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Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2022 – our tips and advice

Annual passes and membership at top attractions across the UK in 2022 – our tips and advice

We investigate some of the popular annual passes for 2022 including Merlin, National Trust, English Heritage and Chester Zoo

There are so many amazing places to take children across the UK but the cost can really add up, especially over the holidays.

So is it worth splurging on an annual pass so you can visit your favourite places as often as you want? We investigate the most popular options for 2022.

This year sadly you will have to factor in whether these attractions will be open and accessible for you to visit.

Merlin Pass

The Octonauts ride at Alton Towers

Alton Towers

What is it?

The UK’s biggest annual pass offering entry to 32 Merlin attractions including Alton Towers, Legoland and more.

What do you get?

Entry to 32 attractions – London Eye, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, Sea Life Centres, LEGOLAND Windsor, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Madam Tussauds sites, Blackpool Tower, five Dungeon sites around the UK, Shrek’s Adventure.

You also get free car parking at theme parks and Warwick Castle (with a Premium Pass), 20 per cent off food and drink inside and discounted entry for family and friends.

How much is it?

The Standard Pass is £179 per person, £139 per person for a family pass for 3 or more people (maximum three over-12s).

The Premium Pass is £229 per person. £189 each for a family pass.

If you renew the pass after 12 months, the family price drops to £109 (standard) and £149 (premium).

Can I pay monthly?

Yes you can, with a new monthly membership option.

For the Standard Pass it costs £29.99 per person joining fee and then £8.99 per month per person.

The total cost over a year would be – £137.87 per person, similar to a family pass cost.

For the Premium Pass the cost is £34.99 joining fee and then £11.99 per month. The total cost is £178.87 per person, similar to an annual family pass.

Note: you have to sign up for a minimum of 12 months.

What about the small print?

The Premium Pass gives you entry to all attractions at all times plus priority entry to venues, a fast track pass voucher and free parking.

With the Standard Pass, you ARE restricted on which days you can use it at certain attractions.

In August and all UK Bank Holidays: No entry to any central London attractions including London Eye, Sea Life, Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon and Madame Tussauds London.

Valentine’s Day: No London Eye entry.

October half-term weekends around Halloween: No entry to London Dungeon.

Friday, Saturday or Sunday in August and September 1: No entry to Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington, LEGOLAND Windsor, Warwick Castle.

No free parking at any attraction with a Standard pass.

How much could you save?

The standard pass costs £46 per month for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children).

If you visited one attraction a month, Merlin’s website claims you will save £684 over a year compared with on-the-day entry.

You can use the Merlin Pass official calculator here.

However there are lots of 2 for 1 offers available online and via cereal packets and newspapers for most of these attractions, so nobody should be paying full price.

That makes the pass roughly the same price as a monthly visit to a Merlin attraction.

Verdict

In order to save money with this pass you need to visit more than 12 attractions in the year. If you are going to manage that then it could be good value.

Top tip

Look out for Merlin pass discounts – this usually happens in January and June. You can save between £20 and £50.

(For our reviews, tips and advice on LEGOLAND Windsor, click here).

National Trust membership

deer outside Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey

What is it?

An annual pass giving free entry to more than 500 National Trust parks, gardens and houses.

What do you get?

Free entry to National Trust sites, free parking at most car parks, a handbook and a National Trust magazine three times per year.

How much is it?

A family pass for 2 adults and up to 10 children (living at the same address) costs £126 per year.

For 1 adult and up to 10 children it is £78 per year.

Children under 5 go free anyway, so take that into account. You can pay by monthly direct debit if you prefer.

What about the small print?

It is relatively simple but there are some car parks not included for free. Sites like Stonehenge and Tatton Park, which aren’t exclusively run by the National Trust, can incur some charges.

You have to sign up for a year at a time and can only cancel when your renewal is due. Be sure to mark your renewal date in your diary so you don’t miss it.

How much could you save?

Average entry price to a large National Trust place is around £30 for a family of four so you can save a lot.

Car parking can be costly too, from £3 to £7 at a lot of places.

Membership costs £10.50 per month for a family with two adults and £6.50 for a family with one adult, so if you go to a NT site once a month or more, you canstart to save money.

Verdict

Good value for the sheer number of sites and car parks you can use, especially if you have a good selection near to you, as we do.

(We have lots of National Trust articles on this site, including reviews of Dunham MasseyQuarry Bank MillTatton Park, and our Famous Five trail in Dorset).

English Heritage membership

A visitor does a handstand in front of the stones at Stonehenge

Stonehenge

What is it?

A pass allowing access to 400 historic places including Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and more.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to 400 sites, free car parking, free entry for up to 6 children, a handbook, children’s activity pack and members’ magazine four times per year.

How much is it?

A family membership for 2 adults and up to 12 children costs £105 per year. For 1 adult and up to 6 children, it is £60.

What about the small print?

Not all events at English Heritage sites are free for members. They do get a reduced rate though.

You will get a reminder  letter one month before membership renewal. You must cancel at that time or pay for another year in full.

