Monday, 1 June 2015

Our Big Dairy Free Day Out at Legoland

Okay, this may well come as a shock to some of you, but I have to say, until recently, the idea of going to Legoland had never really appealed to me...

*Cue GASPS of horror!*

I KNOW! It's practically a rite of passage for any child in the UK!

...until, that is, the day it dawned on me that 'Baby' was probably the only child in her class who'd never been to Legoland. 

It all came to my attention, after she heard about the chips shaped like Lego bricks, from her classmates. Then the begging and pleading began! At this point it occurred to me that actually, we're not very good at putting time aside for things like this, SO, for 'Baby's' sake, I decided to investigate the possibility - cue me throwing out a few questions on Face Book and Twitter. Certain fab people came to my rescue - providing me with enough information to give it a go, and guess what? I'm so glad we did - it was a fabulous family day out and we'd definitely like to return, as there's still plenty to left to do!! Along the way, we learned a few things that might just come in handy, if you too (dairy free, like us, or not) would like to visit Legoland. 

Portal to the land of  LEGO!

So here goes:

1) Cheaper tickets
Okay, okay, so Legoland is not the cheapest option for a day out, but The Hub remembered you could get tickets through the Tesco Club Card scheme - £13 in Club Card vouchers per person - which saved a whole heap of money that we could have spent on tickets!! Marvellous!! 

Since our initial visit, we've bought an annual pass for 'Baby' and 'Me' whilst it was on a special offer - it includes free entry and parking, and you can bring an extra person for £5 on each ticket (that covers The Hub) as well as discounts throughout the park on food and other purchases. The Hub reckoned it would pay for itself in just one or two visits!! Even better!!

There may well be other promotions at various times - it's worth following them on Twitter or keeping your eye on their website, just in case.

2) Parking
The car parks are huge - if it's busy you could end up in the overflow car park (like us). You have to pay £5 for parking anyway and £3 more will get you into the priority parking area, near the entrance. On balance, The Hub decided it would have been worth it, as it would have saved queuing to get in and a certain person's little legs at the end of the day. It was too late, by the time he realised this!

It's also worth knowing that you can pay for your parking before the end of the day at Guest Services, near the entrance. We did this, to avoid queuing for the ticket machines at the end of the day! 

If you have an Annual Pass, then your Standard parking is free!

3) Lockers
There's nothing worse on a a day-out than having to lug stuff about or go back to the car to fetch things. You could take a trolley of some kind, but bear in mind that one of your party will then have to guard it, whilst the others are on rides. Alternatively, Legoland have a number of lockers near the entrance, and in Duplo Land (where the Splash Park is situated) which could save you the trouble. They cost £1 a locker, which sounds reasonable enough, but it is non-returnable - so only open your locker if you have to - if you want to shut it again, you'll need another £1.

4) Queue jumping
Not very British, I know, but unless it's a week day in term time, Legoland gets very busy. There's the potential to spend a whole lot of time queuing, and not a lot of time doing very much. To make the most of your day (especially if you've travelled a long way to be there), you could spend the money you saved (by using Club Card vouchers) to take advantage of the 'Q-Bot reservation device'. 

It's basically a mobile app that allows you to join a virtual queue for a ride (only one ride at a time) - so you can do other things whilst you wait. When you choose a ride, it tells you what time to turn up and you get priority boarding. This doesn't mean you instantly get on a ride the moment you arrive (it's just a shorter queue), but on some rides, it looked a bit hit and miss as to whether we actually managed to beat the queues or not! There didn't seem to be a system in place regarding quotas, so it looked as though it was up to the discretion of the staff on the gate. In order to save more time, The Hub found that it was best to book your next ride, as soon as you had got on one.

Queue jumping?? There's an app for that!

5) Finding your way around
For the old-fashioned among us, there's plenty of maps and signs installed around the grounds, but there's also an app you can use to help you make the most of your time - it can give you updates on queue times on the rides and show times. It's completely free to download, but as we were using Q-bot, we didn't use this app quite so much. 

If your mobile starts to lose power due to overuse, I did spot a mobile charging unit, in the gift shop, in the Knight's castle, and also in the main gift shop, but at £10 a throw, it seemed a bit pricey to me!

6) Getting around
There's a little train that can take you down the hill to the bottom of the park, and back up again. However, if you have a little one and want to leave your push chair at home, you can hire one on site, from a shop near the entrance of the park - there are single and double buggies available. They are also quite handy for transporting all your gear! 

Legoland pushcahirs. These are very popular on site!

7) You actually NEED waterproofs
... which you CAN actually buy at the clothes shop near the entrance, OR one of the Legoland ponchos! Floor length if possible, or at least covering your bum! Yes, you really do!! These cost £3.50 and come in two sizes - Adult and Child. Some of the rides involve a LOT of water - this is something I learned to my cost, when I got a very wet bum! Why did no one warn me of this?? On a hot day, this is probably not such a problem, but on a cold day - BRRR!! There are a few people driers in strategic places, but these cost £2 a go and won't dry you completely within one go. 

8) Drinks!
Drinks are pricey so you may want to take your own, although there is a scheme whereby you can buy a refillable bottle and fill it up as much as you like. There are refreshment booths all over the place, so it's fairly easy to do. The branded bottles cost £7.50 or £12 for two.

