It has to be said that my relationship with the Legoland Hotel did not get off to the best of starts. Like many young boys, my son, Leo, is a Lego fanatic. My wife and I knew taking him to Legoland (which he’d heard of but imagined was something akin to the Lego shop in Brighton) would be the treat of his little lifetime and, following a glowing review from fellow Trunki Files contributor Cassie Martin, decided to splurge and stay at the on-site hotel.
We got ourselves organised early, booking a Premium Pirate room for the last weekend in March to correlate with Leo’s 6th birthday and securing ourselves a 10% booking discount in the process (much appreciated given the £429 list price). However, a week before we were due to go, disaster struck. We had a call to say they could no longer accommodate us in the hotel (late-running refurbishments on the Pirate floor, apparently). We were given the option of staying somewhere else (err – the Premier Inn in Slough?); or being given complimentary park tickets for a day, neither of which worked for us. Only after some fairly persistent negotiation by my wife did we get compensation, in the form of a discount off the cost of our break, and our stay re-booked for another weekend in May. Suffice to say, we were disappointed with the whole experience, the only consoling factor being we hadn’t told the children and so didn’t have to deal with any awkward un-telling (there’s a lesson there).
So yes, the Legoland Hotel had a lot of ground to make up. I am therefore glad to report that, from that point on, things got better. And better. Telling Leo and his sister Genevieve that we were going to Legoland (the day before, confirmation email in hand) was a precious moment. And, from arriving on Sunday morning to packing up the car on Monday afternoon, our trip really was a joyous, utterly memorable affair – made all the more wonderful by the unseasonably warm and sunny weather.
The great thing about staying at the Legoland Hotel is that is has been totally conceived and designed with families in mind, so everything is that little bit easier than normal. Private parking is plentiful and close to the hotel (you don’t have to battle with day visitors in huge car parks miles from the park gates); you can check in as soon as you arrive and leave you bags with the porter, who delivers them to the room (so they are there waiting for you when you come in from the park); all the bathrooms have low toilets and sinks; oh – and did I mention there’s Lego everywhere? So should there be some hanging about (e.g. a queue at check-in), invariably there’s something to distract the kids. We appreciated as well that the Lego shop in the hotel was fairly modest – they could have gone to town and installed a mini-mall but as it is, it is fairly discreet and not too difficult to prize kids out of.
Staying at the hotel comes with other perks too, including early access to some of the most popular rides in the park. But perhaps best of all, it gives you somewhere to retreat to. The park itself is pretty full-on and very tiring, and we loved just being able to go up to the room, have a cup of tea and chill out for a while whilst the kids, well, played with Lego. A private, feet-up zone was especially appreciated by my wife who was now 7 months pregnant and pretty exhausted after clocking up the miles in the park.
So, in summary, my advice to anyone considering a trip to Legoland is this: if you can afford it, or even if you can’t really afford it, do not hesitate to upgrade to the hotel. Yes, it’s expensive but, on balance, it is worth it for the excitement, convenience and, above all, that bit of extra magic it sprinkles on the whole event.
My top 5 tips for making the most of your Legoland Hotel break
1. If you can find the budget, stay in a Premium room – the set-up and overall experience is great (sign up for emails as they do have offers). As you go in, there is a special area for the kids housing bunk beds and a pull out bed for a third child (noted for the future!). The kids have their own TV too, so they can snuggle up in their beds and keep entertained whilst you enjoy a bit of R&R. You’re separated from the kids by the bathroom but, other than that, there’s not a whole lot of spare space. The theming is fantastic – we were in an ‘Indiana Jones’ type Adventure Room and there were Lego scorpions and spiders all around the place, including one hanging from the bathroom ceiling. What’s particularly cool is the in-room ‘treasure hunt’ that is waiting for the children when you arrive. You follow clues around the room to get the combination key to a safe which contains Lego-themed prizes (I’ll keep it as a surprise what they are).
2. We all thought the ‘waterpark’ at the hotel was brilliant. It’s basically a glorified indoor pool but ended up being one of the highlights of our stay. We went on Day 1 – we’d had enough of shuffling around the park and it filled the gap between returning to our hotel and dinner nicely. I imagine it’s a great wet-weather option too should you be unlucky with the weather (we weren’t). There is a beach-entry splash pool which is perfect for toddlers; and there are slides, water guns and fountains to occupy busy little people. What I liked most was that the whole complex is small enough for you to survey it all – and therefore keep eyes on your kids – which made it fun and relaxing rather than stressful.
3. An advantage of staying overnight at the Legoland Hotel is that you get into the park half an hour early. Not all the rides are open then – just Driving School, Atlantis and Dino Safari. However, these are some of the most popular rides in the park and usually attract long queues, so getting on them early takes a lot of the pain away. Their location near the back of the park away from the main entrance (but near the hotel) means that you actually get about an hour’s privileged access before the masses make their way over. Personally I’d recommend starting out at Driving School – it’s really cool and probably the most popular ride in the park. Leo wanted a second go and because there was no queue, he got it.
4. We didn’t find the cost of food exorbitant; however, nor was it a bargain. My advice would be to pack a lunch and snacks for Day 1 to save you some cash and time your lunch to coincide with the pirate show (our kids adored it). In the evening, you’ll almost certainly eat in the hotel – there aren’t really any other options. There’s an a la carte ‘brasserie’ but it’s the buffet restaurant, ‘Bricks’, which most families head for. The price is fixed for as much as you can eat and it’s perfect for kids with roast dinner options, pasta, rice, bread and an ice cream machine. Admittedly, it’s fairly chaotic – I’m not generally a fan of buffets as you are basically up and down all the time fetching everyone’s dinners, drinks and sauce. But it was quick, the quality was good and, actually, for £50 all-in (including a large glass of wine for me), not bad value. Note – there are fridges in the rooms so if you want to store snacks overnight, then it’s possible (we did).
5. If you are going to be in Legoland on a peak day i.e. weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, get yourself a ‘Q-Bot’. This nifty device costs an extra £15 per person – a bit galling given you’ve already spent a wedge on your tickets and hotel – but my advice is to suck it up, it’s 100% worth it. The Q-bot doesn’t allow you to jump the queue per se (unless you opt for a premium package which is £70 per person!); instead, it permits you to not stand in line whilst you wait. For example, if the queuing time for a ride is 45 minutes, you use your Q-bot to book a slot on the ride in 45 minutes time. Once the 45 minutes is up, you pitch up and go straight to the front the queue. You can only have one ride ‘Q-botting’ at any one time; but if you book your next ride immediately after you’ve finished one, by the time you’ve had a drink and toddled over to it, you waltz right on. We opted not to Q-bot on our first day, which was fine as you don’t need for all attractions, like walking round Miniland. However, without it on our second day (which was a sunny May bank holiday), it would have been intolerable – 3 and 6 year olds and long queues do not go well together (we heard plenty of grumbling from other visitors without Q-Bots and couldn’t help but feel a little bit smug).