Last year was our first year having a Merlin Annual Pass. We’d had Legoland Annual Passes before, but when Merlin ran their January Sale back in 2017, the offer to get your Merlin Pass for just £129 was too good to refuse. We’ve now reached our full year of having them, so I wanted to look back over all of our adventures and work out whether our Merlin Annual Passes were worth it.
As a family of 4, we needed 3 Merlin Passes, as our youngest was born in June 2017, and we opted for the Premium Passes so that we weren’t restricted on entry days and didn’t need to pay for parking. Our 3 passes cost us a total of £387.
We live in West Surrey, close to Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, and Legoland, so we’re well positioned for lots of the parks and I was confident we would be able to get good value for money from our Merlin Passes.
Legoland was far and away our most visited park, with 15 visits for me and Max, and 6 for my husband. I love Legoland, and have very fond memories of working there many years ago, so I’m always happy to take our boys. I think at 4, Max is the perfect age for Legoland now, and it’s been amazing this year to see him being able to go on rides that he couldn’t go on before. Having only just reached a metre, he’s still small for his age! He’s especially loved The Dragon’s Apprentice, Learner Drivers and the Ninjago ride.
Our Premium Merlin Passes meant that we could visit on any day of the year, and also meant we didn’t have to pay for parking (£6 a visit), and got 20% off in the restaurants.
Max and I visited 15 times over the year, with my husband joining us 8 times.
Chessington World of Adventures
Before we got our Merlin Passes I’d not visited Chessington since I was a teenager, and I wasn’t sure it really had much for younger children. But I was so wrong! Chessington has such a lot for preschoolers, with the Gruffalo ride being a huge hit, as well as the laser ride, the flying jumbos, Tiny Truckers, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, the carousel, the dodgems, and the zoo and aquarium too.
I love the fact that the zoo provides a bit of a slower pace for the afternoon if you need a bit of a rest, and the aquarium is a great option to have up your sleeve if there’s a bit of rain.
Max absolutely loved Chessington, and asks to go back on a regular basis. He even keeps a copy of the map in his memory box, and I often find him in his bedroom with the map spread out on the floor, studying it intensely!
Max and I visited Chessington 6 times over the year, with my husband joining us on 2 visits.
Again, our Merlin Passes meant that we got 20% off food and drink too.
As well as all of the theme parks, your Merlin Pass gives you access to numerous Sea Life Centres across the country. We visited the SEA LIFE in Brighton in September, and it was great to have something up our sleeves that we knew we could do for free while we were in Brighton. I always love watching fish, there’s something really calming about it, and I think fish are particularly appealing to younger children, who love the pretty colours and the movement.
Were our Merlin Annual Passes worth it?
I think it’s a resounding yes! You can actually use the Merlin Savings Calculator to work out what your savings would be, and for all of the visits we made last year, it comes in at a whopping £2,543.51 saving! Our 3 Premium Merlin passes cost us £387, which is a massive saving on what these trips would have cost us, so they really were fantastic value for money.
We used our passes so much, although I do consider ourselves lucky to live so close to both Legoland and Chessington, and I’m also in the fortunate position to not have been working during that year as I was on maternity leave. I do think we might have actually used our passes more if Ben had been a little bit older. Having a non-sitting baby in our family meant that I did always need to have another adult with us, as there were so many rides that Ben couldn’t go on, and obviously someone needed to wait with him. We also ran out of time to do all the things I’d have liked to do – I really wanted to visit Thorpe Park, the London Aquarium, and Shrek’s Adventure too, but sadly there are only so many days available for cramming in trips.
Our Merlin Passes gave us so many hours of fun over the past year, and it was great to know that we always had the option of weekend entertainment sorted. It takes the pressure off feeling the need to make sure you cram in as many rides as possible on each visit too; we were able to take things a bit easier, and if we needed to leave early due to overtired children, then we didn’t feel we were missing out.
I did find that Legoland especially did seem to be shut more often than usual this year, until it reached peak season, which does restrict how often you can go, and of course, all the parks are shut between November and March, but that’s a minor gripe.
I think at 4, Max has been the perfect age to really get the most out of the Merlin Pass. We’ve been able to visit so many times this year, purely due to the fact that he’s not started school yet, and it’s been wonderful to see him gaining confidence and being able to go on more rides over the course of the year. I do feel quite sad that just as he reaches the perfect age for a theme park, he has to start school and we can only really take him at weekends, but I guess that’s life! If there is ever a perfect age to invest in a Merlin Pass, I definitely feel that when your child is preschool age is the time you’ll get most value from it.
Although I’m not sure yet whether we’ll renew our Merlin Passes for next year, the memories we’ve made together over the past year have been worth every penny.