When I was a little girl, we didn’t go on fancy holidays. I didn’t have a sunny holiday abroad until I was 21. When I was young we tended to do camping holidays and I always remember camping at Flamingo Land fondly. My sister isn’t keen on holidays abroad and always books British resorts for her and her family to go on. After our awful Spanish holiday last May, we decided to just do British holidays with the kids this year. So when my sister booked to go to Flamingo land for a long weekend I thought we would book a weekend trip alongside them for nostalgia’s sake.
We booked a caravan for 2 nights (Friday/Saturday) which gave us access to the theme park/zoo for 3 days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). This cost £427 which we thought was a hefty amount to pay. But considering access to the theme park itself costs £45 for anyone in your party above three years old, if you have a lot of people staying in your van it starts to work out to be great value for money.
Two days before we were due to go, my nephew came down with chicken pox so my sister/mam cancelled their bookings. We had a bit of a dilemma that you will know all about if you follow my Instagram stories as I was asking my followers what they thought we should do – cancel or still go. In the end, it was too late for a cancellation so we just decided to go. I’m so pleased that we did. We all had a blast, but especially the kids. Arlo has been crying a lot since we returned saying he wants to go back so whilst that’s hard to watch, it is a sign of a much enjoyed trip.
Our caravan was a 3 bedroom ‘gold’ caravan which sleeps up to 6. It was situated on Hawthorn Way on the resort. It costs a standard £427 off season (you can pre-book with a £50 deposit) for a 2 night break (starting on either a Friday or Saturday night). As mentioned, when you stay at the holiday resort you get unlimited access for each day of your stay. This is from opening on the day of check in, until close of day of check out. Hawthorn Way is excellently located. It’s under a 5 minute walk (with slow kids) to the Theme Park entrance, or the supermarket/reception or the evening entertainment. It might be about 2-3 minutes realistically.
Check in to the caravan is not until 4pm but they do often have check in earlier than that too. It just depends if your van is ready so definitely ask them. When we arrived at our caravan, we were pleasantly surprised that despite not having booked the best caravan on offer, it was modern and spacious. We were more than happy with it. It was all safe for Lena. There was a separate toilet to the shower room which meant that no one was hogging the toilet when one of us needed a shower like on our last caravan holiday to Haggerston Castle.
When we arrived, the children were running excitedly round and round the coffee table. Papa Ginge and I had a cuddle and watched them, remarking how wonderful it was to be able to give them an experience that they were so excited about. We reminisced on times in our own childhoods where we had felt the same on holidays. For me, it was like coming full circle as I remembered my own childhood in the same place and reflected on how it must have been for my parents stood in my shoes back in the 90s. I also thought that the two week camping holiday we had there must have been hell for my parents and it’s a testament to their love for me and my sister.
Issues with the caravan
The only criticism I had of the caravan was that it was wobbly so every time someone walked you could really feel the van wobble which was annoying (especially when our toddler was sleeping). Our caravan (number 48) was right next to the bushes and there were a lot of birds out there. They were noisy, squawking a lot and banging around on the roof. My two year old sleeps like crap anyway so I could have done without them giving her the extra encouragement to wake.
On the last morning, when we were washing up getting ready to check out, the sink started flooding. When we looked we could see the waste pipe wasn’t connected at all, this caused a bit of inconvenience with Papa Ginge having to fix the pipe and us having to use our towels to mop up the water. We had to pull all the pans etc from under the sink out. I reported it to the resort and someone came out very quickly to fix it. When he saw it was fixed well he joked with Papa Ginge that he could have a job if he wanted. So just one of those things, not a big deal, just a little inconvenient.
Holiday Village amenities
All Holiday Village guests have exclusive use of the Splash Zone leisure centre. This includes a large swimming pool, two flume slides and water jets, two kids’ slides, plus a gym, sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room and the Poolside Cafe. There is a nine-hole golf course too which we didn’t have time to check out on our visit.
