I was first alerted to the existence of stay, splash and play stays at Cbeebies Hotel in Alton Towers thanks to a tweet by Kip Hakes alerting his followers that he was about to post some exciting info on cost-effective stays at Alton Towers. He sent me the link to his super cheap splash and play post, which I sent to my other half for consideration as he was planning a trip away with our 3 year old when he was on annual leave in December.
We are no strangers to CBeebies Hotel having stayed there twice previously, once with our two year old when I was 27 weeks pregnant and the second time with both kids one aged 3 and one aged 10 months. Although it had only been 4 months since we previously had visited, because the stay, splash and play prices were about a quarter of what we paid in the summer and the fact that our son who isn’t a massive talker still considers this place the best place in the world, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to take them both back (and I couldn’t resist a third chance to pose with my old pal, Ubercorn).
This hijacked Mark’s plans a little bit because he thought our eldest needed some one-on-one parent time, but we both agreed we couldn’t let the little one miss out as he likes to be involved and as he was now walking, he would love the activities even more.
We only booked the day before we were planning on going and we were pleasantly surprised that the prices didn’t increase (a 3-hour journey with possible bad weather/possible winter colds meant that we wanted to play it safe). It was £107 for the Bugbies room for one-night b&b for 2 adults, 2 children and one day pass to the waterpark. We double-checked that the entertainment was all on in the hotel and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was. The theme park was closed on the dates, which didn’t really bother us as we’ve found with previous stays, they’d stay in the hotel if they could anyway and you get to meet and greet the characters in the hotel, so the theme park isn’t crucial to us.
When we had started our three-hour journey to the hotel, Mark had a missed call from an Alton Towers number, we rang back as we didn’t want to travel further if there was an issue with the booking to find that they were ringing to offer a complimentary upgrade, but they’d offered it to someone else as Mark didn’t answer (nice one!). But thankfully there weren’t any problems. We picked up some M&S food on the way for a picky tea in the hotel room as I’ve mentioned before, we weren’t very impressed with the quality of the food for the price in The Windmill Restaurant (not a chance our 3-year-old would sit knowing the musical meadow was within running distance, either).
Everything runs exactly like normal in the hotel. The meet and greets and entertainment start after the check-in time of 3 pm. Postman Pat is the first meet and greet available, but the hotel lobby has plenty of Bugbie based activities and the musical meadow shows Cbeebies shows on the big screen in between activity times.
Entertainment is usually in 30-minute intervals and is a combination of meet and greets (Postman Pat, In the Night Garden) and shows including meet and greets (Octonauts, Bing, Ubercorn’s Disco) and shows from the hotel entertainment team which involve singing, dancing, musical instruments and shows such as Swashbuckle and Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures. Bing’s Big Sleepover at 7pm has been the most popular show every time we have been (especially with our eldest, he didn’t a big fan of hugs but there was no stopping him with his favourite characters).
We’ve been in June, August and now December and obviously the level of occupation is quite different, hence the price, but the level of queuing to meet characters was the best in December! It was very easy to get a seat in the musical meadow too, which we’d struggled with before, especially in August.
We opted for the Bugbies room as normal as we thought it could be quite expensive going forward if the childrens’ expectations were raised to one of the suites! When we looked, the character rooms were only around £40 more, but with no Bing room, the hotel did itself out of any further money from us on this occasion. Rooms are always clean and (ridiculously) bright. It was a little on the cold side and the air con/heating thing didn’t really seem to do anything, that was the only negative I have about going in December.
There were plenty of times available for booking breakfast and there was a good selection of hot and cold food available as always. They could do with having more serviettes out for people to grab as kids can be messy and the take away of finished with plates wasn’t as fast as it has been on previous stays. Our eldest is currently dairy-free and they had a selection of dairy-free milk available, which was a relief.
Check out was 10 am and they let you keep the lanyards and wrist bands, which always goes down a treat with my two! The wrist bands are proudly worn a lot! The waterpark opens at 10, so there is a seamless transition. Parking is available close to the waterpark as well, which is helpful because no one wants to be confronted with the thought of trying to explain to a child that they can’t go back into Cbeebies Hotel if they see it!
The waterpark entrance was actually via the conference centre in the winter months, which we totally missed the small signs on the lamp post for, therefore we parked in the wrong car park and had a bit of a hike with the two children. It looks as though you’re walking into the splash landings/alton towers hotel rather than the waterpark as there are no signs, so it was a bit of a wander down hotel corridors to find the waterpark. When we did it was 20p per locker, which they were very happy to supply change for and the changing/locker areas were clean with plenty of families changing rooms.
I’m not the greatest fan of water, so I intended on putting the little one in his rubber ring and staying in the shallow pool. Unfortunately, he’s not the greatest at regulating his body temperature and after about 10 minutes in the pool, I noticed his lips were turning blue. He was almost 15 months old at this point and he is quite dainty for his age, but I wouldn’t recommend going to the waterpark for any child under this age during the winter months. There were also a lot of pipes etc so there was quite a lot of splashing (I know it’s called Splash Landings, but I was surprised at how little room there was in the small pool to navigate around the baby getting splashed in the face, but maybe that’s just me because as I’ve said, I’m not the biggest fan of water). They do allow you to keep your towels close and take in supplies, so thankfully I sat on a seat for a while and wrapped him up to get him warm again. The main pool was better but it isn’t somewhere you could stay with a little one all day, in my opinion. The three-year-old absolutely loved it, he loved the ride on floats, the walk around water play, the slide he was able to go on and getting us to climb up to where the bell occasionally dropped and splashed everyone. He would have stayed all day had we not had the little one with us.
The main waterside restaurants weren’t available but there was a small cafe which you could get food from, so I had a cash card with me poolside, which seemed a bit weird, I’m not sure if there is another system that operates in summer months. The fast-food chicken fillet, chips, and organic apple drink deal was OK priced and was really nice, the hotel restaurant should take note!
Overall, we would definitely go back on one of these deals again, but if I had my way I would give the water park a miss next time. It’s just not my thing and slightly too old for my little one for a couple of years until he is around aged three. The hotel is still a massive bargain even without the waterpark. We did get a pass for the golf too, which we didn’t use, so maybe if the weather was reasonable I would suggest the family doing that next time.