For those put off by the cost of a holiday this summer, there are plenty of options closer to home to keep the children busy – without breaking the bank.
Here, Holly Thomas shares top tips for bagging bargain family fun.
Adventure: Alffi and Lili Jones at the Llanelli Wetland Centre
DISCOUNT DAY TRIPS
Buying tickets for local attractions in advance almost always works out cheaper. For example, an online ticket for Legoland Windsor costs £29 compared with £53 on arrival.
Using a Tesco Clubcard or Nectar points to buy tickets can bring down the price further. When spent on a day out at one of 150 attractions, every 50p in Clubcard vouchers is worth £1.50.
For Legoland Windsor, that means a one-day entry pass could cost just £11.50 in vouchers – less than half the online price.
Websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk, and hotukdeals.com also list discount codes for big attractions.
Try discount website picniq.com for offers such as up to 23pc off tickets to Chessington World of Adventures.
EAT OUT FOR LESS
A host of pubs and restaurants are offering cheap or even free meals for children this summer. At Hungry Horse pubs, children can eat for free between 8am and 12pm, as long as an adult breakfast is also ordered.
While at Sizzling Pubs & Grill youngsters eat for just £1 from Monday to Friday, between 3pm and 7pm, with the purchase of every adult main meal.
Farmhouse Inns is offering a similar deal, though you can eat at any time of day, Monday to Friday. And restaurants without promotions can still be affordable; at Bella Italia the children’s menu starts at £5.99.
At restaurants without promotions can still be affordable; at Bella Italia the children’s menu starts at £5.99
FUN ON THE FARM
Pick-your-own-fruit farms make for a wholesome day out. Strawberries are the most common fruit to pick, but apples, gooseberries, rhubarb and blueberries, as well as vegetables such as sweetcorn and courgettes, are also up for grabs. Anything you want to take home is charged by weight.
Entry is usually free or just a few pounds, but there is typically a minimum spend of around £4. Farms often provide containers, but to save on plastic, you could bring your own.
Many places also put on extra activities for children, such as adventure playgrounds and nature trails. Visit pickyourownfarms.org.uk and pyo.co.uk to take a look at the different options.
Odeon Cinema is running Odeon Kids screenings all summer, with tickets priced from £2.50. Check online (odeon.co.uk) for showings at your local cinema. There are also Mini Mornings from £2.49 per ticket at your local Vue cinema (myvue.com).
At Vue cinemas there are Mini Mornings that start from £2.49 per ticket
Theatre lovers should make sure they are signed up to receive updates and offers during Kids Week, an annual promotion throughout August where an adult and child (aged 17 or under) can get half-price tickets to shows.
You can book up to eight tickets, with no more than four adults. Four or more children must be accompanied by at least two adults. Visit officiallondontheatre.com/kids-week and choose from a wide variety of London musicals, plays, comedies and children’s shows.
An annual pass is just the ticket
NHS workers Catrin and Neil Jones, of Carmarthenshire, Wales, have bought several year-long memberships so they can fill the summer with fun days out with their children, Lili, seven, and Alffi, four. Catrin says: ‘We have no plans to go abroad any time soon, so we decided to make sure we explore as much of the UK as we can, starting on our own doorstep.’
Their most recent purchase was a family pass to the Llanelli Wetland Centre, just 30 minutes from their home. Family membership starts at £72.
‘We only have to go four times to make the pass worth it — we’ve already been three times,’ Catrin says. The pair, both 39, also have annual passes for the The National Botanic Garden of Wales, the National Trust and Cadw, which manages 130 historic properties. They have been documenting their trips on YouTube and social media under the name Silver Nugget Adventure.
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If you live near to National Trust properties or a local zoo and can visit regularly, then an annual membership can work out much cheaper than daily tickets. An annual pass to Longleat Safari Park costs £100 for customers aged 16 to 59, and £75 for children aged between three and 15. If you’re over 60 it’s £90.
With a one-day ticket costing £34.95 for adults and £26.20 for kids, you need to visit only three times a year to benefit. A National Art Pass gives you free entry to hundreds of museums and galleries, plus 50 pc off major exhibitions. Passes cost £73, or £45 if you’re under 30, and £10 for under-16s (artfund.org).
The Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk) is offering free fishing taster sessions for those who want to learn. If you own bikes, the National Trust lists a selection of child-friendly cycle routes (nationaltrust.org.uk), while some local councils offer residents free swimming at their nearest pool. You could also pack up a picnic and head for one of the UK’s Woodland Trust forests (woodlandtrust.org.uk).