Top Tips for LegoLand Windsor – my personal advice for a happy day

Entrance_to_Legoland_WindsorFollowing on from my advice about DisneyLand Paris , I thought I would do something relatively similar for Legoland Windsor.

I’ve had the pleasure of going there so many times (probably well over 30 in total) over the past 15 years, and I still love going to that place. Having said that, the park seems to have got a lot busier in the recent years, which means that (unless you are careful) you may get disappointed with your visit. This blog post is to try to help you get your best out of your day.

Here is a link to a map LegoLand_Windsor_Teacher_Map (which was downloaded in 2014, but seems to be based on 2013, so it is slightly out of date when you read it) to help explain what I mean.

Before you even start, be aware that there is SO MUCH to do in Legoland, you’ll never be able to do it all in 1 day. That’s actually a good thing – as I say I must have been there over 30 times and I still love it and get a thrill as I walk through the entrance gates!

  • Set your kid’s expectations that Mummy and Daddy are going to try to fit in as much as they can, but there will be things that they miss out on.
  • It also may be useful to tell them that you are going to tell them what rides to go on (to begin with) rather than to ask what they want to do. In my experience, asking kids what ride they want to go on next just wastes a huge amount of time (walking between things). In general, apart from the initial 1 or 2 rides in the day, you should be just going on the very nearest ride to you that doesn’t have a bad queue … don’t waste time walking across the large park to each ride, just because they’ve seen it on the map/leaflet!

Whilst you are packing:

  • Remember to pack swimming trunks/towel for your kids (see later).
  • Also bring pac-a-macs to avoid getting wet on rides
  • I suggest you bring a packed lunch – this is not just money-saving, it gives you something to do in the queues (see later). Top this up with buying ice-cream (if hot) & doughnuts (if cold) as necessary.

It’s a VERY long walk from the main park to the car park, so I would try to avoid having to do this during the day. Therefore:

  • Bring the lunch with you in a rucksack
  • Try to avoid bringing push-chairs (if possible) for your kids – they can become very annoying dragging around the park.

Also, to set your expectations, be warned that you have to pay for their car-park. This is sneaky (in my view) but if you know in advance it cushions the blow.

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OK then, let’s start the day:

  • On busy days the ‘standard’ route to LegoLand can get ENORMOUS traffic delays. Have a look at a map beforehand and try to have a ‘backup plan’ (where you approach via any obscure route).
  • As far as I know, it opens at 10am (do check for your day). Make sure that you arrive at least 30 minutes before, ideally 35 or 40.
    • Assuming that you want to use some vouchers (e.g. Kelloggs cereal vouchers) there can be a relatively long (?15 or 20 minutes?) queue to the customer services (which is where you generally swap your vouchers for ‘real’ tickets).
    • You also want to do all the logistics (adjust backpacks, toilets etc.) and still be there for the minute it opens, hence why getting there in advance

If you get there too early, don’t worry. There’s enough open beforehand to kill 20 minutes, for example: shop, ice-cream, and (most usefully) a Miniland Star Wars exhibition. As you walk through the ticket barriers, if you head straight ahead you’ll be blocked by a cliff (with a great view of the park, and also of London if it’s a nice day). There will be two queues into the park – one to the left, one to the right.

  • In general terms, the left hand queue is best for ‘younger’ kid’s rides, and the right hand for ‘older’ kid’s rides. If you’re new to LegoLand, I shall assume that you’ll head left

If you’re really keen then you can get to the front of the queue (when they ‘release the rope’ and allow people into the park). However, it’s only really worth it if you are a quick family (e.g. no buggies etc.) so I’m going to assume that you are NOT that. I’ll therefore assume that there will be some people in front of you when the time comes. Try to go as quickly as possible (of course) but don’t rush/run or you’ll no doubt have a few accidents on the way. Don’t panic, all will be fine.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to get into the park a.s.a.p. Here’s where you will have to start negotiating with your kids. They’ll want to stop and look at things (or slide down the slides, which are by the steps during the descent of the hill). Tell them no – they can go on the slides on the way home!

  • Aim straight for the ‘long queue’ ride that you’ve earmarked (I suggest the ‘boats’ or the ‘driving school’ – see later) and don’t spare the horses until you get there!

