For our Easter holiday boys’ day out, I took Isaac and Toby to the opening day of Gadget Show Live at the NEC.
Aged eight and six, and being both fans of the TV show and of a suitably geeky nature – I wonder who they got that from? – they were hugely excited when they realised where we were. It’s fair to say their sky-high expectations were met after a long, tiring but enjoyable day wandering around the UK’s largest consumer technology show.
I’ll cover some of our favourite things from the day and the boys’ thoughts in both a later post and next week’s Meet the Parents podcast. But if you’re heading to Birmingham this weekend, here are my top ten tips for making the most of your day.
10 tips for your day at Gadget Show Live
1. Be conscious of the demands and restrictions on younger children. It’s a long day and some stands or exhibits only allow children over a certain age to try things out. Toby is six and was allowed to do most things, although there were a few places where Isaac (who’s eight) could go that he couldn’t.
2. Arrive in good time. If you’re coming by car, queues can form for the on-site car parks. Also, allow some additional time to get to the exhibition centre itself. There are frequent shuttle buses, or alternatively it’s about ten minutes on foot.
3. Travel light. The exhibition halls are warm and stuffy. Leave excess layers in the car or make use of the cloakrooms.
4. Queues for the exhibition start long before the show opens and go round the block more than once. So if you’re keen to beat the queues, be prepared to stake an early claim and plan exactly where you want to go first. (If you’re lucky enough to have a press, trade or exhibitor pass, you can jump the queue.)
5. There is a Gadget Show Live app that you can download to your smartphone which includes a detailed floor-plan and other helpful information.
6. If you’re in the queue, stand on the outside nearest the main walkways. The show’s presenters will say hello to the crowds on their way in, sign t-shirts and pose for the odd photo. So get yourself in a good position if you want a selfie.
7. Popular exhibits attract long queues of as much as half an hour at peak times. You may want to leave some of these until the back end of the day when it’s quieter – there is a noticeable drop-off from 4pm onwards. But don’t leave it too late, as some spots close their queues for the day 20-30 minutes before the show closes.
8. Be prepared for extra expenses. Car parking at the NEC is either £12 (standard) or £20 (premium). The live Super Theatre show, an hour-long presentation featuring the show’s presenters, costs an additional £16-£25 per person. (And that’s before you’ve actually bought any products!) You can book Super Theatre tickets in advance online or from the small ticket booth adjacent to the theatre itself.
9. Of course, being an event venue, food and drink is pricey. The quality and variety available is decent but you pay for it. While there is insufficient seating at peak times, there are plenty of places around the edge of the exhibition halls (or outside them) to grab a square metre of floor space.
10. There are lots of bargains to be had but don’t take every vendor’s ‘show offers’ at face value. I found two stalls where visitors were being offered product at a higher price than on Amazon.
You can find out more about Gadget Show Live 2016 and book tickets via their website www.gadgetshowlive.net. The show is open until Sunday 3rd April.
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