It’s that time of year again.
The Royal Melbourne Show is on.
Are you contemplating taking the kids but are filled with dread at the thought of a stressful and super expensive day out?
If your answer is yes, this post is for you.
A couple of years ago, we decided it might be time to tackle taking our two eldest children (who were then 4 and 6) to The Show for the first time.
I was a bit nervous at the thought of it, so prior to setting out, I asked my friends on the Book of Face for their advice – what to do and what not to do. I was impressed by the thoughtful details and advice people so willingly gave and eagerly took all the collective wisdom on board. As a result, we ended up having a fantastic day at a reasonable price.
Below, I have set out the great advice I received together with a few of my own ideas.
1. Buying Tickets
It’s not cheap to go to the show but there are ways to save a bit of cashola.
This year, RACV members are eligible to save up to 20% on tickets purchased before 9pm on 27 September 2016. Under this offer, a family fare (2 adults and 2 children) is $75 instead of $85. More details and to book online, head here.
It’s also slightly cheaper to buy tickets before you arrive (online or at an outlet) than at the gate.
Entry after 5pm is also a flat $15 but that’s more pitched to teenagers and adults.
You can see all the ticket prices and offers and buy tickets online here.
You might have missed the boat on this one but there are some great early bird offers to keep an eye out for next time. We’ve managed to snag early bird tickets using our RACV membership, which saved us nearly $20.
Rides can costs a bomb too. If you love your rides, it’s worth buying a ride pass online before you go as you’ll save up to 30%. Details here.
2. Getting There
As much as I would normally suggest using public transport, we decided to drive as we didn’t think our boys could manage a day out and the two trains each way.
A friend recommended that we avoid driving near the Zoo and approach instead from Ascot Vale (from Brunswick Rd, Ormond Rd, Maribyrnong Rd and Union Rd). This was excellent advice and we breezed through, encountering little traffic.
If the kids are older or you live closer though, PT is the way to go.
3. Plan your day
The best advice we received was to print out a map of the Show Grounds before the day, note all the free activities and plan the day around them. There is also a daily schedule which you can check out to help plan your day.
In doing this, we tried to go in a rough loop so we were not doubling back as little people can become very tired with lots of walking, excitement and crowds.
We also factored in stopping in the Food Pavillion for lunch.
We found the activities we all enjoyed the most were the Victorian Government Pavillion with the emergency vehicles and art and craft, the animal nursery and the stunts in the arena.
We also loved the free shows and structured our day around them. Not only does it give you all a break from walking around, but they are often excellent.
This year you’ll find the Looney Tunes show (plus opportunities to meet and greet) and the Aquaworld Sky Pirates, who perform at various times during the day as well as all the usual stunt shows in the arena.
For animal lovers, there’s plenty to see and do too including the Working Dogs show in the Animal Farmyard (4 x 30 minute shows daily), Training Horses for Movie Magic and the Sheep Sheering shows, both in The Farmhouse (3 x 30 minute shows daily). More details here. You can also head to the Legendairy Milking Barn too.
Depending on where you park, it is worth considering a visit to the animal nursery first as it gets very busy and the animals are fed at 9.30am.
4. BYO snacks and water bottles
By packing a few snacks (including a small treat to counter what was on offer) and bringing our water bottles, the only food we paid for was lunch and takeaway coffees.
I’m not sure if it’s there again this year, but previously, we’ve had lunch at the Devondale Stand in the Food Pavillion where they used to sell melted cheese on toast for $2 a serve and little cartons of milk. Our boys thought this was terrific.
This year, the Woolworth’s Fresh Food Pavillion is home to the world of food with everything from curries, sushi, wraps and golzeme. There are also pop up restaurants, deli and cocktail bar and the Winning Tastes Pavillion to choose from. Check out all the great food options here.
It might also be worth packing some hand sanitiser if your kids like to get up close and personal with the animals.
5. Set Limits
It is a great idea to set limits about rides and show bags beforehand so the kids know what to expect.
Given our children’s ages, we initially decided they could go on two rides and have one show bag each. With the rides, we encouraged them to do the Fun Slide (in the picture below), as it was good value (this year it’s 3 turns for $6; 6 rides for $10) and, given it was near the entrance/exit, they could have a ride at the start and at the end of the day. They each chose another ride in the Kids Carnival near the animal nursery. Now they’re older, we’d add in another ride or two.
With the show bags, we found that once we got to the Show Bag Pavillion, one child chose a relatively inexpensive food show bag and the other a much more expensive toy show bag. In the interests of fairness and in preventing arguments on the way home (when one ate his food in front of the other) and later, (when one would complain he didn’t have a toy and the other did), we decided they could each get two show bags each – one inexpensive food bag and one “toy” show bag.
With older children, however, it may be appropriate to give them a set amount of money for their rides and show bags and let them decide how and what to spend it on.
Before we arrived, we talked to the children about the importance of not wandering off and what to do if they got lost. We also wrote our mobile phone numbers on their arms as well, just in case.
7. Make the Show Bag Pavillion your last stop
This is for a few reasons. Firstly, it means you don’t have to lug the show bags around all day.
Secondly, it prevents children from consuming vast quantities of sugar when they might already be tired and emotional.
Thirdly, it can provide motivation for good behaviour and co-operation throughout the day.
Finally, it is a happy note to finish on. As soon as we bought the Show Bags, the children wanted to go home so they could play with their new toys.
This post was originally published in September 2013 but has been completely updated.
Have you got a Show horror story? Any tips or tricks you can share? What do you wish you knew before you went?