UK family travel on a budget: 25 tips for a cheap staycation holiday!

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Fancy a cheap UK staycation this year and need some ideas to help you to plan your family holiday on a budget? Travel can be so expensive, but with a few tips and tricks you can make fabulous memories with the kids without breaking the bank!

Here 25 tips for travelling on a budget: from cheap accommodation options, to free days out, discounted holidays, self-catering and city escapes  – there are loads of ways to cut back. Think about it, the more you save, the more you can travel! Here’s how to save money on your UK summer holiday, without spoiling all of the fun…

1. Book slightly (or completely!) out of season

If you’re able to travel outside of peak times you could see some big savings – even a week or two can make a huge difference to prices. You can save hundreds of pounds by travelling off peak, and these big savings can be used to travel more frequently or for longer periods.

Haven Holidays offer fab savings if you avoid the peak school summer holiday period – this year they’ve offered breaks away from as little as £49 so it’s well worth a look. A while back, we stayed at Haven Hafan y Mor Holiday Park in Wales and absolutely loved it – check out my review!

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, haven hafan y mor pool photo

 

2. Self-cater to save on food costs

Food can be a huge expense when you’re travelling, particularly if you eat out regularly. To keep costs down, book a holiday that enables you to self-cater. Having some kitchen facilities means that you can stock up at cheap supermarkets along your route, pack up picnics and cook at your accommodation when you can.

To save time, book a click and collect slot at a supermarket local to where you’ll be staying, or fill the car with shopping bags and cool bags before you set off. It’s always worth stocking the freezer with ice-creams too – as those extra snacky bits and holiday treats can really add up.

 

3. Enjoy bargain breaks at Butlins

If you can avoid peak school holiday dates, Butlins can be a really cheap family getaway – we booked a Mon-Fri break for just £88 last year. There’s so much included for free when you get there that, if you self-cater, you can get away with spending very little during your holiday too. So, you could get a fun week away for less than the cost of a day out!

Free activities include:

  • A fairground with loads of rides – my two love the bumper cars!
  • A fantastic pool complex with slides, flumes and a lazy river.
  • Craft activities
  • Puppet shows
  • Evening entertainment shows
  • Soft play
  • Indoor rides
  • Silent Cinema
  • Daytime shows for the younger ones

For more info, check out my article: Are Butlins holidays good? Butlins Bognor Regis vs Minehead Review – and money saving tips!

Are Butlins holidays good, Butlins Bognor Regis vs Minehead Review, money saving tips, frugal mum title page

 

4. Make the most of deals and discounts

Lots of UK holiday companies, like Haven, Parkdean and Park Holidays, run discounts and sales throughout the year – so sign up to newsletter alerts or follow them on social media to make sure that you don’t miss out.

You’ll also notice that there are cheaper breaks, and better deals, for Easter, May-half term and October getaways. So, if you are working around school term dates, then check out what else is on offer (avoiding the summer holidays) to make things more affordable.

Most holiday providers also do fantastic late deals, so if you’re happy to book your annual leave and play the long game, then being spontaneous (and flexible with where you go and what you do!) can really pay off. Haven have a late deals section on their website, as do Parkdean which can often be a cheaper option. Park Holidays also showcase their last-minute offers on their homepage and LastMinute.com offer some fantastic UK holiday deals too.

 

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 UK – such as theme parks, zoos and castles – making family days out during your staycation a lot more affordable.

It’s definitely worth the kiddies completing a task and sending off for a badge – there are lots of simple ways to earn one, such as drawing a picture of writing a story. For more info, check out my article: How can my child get a Blue Peter Badge? Enjoy over 200 UK free days out to UK attractions!

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, blue peter badges

 

6. Lower your accommodation costs

Ditch luxury hotels and posh lodges for campsites, caravans and budget hotel chains. Be pragmatic – your accommodation is a place to sleep in between fun excursions and adventures, and it’s likely to be one of your biggest expenses, so downgrade where you can to cut costs.