It’s up to you to decide what is your first ride, but here are a few rides that tend to have long queues:

  • Boating School (37)
  • Driving School (38 – older kids)
  • L-Drivers (39 – younger kids)

The boating school is quite sweet, but nothing amazing. The weird thing is that it gets HORRENDOUSLY long queues during the day, and it simply is not worth waiting 50 minutes in a queue for it. I tend to always go for this first, and if the queue is 15 minutes or less then go for it (you’ll not have the chance later). If you get there and it’s a long queue, then quickly dash to either the Driving or L-Drivers schools (depending on age) and get in those queues.

After you’ve done your first 1 or 2 rides, my advice (as I said earlier) is that you should be just going on the very nearest ride to you that doesn’t have a bad queue … don’t waste time walking across the large park between each ride.

All of the rides (from now on) will have reasonably large queues, but here are a few that I’d recommend in particular:

  • SQUID Surfer (33)
  • The ‘small’ rollercoaster (10) – this is actually better than its bigger brother (9)! The queues can get long, but it’s actually a lot of fun and well worth it.

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Here are a few that I personally think are disappointing (avoid unless you particularly think they will appeal):

  • Dino Safari (34)
  • Laser Raiders (19)
  • The ‘big’ rollercoaster (9). This is slow/boring/disappointing.
  • Vikings river splash (5). Looks better than it is

The Lighthouse show (26) is excellent for the adults – but seems to be less exciting for the kids, so I suggest you avoid it (at least for your first visit). In theory it’s a good place to sit and have lunch whilst watching the show, but in practice you have to get there VERY early (e.g. at least 15 or 20 minutes) before the show to bag your spot, and even then you might not get a great view. The show is spectacular, but the kids seem to prefer the rides.

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Is the park busy? Well here are a few rides which are pretty good but (for one reason or another) have shorter queues than they deserve (therefore recommended if it’s busy):

  • Spinning Spiders (8)
  • Scarab Bouncers (18) – this is actually inside the ‘exit’ from the Laser Raider, but you can easily get to them without going to the Laser Raider. There never seems to be a particularly long queue, even though the ride looks great (I have to admit we’ve never done it!)
  • Longboat Invader (7) – We *loved* this when we last went.
  • Fire Engines (41) – queue varies, but often it’s short.
  • Fairytale brook (42) – very simple, but quite charming, and we’ve had some fun on there many times.

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Try to put off going to the following until later in the day (when the queues have really got bad) because obviously they have NO QUEUES (so leave them as emergency):

  • the fabulous Lego model village (57)
  • the maze (6) – if you put some ‘effort’ into this (i.e. act like a fun/silly family together, and make a game of it) then you can have quite a lot of fun in this.

Of course you can also just play in the FABULOUS parks:

  • Dry park (44/47)
  • Wet park (44/47) – bring swimwear and towels!
  • There’s also a fabulous-looking park at ‘Castaway Camp’ (labelled 13 on this old map). Not been in it, but it looks good for older kids.

Don’t do these parks too early (whilst ride queues are small) but also don’t leave this too late (they can get very busy on a busy day).
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Use your snacks/lunch wisely.

  • Feeding your kids a sandwich in a 30-minute queue is a great way to keep them occupied/distracted. Don’t just sit on a bench to eat … eat when there’s a use for it!
  • One good trick is to go see the puppet show (27). It is excellent (very funny) but get there at least 10 minutes before it starts, to get a seat. Whilst you are waiting, you can eat your lunch.

By far the best two places to get ice-cream and doughnuts are:

  • Near the lighthouse (near the toilets). Trouble is, not many places to sit and eat after getting it 😦
  • Papa Moles (41). I particularly like here because there is lots of seating outside with a good view of the park. Good place to sit and rest 🙂

They have lots of good flavours of ice-cream in those two places – from my memory the caramel is best. However, the queues can get HORRENDOUS at peak times, so think ahead and choose ‘unpopular’ time to snack!
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If it rains:

  • The puppet show (45) is undercover. EXCELLENT when it’s wet, although obviously it’ll be popular
  • 4D cinema shows (50) – ditto
  • X-box zone (24) – this is slightly hidden so might be less busy than you might think.

