So when we read the reviews of LEGOLAND Windsor before going, we were shocked, the reviews are borderline horrific and nearly put us off entirely from going!
So with threats of 1-hour queues in the baking heat with screaming/tired kids we were subconsciously pushed into buying Reserve & Ride Packages costing an eye-watering £190 on the day (cheaper when booked in advance), here are our thoughts on LEGOLAND, the Reserve and Ride system and how to maximise the enjoyment from your visit without spending £190 extra!
What is LEGOLAND?
Before diving into the specifics of ticketing, let’s set the stage. LEGOLAND Windsor, located in Berkshire, UK, is one of the top family-friendly theme parks in the country. Opened in 1996, the park now features more than 55 interactive rides, attractions, and live shows, all themed around the beloved LEGO brand. There is only 1 traditional rollercoaster (The Dragon), the rest are a mix of virtual reality tours/games, physical movement rides (e.g. Fire Academy where you move a fire truck back/forth and pump water), to be honest, we were a bit disappointed in the lack of big rides, lots were spinny rides which we don’t like as we end up feeling sick but overall it’s a great day out and the kids love it!
What is Reserve and Ride?
In short, it’s a Queue Jump system that uses a web app to provide you with a QR code that allows you to join a much shorter queue or enter via the exit to get on the rides much quicker, you select the ride you want to reserve and then it gives you a countdown timer anywhere from the current normal queue time to 1 minute (depending on the version you pay for), there are 4 different versions:
- One Shot Bundle – Access to 5 rides (on the day from 1pm)
- Regular – If a standard queue is 30 minutes, the app will give you a countdown of 30 minutes
- Express – This gives you 50% less queue time, so 15 minutes in the above example
- Ultimate – This gives you almost instant (1-4 minutes in the above example) access to rides + exclusive access to a few additional rides
What does Reserve and Ride Exclude:
- Some rides still have secondary queues, so you jump to the front but then you have to queue behind other Reserve and Ride people &/OR general ticket holders, this meant some rides we were still queuing upwards of 20 minutes for.
- Hydra’s Challenge – this was an 85-minute wait time and we just weren’t interested in queuing for that long
- Scarab Bouncers
- Sky Rider
- DUPLO Express
- Skipping the full queue on several rides, they got you part of the way but not right to the front!
- Entry to the park, you have to have tickets for that as well
The following are just for Ultimate:
- Coastguard HQ
- Destiny’s Bounty
- Flight of the Sky Lion (1x use)
- Fire & Ice Free Fall (1x use)
What are the MUST GO ON rides?
This will depend massively on who is going, their ages and what they do or don’t like, but we found these rides the best (going with a 4 year old):
- Ninjango (went 3 times) – Virtual Reality where you wave your hands around to shoot at targets, lots of fun but quite difficult to master (it took us 35 year old 3 goes to master it)
- The Dragon (went 3 times) – The only real rollercoaster there – Very good and a nice change to the rest of the rides
- Deep Sea Adventure (went 2 times) – This takes you underwater for 4 minutes showing you real sharks, fish and stingray.
- Pirate Falls (absolutely soaked but hilarious, if we didn’t get so wet we would have done it again) – A traditional log flume ride
- Fire Academy (went 2 times) – This is truly unique as a ride, it has to be experienced but be warned Adults need to do lots of work!
- Coastguard (went 3 times) – a lovely and relaxing experience that you can do in your own time
- Haunted House (went once) – A swinging room illusion experience –
- Laser Raiders (too difficult for Arthur) but Arthur seemed to love it even with a 0 score
- Driving School (we went twice but wow the delay to get on even with ultimate was head bangingly bad, nowhere near enough staff)
- Flight of the Sky Lion (went once) – It was very good 4D virtual reality movement ride – however, the queue was long even with Reserve and Ride
The Painful Points of the Reserve and Ride System
- The passes got you to the front of the queues, but on several rides this didn’t actually get you into the ride any quicker than others, e.g. on the Haunted House we were allowed to queue up in front of approximately 50 other guests, however, after scanning your QR code they would split you into 2 groups, we were in the first part of the first group, but then they would let group 2 into the house before us, so people entered the house before us and they joined the standard queue well after us! Similar happened with Flight of the Sky Lion, they would allow the general ticket holders to join the holding area alongside you and then get them to enter the ride before those with Reserve and Ride, that comes across as elitist but it was annoying considering the price we had paid to queue jump.
