In the last week of the Summer Holidays, my husband had a week booked off. Given that he worked 14 hour days, Tuesday through to Saturday, time together as a family is rare and special. Conversation between us had brought up the topic of what to do with his week off: trips to the seaside, theme parks, visits to friends down south etc. What it all came back to was cost. We didn’t want to spend a fortune in a week considering Christmas was looming on the horizon as was a second maternity leave. We both felt that if we spent hundreds on a variety of trips, it was money that could have gone towards a holiday in 2018.
One morning, while my husband was having a lie in before he set off to work, I got my laptop out and started looking at possibilities for that week while our son watched some kids breakfast TV. I ended up on the Drayton Manor website.
Given that it’s a good couple of hours drive away from our home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, I clicked on short breaks and entered dated for the first two days of September – I was pleasantly surprised….in fact, I was so surprised at the deal I found, I thought it must be wrong! The deal included:
- Two days in the park, including Thomas Land, for all three of us.
- A triple room in the hotel with bed and breakfast (there were no family rooms left)
- Admission to VertiGO Tots for our little man (which is a toddler version of Go Ape!)
Total: £150! That’s £50 each for all of that!
I was convinced that someone was going to ring me and tell me that the deal was wrong, and they did ring me, but only to book in the slot on VertiGO Tots. They also do Thomas Themed rooms but the prices were a lot more for this so we stuck to the standard room.
We showed L a video on YouTube that someone had taken of their visit and he was very excited to know that he could go on all the rides and see Thomas. Despite the long drive (for a three year old anyway), he was so good and happy to look out of the window and sing along to songs from my iPod.
Arriving around 10:30am, we picked up our tickets from the hotel reception but couldn’t check in until later so we headed towards the park and left our things in the car. To save money further, I had packed a cool bag with picnic goodies so we packed up my husbands backpack to take in with us for our lunch. We were given a map in the hotel and it looked like a huge park but when we got in there, it actually wasn’t as big as the map showed and it was a pleasant and short walk towards Thomas Land, which our son was so excited about I thought he might combust!
Firstly I was impressed by how big Thomas Land was, with twenty rides/attractions and it being the summer holidays, I found myself glad that we had two days to enjoy it all so we didn’t have to rush or worry about queuing and our excited little man was really patient in waiting his turn. We quickly discovered he was 0.95m tall, so there were only three rides that he was not able to enjoy: Cranky’s Tower Drop, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and Terence’s Driving School. There were a few kids getting upset about not being able to go on certain rides but the only one we thought he might be okay on that we got turned away from was Terence’s Driving School and I was really proud that L was accepting of it and just said “When i’m a bigger boy I can go on it.”
His favourite rides were definitely the Rocking Bulstrode, Toby’s Tram Express and Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy but he honestly enjoyed them all. He was slightly dubious about going on Bertie Bus but his face was a picture when he got off it and came running over to me, he was so proud of himself for being brave and going on it.
Given that I was five months pregnant with our second child, there wasn’t a lot I could go on but we did get to share a few rides together: Sodor Classic Cars and Winston’s Whistle Stop Tours which was cute.
The thing that I liked about Drayton Manor is that it’s super family friendly. There is a real mixture of rides meaning that there is something for everyone, from the big thrill seeker rides, bigger family rides and Thomas Land for the pre-schoolers. Once again my son impressed me, showing me that he’s like his Mummy and Daddy with a love of rides, by going on the Flying Dutchman which flew him high in the air and we had a lovely time on the traditional Carousel together.
We ended our first day with VertiGO Tots. Given that he has been doing Tumble Tots for the last two years, we knew he’d love it and, once he got the hang of the harness, he got more and more confident moving around the course.
We arrived back at the hotel about 4:30pm and, as we checked in, I asked (on the off chance) if they had any family rooms available as we’d only been able to book a triple, which consisted of three single beds. Not a problem for me and the hubby for one night but I was worried that L, who has a tendency to move about a lot in his sleep, might roll out! The nice lady behind reception said that she would look and managed to change the room…at no additional cost! I was already impressed. Little L was very excited about his special bed (aka a sofa bed). When we got in our room, we didn’t have the bedding to make it up so I rang down to reception. No one answered but then they rang back (another impressed tick!) and step someone up immediately who was lovely, polite and chatty. I then realised that we hadn’t brought a nappy for night-time. “I can sleep without a nappy, Mummy.” said our son. “No you can’t.” I said bluntly and sent the hubby off to the nearest shop. He asked at reception and they handed him some! They were the wrong size but I was still very pleased with the level of customer service.
There are two options for evening meal: a grill restaurant just outside the park or an al la carte restaurant in the hotel which also had an option of an All You Can Eat buffet. They also had a kids club between 6:30pm and 8:30pm where Rory the Tiger and the Live Entertainment team come to play with the kids.
The aim was to spend some quality time as a family and entertain our son throughout. Drayton Manor definitely met these needs and we couldn’t have asked for a better couple of days. As well as rides there is a zoo and dinosaur attraction which were both really enjoyable to wander around on our second day, before the rides opened.
A month on and he still asks if he can “got to Thomas Land again next week”. I’ve promised him we will go next year and will look together in school time while I’m on maternity leave as the park will be slightly quieter, not that it was really a huge issue.
Have you been to Drayton Manor? What did you think of it? Can you recommend any other theme parks that would be suitable for a pre-schooler? Comment below or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This post is not written in conjunction with Drayton Manor.