26 October 2019

What the London Aquarium Halloween is like?

If you've read my blog a while you will know that we love to visit London attractions - and one of our favourite family ones is the SEA LIFE London. We've been a fair few times already, and always love visiting it. This time we were invited to review the Halloween trail at the London Aquarium, or, as it is otherwise known in October, the Ascarium...

I've previously written a mega-post about what SEA LIFE London is like with kids and my top tips for visiting it (including the behind the scenes tour!). I've also shared more photos of the funky jellyfish area, one of my favourite bits. I'm not going to repeat all that here, so check the post out for more detailed tips. What I will say is that 11AM to 3PM gets very busy and there can be a bit of waiting to get good views of the fish. So if you can, it is worth trying to time your entrance outside this peak time.

But now, back to the Ascarium...

At Halloween time the Aquarium turns into Ascarium between 18th October and 3rd November. Expect to see more pumpkins, in and around the tanks, and hear lots of ghouly whispers and cackles over the intercom instead of the usual instrumental elevator music. There are also two competitions running during the Ascarium - a colouring competition and a social media photo sharing comp.

The Aquarium has over the last few years increased additional activities for kids, so there are small play areas for kids and LEGO building activities. These are surprisingly beneficial - it allowed me to stop and enjoy watching the fish and other animals longer as my kid was preoccupied with building a Lego model.

Now with the Ascarium there was also spooky play-do modelling with a friendly witch, and chance to pet some creepy crawlies (although the bugs do need their rest, so may not be around all the time).

ascarium trail

ascarium london

aquarium and letter

smiling at pufferfish

letter at aquarium

with pufferfish


witch london aquarium

In addition to the extra decor and activities, there was a spooky trail for the kids, at the completion of which they can choose between a trick or a treat at the refreshment cafe right after the Penguin enclosure. You grab the trail card at the beginning of the aquarium tour, and try spot large orange letters within the fish tanks. And if you are wondering what you'll get... Well, let's just say that if you are feeling parched after all this work, both the trick and the treat will be very welcome!

While the main attraction and the reason to visit is always the fish, it is quite nice to have a bit of added seasonal flavour too, and this hits the spot. It is a great little seasonal addition to the big old favourite London attraction, and I'd love to see next what they have in mind for Christmas or Easter! Until next time...

Have you been to the London Aquarium yet?

london aquarium shark tank

penguin tank and baby

jellyfish tank

london aquarium crocodile tank

jellyfish and baby

Please note, we got free entrance to the SEALife London Aquarium to be able to review it.

Reviewing the London Aquarium Halloween activities - spooky trail, trick or treat, activities and decor. The Ascarium is back...

Reviewing the London Aquarium Halloween activities - spooky trail, trick or treat, activities and decor. The Ascarium is back...

9 October 2019

How to do Legoland Windsor on a budget

After we visited Legoland Windsor, I asked on social media what people would like to find out about our day. Legoland Windsor is known for being a fun but expensive day out, so perhaps unsurprisingly most of the votes went for the "How to do Legoland Windsor on a budget" topic. 

So here we are - my tips on how to have a fun day out at Legoland Windsor on a budget. Some of these tips may be useful to you if you visit other Legoland attractions as well, but ticket details are specific to Windsor. 

A word of warning before we get started though. Despite any hacks or cheap tickets, Legoland Windsor is NOT a cheap day out. So while you can minimise the damage to your wallet, I'm afraid it will still probably be a bit painful ha ha. 

My tips are around cheap(er) tickets, tips for hotel breaks, how to get on riders without paying for a fast pass, parking costs, lunch options, and shopping for souvenirs. If you have any extra tips I'd love to hear them in the comments!

If you are looking for information about the coronavirus and social distancing at Legoland in 2020, I've got a new post about Legoland in 2020 too. 

family at legoland

How to get cheap tickets?

There are a few options for avoiding paying the full ticket price - currently £60 on the day per person. Remember, kids under 90cm tall (new in 2020, it used to be under 3 years old...) are for free, so don't buy a ticket for them!

My favourite - Tesco Clubcard: If you have store loyalty cards, then Tesco Clubcard do a fantastic deal where every pound of points you spend equals £3 for Legoland tickets. If you book the tickets at least one day before going you also get a discount from the full price. For example, I spent £36 of Tesco Clubcard points to get three tickets for us and I booked a day or two before we went. Had I waited for the day of going the price would have been about £55.

The full process is a bit faffy, but fairly quick. You log on to Tesco, go via their link to check the price for the day you want to book, go back to Tesco and buy the amount of vouchers you need. You then get emailed the code and the booking link, on which you log on and use the code to buy the tickets which are sent to you electronically.  Hey presto, cheap tickets.

Cheap ticket sites: Book early to get cheaper prices. AttractionTix and 365 Tickets both sell cheaper tickets for Legoland Windsor. It is also worth checking Legoland Windsor website for deals, and the dates are likely to be more flexible than on external sites. Deals vary so it's worth checking all three for the best prices.

Cheap on the day tickets: Every spring and summer cereal packets in UK have these two for the price of one vouchers for various amusement parks, including Legoland Windsor. Handy tip especially for people visiting UK - just go to your local supermarket and look for Kellogg's packets with the voucher! McDonald's Happy Meals do 50% discount vouchers too, keep an eye out for those as well. The "cheapest" will probably be the Tesco Clubcard points, but if you don't have enough points or don't have the loyalty card, then the other alternatives can save you considerable money too. 

As an example, had our family bought tickets on the day, with no vouchers, it would have been £180 (three tickets, one free baby). Instead, we spent £36 in voucher points. Bargain!