- On several occasions, the staff would wave us through without scanning the QR code, or press ‘Cancel’ on the QR code, this is a nice thing for them to do (as it gives you more use or quicker turnaround for another ride), however, what that actually would do is make queues for the Reserve and Ride queues longer across the whole park, it makes the One Shot Bundles, Regular and Express better value for money though as you got more for your money if they cancelled it or didn’t scan, however, it makes the Ultimate pass less useful/worth it.
- Sometimes you would try and time it perfectly so the timer would end showing your QR code just as you got to the front of the Reserve and Ride small queue but sometimes it would take a minute or so, which would then hold up the queue as others were forced to go past you, on other occasions you.
- It doesn’t allow you to jump the queue on the hill train, although many seemed to use the disabled entrance.
The Great Parts of the Reserve and Ride System
- An 85-minute wait became 20 minutes, a 30-minute queue became 1 minute and so on.
- This allows you to maximise your day or go back on rides multiple times, we did 16 rides in a day (none of those were Ferris Wheel/Spinning rides which often had shorter queues), in comparison friends we spoke with who didn’t have Reserve and Ride did between 10 and 15 rides on two trips (without Reserve and Ride but including Ferris Wheel/Spinning rides).
- On the ultimate package, you didn’t have to stress, you just joined the queue system on your way to the next ride and by the time you got there it was done waiting most of the time.
- On the other packages with some pre-planning, you could get most of the benefits of Ultimate without much work
How to maximise the Regular and Express Reserve and Ride
- When your QR code has been scanned to enter a ride immediately start queuing for the next ride.
- Remember, once the QR code is shown on your phone it will remain on there until it’s used, so even if you don’t use it for 30 minutes it will be ready for when you need it
- Remember swapping out of a queue to another queue will reset the queue time, so double check you’re about to queue for the ride you really want
- Be nice to staff, they might allow you to skip the scanning or allow you to queue for another ride instead (this will obviously vary dramatically and cannot be relied upon)
Things you should 100% do:
- Take a refillable water bottle – There are free water refill points dotted around, if you forget consider the refillable Coca-Cola Freestyle Cups (these are £10 each or 2 for £11 for unlimited fizzy/still drinks but there were large queues to refill at times)
- Plan to go on a miserable day instead as rain = less people wanting to go so less queues (we went when it was 30°c and it was super busy)
- Take your own packed lunch in a rucksack, and eat it within the queues (watch out for some queues that say no eating) or look out for a the picnic areas (quite sparse). Don’t waste time going to sit down somewhere, that’s prime queuing time.
- The food and ice-creams are overpriced and not worth the long queues.
- Download the app a few days before you go, look at queue times 24 hours prior and make a bit of a plan
- Confirm the park closing time, we were led to believe it was at 5pm (the app said this as well), but in reality most of the rides were open until 6pm, meaning we could do multiple quickly.
- Arrive early (in the car park and parked up by 9.30am, our sat nav said arriving at 10:05, in reality we didn’t get out of the car until gone 10:30am as there were queues)
- If you don’t have Reserve and Ride 100% arrive early, start at 10, giving you 2 or 3 rides with little to no queue, two rides at the start might be over 60 mins later in the day!
- Leave late
- See if you can get cheaper entry via Clubcard, vouchers, employee discount, NHS discount etc
- Avoid summer holidays, weekends or busy times (appreciate this is almost impossible)
- Be prepared to queue, if you’re paying £20 for entry of £190 you will be queueing
- Understand that LEGOLAND is heavily understaffed and with little to no management streamlining the processes so it’s often infuriatingly slow at even the most simple of tasks, they could cut queue times in half if they just did a few simple changes.
- Understand that Merlin wants to get as much money out of you as humanly possible, car parking? that’s £10… lunch? That’s £35 for 2 of you… Drinks? £4 for a juice etc. Ice cream? £3.50 each etc. Taking your own food and drink is a really must in our opinion.
- Take a breather and try and enjoy it, especially if you’re like us and find it painful to see where someone can be doing a better job.
- Be polite and friendly to the staff, lots of the reviews indicated staff were miserable, rude, slow, lacked experience and foresight we found 95% of the staff were very friendly and just doing their best, clearly management are not giving them enough support and there is a clear lack of staffing meaning queues were much longer than they should have been. Being friendly especially on the lower tiers of Reserve and Ride would likely give you a few free queue jumps at the very least.
- Also be warned the LEGO shop on the way out is way too good, could easily be £75 spend – Buy some LEGO toys (with 10ways discounts) in advance and have them in the car instead!