We have a lot of special birthdays coming up in my immediate family with my 40th next year, the oldest turning 21 just after Christmas and apparently the most special of them all – the third born turned 10! An age so important, as he heads away from being a child and has to discover that the world isn’t as fluffy as it seems. I wanted a gift idea that was special: Our son really wanted a mobile phone – especially seeing as he is the only one at school who does not have one. We wanted him to have something a bit more exceptional – that when he looked back in later life it wasn’t just something outdated.
Junior Driving Experience for that Special 10th Birthday
When I came across a Junior Driving Experience I knew it was perfect as he had never been behind the wheel of a real car before. He met the requirements – he had to be over ten years old and 1.35m. Plus it came to our new birthday budget of £20. Luckily we agreed that it was a special birthday because after the initial £20 costs really mounted up. First there was the insurance (which actually only covered the car and not our child!), then we decided we may as well buy him the extra laps; when we arrived he opted to be a passenger in a Porsche Cayenne (I am SO jealous) for a couple of laps for only an extra tenner – and finally he bought the lanyard and USB with his video for another £37. For photos also it was £49.99 but we (my son and I) decided that there was no point as he could not see over the steering wheel so you did not actually know it was him!
Booking, Getting to and Checking into the Junior Driving Experience
We had to travel a little to reach the track, a fact I knew before I bought the initial voucher. What I did not realise was the severely limited availability on the dates and times. He ended up squeezing it in straight after a friend’s 10th birthday party (and I just hoped that they had fed him well!). It was easy enough to buy online though – but it did say he would be in a green car and not the Lightening McQueen one booked (which honestly he would prefer). There were instructions not to go the wrong way to the location but it wasn’t all that well signed posted and my husband went past and had to turn around. There was plenty of parking though and someone to guide us where to go next.
Whilst waiting in the queue someone (who was also there for a driving experience) kindly told us that there was no point in queuing until we had signed the waiver form (which says things like, but is not limited to, if the weather gets too bad/it gets too dark TOUGH it will be cancelled with no refund; if our child DIES or is seriously injured TOUGH they are not liable! – the insurance only covers the vehicle). After filling out forms, listening to additional extra etc from the nice lady behind the desk, she then gave him a lanyard with USB stick and told us to wait outside and wait for his name to be called. It was a terrible system to be honest and we had no idea when he would be going. We realised that paying the extra for the passenger familiarisation laps in the Porsche Cayenne had made his wait longer as there was only the one vehicle. When he did get to go round the car was filled with people doing the same – luckily he got to sit shotgun though!
The Junior Driving Experience in the MX5
In fact our son’s turn in the MX5 was last – and it was not the green one but the red. I had to escort him over to the car – but my husband was not allowed beyond the ribbon (and most people had gone by now). This meant I got the opportunity to grab his photo and speak to the instructor in the seat next to him. In the Porsche our son had already learnt that his car wouldn’t have mirrors so that he wouldn’t see the other cars whizzing around (as adults were on the track in some pretty powerful cars at the same time) and get scared. I also learnt that not only did the instructor have dual controls but that the kids only had the accelerator. Apparently the MX5 has a powerful brake and letting the kids tap them would mean they’d end up through the windscreen! I had also assumed the children would wear a helmet and my husband thought it would be a specially adapted car – but no it was just a spongey booster seat thing – that really wasn’t high enough as he couldn’t see over the steering wheel! We were so impressed seeing our son pulling away without stalling that we figured it must be an automatic: Wrong again! The instructor did the gears too. In fact he told our son when to push down and lift up on the accelerator with a bit of help with steering on some corners.
Our son had only ever driven a Go Kart before and for 10 years old I think this was an amazing experience for him (just bring some entertainment and warm clothes for waiting – food and drink is available to purchase). He got to drive at 80mph in two great cars, as well as see a whole load of other supercars. The instructor told him how to take the corners and gave him lots of praise. I do feel that our 14-year-old would have wanted to be able to do slightly more with the car and it would have been better if our son could actually see where he was going! All in all I would recommend and can see us going back for our youngest son (there was also a discount return voucher).
I fully paid for this experience but if you are thinking of doing the same that you can save money by using this Buy a Gift discount code. Ferrari’s not guaranteed (it happened to just be parked in the carpark!). If like me you discover on the morning that your child has actually outgrown their trainers (whilst ensuring that their laces are done up properly!) then you will also appreciate this Nike discount code. With the money you save I do suggest you treat yourself to a nice warm jumper as you will need it whilst waiting for them to whizz round!
This is a collaborative post.