We did go to the swimming pool on our first morning there to make use of it before the theme park opened at 10am. It was easy to go and use – reception just gave us a band. Lockers are a refundable £1. There were larger family lockers and large family changing rooms with good baby changing stations. The changing rooms were clean and tidy. The pool itself was nice and warm. The kids really enjoyed it.
The splash park outside looked like it would be great fun on a hot summers day but unfortunately it was a bit too cold for it when we were there. We spent about an hour at the pool and then popped back to the caravan to get showered and dressed, eat and put Lena down for her nap. Lena slept atrociously the first night in the caravan so she and I were both feeling it on the Saturday so we both had a nap together. While we napped, the boys hit the theme park. Then once Lena woke up we re-grouped again.
The supermarket was right next to the reception area – just a few minutes’ walk from our caravan. I was hesitant to buy stuff from the onsite supermarket. I know from past experience how resorts usually heftily inflate the prices as they know customers usually don’t have any other choice. We popped to the supermarket and packed a cool box prior to the trip but I’m happy to report we didn’t need to.
The supermarket was both well stocked and reasonably priced. Most of the products were sold at the RRP – usually displayed on the product packaging. They had pretty much everything you could need. I remembered how big the supermarket and village seemed to me as a girl and how now, it didn’t seem that big at all. Its worth noting, that I also noticed a Tesco van making a delivery to a caravan as well so it seems that there is also the option to have your groceries delivered straight to your accommodation which is handy.
There is also an onsite laundrette but we were only there for a short time so didn’t need to use it.
I was really impressed by all the Holiday Village amenities – it was all so handy and conveniently placed.
The theme park
The theme park was where we spent most of our time. Prior to visiting, I had feared that my 5 year old would be going on something with either me or his dad, whilst one of us would be left holding our wailing two year old who would be upset because she was too little to go on it. But there were only two rides that she couldn’t go on. Most of the kids rides were appropriate for adults to go on with their children too. This was ideal as it meant we got to experience it as a whole family and I wasn’t expecting that. We had a great time on some of the rollercoasters (with Arlo shouting ‘THIS IS SO MUCH FUN’ with a huge grin on his face).
We loved the ‘hot air balloons’ right next to the Holiday Village entrance where all four of us got to sit in a balloon together. That was the first ride we went on after arrival and the last one we went on when we left, making it a lovely hello and goodbye to the park for us. We also loved the wagon wheel which all four of us got to sit on together and afforded us great views of the zebras and giraffes. We enjoyed the cable cars across the park towards the end of our stay. I wish we had gone on them earlier as they help you get a sense of the park’s layout. I think I would have found navigating the park easier if I had made that one of the first things I had experienced.
Least favourite rides
The only rides we didn’t really enjoy was the mischief mansion haunted house which we spent a long time queuing for and it was very dated. I think it was all the same as when I went on it in the 90s – if not it certainly felt like that. We also found the car ride opposite the haunted house a bit boring. We found the clown ride next to dino-land dull too. Everything else we had a blast on and I think we tried pretty much every kids ride.
There was no queuing at all on the Friday, a bit of queuing on the Saturday and the Sunday had some queues but less than the Saturday. If I was visiting again, I would plan more of my zoo time in for the sunday when the queues are longer.
One of the areas we loved was the children’s planet area. There was a little farm there and there was a fantastic tractor ride where all four of us fit in the tractor. The kids had a steering wheel each at the front so they thought they were driving. Papa Ginge and I sat in the back, thankful to sit down for five minutes as the tractor meandered through the farm past the rabbits, ducts, goats and cows. We went on it twice as we enjoyed it so much. There was also a great adventure park there with sand pits and climbing frames all around a meerkat enclosure.
There was a smaller playground outside the Mansion House Tea Rooms too which would have been relaxing to get a cuppa or pint at and watch the kids if Lena hadn’t been intent on starting a fight with one of the legendary Flamingo Land peacocks. I’ve never ran so fast as I did when she went to grab one of their tails.
