Let’s be honest right from the get go; visiting a theme park is utterly exhausting.
Throw in two excitable kids and it’s throw your hands in the air exhausting.
AND if one of those kids takes their friend, well, you may as well sign away all semblance of sanity right there and then.
But what if said theme park says, why don’t you come and stay at our hotel? It’s just over the road. It’s rather new and you can literally fall into bed after a day of high thrills. We’d love you to review it.
Well you bite their arm off right up to the elbow, am I right?
We’ve been to Drayton Manor many times before. The kids absolutely love it. We’ve outgrown the Thomas Land area and pretty much moved right up to the Really Scary Stuff. The stuff I won’t go on anymore because I’m a wuss. What of it?
But at nearly 10, Dan and his friend are thrill seekers and happy for me to stand on the sidelines holding their coats!
So we trot on over to the new Drayton Manor Hotel – or one year old hotel – to throw ourselves on the bed and watch the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.
It’s a 4-star hotel no less.
“Every bit of the luxurious Drayton Manor Hotel caters to the modern family and business traveller”. Oooo
Facilities include well appointed contemporary rooms, WiFi, the Parklands Restaurant and Bar and for the children a video games room, character breakfasts and an outdoor play area.
The five of us are very excited.
We check in and, well, are a bit underwhelmed. The woman behind the desk gives us a bored run down of what, where, why and the kids sit in reception where this is nothing to do or look at or engage with except for a carousel encased in plastic slap bang in the centre. There are a couple of figures dotted around but pretty much everyone ignores them.
I’m starting to compare it to the Legoland Hotel with it’s buckets of bricks and fabulous minifigure reception wall. I know I shouldn’t and that not all hotels are going to have that WOW factor. But there is nothing to get the children excited about visiting a theme park here.
They just don’t seem to have thought about who their clientele are going to be.
Younger children are handed a Thomas the Tank-themed pack at check-in. Mine at nine and six get nothing. Not even an ‘are you excited to be here?’ from the receptionist.
Drayton Manor isn’t only about Thomas you know. My three look crestfallen.
But never mind. We go up to our room which is OK but hardly child-friendly (no park brochures in the room, no children’s drinks or biscuits, very functional, nice big telly, basic bathroom).
The sofa bed isn’t made up or even pulled out for us, and while there is a duvet and pillows in the wardrobe, there are no covers or pillow slips anywhere that I can find.
The boys sign in to use the free WiFi but boy, I’ve had better reception in an airport in Frankfurt. SOOO slow that it’s barely worth signing on to. I ask at reception if there is a problem with the WiFi but the girl there says no and that it’s a ‘bit rubbish anyway’.
Hmm, not so 4 star so far.
Before dinner we venture outside to the woodland play area. The kids LOVE it. I cannot drag them away. In fact the only thing that brings them back inside is that it’s getting so dark they can’t see. In fact the rest of the outside is rather lovely too as there is an outside seating area and some rather fabulous trees *ahem*.
And so to dinner. We enter the Parklands Restaurant and are greeted with lovely menus, colouring and puzzles for the kids in a nice, big, buzzing atmosphere.
However the food was adequate at best. Mine looked like it had seen the inside of a microwave a couple of times. We skipped pudding because, well, it took the service staff ages to do anything and we’d got a couple of bags of Maltesers back in the room which seemed much more appealing.
Here again the staff seemed slightly bored and less than 4 star.
(It’s Hunters Chicken by the way. There is chicken under that spot-welded splat of cheese!)
The following morning the breakfast buffet was OK, but twice I had to ask for items which hadn’t been replenished and was given a bored stare rather than an ‘of course, I’ll bring some more out. So sorry for the inconvenience’.
I think our overall impression of the hotel was that there just isn’t anything special about it. No pull for families to stay there (you can’t get into the park early like other theme park hotels offer) and the staff don’t even make any effort to make it special.
The park was fab though!