A family day out

By | Category: travel, Travel rumblings


On this bank holiday weekend, the last before Christmas for most of us, many families will head out for one last visit before the school holidays end at one of the theme parks or attractions. This could be an expensive weekend!

My Voucher Codes recently surveyed 1,000 British families and found that 90% of them felt that they were being priced out of visitor attractions both at home and whilst on holiday abroad.

Having not seen how the questions were worded, you could be forgiven for thinking that asking anyone about pricing might result in a feeling that prices were higher. Obviously prices have gone up but by how much? And how high has inflation gone up over the period?

Thorpe Park

Also to be borne in mind is that these prices are those to be bought on entry and many attractions and theme parks offer discounts or deals. But it does allow a basis for comparison.

My Voucher Codes looked at the pricing charged for a family of four to visit attractions and theme parks in four parts of the world but let’s just concentrate on the UK. They compared prices in 2008 and 2018 – an eleven year gap – during which cumulative inflation rose by about 30% depending on which measure you use.

Even if I were to say the inflation rate was double 30% the results that My Voucher Codes found are surprising. And remember that during this time, real wages have increased by less than inflation for most of us giving us proportionately less to spend.

Eden Project

the Eden Project in Cornwall

Back in 2008 a family of four would have to spend £86 going to Chessington World of Adventure, £88 to go to Thorpe Park and £98 to go to Alton Towers. Drayton Manor would have cost just £66 but Legoland Windsor was £122 The Eden Project in Cornwall would cost a lowly £36 and Blackpool Tower would have cost not much more at £46.

Roll on eleven years and there is a very different story.  Chessington now costs £228, an increase of 160.87% or over five times the rise in inflation. Thorpe Park would cost you £220 and Alton Towers -£206.  The only other pricing to break the £200 barrier is Legoland Windsor which now costs £240.

In April 2008, the average weekly wage was £479 according to the Office of National Statistics. In April 2018 it stood at £516. In 2008 working for just over a quarter of the week to pay for a family ticket Legoland Windsor. In 2018 it would have taken over 46% of that week’s income to pay for the same ticket. Whether that 90% that My Voucher Codes who felt they were being priced out of going to theme parks and attractions were aware of this discrepancy is unlikely. But in their bones or whatever they based their judgement on they certainly were right that it was costing disproportionately more.

Beamish - the living museum

inside the Beamish sweet shop

Legoland Windsor was used as an example because they charge the most for a family ticket but the top 27 in the list of attractions that My Voucher Codes considered broke the 30% barrier. The attraction rated at 28th – Edinburgh Dungeon – saw prices over the eleven years rose just 14.75% to £63.80. Even better from a consumer point-of-view was Beamish in Couty Durham where a family ticket price actually dropped from £60 in 2008 to £45 today.

Overall, MY Voucher Codes says that the average increase in family ticket prices over the eleven years in the UK was 80.76% which is well above inflation and substantially about average wage growth.

Admittedly percentage increases can be misleading because a n organisation might charge less for a period to attract visitors but in the case of the My Voucher Codes analysis, the increases were significantly high across most of the attractions.

Is it any better overseas? Without local wages to compare against all we can do is to look at the percentage increases over time.

Minnie & Micky Mouse


In the USA – two companies dominate the theme park market; Disney and Universal. Without them Anaheim in California and Orlando in Florida might be very different places today.

Universal Orlando charges the most for a family ticket at $670 per day whilst Disney charges $476. In Anaheim, the Universal family ticket price is $516 whilst Disneyland is $468. All of these prices have risen by over 58% in the last eleven years but here the percentage increase isn’t as importance as the sheer high prices that are charged. Even more so than in in Europe, how many people turn up and pay the full rate? Coupons, vouchers, discounts are legion in the USA so it is difficult to gauge what effect there is on people’s wallets.

Taking Europe as a start, the four biggest theme park would be Europa Park in Germany, Efteling in the Netherlands, Legoland in Denmark and Disneyland Paris. Overall, My Voucher Codes says, European attractions cost – on average – 63.24% more in 2018 than 2008. That is a lot less than the UK but still quite a large increase.

Today a Europa Park family ticket will cost you 57.14% more, so below the European average. In fact all the four come below the European average. Legoland‘s family ticket is 58.63% more; Efteling’s is 48.15% more and Disneyland Paris is 35.14%.

Centre Pompidou

On the face of it you could say that the Pompidou Centre in Paris, that haven of modern art named after the contemporary art loving and perpetually Gauloise smoking president, Georges Pompidou, which saw a 40% increase in a family ticket is excessive given overall inflation was never that high in France. But that was a rise to just €28. Compare that to a family ticket to the Louvre which costs €68 and has increased by 161.54% over the same time. The Pompidou price is now looking like good value but so is the Louvre at just €60 compared to a Disneyland Paris family ticket at €252.

But would most families opt for the Louvre over Disneyland? Even then, Disneyland Paris can’t push prices too far ahead of its competitors as it is €54 more than Europa Park and €92 over Efteling.

Are there lower prices in Europe because families are resistant to the increases that we are paying? Is it because costs haven’t risen as much as in the UK?  Is it because there are more attractions to be found in Europe and hence more competition?

I don’t know the answer but I do wonder how much longer people in the UK will accept these ever-increasing prices which are consuming more and more of their wages.


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