My personal favourite activity is to RUSH to the discovery zone (55) where (effectively) there is a room with two ramps in it. You build cars and the kids race them down the hill. Sounds simple but (trust me) the kids ADORE this. The problem is that there are only limited numbers of wheels available, so get there quickly (as soon as you think it’ll rain) and bagsy your wheels before the other kids/parents do! The only problem is how to get your kids OUT of there. I’ve been in there almost an hour several times in the past.

I do hope that these hints help someone out there – have fun!

Top Tips for Disneyland Paris – my personal advice for a happy holiday

DisneylandIn Easter 2013 the Relevant family went to DisneyLand Paris (a.k.a. EuroDisney) for a 4 day holiday. We had such a nice time, and I thoroughly recommend going there. Since then two of our friends have also gone, and I gave them some hints & tips based on our experience. These tips seemed to help our friends, so I have published them here in the hope that it improves the holidays for some other families!

  • All tips are based on when we visited (Easter 2013). Things may have changed since we were last there, so apologies if any of the advice is no longer accurate!

Preparation (before you go) 

  • Book Cafe Mickey by phone at least a week in advance (see later why)
  • If your kids have NOT seen any of the following DVDs, then I recommend they do, because I think if you show them to your kids they’ll get more out of the trip:
    • Snow white and the seven dwarfs
    • Peter Pan
    • Toy Story
    • Dumbo
    • Mickey Mouse clubhouse (or anything else with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto)
    • Alice in Wonderland (not a great film though in my opinion)
    • Pinnocio (not a great film though in my opinion)
    • The film “Aladdin” is quite a good idea to see beforehand too
  • Bring snacks/water (see later).

If you are staying in a Disney hotel

  • You get 2 hours ‘extra’ in the park beforehand (8am to 10am) before the ‘normal’ visitors are allowed in. Although only 10 or so rides are open during this period, it’s a LOVELY time to go around the park, so it is well worth maximising this time. Therefore I highly recommend that you go in as soon after 8am as you can.
  • Hotel reception will ask you what time you want to take breakfast (you will get a ticket for that time). If you can get up early, then I recommend go for 7am option for breakfast (earliest). Then you’ll probably come down at 7:15am, have breakfast, and leave and get in the park 8:15am to 8:30am which is GREAT.
  • When we arrived last year, there was a bit of a queue (10 minutes or so) to check in. Some people were getting a bit annoyed (the kids get excitable so the parents are stressed). Bear with the reception – they are trying their hardest to please everyone. Try to keep in a good mood! Set your expectations that there may be a delay, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Inside the Park

  • The main parade is at 5pm. We found that the best position was almost at the end of the parade, on the outside or the road curve about 100 yards before the finish (which is near the entrance to the park). This gave us the best views. Get there about 4:45pm (they’ll come past from approx 5:10pm onwards) and you should be able to get a spot right on the edge of the road. If you get your child to bring a doll of her favourite character (we did this with Jessie) you may find that the character will come over and give her a hug (Jessie did that with our daughter!)
  • Firework spectacular is great but late at night. It lasts 30 minutes, but then there’s a MAD rush to exit the park at the end. So my advice is to leave at 25 minutes past the hour (Peter Pan will say some stuff which you’ll know means you’re near the end) to beat the rush
  • Use FastPass effectively. Basically, some of the rides have FP machines next to them. All you do is (as soon as you can after 10am) put your park ticket into these machines. This’ll print out a voucher for you which will allow you speedy access to the ride about 1 hour later. When you have finished on the ride (i.e. after you have used your FastPast ticket), immediately go to the next FP ride and print out some new FP tickets/vouchers (i.e. repeat the process). If you are clever, you should be able to use FP 2 or 3 times a day.

MOST IMPORTANTLY I’d say that:

There are two parks (the ‘main’ one and the ‘studio’ park).

