinks

Most theme parks have dedicated picnic areas. A notable exception is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which says that picnics are not permitted beyond the main entrance - although exceptions are made for school parties, and there is a picnic area with umbrellas just outside.

If you plan to buy meals on site, an "all you can eat" ticket bought in advance may save money.

An "all-day dining" ticket for our family of four at Alton Towers, allowing them to eat as much as they wanted at restaurants and kiosks, costs pounds 79 if booked online in advance, though it excludes canned, bottled and alcoholic drinks (except for water) and certain food purchases.

Travel by train or coach

Several attractions charge for parking: pounds 6 at Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach; pounds 4 at Legoland Windsor, or pounds 7 for the closer priority car park; and pounds 2 for pre-booked parking at Chessington.

An alternative is to travel by train or coach, getting a two-for-one entry deal into the bargain. National Rail's Days Out Guide website (daysoutguide.co.uk) offers downloadable two-for-one entry vouchers for a wide range of attractions that can be used if you travel by train. National Express runs a similar scheme when you use their coach services.

Beat the queues

The only free way to beat the queues is to arrive as soon as the park opens, and run straight to the most popular rides. Alternatively, you can save time, but certainly not money, by paying extra to skip the queues on major rides. At Alton Towers, for example, you can pre-book a variety of "Fastrack" tickets. Fastrack Scream, giving swift entry on three big rides - Nemesis, Nemesis Sub-Terra and Air - costs pounds 12 per person.

At Legoland Windsor you can rent a "Q-Bot", a device that allows you to "virtual queue" for your rides. There are three types of Q-Bot: the Q-Bot Regular is pounds 15 per person, while the Q-Bot Express, which cuts your waiting time by half, is pounds 30, and the Q-Bot Ultimate, which gives "near instant access" to rides, is a hefty pounds 70.

Captions:

The Thirteen ride at Alton Towers:

sky high prices at family attractions

can be trimmed with forethought

Photograph: Gary Calton



For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Guardian (UK)


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