In August 2018 we visited Legoland Windsor as our family holiday. My little boy, J is autistic. Going on days out and over night stays are stressful but we love to do them as they are such great experiences. J loves Lego. We spent a lot of time watching the various Lego movies and Tv shows. We build Star Wars spaceships with Lego sets and he gets the Lego magazine most months as a treat. We figured that going to Legoland would be the perfect holiday for him. So we decided to stay in the Legoland hotel and spend two days at the park.
I have split our review into two. This review is all about taking a child with Autism and the details that I wanted to know when booking. If you want to read a more general overview and details of our visit you can read it here in the alternative review.
Planning the visit
We booked online as it was quick and easy. All the information you needed was available on the website. Once booked I went on youtube to find videos of Legoland Windsor. We spent time watching the videos together. We talked about the noises, what we could see, who was going etc. He spent the next few weeks rewatching these videos and planning where he wanted to go (even who was going to sit next to him on each ride). We managed to get an old map from a friend too. We looked at this together so we could see where things were and what services were available. It did make it easier on the day as we had idea where things were.
To help with the long car journey I downloaded activities from Twinkl. They were all Lego themed to get us in the ‘Lego mood’. They were also handy to have in the hotel room so I could get sorted in relative peace.
Packing for the visit
Things we packed specificially for J’s need:
- Symbol cards
- Ipad and charger
- Buggy with large cover (to use a his safe space)
- Ear Defenders
- Sensory distraction toys
- DLA and reports from professionals
- His bedtime teddy and favourite bedtime story.
This meant J had home comforts for when we were in the hotel and he had distractions and ways to helpful himself sensory regulate in the park. We took snacks as we weren’t sure what food would be available that he’d eat…or even IF he’s eat as he doesn’t usually eat much when he’s somewhere new.
We applied for the Q-Bot system. This is a virtual queue (for the pass holder and 3 other riders) which meant we didn’t have to stand in the busy crowds which was sometimes up to an hour. You select your ride and then it gives you a time to arrive. We spent that time getting food, looking at models and going in the sensory room. There’s no way J would have managed the crowds, sounds and atmosphere of queues. He would have been in meltdown before we even got to the ride so the Q Bot was extremely helpful. To apply you will need to check out the list of required documents on the website. We took J’s DLA forms and a letter from his paediatrician. This was easily accepted (you can apply online as long as you do it in plenty of time for you visit, otherwise just take proof to Guest Services).
The Q-Bot is to be used on your mobile phone so make sure that you a) have good battery b) you have mobile data (there was wifi but it wasn’t great). The good news is there are charging points in the park and hotel rooms have lots of plug sockets. The only negative about the Q-Bot system is that you are not the only one using it. This means others may arrive for their slot the same time as you, or if it’s very busy the ones in front of you might not have had their go yet meaning you DO have to physically queue.
Also, the QBot doesn’t take you to the front of the queue on every ride. It just places you closer to the front. This wasn’t explained well and did cause upset. This was particularly difficult in the Lego Ninjago Ride. We waited almost 10 minutes in the Q-bot queue, then another 5-10 minutes in the main queue (bare in the mind the original queue was an hour so it was a shorter). It was overwhelming for J as there was red lighting, lots of noise, lots of TV screens dotted around plus the build up of the actual ride. We found he wasn’t as relaxed as he was on other rides as he was already close to his limit by the time we got on. I would have chosen a much quieter time if I had known.
The hotel is very family friendly. It can be a bit of a sensory overload risk as there’s music, sounds from the displays, sounds from people, lots of colour and things to look at and touch etc. Daddy took J to explore the big ‘pool’ of Lego whilst I checked in. You can’t officially check in till 3pm however, you can get a temporary guest pass so you can use the facilities straight away. J was definitely overstimulated but after a 3 hour car journey plus the excitement of finally arriving it wasn’t unexpected. We had a little explore so he could see what was about and acclimatise to the sounds around us. We then went off into the park.
I go into more details about the hotel room in my family review post, however from an additional needs family point of view the room had just one real ‘challenge’ for us. This was the hotel room door. There is only a basic lock which is easy for a child to open. There’s no chain/bar or anything out of reach to lock the door. J can be a flight risk and if he misunderstands an instruction, hears someone in the corridor etc then he will go straight to the door to open it. During the day/evening it’s fine but it did make me a little anxious when it was time for me to go to sleep. I ended up sticking some bits in front of the door so I would hear if he tried to get out. The fact the kids beds are right next to the door also added to my anxiety (although he did end up in our bed at 3am so didn’t need to worry in the end).