  • The parks are BIG, and therefore it takes a LONG time to go across each park (especially if you have young kids)
  • It also takes a long time to walk between the parks and the hotel
  • Some of the best/cheapest restaurants (e.g. McDonalds) are outside the park, so again you have to walk a while to get to them. Plus if you want to get back to your hotel (e.g. getting more water or whatever) it’ll be a long walk

So the MOST IMPORTANT thing I’d say is that you want to do everything you can to minimise your walking. Here’s my thoughts (no particular order) to achieve that:

  • You can hire buggies when you are there (extra cost). At times we wished we had, but (on the other hand) they are something else you have to worry about when queuing for rides (so if you can avoid using them, then do)
  • Make sure you use your 8am-> 10am ‘early opening’ time wisely. Most of those rides will be empty from 8am to 9am (although they do start filling up afterwards). Lots of the Disney rides are quite short, so just re-queue immediately afterwards and go on things multiple times. Probably the best example of this for us was the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. This has NO QUEUE at the beginning, so we went on about 3 times on and on. Then it has HUGE queues later!
  • However, at approx 9:45am think about where you want to go when the rides open fully. Make your way to the queue of your favourite ride. If it’s the Princess Pavillion, you need to start queuing a little earlier (approx 9:35 or so) or there will be a huge queue (during the day, it’s normally at least 90 minute queue, so probably not worth it unless you queue first thing!). In fact, I personally would ONLY do Princess Pavillion *first thing* in the day like this!
  • If you are hotel guests, then you get an additional advantage on other visitors. If your ride is outside the FantasyLand (e.g. in AdventureLand) then you can start queuing nearer (at the back of Peter Pan) at 9:55am, from where you can get there quicker than they are (they’ll be starting from the ‘Main Street’ part). It’ll all make sense when you’re there!

Once the parks are fully open (10am), and after you’ve gone to your favourite attraction first thing (e.g. Princess Pavilion) you’ll find that it’s about 10:30am and all the big rides will have big queues by now. My best advice is to:

  • Get your first Fast Past ticket (Peter Pan’s flight is probably the BEST example of this. It has AMAZINGLY long queues, and yet it’s not actually that good a ride – don’t bother going on it unless you use FP. Only go if you use Fast Past or go @ 10am) now
  • From then onwards, my advice is to NOT have a plan. Instead, just do ANYTHING that you see (whatever is closest) that has a queue less than 20 minutes or so. Just go to the nearest next ‘logical’ ride that has a small queue, not what your kids are telling you to go on because they’ve seen it in the map – it’s probably miles away!

Basically, what I’m saying is that LOADS of the rides will have very short queues (less than 5 minutes) throughout the day. There are signs on each ride to give you the queue length, and these are VERY accurate in my experience. Here are is a list of rides and the sort of queues that I expect to see during the ‘peak’ part of the day:

Short queues always:

  • Casey Junior (and I think this is a GREAT ride!)
  • Le Pays de… (storybook boat)

Short queues for much of the time (although sometimes they get longer):

  • Mad Hatter’s teacups
  • It’s a small world
  • Thunder Mesa Riverboat
  • Flying Carpets (Studios park)
  • Slinky Dog (Studios park) – we LOVED this ride

Also, here are a load of attractions that you can go to that NEVER have queues, because they are just exhibitions. They are fun though!

  • La Taniere… (Dragon’s cave)
  • Alice in Wonderland Labyrinth
  • Pirate’s beach
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • Adventure Idle (lots of caves to go for spooky looks)
  • Le Passage… (Aladdin) – not great, but passes the time if you have imagination

Make sure that you always are going on something (rather than just walking around) because (a) there’s always something with a short queue if you look for it (or are prepared to go on things multiple times!) (b) the more you walk, the more the kids will complain!

Sometimes the park gets so busy you just need some time to chill out and relax. There’s a HUGE (but actually quite hidden) burger restaurant called “Videopolis”. That’s a good place to get food (not cheap, but not expensive either) and a good sit down with a bit of calm (escape from the people outside!).

Here’s a couple of rides that I don’t recommend for young families, because they are too wild for young kids:

  • Space Mountain 2
  • Rock and Rollercoaster

There are also some things that you just go to and watch. They are very good.

