If you subscribe to my blog then you’ll know I’m all about getting the best possible value for money for all our family days out. The cost of looking after the kids during the school holidays is terrifying. For our three kids it costs £110 per day for them to be in childcare (before the government scheme). We try to use as many days holiday as possible, but even when you’re not at work there’s the cost of keeping the kids entertained. To do all the days out that we do as a family (and that I review on this blog) I have to find ways of keeping them cheap, so here are my top tips to help you save money on family days out
Tip 1 – Take a packed lunch
This applies for holidays as well as family days out. Buying a family lunch can easily cost £30 – £40, and that’s on top of any admission costs. We have a trusty, but now very well-loved, Trespass picnic backpack and it has saved us a fortune over the years. In my opinion a backpack is much better than a picnic bag as it’s easier to carry around and you’re less inclined to leave it at home.
Case in point, we forgot to take it with us when we went to Cornwall for the Easter weekend and we spent at least £100 more on food in just a couple of days than we normally do. When I went to Blenheim Palace the other week I left our lovely, home-made packed lunch on the side in the kitchen. Nearly £20 later for just Smallest Child and I to have lunch and I really wished I’d remembered it.
Even if the weather is rubbish that doesn’t need to stop you taking your own lunch. We’ve had picnics in some strange places over the years; caves, summer houses and under bridges. If all else fails car picnics are always an option. You just need to get creative some times.
Tip 2 – And the water
Don’t forget your own drinks too. You can pay a small fortune for bottled water, or you could bring your own bottle! Plus it’s better for the environment. Win-win.
Tip 3 – Use your memberships
It seems that most of us have at least one family membership, annual membership or some kind of discount scheme kicking around somewhere. But how often do people use them to their full potential, even the expensive ones?? We’ve got lots of memberships and discount cards – it’s how we managed to visit Hampton Court Palace, the Mary Rose, Kenilworth Castle AND Charlecote Park for just £40 for 4 people.
If you are a member of the National Trust, English Heritage, CSSC, have kids with a Blue Peter Badge or any other schemes then always have a look around to see where you can get into for free or at a discount. If you work in the public sector then I’d definitely recommend joining CSSC. You get free entry to English Heritage sites* and places like Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
Just make sure you don’t leave them languishing in a drawer somewhere. Keep them all together, including any tickets for places where the tickets are valid for a year. When you’re looking for something to do just go through them all and see what you fancy.
Psssst. If you’re interested in joining English Heritage and visiting over 400 places for free, you can save 15% by using the code EH2021 at the checkout. Click the link to become a member.
Tip 4 – Don’t discount free family days out
Find out what places you can visit for free in your local area. There’s probably more than you think. It could be countryside walks, museums, places where you only have to pay for parking, parks or any of a whole range of family days out. If you live in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire or the surrounding counties have a look at my Free to Visit and Just Pay for Parking sections for inspiration.
Tip 5 – Have a rainy day back-up
In England the one thing we can rely on is that the weather cannot be relied upon! It’s always seemed to me that anywhere that is mainly indoors is also really expensive. Find out what options you have locally that are free or cheap and stick a list on the fridge so it’s there when you need it. Desperately searching for “cheap things to do indoors” on a soggy Monday afternoon whilst you have kids moaning that they’re bored is never fun. Most museums are free to visit; even if they’re small they might have events on that can bulk out a day trip. One of my favourite free indoors family days out is the RAF Museum in London. It’s massive, you’ll spend hours there, it’s mostly indoors and if the weather does improve there’s a lovely, themed play area.
Tip 6 – Never pay full price for a day out
In addition to the memberships I mentioned in Tip 3, you should never pay full price for a family day out. Think “How can I get a discounted day out?” Your employers might run discount schemes such as Perkbox and some places offer discounts for NHS/military staff etc.
Have a look at supermarket loyalty schemes as well, you might be able to trade points for admission. Don’t forget to keep an eye Groupon as well – they might have some deals nearby. Search for discount codes or discounts on the attraction’s website. You’ll often be able to get a discount on tickets booked in advance. If you’re shopping in a supermarket, have a look at the leaflet stands as well. There’s usually some really good local attractions to be found and quite often the leaflets have discounts.
Tip 7 – Join a discount scheme
You could also try something like Kids Pass (affiliate link). They do a trial of just £1 for 30 days membership, but sometimes there are offers for longer trials. You’ll get up to 65% discounts on lots of family days out, including some really big names and other things like food and cinema tickets . There’s also an app so you can find discounts when you’re on the move. Joining something like Tastecard (affiliate link) doesn’t just give you access to half price food, it also gives you access to discounts on family days out and cinema tickets.
Tip 8 – Check out the local councils
All across our area local and district councils organise regular free events, particularly during school holidays. I’m lucky in Aylesbury that Aylesbury Town Council are hosting lots of big, free events, but they’re not alone. Don’t forget to search for all the town and county councils in your area and do a facebook search as well for events.
Tip 9 – Family Day Trips are Cheaper as a Group
If you cannot get a discount to the place you want to visit how about going with friends? When we visited Cadbury World we saved £5 per family using a family ticket cleverly. Our (then) smallest children were under 4 so we qualified for a 2A, 2C family ticket and each half cost less than the price of buying individual tickets. Group travel works really well for train tickets too. Two families of four can save almost half if travelling as a group. Pop in to your local train station to see what you could save. Finally take advantage of group discounts. If you’re visiting somewhere as a family then it doesn’t take many families to count as a group (which usually start at 10 people). Group discounts can be quite substantial so it’s absolutely worth the hassle of trying to co-ordinate diaries.
There are also the logistical benefits of group day trips, especially if you’re the only parent going on. Having someone else who can watch the kids whilst you nip to the loo/stand in the queue/find whatever one of them has dropped is invaluable.
I hope you all have a lovely holiday with the kids and that you’ll find these tips useful to help you save money on family days out. I won’t say relaxing because of course it won’t be. I’d love to hear about your adventures and money saving tips – just leave a comment below. I’ll be posting regularly about our days out over the holidays as well so make sure you sign up to the newsletter to hear about the reviews (and discounts) first.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook
I sometimes use affiliate links if there is something that I genuinely think will be of interest and that I think is relevant to the post. I will always indiciate if a link is an affiliate link. I do earn a small commission for these, and that goes towards the running costs of the site. Any discounts mentioned may only be available for a short time so please double check prices before booking.