How much could you save?

Entry to each site varies in price. There are some for less than £20 for a family of four, but others come to £50.

You need to visit at least five English Heritage sites per year to start saving money.

If you need ideas then this is a good page on their website here.

Verdict

Lots of properties but if you also have National Trust membership as well, do you really need both?

(For our review of Stonehenge, click here).

Chester Zoo membership

An orangutan and a baby orangutan in a hammock at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo

What is it?

Annual membership to the most popular tourist attraction outside London.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to Chester Zoo, Fast track entry, 10 per cent discount in the zoo’s shops and cafes, a quarterly magazine, access to junior members’ events, one free entry annually at several other UK zoos (Bristol Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Newquay Zoo, Living Coasts, Marwell Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Twycross Zoo).

How much is it?

Individual adult membership is £95 and it is £53 per child, if paying by direct debit and £105 and £59 if not.

So family membership for 2 adults and 2 children is £245 per year by direct debit.

What about the small print?

Fairly straightforward, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You can go anytime. If you are using your free visit to another zoo you must take your membership card and membership letter.

How much could you save?

A day visit to Chester Zoo is up to £85 for a family of four booked in advance. There are rarely offers and discounts available.

You must all visit the zoo at least four times per year to start saving money.

Verdict

If you live close enough to visit regularly and have children who enjoy it, a Chester Zoo pass is a great family treat. Plus if you are members, you don’t feel you have to see every single animal and area each time and spend a whole day there for every visit, which is far more relaxed.

Top tip

If you are planning to visit, don’t miss our popular article Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money.

Review: A family trip to Stonehenge with children and our tips for visiting this wonder of the world

Review: A family trip to Stonehenge with children and our tips for visiting this wonder of the world

All you need to know about Stonehenge in Wiltshire

What is it?

Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe.

It is a huge man-made circle of standing stones, built over hundreds of years. Nobody knows exactly why Stonehenge was built, but people probably gathered there for religious ceremonies.

Research shows that the site has continuously evolved over 10,000 years. The structure that we call Stonehenge was built between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago and was once part of a larger sacred landscape.

With over 10 million visitors a year, Stonehenge is one of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions

Where is it?

It stands on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, England and its giant stones can be seen from miles around.

Highlights

Visitor Centre

There is a £27 million visitor centre, 1.5 miles from the stones, which opened in 2013. There is plenty of free parking and it is very nicely done.

The entrance to Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The entrance to Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Once you’ve got your tickets you can go into the new museum. Our children were encouraged to enter through a ‘magic door’ into a 360-degree video of Stonehenge in all weathers.

Our children loved pretending it was really snowing and it got them excited about the museum.

A 360-degree video of Stonehenge

A 360-degree video of Stonehenge

A 5,500-year-old skeleton and a timeline of Stonehenge proved the other most interesting items for our seven and three-year-old children in this museum.

Outside there are examples of how hard it was to move the huge stones and recreations of Neolithic Houses. You  can go inside them to see how some of the earliest settlers lived.

Reaching the stones

You can walk but it is 1.5 miles and would take a long time with small children. Stonehenge put on regular buses, every five minutes, shuttling from the visitors centre to the stones and back.

Our three-year-old loved the bus ride and it made the experience more exciting for her. You can stop off half way and walk up to the stones if you prefer but in February it was easier for us to take the bus all the way.

The bus you catch at Stonehenge from the museum to the stones

The bus to catch to the stones

The Stones

Visitors are dropped off a few hundred yards away and then make their way up a wide path.

You can get within about 30 yards of the stones, there are a range of viewing points but on a busy day it can be a battle to find a clear spot to take a photo.

Part of the fun is seeing tourists from around the world posing for their snaps – we even found one American doing a handstand! There are information boards around the site, which are child-friendly.

 

A visitor does a handstand in front of the stones at Stonehenge

What a pose

In conclusion

The facilities, which also include a shop and busy cafe, are good. The museum, although small, is thoughtfully done and the 4,500 year old stones inspired all ages.

At £50, it isn’t a cheap way to spend a couple of hours but this is a child-friendly attraction.

Top Tip

It costs £50 for a family ticket to Stonehenge but it is free to English Heritage and National Trust in England members (not National Trust Scotland members) if booked in advance.

If you take into account that family membership of either is around £100 per year (National Trust £114, English Heritage £96) it is worth joining before you visit.

If you are paying on the day, £50 is quite a lot for what will probably only take a couple of hours – unless you are going for a long walk in the woods on site.

Stonehenge information

Food: Picnics are welcome and there is a cafe near the shop in the visitor centre.

Opening hours: Varies depending on the time of year. Entrance through timed tickets.

Cost: Entry costs £49.40 for a family. Adult entry is £19.00, child (5-15) is £11.40. Free entry for National Trust in England (not Scotland) and English Heritage members if booked in advance.

Best for: ages eight to 15

Time needed: Two hours

Access and restrictions: The main areas are accessible by wheelchair.

Address: Stonehenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE

Have you been? Tell us what you thought of Stonehenge below.