It’s school holiday time again!
So have you thought about what you are going to do with the kids this Easter break?
Here’s some tips and ideas….
Legoland and the London Dungeons … places that seem like paradise for children, but hell on earth for parents having to travel to them during the Easter break. Nevertheless, there will be many brave souls doing just that, so are there ways to avoid the lengthy queues (and tantrums) to help you get in and on the best rides? And what is the best way to avoid being stuck in traffic on the motorway before you even reach the gates?
Book online in advance
The main piece of advice from all the attractions that could save you money, as well as time. Discounts for booking more than seven days ahead range from 10% (Legoland) to 25% (Thorpe Park and Alton Towers). Most places also let you print off the tickets in advance and avoid having to queue when you get there. Thorpe Park gives those who choose this option early ride time to get into the park an hour before the general public at 9am.
Know your ticket options
Lots of attractions sell fast-track/premier tickets to get you in and on to rides more quickly.
Thorpe Park Fastrack tickets start from £3 for a single ride (on top of the entrance price), or you can buy Fastrack packages from £7.50. Be warned, though, some readers who have bought priority tickets to attractions in the past have told us they didn’t get in any quicker.
Consider staying in the hotel at the attraction
You might pay more than for other hotels in the area, but this could be a small price for getting your offspring on the rides early. Antony Garley from Hertfordshire has booked into the hotel at Chessington World of Adventures this year having lost hours queueing last year. “We booked into a hotel outside the theme park last year but ended up queueing for ages just to get into the park. This year we decided to stay on site so we can start early and hopefully avoid any other queues for the rides themselves. We’ve also booked fast-track tickets.”
Legoland has a new resort hotel with guests allowed access the rides at 9.30am, half an hour before the park opens.
Know the peak visiting times – and avoid like the plague
The busiest time of day at the Eden Project is between 10:30am and 1pm, according to a spokeswoman. Thorpe Park and Alton Towers suggest the best time to get on the rides is the last hour of opening or lunchtime when most people are eating. London Dungeons, notorious for its queues, advises arriving before 10.30am or after 6pm to get a cheaper entry price and a shorter wait time.
Plan your visit and target your rides
All the big attractions with multiple rides reckon you can make huge time savings by planning your visit in advance using the park maps, rather than winging it when you arrive, and suggest you visit the most popular rides/ experiences off-peak.
At Eden Project, for example, this is the Rainforest Biome, which gets busy from around 11am until 2pm. “We would suggest that people either arrive early and make a beeline for it, or wait until after 2:30pm when it will be less busy,” a spokeswoman says.
Thorpe Park’s main attraction is The Swarm, Europe’s tallest winged rollercoaster, which opened in March, while Legoland’s must-sees are Atlantis and the Star Wars mini land experience. At Alton Towers its newest attraction, Nemesis Sub-Terra, is proving extremely popular, while other other sought-after rides include Nemesis, Oblivion, Rita, Air and TH13TEEN.
Attraction specific tips
Alton Towers has a Parent Q Share pass. This allows one adult to stand in the queue for a ride (lucky them) while freeing the other to wander around with smaller children. Once one adult has ridden, they swap parent care duties, hand over the pass and the other can ride without having to queue. You can get the pass from guest services.
Alton Towers also has Single rider queues. if you don’t mind splitting up from your group use the single rider queues which are available on many of the more popular thrill rides
Legoland has Q-Bots, handheld devices that allow you to reserve a place in a virtual queue for your favourite rides without having to actually stand in line. Prices for a Q-Bot range from £15 up to £70 a person.
Which roads are likely to be most congested over Easter?
According to TrafficMaster these include the M25 western sector between junctions 12 (M3) and 21 (M1), especially around 14/15 (Heathrow Airport and M4); and the M25 eastern sector between junctions 27 (M11) and 2 (A2), especially around the Dartford crossing.
The M1 between junctions 6A (M25) and 13 (Milton Keynes) is expected to be busy, especially through the section of major roadworks between junctions 10 (Luton) and 13 (Milton Keynes).
In the south-west, the A30 between Exeter and Cornwall and the A38 between Exeter and Bodmin are always congested during holiday periods, and in south Wales the M4 between Severn Crossing, Newport and Cardiff is expected to be busy.
In Yorkshire and the north-east traffic is expected to be busy on the A1/A1M between the M1 at Aberford and A66 at Scotch Corner, and on the A64 between Leeds, York and Scarborough.
York is also the venue of the 2012 Royal Maundy service – there will be restrictions and road closures within the city, especially around York Minster, throughout the day on Maundy Thursday.
What can people do to avoid traffic jams?
The AA said it is expecting this Easter to be quieter on the roads, largely because most schools broke up last Friday. It expects getaway traffic to peak on Maundy Thursday.
However, it says the key getaway routes and other “pinch points” in the network will still be busy at peak times. To avoid traffic, either travel earlier or later and check the traffic and weather reports before departing.
While on the move local radio is a good source of updates, but it’s also a good idea to use the TA or TP traffic function fitted as standard on many car radios. This is when the radio automatically switches to traffic bulletins (a useful but often overlooked feature).
Also take a road atlas and satnav if you have one, to help you take a detour around any major incidents.
As a general rule of thumb, the AA advises switching off your engine if you’re likely to be stationary for more than three minutes. Typically, an engine uses fuel costing 2p-3p per minute of idling.
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