Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays


Disclosure - we paid for a different National Holidays trip a while ago and didn't have the best time (you can read about it here). National Holidays invited us back as an apology and for the opportunity to give them another chance. I originally paid as a normal customer and was not asked to write this blog post. 

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review

National Holidays offer coach trips throughout Europe. There are lots of different options including city breaks, theatre breaks, guided tours, trips to top UK attractions and more.

There's no denying they are hassle-free and a convenient way to travel, especially if you don't drive. We booked the Chester Zoo and Blackpool Tower Trip in October - our party was made up of myself, my mam, Heidi (10) and Jack (8).

The cost of this trip is usually £99 per adult and £89 per child inclusive of return coach travel and transport throughout, entry to Chester Zoo and the Blackpool Tower Eye (or alternative), a 3-course evening meal, overnight accommodation and breakfast.

Because so much is included and we took packed lunches for breakfast & lunch plus our own snacks, we hardly spent any money across the weekend so I would say trips with National Holidays are a brilliant option if you're on a budget.

Saturday Travel 


There are various pick-up points around the North East. We were picked up from Bewick Street opposite Newcastle Central Station at 6:50am so it was a bit of an early start.

The coaches have their own loo and USB sockets by every seat. There's also an app with movies etc... and free WiFi but we didn't try these.

I packed up some breakfast bags for the kids to snack on but we also stopped at Wetherby Services at around 9:30am for 45minutes. The coach driver kept us informed of timings/the plan for the day throughout and was super friendly and helpful. He even cracked a few jokes.

We were in Chester Zoo car park for 12noon which was pretty good going I thought.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - on board the coach

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - bus interior

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Wetherby Services


Chester Zoo 


On arrival, our coach driver led us to admissions and we walked straight through with no queue. We had from 12noon - 5pm in the zoo which is pretty good going. Again, we took our own picnic to keep costs down (there's a covered picnic area if needed).

5 hours is the perfect length of time to spend at Chester Zoo. Any longer and we'd have been flagging.

This was our second visit and we spent ages watching the elephants (my mam's fave), met plenty of monkeys and apes, spotted lions and tigers, walked through a tropical atrium filled with lots of beautiful birds, walked around the islands, braved the bat cave, played at a few of the parks and more.

We were lucky with the weather and it was a brilliant day. Chester Zoo is easily my favourite zoo - it's flat, accessible, there's loads to see and do and animal conservation/welfare/education is a high priority. You can read more about Chester Zoo and check out my tips in this dedicated blog post about our trip last year here.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Chester Zoo Elephants





Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - Chester Zoo Baby Elephants


Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Chester Zoo Giraffes






Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - CHester Zoo Lion

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Chester Zoo Bat Cave

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - The Islands

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Zebra

Accommodation - Holiday Inn Runcorn Review


The accommodation on this trip is a 'select hotel' so you don't actually know which hotel it will be until the day of travel. I've never stayed in a bad hotel with National Holidays so this doesn't worry me too much.

You can also do a bit of detective work / googling and usually figure out which one it will be via forums/reviews.

If not specified as a city centre hotel, the hotels are usually out of the way. They're usually a Holiday Inn / Radisson Blu or similar. We were allocated the Holiday Inn Runcorn which was around 30 minutes from Chester Zoo.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Holiday Inn Runcorn Bar Area

The reception staff were super friendly and well-organised (check-in was a breeze - we just said our names and were handed a key, there was nothing to sign or anything) and the reception areas were lovely.

There was a small toy section for kids and a pool table too. There's a swimming pool but we didn't have our kit.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - Holiday Inn Runcorn Twin Room

We were given interconnecting twin rooms which were fab for the price we paid. I had a brilliant night's sleep and have no complaints at all.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Holiday Inn Runcorn Bathroom

We were given a dinner time of 7:15pm and this was the only part of our trip which I felt was a letdown. The dining room was lovely but the staff were painfully inexperienced and service was poor.

