About a week ago I shared everything I have bought from my past three visits to The Making of Harry Potter and I loved talking about Harry Potter so much that I thought I would write another post about my experience there. In this post I’m going to share some tips for those going to the tour for the first time or even returning to experience the magic all over again. Of course, I’m no expert. So these tips have come from my own experience at the tour.
1. Setting a budget.
If you consider yourself a mega potterhead, this is a must. The gift shop is tempting, but expensive, filled with authentic looking props and merch inspired by our much beloved objects from the movies, when you go in there you are going to want just about everything. The first time I went I didn’t set myself a budget and ended up spending over £80 (from birthday and Christmas savings seeing as I was just 14) and trust me, if I had more money, I probably would have gotten more! The budget is up to you but it’s all about willpower and the thought ‘do I really need this?’
2. Capture the moment.
Make sure everything you own that has a camera on it is fully charged and in your bag! You can take pictures almost anywhere and trust me you are going to want to. There are so many amazing photo opportunities you won’t be able to resist clicking away the whole time. (seriously, I took 339 the THIRD time I went. Every time you go you see something new!) Go crazy! Take selfies, group selfies, arty shots, zoom in all the way, snap all the intricate details on the walls and tables. They’re amazing to go back to look at and remember the experience. I’ve even framed a few.
3. Get prepared in advance.
Unlike a lot of places, once you’re in the tour, you can’t go in and out. You can’t do half of the tour and then pop back to your car to grab your picnic or a jacket because your getting chilly. So fill your rucksack up, make a checklist (if you’re really anxious like me) and leave all thoughts of ‘oh do I have this’ behind you.
4. Early bird catches the worm.
The tour is in separated sections, and once you leave one section you can’t go back. So you have to make sure you have a proper look around and don’t leave anything out. Because of this, book your tickets EARLY. The reason I say this is because tickets sell out weeks in advance and ideally you want an early time slot. They do tours every half an hour and the last tour entry is at 4pm, but the entire place closes at 8pm. Meaning you have to leave the building at 8pm. Every time I’ve been I have spent over four hours every single time and at least half an hour in the gift shop. If you get a late slot, you might end up having to rush the last bit, so my advice, book early!
5. Don’t be too eager.
Meaning, don’t get to the tour too soon before your time slot! While the tour opens at 9/10am they do turn people away if their slot isn’t until after noon. I saw this happen to a lot of people and there is not a lot to do in Leavesdon. (I’m not sure about those who go on train and then get to the tour by the bus.) They monitor the car park strictly and you can’t get in unless you show proof of when your slot time starts.
6. The food situation.
The food there is good, but expensive! They have a new cafe area which was built along with the Hogwarts express. This was greatly needed as before there was a lack of tables and they were all outside. Now you can sit either outside or inside and there’s always room. There’s a choice of hot food (such as burgers and hot dogs) and also picnic stuff such as sandwiches and even jelly for desert. Every time I have gone however I brought my own sandwich and just ate them in the backlot. Also, I don’t recommend you get the new butterbeer ice cream. I know, it sounds tempting, but it’s not worth it. It tastes no different from a 99 ice cream you get from the ice cream van. The only difference is they charge £5 for it. Better sticking with actual butterbeer if you want an authentic Harry Potter drink.
7. Stay away from spoilers.
Seeing as the tours now been open for 4 years I’m sure you’ve seen the odd photo here and there. But if you’re going for the first time, don’t go looking at every picture you can find! Of course we’ve all seen these sets before in the movies, but part of the experience is looking at them closely and noticing detail you’ve never noticed before. It’s so special, it could blow anyone off their feet, Harry Potter fan or not. Try and keep as much a surprise as possible!
8. Lights, Camera, Action!
Want the best snaps possible of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts? Watch the lights! In two of the rooms the lighting changes to present night and day. The first time I went I noticed some of the pictures I took (and annoyingly best) were dark and grainy because I took them when the lights were on the ‘night time’ setting. So when you take that all important selfie, make sure it’s bright in the room first.
9. Don’t overlook the last room.
I don’t know if this is something everybody does, but when I got to the end of the tour after a very special room I got so excited for the gift shop I took a couple of quick snaps of the last room and didn’t really think much of it. Then after I’d been twice and thought I’d never get to go again I started watching loads of vlogs on youtube, and found out that the last room is actually just as exciting as the rest. The room is called the ‘wand room’ and every wand has the name of a cast or crew member involved with the movies. It’s good fun going for a treasure hunt looking for all of your favourite stars names such as Evanna Lynch and Gary Oldman, even J.K Rowling has her own wand.
10. Take it all in.
Who knows how long the tour will be open to the public. Yes right now it seems quite permanent, with there still being such a solid fan base and tickets are still selling fast, but one thing that sticks out to me is how much it must take to keep the sets in such perfect condition and pay the large amount of staff that work there. While I’m not worried about it’s immediate future, when you go, don’t take anything for granted. Look at the sets, two or three times, read every plaque, have a ride on a broomstick, watch all of the videos that play on the walls. And most importantly, just enjoy the experience. It’s an incredible one and that tour has given me some of the best days of my short life.
Thanks so much for reading and if you have any questions about the tour just ask, I’ll answer as best as I can!