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Have Your Say: Episode 2, The high costs of Theme Parks

Published on:
08 2014

I received an e-mail the other day from Lightwater Valley offering me discounted tickets of just a tenner each. I got interested, as I opened up the e-mail I was about to say to the kids, Lightwater Valley this weekend, until I noticed you had to live is Harrogate to qualify. So, this got me angry and I pestered Martyn with my gripes and to see if he could get me some tickets for anywhere. Unfortunatly he couldn’t, but mentioned maybe I vent my spleen, so, here you go, here is my rant at the prices of Theme Parks.

Our family has been watching the major theme parks this year and have been noticing that prices are just getting beyond silly, with the price of on the day tickets due to hit the £50 barrier by 2015.

With prices of a simple family day out at a Theme Park costing hundreds of pounds, I am asking, are UK Theme Parks getting elitist, are they simply selecting the type of people who they want to visit, is there enough competition to create a supermarket type price war, and we ask, can anything be done.

As a theme park enthusiast, I today find myself unable to enjoy a family day out as the cost to me is just too high, and I hear you all shouting at the computer screen, yes, I know that we all band around the ‘nobody pays full price’ argument, and I know how to be smart, using my Tesco Clubcard vouchers, my Nectar points, Kellogg’s boxes, the huge array of other vouchers available just by walking around Tesco, and on top of everything, the importance of pre-booking.

Sitting here right now, looking at the weather, just before our kids go back to school, I cannot decide to simply jump in the car tomorrow and visit a theme park, lets look at the local ones and how much its going to cost me.

When we take into account budgeting £40 for food all day for us all, that’s a tenner each, fuel prices at 15p a mile (yes, I know the parks can’t do anything about this, but we all have to take it into account), car parking fees and the cheapest tickets available for the next day, we get something which looks like this:

Alton Towers with no surprise comes at the most expensive at £159.79

Flamingo Land comes in at number 2 with a cost of £157.14

Despite missing a little of what Flamingo has, Lightwater Valley follows closely with £137.47

Now, we get a little more realistic;

Gullivers Kingdom comes in at £115.13

Twinlakes Park comes in at number 5 at £106.13

And finally, without much of a gap, Sundown Adventureland comes in at £103.25

So, lets look at this, and explain my situation.

I won’t go into specifics, but I will say our household income is in the region of £40k, I live in a nice area of South Yorkshire, our kids are between 5 and 10, and each and every penny is accounted for each month, we watch the bank closely so we don’t get into trouble.

So, say we did find £150 to visit any of these parks tomorrow, what will we face. Our trip to Alton Towers would be faced with pestering voices of wanting to buy the on ride photos, our trip to Lightwater Valley would be filled with little strops until we bought overly priced Angry Birds toys, and at Twinlakes or Gullivers our wallets would be opened with cheap and nasty costumes which won’t be worn after the day is done.

So, we must be looking down the barrel of £200 for any of those parks, and that’s £200 we simply cannot find without 2, maybe 3 months of saving.

This brings me on to special offers. All theme parks release special offers, be it on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or their websites. If they are having a bad month, you may notice certain parks pumping out offer after offer in the last few weeks of the month, much like a car salesman knocking a few quid off a car to hit his target.

Offers currently knocking around are 3 for 2 at Flamingo Land, £16 entry at Lightwater Valley, which drops to a tenner each if you live in Harrogate or Darlington – we will come to that in a second – various bogofs on any aisle of Tesco for Alton Towers and endless competitions for free entry at the others.

So, that tenner entry at Lightwater Valley. The deal is, they are offering the cheapest tickets they have put out all season for people who live in those two areas. Now, those two areas are some of the most affluent areas in the UK, Harrogate for example can in 7th place for the place where people have most disposable income a year or so ago, and places like the one I live in have average household incomes of just £16-£20k a year. So, is this not a little unfair, Lightwater is targeting a specific area for the lowest ticket offers? I wouldn’t feel as angry if it was the same £16 offer they run almost constantly in a vain effort to make it look like they are discounting, but no, a tenner, which would slash our entry cost from £80 to £40 – half the price, and more than affordable as the other £40 can then be spent on fuel, food and what have you.

Anyway, that just wound me up, especially since Lightwater know my postcode, and still sent the offer to me anyway in a kind of up yours attitude.

Moving on, I apologise for the rant!

The final thing I want to touch on here, queue jump tickets. Why should people who have money be allowed to queue jump. Look at the prices. Its going to cost me an additional £15.50 per person for 3 queue jump tickets at Lightwater Valley, its £12 for 3 rides at Alton Towers a massive kick in the balls price of a tenner just to ride the Smiler without queuing, and Flamingo Land charge around £1.50 per person per ride to queue jump. I think this is a disgusting attitude to have, and yet again, it has a devastating effect on us little guys who live to feed our children and used to see the odd theme park trip as an exciting break.

I am sorry, but the last few years has really made me realise how much I hate theme parks. I love the adrenaline pumping action of Nemesis, the pain and bloodied knees of the Ultimate, the excitement of Kumali, but come on, is it really worth £200 for a single day? I went to Disneyland Paris last year in the school holidays, Monday through Friday for £600 all in, including evening meals at a last minute deal. Somebody must see this, the UK Theme Parks are a total rip off, and I don’t really see an end to this search for money from all areas. In fact, I can see some smaller parks close as they have tried to up their prices so much, there is no custom for them, its only a matter of time and the clock is well and truly ticking for a handful I could mention right now.

What have I done to combat this unaffordable outlay? I have discovered a number of other tourist attractions in the local area which don’t have the adrenaline pumping record breakers, but do offer fantastic memories for a good quality family day out. Take Magna for example, £32.80 for a whole year for all of us, Eureka costing £47.80, again for a whole year of fun. £73.50 for a whole year exploring the National Trust properties, £86 for the same at English Heritage. There is much more out there than Theme Parks, and I urge you all to look away for a budget, great day out with no queues, no stress, no greasy tasteless burgers, just great, honest family days out.