9) Food!
Food is quite pricey, so again, you may wish to take your own! We did, but more because we couldn't be completely sure whether we would find something suitable to eat, than to save money. You can find their allergy information online, but it's a bit laborious as you have to visit each restaurant on their website, individually,  to find their allergy menu. This is the allergy menu for the Hilltop Cafe.  However, the information online doesn't give the full picture, if you want to know about cross-contamination etc. The good news is that the restaurants all had the information on the walls too, but not the smaller refreshment cabins, so far as I could see.

If you have food allergies, please remember to keep your wits about you - on their website there is a disclaimer about cross-contamination, so make sure you ask the right questions about how food is prepared/served etc.

Allergy information is available, like so!
To be on the safe side, we decided to stick to our own food, and to avoid lugging a cool box around, we stuck to peanut butter in 'Baby's' and The Hub's sandwiches and almond butter in mine. To be honest, they weren't the most appetising sandwiches I'd ever eaten, 'Baby' would have preferred something like ham, but at least we knew we were safe and the added advantage was that the sandwiches stayed stuck together!

We knew these were safe, 'cos I made them!

The good news is that there are plenty of places you can stop and eat your own food, although not many of them are under cover. The alternative, as suggested by some friends of ours, is to save time by eating whilst you're waiting in queues!

The only departure we did make from our own food was the famous Lego brick chips!

Ta da!

We had to search all over for them, but eventually found only one place that sold them - the Hill Top Cafe, which is situated right next to the 'BIG' shop, near the entrance. It looked like we would have to buy the fish fingers too, which we didn't want, as they contained milk, but we found that you could buy a separate portion of fries for £2.95. As they were cooked in a separate fryer, we decided to take the chance and were fine!

This cafe also now sells Starbucks coffee, which is The Hub's preferred beverage, so he was happy! 

Other suggestions of good places to eat were the Knight's Table Rotisserie (the only restaurant where I could see gluten AND dairy free meals available, but it doesn't stay open to the end of the day) and the Fried Chicken Company. The only reason we didn't try these was due to the lack of Lego brick fries!

10) Snacks and treats
This was the nearest I got to finding dairy free ice cream:

I wouldn't suggest eating these, dairy free or not ;)

... and yes, it's made of Lego! They do sell Calippos, which I know is okay for some folks, but I understand that these may contain milk, so I've always avoided them, like the plague! There are also Slushes for sale, in many of the drink booths.

I saw some popcorn and candyfloss tubs, which I'd have liked to checked out, as these were okay at Disneyland Paris, but I didn't quite manage it! There were also various places that sold sweets, but mindful of 'Baby's' teeth, I gave those a miss!

11) Toilets and baby-changing
If, like me, you NEED to know where the nearest toilets are, they are quite spread out around the grounds. I thought they could have done with a few more! If you've got a little one who's desperate, they can't always hold it in too well!

The cubicles were generously-sized though (handy when you have to take your little one in with you), and had wash basins at kiddy level, which was great! Some of them also had flushes and taps which operated by sensors, which really appealed to me with my OCD nature. The toilet blocks all had baby-change facilities, except the one by the ticket office. There was an additional Mother and Baby facility in Heartland, I noticed, by the toilets right behind the ice cream parlour.

12) Loads for little 'uns
I was super impressed by how much there was to do for the smaller family members. The Duplo section was fab and included changing rooms (not many though) and places to buy swim equipment if you needed it (adults too). Of course, by bringing your own stuff, you can save yourself some money!

The only thing is though, if you go in a group with kids of varying ages, you may need to split your party up, so that everyone gets to do something suitable for them. Oh, and don't think you'll be able to sneak your little ones onto rides that aren't suitable - the staff wield impressive looking measuring sticks and are very rigorous when it comes to checking!

13) Don't save your shopping to the end
The BIG shop near the entrance is rather hectic at the end of the day! Everyone leaves it to the last minute. I'd suggest going earlier and using their pick-up points, or stashing your purchases in a locker, if you can find one! There are some near the top and more in the Duplo area.

14) Plan and prioritise
There's so much to fit in, I don't think there's any way you can do it all in one day. Get to know which rides you'd like to do and go to those first, is the general consensus. Most people mention the Driving Academy, Atlantis and the Viking's River Splash. I'd say the Pirate Falls Treasure Chest is worth it too. I'd also recommend the Pirate stunt show, which was really entertaining. It's based in Heartland. Get there early to get a seat, but beware of getting wet, if you sit too close to the front!

15) With that in mind...
Finally, you may find the following link handy - it's to a website that describes itself as the 'Unofficial Guide to Legoland'. The Hub found it before we went, if you want the lowdown on everything Legolandish, it's definitely a great place to start! Their tip to approach the theme park from the south, to avoid traffic worked for us!

In Addendum:
I can't finish this post without saying a BIG 'THANK YOU' to all those who contributed their hints or tips, whether via Facebook or Twitter. You were a great help to me, and I appreciate your efforts. David (@DavidJ_GF on Twitter) was particularly informative - mind you, I gather he's been there a lot! 

If you have already been to Legoland and can think of anything which you think I've missed, please leave your hints and tips in the comments below!

Similar Post:

McDonald's at Disneyland Paris

No comments:

Post a Comment