20 ways to have cheap days out with the kids – weekend fun & the school holidays sorted!

Here’s my guide to having cheap days out with the kids – with 20 ways to have fun on a budget on the weekends and over the school holidays! It’s great to get out and about when the children are off, and make the most of your time together, making memories! But the school holidays, especially the 6 week summer break in particular, can be really expensive if you don’t plan carefully and make the most of the deals and discounts on offer.

So I’ve come up with 20 ideas for cheap days out with the kids, to help you to save money so that family days out are more affordable. Frugal family fun on a budget! From making the most of nature, to free kids’ entry at big attractions, in-store workshops, free local events and lots more!

Make the most of these tips and tricks and mix in some free days out to keep costs down. You might even want to set a budget for the long summer break and work backwards from there; planning your days out around that. And, if you need some ideas on how to entertain the kids at home too, keep scrolling for my free, printable 30 day kids’ activity calendar.

 

Here’s how to have cheap days out with the kids in the UK:

1. Get cheap cinema tickets

Never pay full price for the cinema, there are loads of ways to save money on cinema tickets. First up, most cinemas offer weekend movies for junior rates, and this often extends to weekdays too during the school holidays. A cinema trip is a great way to entertain the kiddies indoors in the winter or on a rainy day! Odeon, Cineworld and Vue offer these screenings for just a few pounds per ticket.

cheap days out with the kids, weekend, school holidays budget family fun guide, frugal mum, photo cineworld

If you have Amazon Prime, you can also get two Odeon tickets for £10 on Monday-Thursday screenings once a month – which could be good for cheap school holiday entertainment. You could also exchange your Tesco Clubcard Vouchers for free cinema tickets, to see the new releases without spending a penny. Or sign up to Kids Pass to get discounted cinema tickets, 7 days a week (with a £1 trial) – it can be well worth it to save money on family days out all summer!

Meerkat Movies offer 2 for 1 cinema tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday – and you can get this deal for about £1 by buying the cheapest qualifying insurance policy through Compare the Market. Grab an insurance that you don’t need (like a 1 day travel insurance) and you’ll benefit from the 2 for 1 deal for a year.

 

2. Take the kids geocaching

You can easily find a local geocaching trail nearby, with just a quick search on google. It makes a long walk a little more purposeful, and the kids enjoy it because it feels like a treasure hunt! Lots of country parks offer geocaching activities too – it’s just £5 per family at our local park and they provide the geocaching equipment, a route planner to complete and clipboards. So, pick a route to follow, pack up a picnic and enjoy an afternoon exploring.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, geocaching photo

 

3. Make the most of memberships

National Trust and English Heritage memberships can be a great investment; once you’ve signed up you can use them time and time again for free days out. Often it’ll only take a visit or two to make it worthwhile money-wise, and payments can be made monthly so that they don’t seem too overwhelming – family memberships are usually about a tenner each month.

These memberships are great idea for the Christmas list too; adventures rather than things. Then you can enjoy the benefit for a whole year, having all sorts of fabulous family days out to places like Walmer Castle, Dover Castle, St Michael’s Mount and Tintagel Castle.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, tintagel castle family photo

Keep your eyes peeled as the National Trust usually offer passes for a free family day out over the summer months too – they’ve done this for the last few years. There have been two offers this year already with one currently in the Daily Mirror, if you purchase a newspaper by Sunday 21st July 2024, you can get a free National Trust Family Day Pass.

For home-educating families, you can get a year’s National Trust family membership for around £50 – which can be used term-time. And, English Heritage allow free entry to their sites, just as they do for school visits – just be sure to give a few weeks notice as they’ll need time to approve the visit and send you an entry permit.