We also enjoyed the dino area. It took us a wee while to convince a poor distraught Arlo (5) that the (weathered) mechanical life size T-Rex wasn’t real. Bless him, he was terrified. Meanwhile Lena (2) just shouted, growled and pointed at it and told it that it was naughty. The kids really loved the sand pit in the dino area. There were fake dino skeletons under the sand and the kids got to pretend to be palaeontologists with dusters and spades. They played there until Papa Ginge and I got so bored that we had to drag them off for a new activity.
It wasn’t a ride but Papa Ginge and the kids also had the time of their lives at the grabbers. They won 4 Troll toys (including a Poppy that’s been out of stock in the shops since we tried to get it for Lena’s birthday back in February). It’s fair to say they were all thrilled. I don’t even want to know how much he spent on them. I just hope it was less than we would have bought them for. As an aside, they were £16.95 in the souvenir shop and go for £10 online so that shows you how much of a mark-up they’ve got going on in that shop – FYI before you take your kids in and come out bankrupt.
I loved the zoo but the rest of the family didn’t seem too fussed. A lot of the animals seemed to be hiding away on our visit. We couldn’t spot any tigers. We briefly saw the lions but they were in a place we couldn’t see much. My favourite animals were the baboons. There were a lot of babies and I enjoyed watching them breastfeed and carrying around their young. Papa Ginge commented that we didn’t have as much control over our kids as the baboons did over theirs! He wished our young were as well behaved as the baby baboons. I think this says something more about my children than it does about the baboons. We all enjoyed riding on the mono-rail around the baboons. The kids thought a ‘choo-choo’ in the sky was super cool.
I’m always hesitant about visiting animals in enclosure but they do seem well cared for and like they have lots of space at Flamingo land. I like the work they do with York University and their conservation work. They seem to do a fair amount of work in trying to get species that are extinct in the wild re-introduced to the wild too.
Fabrizio’s Pizzeria and Ristorante
We tried to keep costs down by making our food in the caravan but we did eat in the park a couple of times for a treat. On our first night we went to Fabrizio’s Pizzeria and Ristorante. Unfortunately, Lena was being an excited handful so instead of eating in the restaurant where she would just want to run around, we ordered pizzas to take back to the caravan with us. We got a margherita and a pepperoni costing around £17. The pizza was really nice, thin stonebase and tasty toppings. We really enjoyed it.
Upper Deck Fish Restaurant
On our second day we ate at the Upper Deck Fish Restaurant. We were tempted there because it has an offer on where kids eat for £1 if you buy a main. It also has a soft play area right next to the restaurant. This meant the kids could let off some steam while we waited for our food. Unfortunately though the food really let this restaurant down. The chips were luke warm and dry and it was all just a bit unappetising. We ordered the Upper Deck sharing platter £16.50 for us all to share and got one kids’ meal of sausage, chips, peas and baked beans for £7. We got a couple of alcoholic drinks (my wine wasn’t very nice either) which bumped the cost up but otherwise it would have come out at roughly the same price as the pizzas.
Personally, we thought the pizzas were much nicer. We wouldn’t go back to the Upper Deck which is a shame as the soft play makes it the perfect place to go. Other days we noticed people getting fish and chips from the outside counter and theirs looked much nicer so maybe we were unlucky, or its nicer from the outdoor counter. I’m not sure. My sister and her family have since visited and ate from the takeaway counter and said it was lovely so I’ve got a feeling our food had been standing around a while and that’s why it wasn’t very nice.
Mom’s Hot Dogs
Arlo also got a hot dog one day which cost £4, it supposedly came in a brioche bun. I’m not sure if the French language has changed and brioche now means stale or dry but it there wasn’t anything gourmet about it. He didn’t get any toppings on his (nor did he eat the bun, he gave it to Lena) so it might have been nicer with the toppings on offer. The sausage itself was a perfectly nice frankfurter.
I’m pleased we took/bought some stuff to make our own meals a lot of the time as there wasn’t really any healthy food at the outlets on the site. I don’t mind having a few greasy meals but I don’t feel good when it’s three meals a day like that.
