How do rainy day guarantees work and how do you qualify? We explain the rules for the likes of Alton Towers, Drayton Manor, Thorpe Park and more

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)

We explain how rainy day guarantees work and share the top attractions that have this policy.

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.

GoodtoKnow's Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "Research has 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 do 'rainy day guarantees' 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.

1. Alton Towers Rainy Day Guarantee

Information on Alton Towers' Rainy Day Guarantee is difficult to find on the website, but its terms and conditions do state that 'inclement weather' could be the reason for ride closures, and that if you have purchased tickets in advance and are negatively impacted by the closures as a direct result of the weather, you may be offered replacement tickets to make up for it.

When the rainy day guarantee information was available on its website, it did state that you had to have bought a qualifying ticket in order to be eligible for a free return trip, and it's likely that this still stands. The following were classed as qualifying tickets:

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

It used to state that a return ticket can be booked online and you have a 12 months to return. But this did have it's limitations. Return tickets excluded weekends, school holidays and special events, like Halloween.

If you do visit Alton Towers and the heavens open, and rides are closed for long periods as a direct result, make sure you speak to park staff (and hold on to your tickets) to see if you can get a free return trip.

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's Return Guarantee

With Thorpe Park’s 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. At the time of writing, there have been nine rainy days so far in 2024.

Return visits for 2024 must be pre-booked through the website and original tickets exchanged on the day. If you don't have your original tickets, you could end up being charged the walk-up charge on your return visit - which at £66 per person, works out at £264 for a family of four. 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.

Drayton Manor also publishes qualifying dates on their website - there have been five rainy days so far in 2024. Return trips must be made within 30 days. But be aware, the offer doesn't apply to school trips or if you bought your tickets through a third party, like using your Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

5. Chessington World of Adventures' Rainy Day Guarantee

Chessington World of Adventures has replaced its Rainy Day Guarantee with its Return Promise. This offers visitors who bought an advance ticket, a free return visit within nine months.

The Return Promise is activated by the attraction, and could be due to a number of circumstances, including continuous rain or wind, extreme weather conditions like heatwaves or snow, or even a power cut or loss of water. The condition is that the circumstances must affect ride availability in line with the Return Promise terms and conditions. So far in 2024, Chessington has activated its Return Promise on three dates, which are posted on its website.

 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.

We did find that the following attractions and venues are offering rainy day guarantees in 2024:

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
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!
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