 

4. Visit a free museum

Don’t forget that so many museums offer free entry – London, in particular, has a lot to choose from. But if you’re not near the capital, have a quick search online to see what’s available in your local area. Often, during the school holidays, museums will offer children’s activities, talks and craft workshops too, so it’s well worth checking to see what they’ve got running when the kids are off school.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, natural history museum photo

 

5. Get free child entry with a Blue Peter Badge

With a Blue Peter Badge, children can gain free entry to over 200 Blue Peter Badge attractions around the country such as theme parks, zoos and castles – making weekends, school holiday days out and UK staycation entertainment a lot more affordable. They take a while to arrive, so make sure you get it sorted well in advance.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, blue peter badges photo

For a family of two adults and two children, this would save around £40 on a trip to the Tower of London, or the local zoo. We’ve used our badges to get the kids in free at The Heights of Abraham, Howlett’s Zoo, HMS Belfast, and they offer it at the Eden Project too – it’s well worth doing! There are lots of ways for the kids to earn their badges, check out my article on Blue Peter Badges for more info on how to apply.

 

6. Find a Groupon deal

Groupon deals can be a fab way to have a fun day out without spending lots of money. Use their ‘Local’ section to get the best offers close to you. You’ll likely be able to find cheap day out deals on children’s entertainment (bowling, the circus etc), as well as eating out.

cheap days out with the kids, frugal mum money saving tips, family bowling photo

 

7. Save on days out with Kids Pass

Sign up to Kids Pass for a month’s trial for just a quid!  Enjoy the perks and either continue your subscription or cancel prior to your trial ending to make sure no further charges are taken. If you want to continue your subscription, you can do so for just a few pounds each month – allowing you to enjoy the huge savings available year round.

Using their app, you can save on the go and search for things to do and restaurants near you. It’s a great option for saving during the summer holidays, even if cancelled afterwards. (It’ll likely be the best £1 you spend all summer!!)

The perks are:

 

8.  Visit your local library / children’s centre

If you have a local children’s centre or library, see what activities and clubs are on offer during the summer holidays. Many activities will be subsidised (or even free) – so craft activities, story-time, play sessions and family fun days can be a great way to keep everyone busy on a tight budget.

frugal mum children crafting

Just be sure to do a bit of research in advance because (as with anything free) spaces may fill up pretty quickly! The kids can also take part in the reading challenge; which is a good way to motivate them to read regularly over the summer.

 

9. Visit the beach

The beach is one of our favourite places – the kids don’t care if the water’s cold, they’ll swim anyway, build sandcastles for hours and collect more pebbles then they can carry home! We always come back filthy and windswept but it’s such a lovely way to spend an afternoon. We love sports too, so beach rounders, frisbee and football are a must – pack some supplies and enjoy a free day at the seaside!

family photo frugal mum children at the beach

 

10. Enjoy in-store children’s workshops

Lots of stores offer free or cheap children’s in-store workshops and activities on weekend dates and throughout the school holidays. These are a few that I’ve come across…

Pets at Home run free small-animal workshops throughout the year, including during the school holidays. These are designed for children aged 5-11 years – see what’s available near you.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, rabbit photo

Hobbycraft run craft workshops year round, usually for around £5 depending on what’s being made – the perfect way to keep the kids busy when the weather’s bad. Check out what’s available at your local Hobbycraft.

Dobbies Garden Centre run free plant and nature themed workshops, suitable for children aged 4-10 years; take a look at what your local Dobbies has to offer.

 

11. Hunt out restaurant deals

Lots of restaurants and supermarkets offer cheap kids’ meals, or daytime saver menus – so you can enjoy a family meal when you’re out for the day without spending loads of money. Here are a few that we use:

  • Table Table: 2 meals for £11.49
  • Brewers Fayre: 2 meals for £10.99, or feed the family for £18
  • Asda: Kids eat for £1
  • Morrisons: Kids eat free
  • Beefeater: 2 lunchtime courses for £10.95

And plenty of places offer ‘children eat free’ deals or £1 meals during school holiday times – so have a google before you go, and plot meals out around the best prices! Here are some that I’ve found for kids eat free (or for £1) during the UK summer holidays for 2024…

kids eat for free or £1 this summer 2024 guide

 

12. Head to the woods

A trip to the woods is always a hit with the kids, whatever the time of year. Pop your wellies on, build dens, search for fairies and, if you’re really lucky, you might even find a rope swing! Why not collect some bits to use in collages or craft projects too, and create some nature art when you get back home.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, children in woods photo

 

13. Find a new play park

Most kids love a trip to the park, but visiting the same old places can get a little dull. To mix things up, ask other parents to recommend new parks, or search online to see what’s about. There are loads of brilliant free parks about, so pack up a picnic and try somewhere new!