Cheap but limited and once a year only tickets: You can also get cheap (or free) tickets by buying The Sun newspaper. Once a year The Sun does Superdays - this means you buy The Sun paper on 9 consecutive days, add these codes to the Sun Savers app, and then when the booking opens (the app will have the date) you can book two "free" tickets! They aren't quite free, as the paper costs £6.5 altogether, and then a £2 booking fee, but still very cheap if you can bear the faff. There are several other attractions also. These promotions happen once a year, so check the code collection dates in the link. As a tip, school holidays and weekends go in a flash, so if you are after those, you need to be booking as soon as the booking page opens. Weekdays and term time tickets are easier to get. 

For example, the year I used this deal, I had to fork out for four tickets, and paid £8.50 for the Sun promotion tickets and £22.5 in Tesco Clubcard points, so £31 altogether.  

lego family models

legoland views

legoland london models

buckingham palace legoland model town

How to get a cheap hotel break?

Staying in a Legoland hotel - ain't that the dream... Definitely is for my six year old! There is a Lego pool area, character meets, Lego gifts, a Lego themed room and all kinds of Lego-mazing things, and normally this costs hundreds of pounds.

We haven't done this but there are a couple of things I've spotted during my bargain-hunting. At different times of the year there are different deals on Legoland website. One popular one is a Splash-and-Play. The resort is closed during these stays but you can stay in the hotel for a reduced price.

What you can do is, with pre-planning and cross-referencing and a bit of luck, is to check-in a day before the resort opens. You check in, have fun at the hotel, sleep, have breakfast, check out and go have fun in the resort (obviously after buying cheap day tickets via the links I've provided earlier!). Theoretically, we could have a night at a Legoland hotel for £89 and the next day tickets to the resort for £36, so a fantastic family break for £125 (plus lunch costs).

Another bargain-hunting trick would be to use the Kids go free deal, and book a check in on a day the resort is closed and check-out when it opens again. Theoretically, our family could have a break for £183, plus lunch costs.

Possibly, one day the stars are so aligned this is available to book on a school holiday, fingers crossed...

legoland windsor star wars darth vader

lego millennium falcon from star wars

star wars lego models

How to get on the rides I want without paying for a Q-bot?

One of the complaints I've heard about Legoland is that you are just queuing and queuing all day, when people with Q-Bots (these are fast passes) whizz past you. Well, yes, and they pay for the privilege.

What you can do on a budget though is download the Legoland app, and check the queue times for various rides, and jump in where they are at their lowest. The app also gives you start times for character meets and shows.

Another handy trick is to get to the resort really early and go to your most-wanted popular ride first, or alternatively, leave it very late and join the queue about five minutes before closing time as they let you wait until everyone has done the ride. You won't then have to spend loads of time waiting during the day if the ride you are after is one of the most popular ones.

If you've got a baby or a toddler with you who can't go on the rides, remember to ask for the Parent Swap once you have queued. The parent with the baby waits at the priority entrance, and after the ride you swap so the other parent gets in too without waiting. And bonus, you can take your big kid twice, yay!

carousel legoland windsor

monster house party ride legoland windsor

legoland windsor ride

Do you have to pay for parking?

Sorry, yes, you do. You can save £1 if you pay online or via the app though. There was no-one manning the gates when we left (very late) on the day, so not sure how often these are checked.

What to do for food if you are on a budget?

This one is easy - take a picnic! There are plenty of places to sit down and have a packed lunch, and indoor locations too if the weather looks poorly. You could also, if you buy a ticket via AttractionTix365 Tickets or Legoland Windsor website, go for a combined ticket and meal option, where you pay £7-8 for a lunch (burgers usually). There is also a McDonald's a short drive away in Slough, which may be a cheaper option if you can wait until after the day.

For drinks, there are plenty of spaces to fill your water bottle so bring a reusable one! Alternatively, there was a deal where you can buy a cup (depending on deals from £8-£12) and re-fill it with soft drinks as much as you want. You could probably share one for the parents anyway ha ha. We drank water, and the kids had a carton of juice with their packed lunch.

wild side legoland character meet

lego friends girls character meet legoland windsor

legoland windsor pirate show

What about shopping at the resort?

Let's face it - kids always want to buy something. I wanted to do our day on a budget and it to act as a bit of a learning experience, so we asked our daughter to bring her weekly allowance money. She had £10. With that she bought herself a small Lego Friends model, and she really loves it.

Most of the items are quite expensive, and if you want to give kids spending money I'd give minimum £5. That would buy them a key ring, or a small lego bag. £10 would buy you a small Lego model or maybe a tiny soft toy. The cheapest Legoland exclusive model I saw was £17, so if you want an exclusive item, budget about £20.

And if your kids are into those Lego minifigure surprise bags with characters, bring the extras as you can swap them in the stores, for free!

What else to bring with you?

Don't forget your swimming costumes and towels - if you want to go to the splash play areas and don't want to spend extra money in the shop! Sunscreen is handy too on a sunny day. There are apparently free sunscreen dispensers, although I didn't spot them, and they may also run out on sunny summer days.

lego character biscuit

What a mega-post but I hope that was helpful to you!

While it is not a cheap day out, Legoland Windsor is fun and you don't have to spend hundreds on the day. We spent about £36 in Tesco vouchers for the tickets, £9 for coffee and biscuits at Costa, £7 for parking and then of course petrol, the packed lunch costs, £9 for a toy (which our daughter paid from her weekly allowance anyway), and £25 for McDonald's on our way back home, so all in all our day at Legoland Windsor cost less than £100. Not the cheapest day out but something you can certainly do as a treat!
Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

What are your tips for doing Legoland Windsor on a budget?

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