Over the autumn half-term holiday, we visited Paulton’s Park near Southhampton. I knew Biggest would need a place to retreat and time spread out in the park, so we booked two days with a stay in the Jury’s Inn Hotel, Southampton. We hope this Paulton’s Park review will add a little bit more information for families with autistic individuals.
We had awful weather on the first day and Biggest quickly became overwhelmed, but luckily our second day was perfect. As Biggest is autistic, most theme parks offer him an accessibility access pass. Paulton’s Park was no exception. Below, you can find a video of our two days at the park. Further on you will find more detailed information about supporting an autistic child at Paulton’s Park and how the queue assist pass works.
Our Trip to Paulton’s Park
How to Get an Access Pass and Queue Assist at Paulton’s Park
When we booked our tickets and hotel, there was not much specific information about what kind of access arrangements were available. There was a number to call to find out more information, which I called.
Biggest was entitled to an access pass which enabled him to access each ride once a day and bypass the queue. This was a little different from other places we have visited, as most do not specify once only. However, as Biggest was unlikely to want to repeat a ride, this was not a problem for us. It may be more of an issue if your child likes to repeat their favourite ride several times.
There was no queue at the First Aid room at all, which is where we were directed to get the pass. Unlike other places we have visited, a diagnosis letter was required. This is quite unusual as most places require up to date paperwork, such a DLA documentation or a GP’s letter dated within 6 months. DLA forms were not accepted at Paulton’s Park, so that is something to bear in mind. I had to dig out his NHS diagnosis letter from several years ago. I note that their site does say that GP letters are acceptable. However, this was not mentioned to me on the phone or at First Aid in the park.
I took all the paperwork with me, to be safe, but they only wished to see the diagnosis letter. Getting the queue assist pass took moments, which made for a great start to our day. Queuing for the queue pass can sometimes be too much for Biggest.
No Carer’s Tickets
Paulton’s Park does not offer a free carer’s ticket. Their site says:
A vast majority of the rides and attractions at Paultons, including Peppa Pig World, are designed to be fully accessible to disabled guests, therefore we do not offer a discounted disabled rate for guests or their carers.
I do not really hold with the idea that carer tickets or discounts are not needed because the park is fully accessible (which it was not really, in our experience). The point of a carer ticket is that the person who is caring is there to provide support. It does not really matter how accessible the rides are – the support needs of the disabled person will still be significant.
Access at the Exits
Although the park states that most rides are suitable for guests in wheelchairs, I certainly think it would be difficult to navigate your way through the exit gates in a wheelchair. This is especially true if you are the main adult in a party.
Most rides had disabled and queue assist access at the exits. However, there was often no one to be found at the exits and lots of people trying to come out. On several occasions, it took us over 5 minutes to find someone to help us access the ride. During that time, we did get a few shouts from everyone else in the long queue. I presume they thought we were queue-jumping. Obviously, this would be avoided if there were more staff, or if there was a clearer spot for disabled guests to wait. There were also very tall and narrow staircases up to some rides, like the Queen’s Flying Coach Ride. I really think this could be improved upon.
Another thing to note is that, although there are very peaceful areas, like the gardens, generally the park is very loud. As we were there during Halloween, spooky music was piped everywhere and it was at a fairly high volume. I also found it a bit much at times, being an autistic adult myself. The park does provide ear-defenders for a returnable £10 deposit, so that is something useful if you forget them.
The park does have a purpose built Accessible Changing Places facility, which is a real positive. It is next to The Floating Globe (which Biggest adored!) just inside the main entrance.
You can get access to via a coded access door, the code for which is available from the First Aid Centre. The facility is equipped with a mobile hoist. You do have to provide your own sling.
Paulton’s Park Review – Verdict
Despite some difficulties, we had a good trip to Paulton’s Park. We spent two full mornings there and I would recommend this if you are able. Biggest did not get too overwhelmed, as we had the flexibility of more time. We got a special deal with our second day in the park free so spending two days was no more expensive for us. We did this on the Paulton’s Park site as we booked our whole package deal there.
The rides and facilities were perfect for my two, who are seven and four. However, I think older children would run out of things to do a bit sooner. I would say this would be a good first theme park for a younger autistic child, as getting the queue assist was very easy and the rides were all very easy and child-friendly. Biggest does not enjoy ‘dangerous’ or thrill-seeking rides at all, so the gentle rides at Peppa Pig World were perfect for him. Again, if you have a child who enjoys proprioception, sensory-seeking, then the rides may not be suitable.
We hope you found our information useful. Don’t forget to check out our autism category for more tips and guides.