We also had to walk along to the hotel bar to buy our drinks which was a bit of a pain. I predict most of the food was microwaved/pre-made. It was ok and as expected, I definitely didn't expect fine dining.

The options were vegetable soup or quiche to start (help yourself), then chicken/fish dinner for main and a table with a selection of cakes for dessert.

The only children's option available was chicken nuggets and chips which is not good enough in my opinion - poor Heidi who is a vegetarian had to make do with a plate full of chips for her main course which isn't great.

Heidi has been a vegetarian for a year now and we eat out quite a bit - this is the first time there hasn't been a vegetarian option on the children's menu and the staff have not been able to accommodate her.

We let the hotel know in advance that Heidi was a Vegetarian and mentioned it to our server too but this was the best they could do.

I'm not going to dwell on it too much as Heidi actually thoroughly enjoyed the treat of being allowed a plate of chips for dinner and luckily I'd brought plenty of fruit for snacks throughout the day too.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - Holiday Inn Runcorn Restaurant

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Holiday Inn Runcorn Soup

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review  - Holiday Inn Runcorn Chicken dinner


Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Holiday Inn Runcorn Chicken Nuggets and Chips



Breakfast the next morning was so much better - there were loads of options for us all (including Heidi) and the sausages were especially lovely. Breakfast was buffet-style so we filled our boots before setting off for Blackpool at 9am.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Holiday Inn Runcorn Breakfast

Blackpool 


We arrived in Blackpool at 10am. Our coach parked right by the seafront and a National Holidays rep climbed aboard and provided us all with our Tower tickets. Unfortunately on the day of our visit, the tower was closed due to high winds.

The rep explained that we could take our voucher to the admissions desk and they would exchange it for another Merlin attraction (the ballroom/circus/sealife centre/dungeon/madame tussauds).

I think this shows brilliant customer service and I was very impressed. We have Merlin Annual Passes and had already pre-booked a discounted ticket using our passes for my mam to visit Madame Tussauds so I asked the kids where else they'd like to visit and they picked the dungeons.

I've put together a full guide to the Merlin Attractions in Blackpool here if you fancy a read. 

The Blackpool Towers dungeons are recommended for ages 8+, we'd already done them before and the kids love them. They're a bit like Horrible Histories with live actors performing gruesome tasks and telling spooky stories.

They can be on the scary side and there are parts where you're in darkness and actors will jump out at you BUT nobody will touch you and it's on the milder side of similar experience we've tried. We all loved it and it was brilliant that tickets were included with our trip.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Blackpool dungeons

I knew when we booked our trip that we'd have free time in Blackpool so we decided to use our Merlin Annual Passes to visit Madame Tussauds. We love it here and it's great fun for all ages.

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Madame Tussauds Blackpool Strictly Come Dancing


Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - Madame Tussauds Blackpool Rovers Return

Our coach was due to leave at 2:30pm and after a morning exploring the dungeons and Madame Tussauds, we had 90 minutes to spare before leaving so we popped to our favourite amusement arcade - Coral Island for lunch (kids eat free) and a quick play on a few of our favourite games before it was time to head home.

Read more about Coral Island here. 

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review Coral Island Blackpool

Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - Kids eat free Coral Island Blackpool Fish and chips


Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays - A Review - coral island vortex


We had time for a quick trip to one of the stalls on the seafront to buy some Blackpool rock before departing at 2:30pm. We didn't stop on the way home and were back in Newcastle just before 6pm which was perfect for us as not too late. The journey was nice and smooth too.


Overall, this was a much better experience for us with National Holidays and I do kind of feel like we were unlucky with our last trip. I will definitely book another now and I am so pleased I decided to give them a second chance.


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Chester Zoo & Blackpool Tower Bus Trip with National Holidays



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1 comment

  1. It sounds like you had a much better experience this time. We had been looking at National Holidays last year as they looked like good value, but your previous trip put me off as it didn't sound like our kind of thing. So its good to hear this one was much better for you all x

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