After years of being a Blue Light Card member, I thought it was about time that I tried one of their Service’s day events. So, off I trundled with my family to the Chessington World of Adventures event on the 14th March. Take a look to see how much we saved, how busy the park was and whether I managed to avoid picking up the Coronavirus for my troubles.
I have got a whole post dedicated to the Blue Light Card and think it’s a must-have for anybody that qualifies. For the tiny amount that it costs, there are a lot of benefits that come with it.
But one of the benefits I have never taken advantage of is Service’s day. Probably because I can think of better things to do, rather than walking around a wet and windy theme park with my three kids in tow. However, for the benefit of my blog (and a cheap day out), I thought I would give it a go this year. Oh, and because I love my family dearly…
What is the Blue Light Card Service’s day?
Service’s day is a way to say thank you to the hard work (most) public servants put in. For one (or sometimes two) day(s) per year, a theme park opens its doors for Blue Light Card holders only. So far, I have seen days available for Chessington World of Adventures, LegoLand, and Alton Towers – usually in either March or November. Theoretically, because the park is only open to a select few, it should be much quieter.
Now, I haven’t been to Chessington for over 10 years, so it’s a little difficult to compare the Service’s day to a usual park day. However. I will try my best.
What are the costs?
All tickets cost the same, whether you’re an adult or a child. For Chessington this year, they were £18 each. To put that in perspective, tickets for the following weekend were £29.50. So, for the 6 of us (my niece wanted to come too), that was a saving of £69.
But the ticket price isn’t the only way you save money. Parking was free, compared to the standard cost, which is £4.
Plus, all food and drink was 20% off. This is quite significant when you consider how much theme parks charge for their food. We managed to eat and drink for £39, which is actually quite reasonable. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a bargain, but it didn’t feel as painful when I paid. A picnic would have been cheaper, but it wasn’t really the weather for it.
You also get 20% off at the gift shops, if an oversized teddy bear is your thing.
A good deal then?
But, there’s something you need to consider when looking at ticket price costs. Yes, £11.50 saved per ticket is good, but you can find theme park discounts all over the place.
Cereal packets often have 2 for 1 offers, which would actually work out cheaper than the Blue Light Card. Kids Pass offers a discount on theme park tickets too (usually around £5-6 off). Although the membership costs, there are a lot of other discounts available too. Or, you can swap Tesco Clubcard vouchers for 3 times their value which would save you even more.
Are Service’s days busy?
In all honesty, it was much busier than I thought. Really, you would think it would be fairly quiet when you consider a couple of factors. First of all, you have no idea what the weather will be when you book, so holding the day in March should put people off.
Secondly, there was the minor issue of the Coronavirus. A couple of days before we were due to travel, sporting events had been cancelled and plenty of countries across Europe had gone into lockdown. But none, of the above seemed to put people off. I suppose, if you buy the tickets, you’re going. That means it can be a horrible day, yet there are going to be lots of people there. Normally, a rainy day would mean the park would be empty.
Most of the smaller rides had queues of between 5-15 minutes. Zufari had a 30-minute wait and the Gruffalo River was 35 minutes. Rattlesnake and Vampire had a 60 minute queue time, with the Dragon’s Fury a 90-minute wait. That was until it closed. At one point, 6 rides weren’t running!
But, after talking to a colleague, he told me that his son had visited the previous summer and the queues were much longer. So perhaps, I’m being a little unfair to Chessington.
Ordering lunch was a bit of a nightmare. Some of the machines weren’t printing receipts, so you needed to queue up at the counter to find out what your order number was. Food took over 15 minutes to come and it was wrong. Fortunately, I saw most other people return after finding missing items, so I checked before sitting down.
However, I can forgive this as it’s the start of a new year for the park and I guess many of the staff are new. I suppose we’re the guinea pigs before the full-paying customers arrive.
Was it worth it?
I’m not convinced I would do it again. The weather wasn’t great and it was much busier than I was expecting. Plus, I can get a better deal on entry prices by taking advantage of 2 for 1 offers. Yes, free parking is nice, but at £4 it’s hardly a deal-breaker. And 20% off food and drink was also a bonus, but it’s always much cheaper to take your own food anyway.
I will be heading back to Chessington but will do it in my own time.
If you’ve been to a Service’s day before, please let me know what you made of it in the comments below.
Oh, and I didn’t pick up the Coronavirus. At least I don’t think I did. And all credit to Chessington, they did offer the opportunity for guests to swap their tickets to use later on in the year. Although I wouldn’t have saved £4 on parking…