I was dreading this half-term. All the children wanted to do was stay home and hang out with friends. Which as every mum knows translates into five days spent inside on the computer and/or social media.
While I’ve saved myself a few thousand quid on a skiing holiday, I couldn’t let it lie. We needed at least one day out so I decided we’d do Hampton Court. As cheaply as possible.
First the tickets. Annoyingly the half-price deal had finished just before half-term. Buying online is cheaper especially if you decline to make a voluntary donation. The best deal for us was the family ticket at £40.80.
Off we set in the Minted Mobile. And that was my first mistake. The car park was £1.60 an hour, which I paid because I didn’t realise we could’ve parked in the town. My mood darkened as we coughed up £18.15 for four hot drinks and two pieces of cake in the café. But then the dancing started …
While the children initially cringed at the display of fancy Tudor footwork, we agreed after that it was well-done and fun. Plus the actors were happy to be photographed – see Grandpa (pictured) getting into cavalier mode. Then it was off for a tour of the kitchens with staff giving demonstrations of Tudor cooking which really brought history to life. We also found the palace guides to be incredibly well-informed and helpful.
On to lunch – packed and eaten on the fountain in the Base courtyard which back in the day ran with wine not water, sigh. It was cold, admittedly, but we warmed up in the gift shop where thankfully no-one could find anything they wanted to buy.
After the Maze and gardens, we were ready to go home. A day out (tick) for four people at a cost of £65 excluding transport is not exactly half-price. However, we genuinely enjoyed it and for a tenner each, more or less, entry we considered we got our money’s worth, especially as ticket prices rise in the summer, in fact from 1 March 2017.
So why not see these places in the winter? Hampton Court is one of six ‘palaces’ in the group and you can get an annual ticket to see them all as many times as you like. The two adults/six kids option is £83.00 which is not such a bad deal for at least six days out. On that subject, there are more savings if you travel by train. There are loads of two-for-one offers at London attractions – Sea Life, London Zoo, Transport Museum etc – if you can show your ticket from Southern, Virgin East Coast, South West and so on. Check out www.daysoutguide.co.uk or pick up a leaflet from your local station.
Finally, National Rail has 20% off its Family & Friends Railcard until 20 February. The card saves a third off most adult rail fares and 60% off kids’ fares and costs £24 for a year’s unlimited use. Go to www.familyandfriends-railcard.co.uk/sale and use code: FEB17.