So on Saturday we went to Lollibop.
We had a lovely day out but I also learnt a lot, not least that a tent filled with Thomas the Tank Engine megablocks is more exciting for my three-year old than any of the amazing acts or other activities there were on offer!
So here are the top things that we learnt this year:
1. Travel and transport
- Do not trust the train lines!
We booked our Lollibop tickets back in April, along with the train tickets from Coventry to London and then from London to Hatfield. We decided to do this as it would save either of us from driving and also made good use of our Family Railcard. We set off to the train station early on Saturday morning and arrived in plenty of time to catch the 8am train we had booked.
When we walked into the station we checked the departure boards to find out which platform the train was going from. But it wasn’t there… There was a train at 8am to Northampton, but none to London until about half 8. As we had a connecting train to catch I went and asked at the desk, to be told that there were engineering works on the line so the earliest and quickest way to get to London was to get the train to Northampton, then change to get a train to Hemel Hempstead. From there we would get a coach to Watford and then we could go back onto the train to London. Not ideal with two young children and even less so when we were told that this would get us to London for ten to twelve…missing our connection by an hour and a half.
So we paid the £2 fee for the pleasure of parking at the station for 10 minutes and headed home to change cars and set off driving.
Driving was actually very straightforward and comfortable(!) and only took about an hour and a half.
Arrival at Hatfield House was a little trickier as by this time the cars were arriving in their hundreds.
- So, arrive early, or even stay over close-by the night before, in order to try and avoid the majority of the traffic heading to the venue.
- Also if you are planning on driving, book the car parking ticket in advance. On the day the parking cost is £10. I am pretty sure that it cost less than this if you booked it in advance.
2. Food, drinks and ablutions
There are plenty of food options available on site, however the queues at lunchtime are very big.
- take a picnic with you. You can book a locker and leave it there until you need it so you don’t have to carry it around.
- book a picnic box that you can pick up there on the day
- if you are prepared to queue then choose a stall quite early before the queues build up
- if you have a baby there is a microwave cave where you can heat up milk or baby food
- there is a bar for grown-ups if you fancy a refreshing beer or anyone for Pimms?!
- the toilets are portaloos, but they are really nice and slightly large than normal ones so that parents can go in with their children. Also there are some that have running water and paper towels and some that have handspray.
- Don’t queue for the toilets! There are plenty of them around and we never queued although we watched other people queueing whilst we walked around the corner to use some others!
- there is drinking water available at certain points on sight so if you run out of drinks and don’t wish to pay then take a bottle with you that you can refill.
There are literally hundreds of activities available on the day at Lollibop.
- if you want to see any of the headline acts on the stage or in the Palladium then get there early enough to get close enough to see/get in. We never made it into the Lollipalladium as the queues for some of the acts in there – Mr Bloom in particular were crazy. Half an hour before he was due on the queue snaked round for miles – and I expect hardly any of them would have made it in there. They moved Mr Bloom’s second appearance onto the main stage as I think they were a little overwhelmed by the demand – probably all the mummies!!
- be prepared to queue – most of the activities involved queuing for a long time. Impatient small children may not enjoy this! So choose what you really want to do wisely!
- there are loads of official face-painting stations around the place, but if you don’t want to queue for ages, look around some of the other stalls where they might be doing it, as we got our faces painted by the heart fm people, where there was no queue. And the kids got balloons and flags there too!
- try some of the craft activities that are available. River Island kids had a tent where they were doing design your own t-shirt – the queue for this was too big for us by the time we got over there, and the kids were getting too tired and grumpy by this time to want to queue anymore. We did go into the Puffin/Ladybird – Lollibooks tent, where the kids made paper plate ladybirds, with the help of a lovely Ladybird assistant, and got some colouring sheets to bring home
- look out for freebies – we managed to collect a whole host of freebies to bring back with us – crisps, stickers, crayons, colouring sheets, wristbands, balloons, flags, sweets, fruit flakes, vitacoco drinks, newspaper, tattoos, cereal. And there was so much more
- visit the science tent – the kids were all enthralled by the frozen bubbles and the buzz wire
- don’t think that you will be able to do everything, just be a bit more relaxed in your approach – there is too much to see and do in one day so just make sure you do the main things you want to do and then just enjoy wandering around and finding things as and when you can – there was so much more that I wanted us to see/do – like the wizard tent, the pirate school, Lollikitchen
- and finally, just relax and have fun – I was so on edge due to the train kerfuffle that I was quite stressy to start with, and then I started to relax and enjoyed myself a lot more – unfortunately that was about the time that the kids started to get tired and grumpy!