We’ve planned trips to your nearest wildlife park, perfect for half term or the odd rainy weekend. So, leave the car at home and make the train journey part of the experience.

When it comes to train travel, the earlier you book, the cheaper your tickets tend to be. And, there are two golden rules for every journey with the family –

  • Book tickets in advance and save an average of 61%*.

  • Little children, little prices! Most Train Operating Companies (TOCs) let up to two children under five travel for free when they’re with at least one adult, so team up with a few parents and bring the whole clan for no extra cost.

*Average savings on Advance fares booked at least one week before day of travel vs Anytime fares purchased on day of travel. Subject to availability. Excludes coach.

1. Get 2 for 1 at London Zoo

Travel by train to ZSL London Zoo and, as well as avoiding the city’s traffic, your train ticket gets you 2 for 1 entry into the zoo, meaning you can use the money you’ve saved for treats like ice cream or hot chocolate. All you have to do is register for a 2 for 1 voucher on the National Rail website and then present your train ticket on the day.

London Euston is the closest train station to ZSL London Zoo. From there, it’s a short bus or tube ride away.

Whether they’re crazy about big cats or potty about penguins, your little ones can get hands-on and learn just what it takes to look after all creatures great and small. Don’t worry, it won’t cost you anything extra, and there’s no need to book.

Why not plan the ultimate sleepover party at Lion Lodge? You’ll get to spend the night in a cosy cabin within roaring distance of the lions – just wait ‘til they tell their friends at school.

2. Save 25% at Shepreth Wildlife Park

Shepreth Wildlife Park is just a short hop on the train from Cambridge and Stevenage, and just over an hour from London Kings Cross, making it an easy day trip if you live in the South East of England. Just show your train ticket at the park’s entrance for a special rate of just £6.50 per adult. You can't redeem the train ticket offer online, so simply turn up and buy tickets at the entrance to the park.

Get up close to playful red pandas, cheeky meerkats and loveable otters, or spend the day being a keeper. There’s no need to fear bad weather with the Nocturnal House and Tropical House to shelter and entertain you.

3. Port Lympne Reserve

It’s not every day you can tell people you’ve come face to face with a T-rex. Well, at Port Lympne Reserve in Kent you can, in their Dinosaur Forest. Don’t forget to pack your camera, so you can star in your very own Jurassic Park film!

You don’t have to go to Africa to go on safari either, as there’s a free trip to the safari park included in your ticket price (a family ticket for two adults and two children costs £75 if you book online).  Unlike many attractions, Port Lympne Reserve is open all year, including Bank Holidays, so there’s no chance of being rained off.

Seasoned explorers like you will have no trouble getting to the park from Ashford International Station (36mins from London St Pancras), then it’s a short hop by bus, or a 10-minute taxi ride away.

The park is spread over 600 acres, so there’s plenty of space for your little tearaways to run wild. And, when they’re all worn out, tuck them up in a treehouse for the night – bedtime stories will feel even more magical.

4. See England’s only polar bears

No need to go through freezing temperatures and arctic winds, catch the train to Doncaster for the nearby Yorkshire Wildlife Park and you can see polar bears up close, as well as lions, lemurs, wallabies and more.

Book the Polar Bear Experience and you can meet these white giants before the park opens, after a VIP breakfast in their Safari Café.

The train from Sheffield to Doncaster can take about 30 minutes and costs less if you’ve got a Friends and Family Railcard, they cost £30 for the year and give you 1/3 off train tickets.

5. See Birmingham’s Ocelots for not-a-lot

Birmingham’s Wildlife Conservation Park might be smaller than some zoos, but it’s still got great reviews on TripAdvisor. You’ll find some of the more unusual species here, like prickly porcupines, lynx and rare ocelots.

Entry prices are reasonable too, so it’s a great choice for those on a budget. Five Ways, the nearest station, takes less than an hour to reach from Wolverhampton and Coventry.

If you’ve got an Anytime Day Return ticket, you can return as late as you like so, make a day of it. Cannon Hill Park, next door, has mini-golf, and there are botanical gardens less than a 10-minute taxi ride away.