“Look mummy! There’s the Fat Controller!” shouted an over-excited Big Bear running off into Thomas Land.
I ran after him. “Nope, that’s just a daddy in a black t shirt with his family,” I replied as I tried to steer him away before the man heard.
Visit Thomas Land with autism and you’re in for a magical family adventure (apart from awkward moments like these) That was our first visit to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor. We’ve been twice. The first time was for Big Bear’s fifth birthday. He enjoyed it so much we went again a year later for his sixth.
Thomas Land is part of Drayton Manor theme park in Tamworth, Staffordshire. It worked so well for us as a day out that I wanted to share our experience and give you a few tips along the way of things we learned. This isn’t a collaboration or an advert. We paid for our own tickets and this is our experience:
It pays to do a bit of research before you buy your tickets to Drayton Manor as it’s one of the few attractions we have been to where carers don’t get in free. However, there are discounts available.
Max Card holders can get up to 49 per cent off admission (for up to 10 people) and 20 per cent discount at The Grill Inn restaurant at the park. If you haven’t got a Max card, go to the website and check for your nearest distributor. It offers free entry and discounts to a load of attractions across the country. The cards are £3 each and last for two years.
Drayton Manor often has its own offers on so check its website and also do a google search before you go to find the best price.
Paying for tickets on the Drayton Manor website in advance will get you in a bit cheaper than paying on the day. There are small discounts for carers and children with additional needs.
You can use your Family Fund Card to purchase admission tickets at the gate. To use your Family Fund Card within the park you will need to visit Guest Services and have funds transferred onto an ICare Card, you will then be able to use this in the shops and catering outlets.
Guests who have a disability or a condition that might affect their ability to queue, can ask for an access band and accompanying carer card. This entitles them to queue at the exit, making the wait much shorter. They are valid for 10 rides.
To obtain one, you’ll need valid photographic ID for the recipient plus confirmation of Disability Living Allowance (or similar) or a GP letter on headed paper. The bands are available from Guest Services, which is located opposite the Bounty Pirate Ship near the lake. It’s not far from the entrance of the park.
However, Drayton Manor has brought in a new system for 2019. During peak periods (weekends/school holidays) some of the attractions will operate with timing restrictions for those with access bands. People will not be permitted to access the listed rides in less than 30-minute intervals. Affected rides include: Accelerator, Buffalo Coaster, Maelstrom, Stormforce 10, Troublesome Trucks, Winston’s Whistle-Stop Tours, The Bounty Pirate Ship, and Sodor Railway.
The Bears were so excited when we arrived. The first thing we did was head straight to Guest Services where the friendly staff issued us with two access bands, one for each bear.
We didn’t need to use them for every ride but they were hugely useful on some of the busier rides like the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster and the Thomas, Rosie and Percy rides to the Spencer’s Outdoor Adventure Play area.
The park has around 20 themed rides, an indoor play area and outdoor adventure playgrounds plus entertainment from the Fat Controller throughout the day.
We let The Bears take the lead on which rides they wanted to go on and in what order. Thomas Land is big enough to entertain them all day but small enough to let them go on rides more than once and still get to see everything.
Harold’s Helicopter Tours, Sodor Classic Cars, and James and the Red Balloon were favourites for The Bears.
Be aware that the exit for Winston’s Whistle-Stop tours goes through the huge souvenir shop. The first time we went it caught us off guard and Big Bear ended up having a huge meltdown.
Food and drink
There are lots of places to buy food in Thomas Land but both times we went we took a picnic as there are plenty of picnic areas to eat outside. Luckily it didn’t rain while we were there but if it does, the attraction recommends eating under the teashop canopy.
Where to stay?
Drayton Manor has a hotel on-site with themed Thomas rooms. It also has a Camping and Caravanning Club site.
Meanwhile, there are two Premier Inns in Tamworth.
We live about two hours from Drayton Manor so we just went for the day. The Bears love a car picnic so they had their breakfast in the car on the way there and we stopped off for fish and chips on the way home. We timed the journey back to coincide with bedtime so they put on their pyjamas after fish and chips and fell asleep.
We loved both our visits to Thomas Land. The staff are very friendly and even though we went during school holidays, it still didn’t seem overcrowded. There’s enough here to keep a young family entertained all day.
- If you enjoyed An autism guide to Thomas Land – visit Thomas Land with autism, read: A Visit to Mattel Play Liverpool
- Looking for more ideas for holidays and days out? Join my free Facebook Group – Travelling the Spectrum – for lots of suggestions, hints and tips from real parents.