Legoland - the survival guide
Whether you're looking for a great family day out or opting for a rather special overnight stay at the new Castle Hotel, it pays to be prepared when visiting Legoland Windsor.
How to get to Legoland Windsor
Your DC will probably want to see as much of Legoland as humanly possible in a day – so set those alarm clocks and aim to arrive early. The park is officially open from 10 am – however, you can get through the main gates and into the square from around 9:30 am.
If you are driving in from the M4 Junction 6 (Slough/Windsor) or M25 Junction 13 (Staines), it is definitely worth following the signed alternative route, which is longer but quicker. A word of warning though for when you're route planning – if there are races on at Ascot, the roads will be busier. Once you arrive, premium parking is only marginally closer than normal parking.
Getting in and passing go
There are coupons and offers galore to bring entrance costs down and you can also save by booking online in advance. To get the best price, don't buy tickets on the gate. Redeeming Tesco points is cost-effective, and you can swap them for an annual pass and day tickets. If you have a child aged four or under, the pre-school annual pass is a great buy: £75 for unlimited weekday, term-time visits for one child plus one accompanying adult.
Before 10am you can still get through the gates to the main square at the top of the park. There are shops (you can hire a buggy here), a cafe and toilets, plus Q-Bot hire – see Getting around for more details. If your child is under 90cm they will not reach height restrictions for every ride. If they scrape just over 90cm, get them measured at customer services – they will issue a wristband to say your child is okay to ride, which will save you arguing with every single ride attendant.
Before you set off into the main park, go to customer services upon entering to get wristbands for your children to write your mobile number on, just in case anyone gets lost. If you don't get the wristbands, just use a pen to write your number on your children's arms.
What to bring
- A change of clothes and something warm. Except for shops, cafes and a handful of attractions, everything is outdoors, so bring plenty of extra clothing for all. Be warned: the water rides get you very wet. If you are soaked through, there are dryers around the park for £1.
- A pram/buggy. Even if your children no longer need one to get around: it's somewhere to dump the picnic and drinks while you're on rides, and you may find it useful if your children are slow walkers, too.
- Pushchairs can also be hired from the Big Shop at the park entrance: a single pushchair costs £10 and double costs £15. There are buggy parks at the rides.
- Remember a small rucksack or cross body bag for your valuables to take on the rides. A waterproof one is a great idea.
- A picnic and plethora of snacks and drinks. This will save money and save you having to think too much about what you're eating and when. It is also sensible to pack some food/snacks for the journey home, as you are in for a long day. If you are looking for somewhere to eat later in the day, you may be able to bag a bargain: children eat for free at some restaurants after 3 pm.
- Your own swimming gear. Join the kids in the splash area to cool down on hot days.
- And it goes without saying: don't forget comfy shoes, sunglasses, sun hats, rain macs, insect repellent, and all the usual family-day-out paraphernalia.
Forward planning pays dividends. Print off the map and get your bearings before arrival. Research what rides your children really, really want to go on and plan a sensible route that incorporates as many as possible.
Q-Bots are incredibly nifty pieces of technology that hold your place in the queue and will notify you when it's time to ride via a handheld pager or your smartphone. On a busy day a Q-Bot will make life easier but, of course, they come with a price tag. The standard £20 Q-Bot gives you the same waiting time as everyone in the actual queue – it just means you can go off and do other things rather than actually standing in line. The £35 Express Q-Bot cuts your waiting time by half, and the £80 Ultimate Q-Bot bumps you straight to the front of the queue for 20 popular rides. You will need one Q-Bot per person, per ride, so a family of four will need four Q-Bots if they all want to ride together.
You can decide to buy a Q-Bot on the day – and if you pick a quiet day you might find queues more manageable. However, if you really want one, book ahead – there are a limited number. And remember to return them at the end of the day, or you'll be charged £50 for each. Whether you are armed with Q-Bots or not, the consensus seems to be to head towards the busiest rides first – or whatever rides your DC would be devastated not to go on.
If you don't have a buggy to carry around your belongings, there are lockers at the top square (park entrance) and by the splash park. These require a £1 coin which is non-refundable.
You may well be persuaded to part from more of your money in the gift shops, but don't worry about precariously balancing expensive Lego kits in your buggy while you walk around the park: if you buy stuff in any of the shops, you can arrange to collect it on the way out.
Staying at the new Legoland Windsor Castle Hotel
If one day at Legoland isn't going to be enough, there are two hotels within the park. The Castle Hotel opened in July 2017 and for Lego fans on the obsession end of the scale, this is probably a dream come true. It houses 2.1 million Lego bricks (yes, that's right) and features 657 models from the knights and wizards at the entrance to the dragons and owls in the bedrooms.
A one-night stay doesn't come cheap – prices start at £572 which includes breakfast and two days in the park – but for little Lego lovers, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience they won't forget.
If the Castle Hotel is too far out of budget, packages at the Legoland Resort hotel – which is also in the park – start at £98 per person. Staying at both hotels gives you access to certain areas of the park from 9.30am instead of 10am and you can also book a swim at the themed pool in the Resort hotel. Character meet and greets and dedicated Lego play areas will also keep the DC
busy happy while you eat, drink and relax after a day of fun.
If you can (and you are not reading this for the first time on your way back to the car) pay for parking online first. It saves queuing for pay machines at end of day.
Prepare for an exhausting final slog to get out of the car park. Everyone is tired and tempers will be short. Whack on the air-con/wind down windows, turn on the iPads/stereo and dig deep.
Follow the magical alternate route and it will save you about 1 hour in travel time as everyone floods out of the park. Upon exiting Legoland at the bottom of the hill, turn right towards Ascot for all routes.
One final piece of travel advice from a Mumsnetter who's been there:
“Do not be tempted to go left towards Windsor if traffic is not moving. Turning right will take you to the M4 Junction 5 in 20 minutes and M25 Junction 13 in 25 minutes. Turning left will take you to Junction 6 on the M4 in 1 hour+ at closing time. You have been warned!”
Enjoy it! The kids will have a blast and will be shattered that evening. You may need a stiff gin and tonic, of course.