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, coastal park photo

 

14. Enjoy free fun with Tesco Clubcard

If you’re a Tesco shopper, you can benefit from using your Tesco Clubcard points for free meals and days out. These points can be collected through Tesco services too – such as Tesco Mobile or through a Tesco Credit Card, so you can collect them even if you do your weekly shop elsewhere. Points can be exchanged for theme parks, zoos, farms, castles and even trips to London.

Cheap days out, family, kids, fun on a budget in the school holidays, frugal mum summer tips, zsl children lemur zoo photo

 

15. Have fun with friends

A sure-fire way to keep the kids entertained over the summer is to invite their friends! A few snacks, a couple of water pistols and some disco music is a cheap and cheerful way to have a fun afternoon without spending much at all. These sorts of days are my children’s favourite kind, and if you’ve not got room to host at home you can always do it on a local green or at the beach too. (We often borrow Nanny and Grandad’s garden!)

frugal mum children water fight in garden photo

 

16. Visit the capital

There are loads of FREE things to do in London with children, even if you’re not a fan of the museums. From to playgrounds, to lidos, to farms and zoos – there’s something to entertain everyone. Make sure you read my post on the best 10 free days out in London with the kids for more info. Pack up some lunch and you can have a totally free day hopping from place to place, or use the freebie activities to balance out a paid activity for a whole day of fun in the city.

Frugal family days out, The 10 best FREE places to visit in London with kids, frugal mum

 

17. Explore a country park

There are so many gorgeous country parks dotted all over the country – each offering a new (free!) adventure. Whether it be woodland walks, streams, lakes or large green spaces, it’s always a winner for a family walk. Many have trails too, to keep the kids entertained, or themed activities dependent on the time of year, so be sure to check out what’s on offer before you visit.

kearsney abbey, parks, dover, kent, children playing in water, frugal mum, free day out

 

18. Head to a local farm

Lots of farms offer free entry, or farming days for kids for a couple of quid, so you can have a day with the animals without spending loads of money. A quick google in your local area will reveal any open days and events – so pack a picnic, put your wellies on and make some furry friends!

frugal mum child holding a lamb at a farm

 

19. Swim at a lido

There are actually quite a number of outdoor pools and paddling pools around – a quick internet search will help you to discover what’s in your area! Most are inexpensive, and some are even free! If the good old British weather is being kind, pop your swimsuits on and head to your nearest one for a dip!

frugal mum family pool photo

 

20. Check out free local events

The summer is the best time to explore your local area (or further afield) – and there are always lots of things happening for free! For instance, bandstand shows pop up all over the place over the warmer months, as do food and drink festivals where there’s usually free entertainment too. Broadstairs, in Kent, even hold free fireworks evenings every summer, and lots of towns host airshows too. Just get googling, and pack up a picnic, to entertain the whole family without spending a penny!

frugal mum children on bouncy castle

 

And don’t forget to think about the extra ways that you can save money this summer while the kids are home from school. You could:

Have fun at home

The school holidays can be hard going, particularly the long six week summer break. So if you’re exhausted, out of money, or the weather is grotty, you might just want to snuggle up at home! Download my free, printable 30 day kids’ activity calendar for lots of ideas on how to keep the little ones busy on a budget without even leaving the house!

30 day kids school holiday activity grid, entertain kids at home, frugal mum printable

Socialising at home can be a great way to save money too. Hosting the kids’ friends at home with a few chicken nuggets and a paddling pool can be just as fun as a big day out, whilst costing very little.

