The Easter holidays are rapidly approaching, and they are quickly followed by the dreaded summer holidays. That’s around 9 weeks of “I’m bored” and “what are we doing today?” It makes me want to stick pins in my eyes and ears.
I don’t mind kids being bored (as long as I can’t hear them being bored) I think it’s fairly healthy. I was bored plenty when I was a child. My parents both worked full time, and my school holidays were spent between parents, grandparents, godparents, and friends. I wasn’t taken for endless days out to theme parks and museums, but I don’t have a single bad memory of any of my school holidays. Except when I got stuck in the mud down by Rockley Park when we were out cockling. That was pretty awful 😂
We’re in much the same situation as my parents, the Mister works full time, and I work for myself, so with a bit of juggling can be around a bit more in the school holidays, but really for a maximum of 2 days in the week. I’ve normally got a bit of cabin fever by then, so want to get out somewhere, but equally I don’t have the money, or the inclination, to be traipsing round theme parks every bloody day.
This is where annual passes come into their own. With a bit of forward planning, and initial expense, you can pre book a whole year of fun! Below I’ve listed some of my favourites, and ones I’ve personally looked at for our family for the year ahead…
1) Merlin Annual Passes
I’ll start with the most expensive, Merlin Annual Passes. These will get you in to 32 attractions across the UK, including Thorpe Park, Madame Tussaud’s, Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor, Alton Towers, Sea Life Centres, and The London Eye. There are different cost options ranging from £139 per person for a standard pass, £189 per person for a premium pass, and a whopping £625 per person for a VIP pass.
I would say the premium passes are the best value for money, you get free parking and 20% off retail and food. Also, there are no date restrictions like there are with the standard passes. I think it works out you need to go around 4 times to any of the attractions and your pass is paid for.
It’s still over £500 for a family of 4 though (although there are options like pay monthly or Tesco Clubcard points, to make it more affordable) and the main attractions are closed for a few months of the year too.
I have to say, until this year, we’ve always had Merlin passes. However, last year we just didn’t use them as much, and I’ve noticed little extra charges creeping in. A £1 booking fee per person for the London attractions, it’s now £25 per person to see Father Christmas at Legoland, less passholders days happening. So this year, we’ve decided to change it up a bit.
You can buy passes for any of the Merlin attractions independently. For example Legoland Windsor are on sale at the minute for £60 per person, and Warwick castle are as little as £25 per person for an off peak pass. So if you think you might only visit one or two of the attractions then this might be worth looking at.
Here’s the link for the main Merlin passes Merlin Annual Passes the other Passes are available on the attractions own websites.
2) Historic Royal Palaces Pass
These are great value for money. £108 for a family (2 adults and up to 6 children) gets you into 6 palaces for the whole year. This includes Hampton Court, The Tower of London, and Kensington Palace. Now if you live some way from London, then these aren’t such great value 😂 but for us, we’re less than an hour away from 5 of the 6 palaces so it’s a no brainer. Hampton court in particular have loads of things on for kids in the school holiday. Alternatively you could just lose them in the maze for the day while you sit on the grass with a glass of wine..
3) National Trust
These are also great value, and you can pay monthly. For just £126 per year, or £10.50 a month, you can buy family membership, which is 2 adults and up to 10 children (the thought of 10 children makes my ovaries shrivel 😂😂)
They also do a package for single parent families which are just £78 a year or £6.50 per month. You don’t see that very often, so kudos to the National Trust.
It isn’t just old houses, there are Easter egg hunts, BlueBell’s walks, and perfect for us, free parking at our favourite beach and pub 😁
Definitely worth looking at if you like getting outdoors and blowing off the cobwebs, away from the crazy pram wielding gangs at theme parks…
4) Royal Horticultural Society
Quite specific passes, but again, if you like having a wander round gardens, and want to go to some of the big flower shows, then this is the pass for you. Joint membership is just £68 per year and that’s for unlimited entry to the 4 RHS Gardens for the 2 members, one guest and up to 4 children.
And if you think this isn’t great for kids, think again. RHS Wisely have had a huge Lego display this year, so definitely a pass to consider if you’ve got children.
5) Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Again, not really one to consider if you don’t live near any of the centres, but this is a great little pass if you’re close enough to one of the 10 sites. (They’re spread around the country, so chances are you are)
Family membership is just £7.30 per month or £88 per year, and that covers 2 adults and up to 6 children. (For one adult it’s just £66)
The fact that they have a puddle jumping championship sells it for me 😂 but also by supporting them, you’re supporting conservation of really important wetlands.
6) English Heritage
If Rocks and ruins are your thing, this is the pass for you. With over 400 sites, you’ll always find something to visit. From Stonehenge, to the Roman ruins at Silchester, this pass covers them all. It’s £99 per year (or £8.25 per month) for a family of 2 adults and 12 children (where are they finding these families! 😂😂) or £56 per year for one adult and 6 children. Use code PART18 and you should get 20% off
7) Cineworld Unlimited Passes
These are super expensive, and you’ve got to go to the cinema nearly every week to make them pay for themselves, but if the cinema is your thing then I guess this would be a pas you’d enjoy. They cost £20.40 per month, or £244 per year for each pass. That’s a huge layout for a family, but like I said, if you’re at the cinema all the time then it’s worth it. If like me you just go when you have to, and then use it to have a nice uninterrupted nap, then I wouldn’t bother. That’s an expensive nap. Oh, you get 10% off drinks and snacks too, but as you already need a mortgage to buy these, 10% isn’t much of a saving 😂
8) Milestones Museum Basingstoke
If you pay attention, you’ll see I’ve done a post on this museum before. It’s not strictly an annual pass, but if you pay to attend once, you can attend for the whole year for free. A family ticket for up to 5 is just £45. It’s the perfect rainy day activity, and as a bonus they have Lego displays throughout the year too.
Tickets available here Milestones Museum
9) Kids Pass
Again, not strictly an annual pass, and I’d never heard of them before I started researching for our passes this year, but these look quite good. You pay a one off fee, and then through their app, you get money off all kinds of things. You can have a look here at all the offers available
I’ve got a special promo link, which if you follow it, will give you a years pass for just £39.99 instead of £75. You only need one pass per family, and it will give you discounts like 40% off cinema tickets, and kids eat free at restaurants like Giraffe and Hard Rock Cafe
Follow this link to get your discounted pass Discounted kids pass
10) Blue Peter Badge
I’ve saved the best until last. This is a doozy. You know all that shit that your child has drawn that you can’t bear to throw away. Find the best one. Get your kid to write 50 words about it. Send it in to the BBC for Blue Peter. It takes about 10 weeks, but eventually you’ll be issued with a Blue Peter Badge and a membership card. This will get you child in free to literally hundreds of places. Most of the places listed above actually (not the cinema or the merlin attractions, they’re tight fisted, multi million pound companies)
So armed with a Blue Peter Badge, you might not need the family passes, you might be able to opt for cheaper individual passes.
I should state, I don’t think the actual point is that you send in any old shit you’ve got lying around. That’s cheating. You’re supposed to get your child to work on a project. Do that, it’s much more wholesome and worthwhile.
Find out how to apply here Blue Peter Badge
So that’s it, my top 10 passes to fill every day of the school holidays, without having to spend any extra money. If you do my little thermos and hotdog trick too, then eating is pretty cheap as well.
Enjoy. You’re welcome 😘