There were a couple of staff members who were nice and chatty but I have to say, the vast majority we encountered were a bit miserable. No one upset us or treated us badly but they could certainly do with a bit of a charisma injection. If I were their manager I’d be scheduling some team training stat.
I was impressed with how clean and tidy all the toilets were kept. It’s a busy park and the toilets didn’t gross me out at all. Good work.
The Club is the night time entertainment venue featuring a programme of entertainment just for Holiday Village guests. I actually saw them turn away some day visitors as I was walking in which made me feel like a goddamn VIP. Until I realised that I was at Flamingo Land club on a Saturday night and I couldn’t be less A list. It has an arcade and bar area attached.
Now usually, I hate evening entertainment at these places. My kids LOVE it so much. The shows with the characters are EVERYTHING to Arlo. He makes me film them and he watches them back for YEARS afterwards. I feel like part of me dies a little each time I have to endure one of these ‘shows’ but that’s being a mam. His little face lighting up means I’d sit through them forever.
Papa Ginge is a OAP in disguise and gets a boner for bingo so he bought us some bingo books and a dabber. He then realised the error of his ways when we kept having to try and catch Lena who was running away whilst simultaneously monitor 5 grids (I don’t know what you call them) at a time.
I’ve not played bingo for years since I did it with my nana back in the day. I didn’t know what the hell was going on but I got more interested when they told me I could win £190. They were reading them out super fast and we only had one dabber. Papa Ginge kept hogging it too (selfish prick). Anyway, it came down to me needing just one more number for the full house for the £190. I was rabid with hope but alas someone pipped me to the post. All I’ve got to show for it are these ramblings and a shitty dabber that I’ll likely never use again.
Then it was time for the kids entertainment. First up was some tiny tots show at 7pm with a character in a big suit and nursery type rhymes. The kids both loved it. They both also loved dancing in between shows. Lena made a world record (I assume) for being the tiniest human to ever independently join a conga.
After this they had a super hero vs princesses show at 7.45pm which I was pretty impressed with. They had people dressed up as the characters singing the songs and doing the dances from films. There was Frozen, the Little Mermaid, Tangled, Mary Poppins, Spiderman, Batman, Power Rangers, Beauty and the Beast and more. The singing and dancing was good, as were the costumes. A lot of the time they were playing the film scene on the screen behind the actors.
All the kids (and us fools) were sat on the floor. The staff were good at making sure the kids sat down so everyone could see. Lena was stoked for Rapunzel when she came out and Arlo couldn’t believe his luck that the ‘real Spiderman’ gave him a high five. I think this was on until 8.20pm so resulted in a late bedtime for the kids but they had a blast so it was worth it (this is not what I was saying at 10.30pm when I was still trying to wrestle Lena to sleep in a caravan mind).
What could be better
One of my only real criticisms of the park is there isn’t anywhere near enough signage. I would really like to see some boards with maps on and more signs with directions. The park do give you a map but the day we were there was very windy making it hard to consult frequently. Additionally, Lena seemed to take real exception to the map being whole. Each time we got it out she would grab it and try to tear it. By the end we went through two maps and were trying to consult one in three pieces.
All in all
We are already looking back on this mini break fondly and talking about when (not if) we will return. The kids absolutely loved it and we had a great time too. It felt like a really good fit for both my 2 and 5 year old. The park felt like just a good size to feel big but not be too overwhelming. One day Arlo said when consulting the map ‘is that back on the other side of the world’. I remember it seeming so big to me when I was his age but it felt like nice exercise to me, with us hitting our 10,000 steps a day.
I’m so pleased I didn’t cancel the trip, it turned out so much better than I expected it to be. I just wish it was a little bit cheaper, at £427 it’s not something we could do often. I do plan to look into the camping rates too though as that might be an option next time if we feel brave!
If you want to get a true feel of the holiday, you can watch our family vlog of the trip below:
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Disclaimer: These reviews are in no way affiliated with Flamingo Land.
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