  • My personal favourite was “Animagique”. 30 minutes of fun, and a nice excuse to sit down
  • “Moteurs action…” is a good stunt show, although it can get very cold watching it.
  • We didn’t go to “Stitch” or “Playhouse Disney” because (although they looked OK) the English-language versions were always on at the ‘wrong’ time of day for us.

Get the leaflets (map and show times) just after you enter the park, and check the showtimes for the above so you don’t miss them

When we first went to Disney, we found that the ‘studios’ park was quieter than the ‘main’ one, so it was a good place to get quickly on rides etc. However, when we went at Easter we found the opposite – it seemed to be more crowded! Don’t spend too much time walking between the parks – probably best to do one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon?

France is one hour ahead of UK, so that first night it’s a good idea to think if you can stay awake all evening so you can make it to the final ‘spectacular’ (it’s quite late) with fireworks etc. because the kids will feel that it’s one hour earlier than it is. Having said this, it’ll make them VERY tired and they won’t want to get up in the morning for breakfast!

The two hotels we stayed in had photo sessions in the lobby around 8am to 9:30am or so, with various characters. You end up having to queue for a bit (e.g. 20 minutes) to get your turn. This is OK, but I reckon it’s best just to wander into the park and ‘bump into’ them (you will, especially if you are there for 4 days!) and just get your photo when you see them. Saves time and is more exciting.

When you queue for “Big Thunder Mountain” (which is DEFINITELY one of the BEST rides – definitely go on it!) the queue splits into two (left and right). I cannot 100% remember, but I think it’s the LEFT queue that will be shortest (you’ll see – it’s obvious). Basically, EVERYONE naturally tends to go “right” which makes that longer. Do that as one of your first rides (when it opens) and make sure you queue left. Or use FastPass (I think it has it). Don’t miss this ride!

Check your kid’s height beforehand. Luckily our daughter (3 at the time) is very tall for her age, so we found that she was tall enough for ALL of the rides that she wanted.

There’s a shortcut between “It’s a small world” and “Star Tours”. I *wish* I’d used it more often, since it saves LOTS of time

When moving from the entrance to the other side of Main Street, it’s FAR quicker to use the two ‘tunnels’ (one on the left, one on the right) which are behind the shops. It’s also a nice relaxed place to chill, sit down on a bench, go to the toilet etc. Definitely useful when making a quick escape after the spectacular show is about to finish at night!

 

Eating (and saving money!)

  • Food is not cheap there. We found that the “Earl of Sandwich” was good for a light lunch, and there’s also McDonalds. The Rainforest Cafe was fun but expensive. However, MUCH better is to go to Cafe Mickey (same price as Rainforest Cafe) where you get to meet the characters and it’s much more fun (see below)
  • I cannot recommend highly enough booking a table (you’ll need to do it a week in advance – there’s a telephone number you can call in the UK before you travel) at Cafe Mickey, for one of their character meals. The first sitting starts at 6pm (the characters come out at 6:15pm) so try to get that sitting – it’s great fun. You must must must must must book it before you go on holiday, or you’ll find it’s all booked up when you arrive
  • We didn’t eat there, but it looked fun eating at the restaurant at the “Pirates of the Carribean” restaurant. I’d definitely give that a go if ever we went there again (unlikely!)

Saving money in Disneyland is NOT easy. Perhaps the only tips I can give you (except McDonalds and Earl of Sandwich) are:

  • Bring some water bottles (sports caps) and refill them in your hotel room each night/morning. That saved us a packet!
  • There is a coffee/cake shop in ‘Main street’ on the right hand side (as you face the castle) about half-way along. If you get there approx 10:30am it’s not so busy. It does coffee and a muffin for only about 3 Euros which is not bad.
  • In general, coffee is cheap in Disneyland, but soft drinks (for the kids) are VERY expensive.
  • Bring lots of non-perishable snacks from the UK (e.g. multi-packs of Twixes or whatever) to give the kids. They cost a FORTUNE at the park. There is simply NO method to get relatively cheap food there (apart from taking a piece of fruit each from Breakfast for the day!)

I hope that these little snippets of advice help others have a fab time. If there’s only one piece of advice that you take on board, I hope that it is  to remember to book ‘Cafe Mickey’ a week before you go!

