Family day out ruined by the rain? This secret rule can get you a free second chance

Our money expert explains the 'Rainy Day Guarantees' offered by many theme parks and other attractions, which means you can go another day for free. Here's how they work

Smiling family on a ride at a theme park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s been a largely soggy start to school summer holidays, but don’t hold off planning days out with the kids, as a downpour may mean you get to go back for free.

Finding things to do with kids can be challenging, but inclement weather makes it even harder. Factor in too that family days out can be expensive, even if you are attempting a free day out. For example, paying on the gate at Alton Towers costs £272 for a family of four and £256 at Chessington World of Adventures. If you've forked out that fee, the last thing you want is for the day to be a washout, and the whole family be miserable traipsing around in the rain, or worse still, wanting to leave early because of it.'s Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "Recent research found that parents are paying an extra £1,000 per week during the school holidays, on everything from food to activities. So when a day out is ruined by the rain, especially if you've paid a small fortune for tickets, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. But some attractions offer a second chance to allow families to get their money's worth."

While there are ways to get free and discounted family days out when you buy certain everyday supermarket items, it's also worthwhile knowing which attractions offer a rainy day guarantee,  so you can get a second chance at a fun day out if the weather ruins your first go.

How does a ‘rainy day guarantee’ work? 

While different attractions may have their own rules, a rainy day guarantee tends to offers customers free return tickets if their first visit is ruined by bad weather. But what counts as bad weather is up to the attraction. For example, one hour of rain means a free return trip at Warwick Castle and Chester Zoo, while others may base decisions on the level of rainfall or if rides have to close.

Rainy day guarantees usually only apply on pre-booked online tickets, and you’ll usually forfeit any weather guarantee when buying tickets with Tesco Clubcard points, or voucher codes, like the Kellogg’s cereal deal. Terms and conditions on most websites state that tickets bought through ‘partner’ sites or with discounts are exempt.

There may also be a time limit on when you have to use your free return trip by, this could be anything from one to 12 months. If your day’s been a washout, make sure you check the rules before leaving, and keep your tickets as proof of your visit.

Here’s how some of the wet weather guarantees work at some popular family attractions. 

1. Alton Towers Rainy Day Guarantee

The Alton Towers rainy day guarantee states: “In some cases, we have to close certain rides to preserve the guest experience and until the bad weather passes. We cannot predetermine ride closures, but we will provide real-time updates on the Alton Towers App."

A list of dates when this has applied is published on its website - there were six affected dates in July, and one in August (at the time of writing). And so if you visited Alton Towers on these dates, with one of the qualifying tickets purchases, you are eligible to book a free return trip. 

The following are classed as qualifying tickets:

  • Online 1 day pass
  • Online 2 day pass (you can return for free on one day only)
  • Short break 1 day pass
  • Short break 2 day pass (you can return for free on one day only)

Your return ticket can be booked online and you have a 12 months to return. While this sounds generous, it does have it's limitations. Return tickets exclude weekends, school holidays and special events, like Halloween.

2. Warwick Castle's Rainy Day Policy

Over one hour of ‘persistent’ rain activates Warwick Castle's policy, and its Rainy Day Promise’ means you can come back for free within 60 days, excluding bank holidays. This only applies to advance tickets, which are booked through the venue website.  

While the wet weather guarantee won’t usually apply to tickets purchased with vouchers or loyalty points, in ‘extreme weather’ conditions, this may be waived.

Warwick Castle also publishes dates where it's Rainy Day Promise is activated, so you can see if you qualify for a free return visit. 

Again, make sure you hang on to your ticket to swap on the day of your return visit.

Kids with their mum all in waterproofs running for shelter in the rain

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Thorpe Park

With Thorpe Park’s Island Return Guarantee, if rides are closed due to one hour or more of continuous rain, you can come back for free. This is only applicable for online pre-booked entry tickets and details of rainy days are published on the website.

Return visits for 2023 must be pre-booked through the website and original tickets exchanged on the day. Certain dates, including Saturdays, are excluded.

4. Drayton Manor's Rainy Day Guarantee

At Drayton Manor, The rainy day guarantee works slightly differently, and you will need to pay an extra £2 per ticket to 'weatherproof your visit'. 

Over 4mm of rain must fall at the park on the day of your trip to activate the guarantee and, if this happens and you bought advance tickets, you’ll be contacted by email. Return trips must be made within 30 days.

5. Chessington World of Adventures' Rainy Day Guarantee

If you buy a one-day advance ticket through the Chessington website, you can get a free return visit within one year with its rainy day guarantee.

This is dependent on the rain affecting, “the ride offer for an hour or more continuously during your visit” and only applies with online pre-booked entry tickets.

Return visits must be pre-booked and are only available on selected dates until 5 November 2023.

6. Chester Zoo's rainy day policy

Chester Zoo's policy is that if it rains continuously for more than one hour, between 20 July and the end of August 2023, then you can come back for free on another day. You have to have booked online, and affected customers will be contacted via email with instructions on how to claim your free ticket. As with the other attractions, you must hold on to your original ticket to qualify. 

Any free tickets must be redeemed by 30 September 2023.

7. Yorkshire Wildlife Park's rainy day policy

At Yorkshire Wildlife Park, if you book online, (through its website), and there’s over one hour of ‘persistent continuous rain’ between 10am – 4pm on the day of your visit, you’ll be emailed a code to use for a return trip within seven days. 

 Who else offers a rainy day guarantee? 

Rainy day guarantees aren't offered at every attraction, but if you've planned a day out to a zoo or wildlife park, it's worthwhile seeing if they have a rainy day policy you take take advantage of too and what you need to do to qualify. Always hold on to your tickets if you think you might be eligible for a free return trip, as these will be needed to prove you had tickets for a qualifying date. 

Attractions that are largely indoors are unlikely to offer a rainy day guarantee, but luckily these are good solutions for days out if the weather isn't looking great. 

What if it rains again on your return date?

In most cases, if it rains again on the date you return, you sadly won't qualify for another free ticket. But it's worth checking the terms and conditions of the attraction you are visiting. 

If you are planning on sticking it out and braving the weather, it's a good idea to pack waterproof clothes, and a change of clothes and shoes, and pop an umbrella in your bag too. 

If you get caught off guard, either by rain or a mini heatwave, then most attractions will sell waterproof ponchos, umbrellas and even sunscreen to keep you protected. Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for cafes, restaurants and covered picnic areas to shelter in if you need to. 

You can also try this mum's ice lolly hack on days out to keep costs under control. 

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound. Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!