 

Save on the kids’ summer wardrobe

Unlike adults, who can keep their clothes for years, unfortunately kids grow and that can be expensive! 😂 But don’t spend a fortune on a summer wardrobe for the kids – with the good old unpredictable British weather they may not need it for long anyway! Use last year’s clothes where possible, hunt out the sales, accept hand-me-downs, shop second-hand (Facebook Marketplace, Vinted and Preworn are all brilliant for second-hand clothing) and cut the legs off last year’s trousers to make shorts!

 

Travel frugally

Travelling on a budget over the school holidays can be tricky so check out my article Budget Family Holiday Tips: How to travel abroad cheaply with kids for lots of money saving tips.

How to travel abroad on a budget, frugal mum title page, save money on family holiday tips

Perhaps you could book a Sun Newspaper Holiday for just £9.50 per person, go camping, or join Trusted Housesitters to slash accommodation costs. Maybe you could swap flights for a road trip? Or, travel at night to slash flight costs? And, Eurocamp holidays can be a brilliant option too – I recently found 78 breaks for a family of four under £250 for May half-term week!

If you need to book your getaway during the school summer holidays, over July and August, and you’d like to find something affordable in Europe check out my article: Budget Family Summer Getaways: July & August school holiday deals under £1000! (With prices starting from as little as £188 for a week in August!)

budget school holiday deals, eurocamp cheap school holidays

If you’re having a UK staycation this year, then you’ll want to check out this article too – UK family travel on a budget: 25 tips for a cheap staycation holiday!

uk holiday staycation tips, frugal mum, family getaway on a budget and days out ideas, save money, title page

 

Slash your food costs

We always pack up a picnic lunch for any kind of travel or day out, and take refillable water bottles and lots of snacks too. If you’re visiting an attraction like a zoo, theme park or castle chances are the food prices at the venue will be extremely inflated, so bring your own to make days out with the kids so much cheaper.

We always bring a flask of coffee too for the adults – it can be so expensive out and about but it’s definitely needed for survival on a family day out! 😂 And, I’ll often even bring ice-lollies buried in cool blocks too, as my two will inevitably always ask for an ice-cream! Invest in a decent cool bag rucksack (I have this one from Amazon) and you can use it time and time again to avoid splurging on food when heading out with the kids.

family travel with kids, road trip packing tips, cool bag rucksack

 

Trade childcare

It can be really tough for working parents to juggle childcare over the summer holidays. And those who can’t take enough time off end up with huge bills! The best way to keep costs low is to share out the childcare with friends and family where possible.

On the days that you need to work, they have the kids – when they need to work, do a swap so that you look after their little ones. (And hopefully you can preserve some of your annual leave too!) That way, the kids are always happy and catered for without it costing anyone a small fortune!

 

Ditch the car

When the sun’s shining, there’s nothing nicer than a walk so if you’re staying local – perhaps popping to the shop or visiting friends – why not walk or cycle? It’s a great way to get the kids out, get some exercise and cut down on car use to reduce your petrol costs. Going a bit further afield? With kids’ £1 rail tickets or the current £2 bus fare cap, it might be cheaper to use public transport than drive!

 

Looking for some ideas for family days out? Check out:

Kent with Kids: The 15 best FREE family days out in Kent!

Kent with Kids, The best FREE family days out in Kent, frugal mum tips

 

Kent with Kids: The 10 best indoor attractions to entertain the kids on a rainy day!

Kent with Kids, The 10 best indoor attractions to entertain the kids on a rainy day, frugal mum tips, family reviews

 

Where should we visit in Cornwall with kids? A review of 5 popular attractions!

uk family holiday, frugal mum tips, days out in cornwall with kids, reviews, tintagel, st michaels mount, eden project, polperro, st nectans glen

 

Wales with Kids: Greenwood Family Park Review, North Wales

day out with the kids, north wales holiday, greenwood family park review, nature attractions, frugal mum photos

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