Life is a journey, don’t repeat your dad’s mistake!

JourneyIn my previous post, I wrote down some of the advice that I had been intending to give to my kids but (for one reason or another) do not seem to ever get around to telling them. As I imagine my daughter staring down the road of her life, here are more of Roger’s thoughts (on that topic) which I hope may help her and others like her.

  • Looking back, one of the defining characteristics of my life has been that I have always concentrated on the destination, not the journey.

Let me try to give you an imaginary example of what I mean. Like many of you I’m sure, Mrs Relevant and I like to take our kids out for trips at the weekend. No doubt we see these trips as educational, but also we enjoy the family bonding. Among the different cultural places that we have visited (over the years) many have been National Trust houses, so let us imagine the family going to one of them.

Roger always likes to be prepared, so he has checked the map, worked out the best route, decided on the perfect time to leave to ensure that they arrive the moment the gates open, printed off some leaflets relating to the information of the house, checked the weather and decided what activities (outdoor/indoor) would be suitable, packed a bag full of treats and drinks to supply the family for several hours.

CAR_happy

  • Wow, Roger sounds like a great dad eh? This trip is bound to be a success!

Well, not entirely actually. All this preparation meant that Mrs Relevant was stuck with the kids all morning (before leaving) doing all the things that the kids demanded. She never had any time to achieve what she wanted (i.e. prepare her clothes etc.) so she is rushed and is not in a good mood. Her grumbling and moaning at Roger has rubbed off on the kids, meaning that Junior is telling off his dad for upsetting mum. His sister reacts, defending her dad, and soon the whole car is moaning at each other.

  • argumentBizarrely, these two characters really do look my kids!

So what went wrong? Well, Roger was concentrating too much on the destination (getting all the details ready, concentrating on getting there) and not thinking about the journey (the pleasant family-time that should have started the moment the family woke up, to the moment they returned from their outing).

The whole point of that visit was not to ‘achieve’ something (like get to the monument/attraction) but to have a great day out. Roger’s approach often centres too much about ‘ticking the box’ of doing something, rather than taking the time to appreciate what is happening all around him at the time and enjoying that.

  • So my advice to my daughter as she’s looking at the distance up the road? Don’t spend all your time looking ahead at where you are going. Instead, do spend some time looking around you (marvelling at what an amazing world you live in) and enjoy what you have right now.

One Father’s advice to his children

Dad's adviceMaybe this will not resonate with other parents, but I think it probably will.

Many emotions (naturally) whizz around a soon-to-be-father. For most of the 9 months it is fabulous excitement, then the final hours contain a lot of fear and dread. All we really want is for the event to be over, and a healthy baby safely delivered into the arms of its healthy mum. However, once all of that was over, I found myself many times holding my baby and thinking of the advice that I would give him/her as he/she grew up. Naturally the child was too small to understand my words – no matter, I thought, I’d tell him/her soon enough when they had grown up a little.

Well let me tell you that life seems to get in the way. You imagine that there will be ‘perfect times’ for your pearls of wisdom to be offloaded to your kids, but (instead) the maelstrom (that is family life) causes this to never happen. Suddenly you find that (as in my case) your eldest is a teenager and you are not sure that you have ever given him the ‘benefit of your wisdom’ yet, and you are not sure you ever will.

  • This blog post is an attempt by Roger to gather his thoughts so he can give his kids some of the advice he kept forgetting to give them as they were growing up.

So what sort of amazing advice does Roger think his kids could benefit from? Well, that’s a very good question. If Roger considers the question honestly, he’s not sure that he has any world-class advice to give. Sure, his life hasn’t been a disaster, but has it really been a great success either? Would my kids benefit from taking the same kind of decisions that their father took, or has the world changed so much that my past experiences are completely out of touch now?

  • Well Roger has finally decided that it’s best to put something down in writing (even if it is not perfect), and perhaps he can improve on it later. So think of this blog post as ‘work in progress’.

Where to start? Well, I can tell you what has been at the forefront of my mind (when I think of advice) for many years – Baz Luhrmann’s fabulous song – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). If you’re unfamiliar with it, then the lyrics can be found here, or you can just listen/watch the song here.

