Guest Writer Mark Raybould on the issue of car parking charges at Theme Parks
We all know that parking at a theme park is a major bug bear of any day. I personally have seen complaints about people having to pay to park on social media and actually on the day. There are several ways around this with parking passes and with it bundled in the annual or season passes. For this article I am going to be concentrating on places where they have their own car parking facilities. Not the likes of Blackpool, where there is parking all over the place, and yes I do realise they have their own car park, but there are many other options too. And then comparing it to some of the major European parks.
First of all you have Alton Towers, £6 for all day. Yes it is far out the way of the park, but is connected by the Monorail and that makes it quite special taking it all the way through the park, and seeing some of the major rides before you get to the entrance. Are there many options around the local area? No, not really. Are there signs, yes, plenty of them before you get on and off the monorail and as you exit the park. Alton Towers was the first park in the UK to introduce parking charges, has it looked back? Nope. It has been a very successful, [addition by meames – we have been told that Alton Towers can pay their entire staff wage on the car parking charge alone] and has paved the way for the other Merlin attractions of Thorpe Park and Chessington to charge.
Thorpe Park charges £5, and is well connected with plenty of bus links and trains, since it is right near London. It is not bad, considering you could be paying a lot more plus public transport to get to and from the park from Staines. And the parking in centre of Staines is a hefty £12 max a day!
Chessington is the cheapest on the list at only £2 a day. Which in all honesty is very cheap, and I found they donate 10% of that to charity. But they all add up at the end of the day. But my main gripe is with Drayton Manor, they ask for £3 to park per day, however, on the 2 times I have visited with the parking charge, I have NEVER been asked to show my parking ticket, heck, I still have it sitting on my desk at home.
But let’s head away from the UK to look at some of the other major parks in Europe (as is what I have specialised in theme park wise). A LOT of the parks charge for their parking. Let’s start with one park that comes to most peoples mind when talking about Europe, that is Disneyland Paris. I have found their car parking is a whopping €15 a day. Which is £13.05! That is more than double that Alton Towers for 1 day. They are the most expensive park to get in too, but they get away with because it is Disney. And people just think Disney is awesome, and has all the characters etc.
But let’s turn away from Disney, and look at 2 parks you may of heard of, Parc Asterix and Efteling. They both charge €10 per day, which is £8.70 per day. Asterix is the biggest theme park in France if you take Disney out of the picture, and is situated very close to Paris, and has very good links to the airport as well as Paris itself. And Efteling located in the Netherlands, and is a fantastic theme park, and is run by a charity, also it is one of the most visited parks in the world. They do have some good connections, but the best way getting there is by car.
Now onto a holiday hot spot, featuring Europe's fastest and highest coasters, Port Aventura. Most people will take buses from Salou up to the park, as it is well connected, however, if you want to park your car, that is €8,50 (£7.40) per day for normal parking.
Now you are asking about the Merlin theme parks? Well the couple of biggest ones are Heide Park in Germany and Gardaland in Italy. They ask for €6 (£5.22) and €5 (£4.35) respectivly. These are huge parks, with some great rides. Heide has just installed a B&M wing rider (like Swarm at Thorpe), and also have a B&M dive machine (Like Oblivion at Alton Towers), and for many years have had the tallest wooden coaster in Europe. And Gardaland are installing a B&M dive machine next year, and had the very first (and still arguably the best) wing coaster in Europe. They have ample parking and able to cope.
I almost forgot to mention Plopsaland in Belgium here. Only 40 minutes from Calais, just inside the Belgium border, so in reality it is closer to most people than to Alton Towers. They have recently upped their parking charges from €6 (£5.22) to €9 (£7.83). It is a great family theme park with something for all the family. But is getting expensive on the parking scales.
Now onto some of the cheaper parks in Europe for parking charges. They are probably 2 of the best parks in Europe, Europa Park and Phantasialand, both in Germany. Europa charges €5 (£4.35) for their parking and Phantasialand charge €4 (£3.48). Honestly, that is not much to park your car. They both have great transport links and both well worth a visit.
So in conclusion, think yourself lucky when parking at a theme park that you are not charged over the odds, generally parking at a theme park is CHEAPER than parking at a town centre. The reason I have not included America in this is due to the fact there are a lot of parks, and pretty much all of them charge. And I do not have the time to research, and most of the prices quoted I knew by visiting the park myself, and some very quick research. Then you have exchange rates too, for this I used €1 is equal to £0.87.
I hope you enjoyed this read.