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Keep kids entertained during school holidays, with cheap and free family days out that would otherwise cost a bomb.
There’s only so often you can trek to the local park or library, but tickets to expensive places like the cinema, bowling, trampolining and theme parks really add up.
Alternating between quiet days near home, having friends round to play and escaping further afield does help save money.
Here are my 5 favourite ways to avoid spending a packet on family days out.
For more suggestions for fun days out in the school holidays without spending a fortune, do join Mrs Mummypenny and me for an Instagram Live with PensionBee at 7pm on Monday 18 July. We’ll be sharing ideas for free and cheap things to keep the kids entertained, without breaking the bank.
Free cinema tickets
Heading to the cinema is a real experience, compared to slumping in front of the telly, but the tickets can cost a small fortune for a family at full price.
So I try to snap up cut price tickets wherever possible, and in the Easter holidays I used vouchers from a bank account so the four of us could see ‘Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore’ for free.
The vouchers come complete with my Club Lloyds current account. Each year, you choose one ‘lifestyle benefit’ – a year’s magazine subscription, a year’s membership of the Gourmet Society, 12 digital movie rental from Rakuten TV or 6 Odeon or Vue cinema tickets.
If you pay in £1,500 a month, you don’t have to pay a £3 fee.
I also have a NatWest Reward current account, as it pays cashback on household bills. One option when claiming cashback is to exchange £7 rewards for each Cineworld ticket, which came in handy when my oldest and I wanted to see Jennifer Lopez in ‘Marry Me’.
Another way to shrink the cost of cinema tickets is to switch services or buy a cheap insurance policy via the Compare the Market comparison site, such as an overnight single trip UK travel insurance policy. You can then nab a whole year of 2 for the price of 1 cinema tickets on Tuesdays or Wednesdays through Meerkat Movies, and 2 for the price of 1 starters, main meals and desserts on Sundays through Thursdays at certain restaurants via Meerkat Meals.
Days out with mystery shopping
Fancy getting paid to take your kids on an outing? Sign up for mystery shopping.
Mystery shopping involves anonymously visiting businesses to check out stuff like the customer service, cleanliness and the quality of the food. It’s not well paid, and you have to swot up on a ton of questions beforehand, check loads of things while you’re there, take photos, and then fill in lengthy questionnaires when you get back.
However, it does sometimes offer mystery shopping trips for days out, with a set amounts for tickets, food and drink plus a limited payment on top. You pay for everything, and get reimbursed afterwards.
To me, this is a brilliant way to cover the cost of a trip I’d pay for otherwise.
I signed up for mystery shopping with Proinsight, and have since taken the kids to a trampoline park, ten pin bowling and laser tag.
If you live near certain gym chains, you can sometimes nab gym membership for several months, which can work well for family trips during school holidays.
Just keep an eye on the allowances. I applied for a mystery shop at Kaspa’s Dessert Lounge for two people, but nobody wanted to miss out, and the four of us ended up spending far more than the limited reimbursement!
Free tickets to theme parks and other attractions
Theme parks can also cost an arm and a leg, but if you keep your eyes peeled, there are ways to get pick up tickets for free.
One of the easiest is to sign up for Tesco Clubcard if you shop at Tesco. Every 50p in Clubcard vouchers can be swapped for a £1.50 off tickets to attractions that are part of Merlin Entertainments – which means everywhere from Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures to Legoland and the London Dungeons, plus all the Sealife Centres. You can also get money off a bunch of museums, tours, cruises, castles, zoos and safari parks.
Otherwise, keep an eye on the packaging for big brands on anything from crisps to hand soap. Usually, I’m a big fan of own brand and value ranges, but sometimes splashing out a few more pence on a branded item can save pounds on an entry ticket. I’ve used a voucher from Kellogg’s cereal to get a ‘Grown Ups Go Free’ ticket to Legoland, and another free ticket to the Sea Life aquarium at Hunstanton from a packet of orange Club biscuits.
If you are travelling by train, check out the ‘2 for 1’ offers to attractions in London and elsewhere. I’ve got free tickets this way going to the Cutty Sark, Kew Gardens, the Tower of London and London Zoo.
Just be prepared to take some food and drink with you, and swerve the gift shops, if you want to keep the total cost down.
Previous post: 50+ ways to entertain kids over the summer for less
Trips to the seaside
We’re lucky enough to live a short drive from the Suffolk coast, so in the sunny weather one of my favourite outings is to head to the beach. When the kids were younger they kept busy with buckets, spades and waves. Nowadays they’re keen to cash in a few quid for 2p pieces to play on penny falls. Recently, we had a fab day pottering around in Southwold.
I tend to cut costs by taking a picnic, but if we’re tight for time it’s cheaper to nip into a supermarket for meals deals and fruit than eat out. Supermarkets can also be great for multipacks of ice creams when it’s warm – far less expensive than buying individual ice creams.
Museum plus park combos
I am definitely keener on visiting museums and galleries than my children, so when I scour local listings I look out for other activities nearby.
So for example I carried the family off to see the (free) Creating Constable exhibition at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, with the chance to let off steam in the playground elsewhere in Christchurch Park.
Similarly, after dragging them off to First Site in Colchester for the (free) ‘Life With Art’ exhibition about the Benton End artists, we explored the Warhammer shop, the ‘Dice and a Slice’ board game café and a bubble tea shop before heading to the playground in Castle Park.
Now – over to you. How have you saved money on family outingst? What are your favourite cheap days out in the school holidays? Do share in the comments, as I’d love to hear!
Reminder: For more suggestions for fun days out in the school holidays without spending a fortune, do join Mrs Mummypenny and me for an Instagram Live with PensionBee at 7pm on Monday 18 July. We’ll be sharing ideas for free and cheap things to keep the kids entertained, without breaking the bank.