It’s not perfect (a couple of the lines do not resonate with my experience of the world) but in general it is so close to the truth (of what life brings) that it’s a fantastic place to start.

Yes you do need to worry about SIDs when you clone virtual machines – reasserting the ‘myth’

Google_trust

  • This article’s alternative title is “Do not always trust Google, or even those who seem so much smarter than you are – you never know, you may be cleverer than you think!“.

Today I did what a lot of I.T. people have done in the past, and will no doubt do in the future. All I wanted to do was make a ‘test’ Active Directory to do some testing with. I won’t go into all the details, but (suffice to say) I made two copies of my ‘test’ VMWare workstation image (loaded with a blank / vanilla-build installation of Windows 2008 R2)

  • On one of these images, I renamed the server and ran ‘dcpromo’ to make it a domain controller.
  • The intention was to make the second server image a member of that new AD (domain)

Having been in the I.T. business for 20 years I was well aware of the need to change the SID on one of these images (to stop potential problems) so I did a quick Google to remind myself of how to do this. I was surprised to find out that (near the top of Google’s results) was an article (also referred to here and here) written by seriously clever (Microsoft-associated) people telling me that it was no longer necessary to re-SID (a.k.a. ‘NewSID’) Windows 2008 R2 servers (and indeed that it probably was not necessary for many earlier versions of Windows either).

Like many people, I was massively surprised by this. However, I’ve recently found that taking Google’s advice (instead of relying on my gut belief) tends to be correct. Incidentally, similarly I’ve found myself trusting my SatNav more and more – and switching off my personal “I’m sure I know the best route” mechanism), but that’s another story.

  • I therefore decided to take the plunge, and *not* change the SID.

In some ways I was unsurprised to find that my system did not work. The solution? To change the SID of course!

If you’re interested in the full details, read on. If not, I guess it’s a lesson to us all – sometimes do not trust Google!

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Here is the strange thing I saw when trying to add domain users into my ‘administrators’ group (on the second/member server):

Weird things before I changed SID

Weird things before I changed SID

The solution was to run sysprep (for example see instructions here or here). Afterwards, everything looked OK:

after_Sysprep

If you are really interested, then I believe that the answer to all of this is explained by Chris Lowde in his post (5 Nov 2009 8:39 AM) here.

Pensions – are they worth it?

Image Pensions – a boring subject for many, but absolutely crucial for others. What does Roger think?

Well let me give you an idea of my views by simply telling you the following true story.

This morning I received a letter from a pension provider. When Roger was much younger (about 16 years ago to be precise) he started his first pension. It was at his first ‘good’ job, and they arranged for him to meet a pensions advisor. This lady asked when Roger would like to retire. I explained that I though that my line of work was for young people, therefore I would have to retire at 55 because (by then) I’d be past it. So 55 it was.

I soon left that job, but not before I had put £1470 in my pension pot. Each year since, I get a letter telling me how much my pension pot is worth. This morning they told me that in 15 years time (when I am due to retire) they estimate that it will be worth £3800. In other words, after 30 years of investing my money, they will have just over doubled my money. Maybe I’m being ungrateful, but surely that’s not particularly impressive for 30 years of investment by ‘clever’ investment experts?

My story has not quite ended though. They estimate that (when I reach 55) it will provide me a yearly pension of £80. Yearly, I stress, not weekly or (even) monthly. In general, when I retire I’ll get 25% of this (£950) back immediately (one-off tax free amount), but then I’ll have to wait another 6-7 years before I get the rest of the original money that I invested (i.e. total of £1470).

  • In other words, I gave them £1470 in 1997, and they tell me that they’ll give me all this money back in 2028.

In other words, I give them money, and then 35 years later they’ll give me back the same amount (£1470).

From 2028, they’ll still be giving me £80 per year. However, it will take another 29 years (of this £80 per year trickling) before I finally get back all the money that I have in my pension pot (total £3800) when I retired.

  • In other words, I have to wait until I’m 84 before I actually get hold of the full value of my pension pot.

I hope I live that long.

Oh, and let’s not forget that your pension income is subject to tax. No wonder modern young people are dissuaded from starting a pension!