Theme Park

MERLIN ANNUAL PASSES

…A wizard idea or not?

For those that don’t know, Merlin Annual Passes get you access to 32 Merlin attractions across the UK on yearly basis. There are three cards; Standard, Premium and VIP which give you different levels of benefits. But are they worth splashing your hard earned cash on?

First things first, my biggest issue with Merlin Annual Passes is that you can get a cheaper family pass, but they think families only start when you have three people! As a single Mum I can’t tell you how much that frustrates me. I’m not normally one to get offended or complain, and while I totally get that more people equals discount, I was upset enough by that statement that it stopped me from buying a card originally. So come on Merlin, get into the 21st Century!

TOP TIP – If your family is two people, and you want to get a card, ask your wider friends and family if they’d be interested. I didn’t, and in the week after buying our cards my sister and one of my best friends both said they’d been looking at buying them too. Buying them together could have saved me £60, definite Single Adventure Mum fail!

After going to Thorpe Park, I started looking at Merlin Passes again as I wanted to take the mini adventurer to Legoland and Alton Towers plus the Sealife Centres are a Merlin attraction and Luka LOVES an aquarium. I ummed and arrred about the purchase for months (see I can’t even commit to buying an annual pass!), and then I got offered a new role which came with a pay rise and more weekends off so I decided to stop faffing and go for it.

My next decision was Standard or Premium. The major differences between the two options was a Privilege Pack (containing a lanyard, 3 x Share the Fun Vouchers, and 3 x £5 off Fastrack passes) which wasn’t much use to me, and free parking at Theme Parks. Parking isn’t cheap at the parks (£6 a day at Alton Towers), but I’d have to be visiting the parks more than twice a month to make the £100 difference worth it so I opted for the Standard Pass. Mind made up, 5 minutes and £343 later a year of adventure was in the bag!

Is it worth the money?

If you live in Southern England, or another area with a high density of attractions, and have free time, I’d say hell yes. It can be a big money saver and motivates you to have lots of fun days out. Not only do you get free entry, there are other perks such as money off food, hotel stays and merchandise. I’ve saved around £10-15 at every attraction we’ve visited so far with that. There are also discounts on tickets for your family and friends which can mean big savings for them too.

If, like us, you live 100’s of miles from the nearest attraction, then do your sums before buying. There’s actually a handy calculator to help you work out if it’s worth it here. I saw buying the passes as a commitment to go to as many attractions as I could in the year. So far we’ve only been to Legoland, Chessington, Alton Towers and Sealife Birmingham and we’ve already made our money back. Plus we’ve had some really great fun weekends away/days out and it’s nice not to worry about getting through everything in one go. If we miss a few rides, no worries, we can just go back another day and it won’t cost us any more.

If you are thinking of getting a card now is the time, as until February 12th Merlin are running their annual sale, meaning you could get a Standard Pass for £109 each if you’re buying more than 3, or £129 each if there’s 2 people in your family. That’s a great saving when you considered I paid £179 each for the same pass!

TOP TIP – Hold onto your cards. We had ours issued at Chessington as it was the first place we were planning on visiting and it therefore became my “Home Attraction”. A month later we were at Legoland and disaster struck, I lost Luka’s pass when I got money out for ice-cream. Ridiculously, due to data-protection reasons (?!?) you can’t have your pass re-issued at a different park so we not only had to pay £10 for a new card, we had to travel back to Chessington to get it! Luckily Legoland is less than an hour away from Chessington and so getting there was easy but had we lost it at home, that would have been a 7 hour plus round trip just for a new card!

Have you got a Merlin Annual Pass? Do you think it’s worth it? Or are you thinking about getting one and want some advice? Just let me know below.

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