Tickets for Santa events are like gold dust
I’m going to talk about Christmas, and if you come at me saying “it’s too early”, I’m going to have to break it to you that, actually, it might already be too late.
I’m not one of those parents who ever knows in advance when tickets for things are going on sale, but happily I know a few who do, and at precisely 6.55pm on September 8, a message came through on one of my many WhatsApp groups alerting me to the fact that Christmas ‘experience’ bookings would open at a popular farm at 7pm that night.
Madness ensued. “Every time I click on a session, it says ‘fully booked’,” wailed one mum. Then the website crashed and more than 3,000 hyped-up parents took to Facebook to give out about it and post red-faced emojis.
Everything sold out in under an hour. On WhatsApp, things were getting emotional. One mum had put tickets in the basket then forgotten her log-in details. The 30-second delay in password recall cost her dearly. “I’m gutted,” she sniffed mournfully in a voice note (presumably her hands were too busy pouring a large brandy to type). “I went back and they were gone. Everything’s GONE.”
Moments later, she returned more chirpy. “I just remembered we’ve got a mountain grotto experience owed to us that was cancelled with Covid last year. All good!”
Christmas experiences have become big business. You can’t move in the month of December for enchanted gardens and illuminated trails, and at the end of every over-stimulating train ride or neon grotto, there is Santa, ready to smile for the photos (may cost extra) and dish out something on-brand from the gift shop.
If you’re a family of four, you’ll be lucky to enjoy your Christmas experience for anything less than £60, especially once your kids start clamouring for the on-site extras like hot chocolates and battery-operated light wands. And since you’re already haemorrhaging cash, it seems cruel to deny yourself a nice glass of gluhwein or a hot cider. Sure isn’t it all in the pursuit of #makingmemories?
But unless you want to spend December gazing green-eyed at photos of red-cheeked tots petting reindeer and toasting marshmallows on fire-pits, you need to get on your Christmas experience booking game months in advance.
This year, perhaps with Christmas 2020 being largely cancelled with Covid, the quest for experiences seems even more Hunger-Gamesy than usual. “I don’t even know what I’m booking,” lamented a mum to me the other day. “I just have a reminder on my phone that tickets go on sale this weekend.”
Mum-in-the-know was straight out of the blocks to alert us to the release date of a castle Christmas experience (one of the season’s most desirable offerings). “Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am, but it’s been open to members since Tuesday so....” she tailed off ominously.
The next day we got a WhatsApp of a screenshot detailing her progress. “As we are currently experiencing a high demand for bookings, you have been placed in a Christmas experience queue,” it read. “There are 5163 customers ahead of you.”
It would honestly be easier to get tickets to see Springsteen than Santa at this time of the year.
I remember when a Christmas experience was eating a mince pie. As a child, it never occurred to me how great it would be to celebrate the season by making reindeer food and baking Christmas cookies with an elf. My experience needed no upgrade, it was great as it was.
It’s undeniable that Christmas has become incredibly commercial. It’s worth taking a step back and asking if this is something the kids really want, because the chances are that if you don’t survive a nerve-racking booking process to nab tickets that enable you to walk through 50,000 multi-colour fairy-lights, your children will never feel the loss of that experience. As long as Santa comes on Christmas morning, it doesn’t really matter about seeing him in a barn or up a mountain before them.
But I can’t claim a moral high ground on this one.
I’ve one Christmas experience booked and another in my basket.
If you’re looking to do the same, do it fast —and may the odds be ever in your favour with online queues.