However the room is spacious, has lots to explore and there’s a ‘treasure hunt’ where the prize is found when you open to the ‘vault’. This amused J for ages. There’s also a TV in the children’s area which has a dedicated Lego channel. This was perfect for us. The bathroom had a child’s toilet seat so that was a bonus too. Security wise, there is the bonus of a card system where you cannot access the lift without it. This means that children can’t just take themselves off as easily.
Inside the hotel there’s plenty to do. There’s a swimming pool (booking essential), PS4 room (warning, it does get crowded and often the children are unsupervised so it can be a bit overwhelming for a child who is autistic), Duplo and Lego ‘pools’ to free build and there’s evening entertainment (J needed his ear defenders as it was a bit much for him). There’s an onsite buffet style restaurant which offers evening meal (just be aware if your child has a restricted diet then it is very expensive and may not have the food you’d expect) and breakfast. You can get into the main park through the hotel too, and you get early entry in the morning which is a bonus as its much quieter at this point.
The park itself is like many other theme parks. It gets busy and crowded, which makes it loud. There’s also dressed up people doing the rounds (which is great fun if your child can cope with this). Each area will have ‘theme music’ playing which adds to the sound. We found the buggy a huge help. J could sit in it with his ear defenders and it helped him to feel secure…and I felt better knowing he was safe. It’s not too difficult to push the buggy around. There is a large hill near the entrance but there is a ‘Hill Train’ that you can take to get up and down.
There’s lots of great ‘distractions’ for times where you have to wait, keep away from an area or just when you want to sit down for a minute. There’s displays to look at, little play areas to explore and (at an extra cost) there’s ‘fair ground’ style games and prizes to win. The ‘Ninja Training’ light challenge in Lego Ninjago area kept J amused for ages whilst I had a drink and we waited for our turn on the next ride (and it was free).
There are toilets dotted around, and access to disabled toilets via radar key (available from local tourist information services or online on amazon). We used the disabled toilets as the main toilets have hand driers and are crowded. The disabled toilets also had hand driers and no paper towels which is a little disappointing. We had to use toilet tissue to dry J’s hands. I’m happy to say there is a Changing Places facility for those of you who require a changing bed to change nappies or pads. There’s also hoist facilities in there too!
There’s the option to hire a wheelchair and pushchairs if you cannot bring your own. There’s more information about this on the website.
The rides vary from fast paced rollercoasters to the relaxing boat ride. There’s information on the rides online so you can plan which ones will and will not be suitable. Most rides are outside based which makes them feel more opened. Some rides you sit and enjoy, others you get involved in (such as the firefighter training academy).
There’s pretty much a ride for everyone. But if your child isn’t a ‘ride’ kind of child then there’s the playparks, splash zone and the amazing models to have a look at. As long as your child likes Lego then you’ll find something to do and see.
The Sensory Room
This year Legoland opened their sensory room. It. Is. Amazing! The room is designed as a quiet space for children with additional needs. There are lights, mirrors, interactive floor projections, buttons to press, things to feel and pull on. There’s also a sofa and TV for having a cuddle or relax. It’s monitored by staff so it’s kept quiet and minimises how many people are in it at a time. It’s the perfect place to go to when it has all gotten a bit much and the meltdowns or shutdowns have started (or threatening). It’s free and you simply just turn up when you need to use it.
There is a quiet time option between 2-3pm every day in the Star Wars display. This is probably the one area that really needs it as it is busy, loud, lots of lights and is all enclosed. It’s a bit cramped when busy, especially when everyone wants to watch the displays. Quiet time reduces the sound, and has the lights up more so it’s not so overwhelming.
We had an amazing two days. We made loads of memories, J got his ‘driving license’ (which he is insanely proud of) and it was genuinely a lovely time. I feel the park makes a real effort to be inclusive and the staff are friendly and approachable. It is a bit like a military exercise to make sure you are ready and have everything planned but it’s worth it to see the amazing smiles. We’re looking forward to our next visit.
Disclaimer: This is not an ad. I went for a family holiday and received no compensation, money off etc.