Anyone who knows us well will know that we love going away! As Toby would struggle with a long break (never mind going abroad) we tend to have lots of little breaks rather than big holidays. Last weekend we booked a very last minute trip to Drayton Manor to see our favouite little engine and enjoy some much needed time away from the business of everyday life.
Thomas Land is based in Drayton Manor theme park which is about three hours away from where we live so a little far to go there and back in a day. Although Toby isn’t the world’s greatest sleeper we decided to book a family room in a Travelodge and travel down Friday evening so that we could make the most of the Saturday at the theme park. I only really started worrying that he wouldn’t sleep on the journey down and had visions of us sitting outside in the car with him all night or pushing him round the service station next door in his buggy at 2am. We just prayed and thankfully he slept 10pm-4am which is pretty good for him in a new place. Keeping him occupied at 4am in a Travelodge while Teddy was still asleep in the same room was interesting but we survived!
Due to it being the Christmas season the theme park only had a limited number of rides open and because of this tickets were much cheaper than normal. All of Thomas Land was open (which was all that really mattered to us) as well as a few smaller rides. There were also Santa visits available, a 4D Polar Express viewing as well as Christmassy shows and decorations.
We booked our tickets online as due to only certain rides being open tickets were much cheaper than usual and we still got a reduced rate for a disabled person and carer. My Max Card also have a discount on ticket prices which is a great saving during the main season if you have one of those.
The park opened at 9:30am, however the rides didn’t run until 10:30am so we timed it so that we had to just enough time to get a ride pass from Guest Services for Toby (as he can’t queue) before the rides actually started. More info about access for guests with additional needs can be found here – www.draytonmanor.co.uk/useful-info
Teddy loved seeing all his favourite characters and literally bounced around the park, Toby clapped and flapped and enjoyed the rides – especially the Troublesome Trucks Rollercoaster. We did have a bit of an issue waiting onboard Thomas (yes actual Thomas!) for a train ride to the adventure playground. There was lots of lights, noise and excitable people (very overstimulating) and although we were in a carriage by ourselves Toby become very distressed as he wanted the ride to go and we had to wait. He just didn’t understand why we were on a train and it wasn’t going anywhere…and because he can’t speak, his way of expressing that is to lash out and scream. Thankfully he soon calmed down as soon as Thomas started to go…phew!
They both loved the playground and we had our picnic lunch there too. The disabled toilets at the playground also had a bench for changing which was great as often these type of places just have a fold out baby changing station….which with a five year old that isn’t ideal!
By about 1pm Toby was getting a bit overwhelmed, even though he was queue jumping he was getting stressed waiting for the safety checks before the rides started and was ‘peopled out.’ I found somewhere quite and took him for a walk in his buggy and he had a little sleep. It always amazes me how he can go to sleep somewhere busy when he’s stressed…but not at home without medication. It’s obviously a coping strategy he uses as he used to do it at toddler groups when he was little – he would just cuddle up on my knee in the middle of a noisy room and go to sleep! Teddy enjoyed the soft play and a few more busier rides while Toby slept which was nice for him. Toby didn’t really sleep for long and woke up stressed…one of the songs that they were playing (a Thomas and friends Christmas song) really upsets him. This song used to be a favourite of his and he would play it over and over again on his iPad, however if it comes on these days he covers his ears and screams. Just shows how something so simple can have a huge impact on him.
By 2pm he was ready to leave and we headed home having all had a fun day out. It was lovely to see lots of children (and a couple of adults too) with additional needs enjoying a family day out. We had lots of understanding smiles and nods from other parents and carers which is always nice. Thank you Drayton Manor for catering so well for guests with disabilities – it really does make a big difference!