So you and your friends, colleagues, or family have thought what a great idea it would be to have a day at the races. Congratulations! You have a made a great choice, and one which you won’t regret.
A day at the races is a fantastic opportunity to get people together for a fun day out of colour, drama, and excitement. The next step is to take action and turn your idea into reality.
As with most trips and days out, a certain amount of organisation and planning is required. Enjoying a day out spontaneously is great, however for a day at the races – especially with a group – a little advance thinking will make the day go more smoothly.
Here’s a guide on getting your day at the races out of the stalls and on track:
It may be obvious but you need to decide when your day out will be.
Inevitably as spring and summer bring warmer days and longer evenings, many of us come out of our winter hibernation and venture outdoors more. Weekends are usually the most popular times, as by and large those are the days when everyone is free from work and can get together.
There is also the end of the working week i.e. Thursday or Friday; both days a good excuse for a day off to start a long weekend.
Then again, there is always racing on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday if you are lucky enough to be free those days!
Bear in mind also that as the days draw longer in spring and summer, evening race meetings kick in so they make a great excuse to enjoy those balmy, warm summer nights.
It may be you have a racecourse close to home, perhaps one that is a particular favourite with you and your crowd.
Or it could be that with members of your race party coming from out of town and different ends of the country, you need to decide on a venue which is a convenient central point for everyone to get to.
There is so much choice with approximately (at least) one UK racecourse located within an hour’s travelling time of your front door.
As well as opting for a favourite local or regional course, there is the obvious draw of one of the bigger Race Festivals – such as Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the Epsom Derby meeting (and that’s just naming three). They are truly great days out, but to get there does require a lot more forward planning due to their obvious popularity.
Alternatively look to head to a meeting where they are also hosting a special event alongside the racing itself. The advent of events such as Ladies' Day (or Night), Family Days, Food, Beer and Wine Festivals, and Music Nights are increasingly popular year on year.
Work out basic costs
Whilst you and your party can ‘pay on the gate’, it is always best to book ahead. For group bookings, you will find you can get extra discounts off the normal raceday prices and also by booking in advance, either by phone or online.
The cost of tickets also depends on which enclosure you are thinking of: whether you and your group are looking to be casual spectators, or opting for something a little more formal – a meal package perhaps?
Also look out for some great group packages that many racecourses offer to advance group party bookings for selected meetings.
Think about how you will all get there and back. Depending on the size of your party, you may have a designated driver (or drivers) to car-share and ferry you to the course and back.
It may be that you need taxis, a mini-coach, or you could even catch the train.
Or are you perhaps considering going in style – does your driver and limousine await?
For those days out that are a little further afield, weigh up whether you will need to find a hotel or B&B for stopping over afterwards; perhaps even for arriving the day before.
Again, try and book ahead, and don’t leave it until the last minute.
d. Added extras:
Attending the race meeting itself is one thing, but do you also need to book a restaurant in town for dinner afterwards, or perhaps lunch beforehand – groups can be hard to squeeze in to a popular place at the last minute? Or tickets for a nightclub, or perhaps even a pampering session at the local spa/beauty salon in the morning or the next day?
Many racecourses are located near other interesting visitor attractions, so planning a next-day activity could turn your visit into a really exciting weekend or mini-break – again, many offer special group packages if you book in advance.
Put your money where your mouth is
Having decided who is going, when you are going and where, get a commitment from people to show they are really up for a day out.
As the organiser, you don’t want to find you are making all these plans only to then find yourself out of pocket if and when people have to back out (you obviously hope it won’t come happen, but it does!)...
So, get a small deposit off all your intended party members. It can be to cover any initial outlay such as booking tickets in advance or accommodation, or simply be put towards the cost of the day. Whether you choose to make it non-refundable is up to you, but at least you have got that commitment from them.
If you have the time, look at setting up an informal payment system, whereby individuals can pay a little bit towards the cost of the day when they can – that way it is not such a big payment in one hit.
You may find (if you are lucky!) that once costs are drawn up, members of your party will pay in full well in advance.
Go for it!
It may look an exhausting exercise to get your group’s day at the races off the ground, but it isn’t really. As someone who has arranged many a raceday outing, it can actually be quite fun and it really builds up the excitement for both you the organiser and those in your party in the lead-up to the day you are planning.
By doing a spot of simple planning and following these pointers, you and your group will be off and running for a day at the races in no time.
ABOUT KARL QUINNEY
Based in Rugby, Warwickshire, Karl Quinney is a freelance copywriter and feature writer, and contributor for EclipseMagazine.co.uk\