If you have a big family, or you’re not interested in making use of campsite type facilities, then it might work out best to organise your accommodation through a website like Air Bnb or Holiday Cottages, particularly during peak times when holiday parks can be expensive.

Travelling with friends or family can be a good way to save money too – house rentals can be a really affordable option for larger groups when the cost is shared. (A really good option for the peak summer holiday dates!) Not only that, but you can split the cost of transport, food and other extras while you’re away too.

 

7. Book with Sun Newspaper Holidays

The Sun Newspaper Holidays are a fantastic way to get away, even on the tightest of budgets. We booked two in 2022 – one Norfolk break which was £66 for Mon-Fri in May (including a caravan upgrade) and another for £78 to the Isle of Wight in June. Both resorts were Parkdean and it cost us a fraction of the price it would have to book directly. We had two holidays for less than the price of one!

Holidays through the Sun are as little as £9.50pp – and you can book a break in the UK or abroad. For more info on how it works, check out my post on the Sun Newspaper Holidays.

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, swimming pool photo park holidays

 

8. Pack sensibly

Decant your normal toiletries into smaller pots instead of paying over the odds for ‘mini’ versions of your favourite products. You can wash the pots out when you get home and re-use them year after year – better for your wallet and the planet. (Remember to do this for washing up liquid and clothes detergent too if you’re self-catering!)

Rather than buying lots of holiday clothes, shop from your wardrobe and pack lightly – half of it ends up staying in the suitcase usually anyway! It doesn’t make much sense to 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!

 

9. Hunt out Travelodge £29 rooms

Cheap Travelodge hotel rooms can be a great way to explore the UK – there are loads on offer all over for just £29 per night. Have a look at their current deals here > Travelodge Saver Rooms. We often use Travelodge to book cheap London mini-breaks so we can have a few days exploring the capital, and maybe see a show, without spending a fortune.

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, natural history museum dinosaur photo

 

10. Save on your family days out with Tesco Clubcard

If you’re a Tesco shopper, you can benefit from using your Tesco Clubcard points towards your holiday cost or for free meals and days out while you’re away. 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. We always self-cater to save money on holiday – and then use our Tesco Vouchers for a freebie meal out as a treat!

 

11. Housesit for free accommodation

Reduce your accommodation costs to just £99 per year by using a housesitting service like Trusted Housesitters. In exchange for looking after someone’s pet, you can stay for free anywhere in the world – making travelling to your favourite places so much more affordable.

A bonus of using Trusted Housesitters is that lots of people will want school holiday dates, to fit around their own trips away, so it can be a good way to travel the country (or beyond!) during peak dates – it’ll save you a small fortune!

For the yearly membership fee of £99, you can book a stay through their website as many times as you like. Join Trusted Housesitters today to get access to free accommodation in the UK and abroad.

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, trusted housesitters, photo of dog on bed

 

12. Go camping

Camping can be a really cost effective way to explore the UK without the huge accommodation costs that can often come with a trip away. Some sites will allow you to hire what you need, at a cheaper rate than a caravan, and you can arrive to find it all set up.

If you have your own kit, or can borrow from a friend, then you’ll likely pay very little. It’s also much easier to book last minute when you go camping – which is a real plus with the unpredictable British weather. And, if you fancy a trip to Scotland then you can wild camp for free!

 

13. Join Kids Pass

Kids Pass is a fantastic way to save on the cost of your family holiday! In 2021, through Kids Pass, we saved £30 on a Haven holiday, and £20 off our Butlins break – the easiest £50 saving ever! On top of this, you can also benefit from big savings on days out while you’re away – and the best bit is that you can trial it for 30 days for just a quid!

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 trips away and the summer holidays, even if cancelled afterwards.

The perks are:

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, kids pass deals and discounts UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, kids pass deals and discounts

 

14. Get cashback on your holiday and the extras

Before you book anything, always check cashback websites (such as Quidco and Top Cashback) to see what they could save you. Holidays can be expensive, so even a 5% cashback offer can be pretty significant – and small amounts soon add up too!

You could get cashback on holidays, travel insurance, holiday clothes and hotels – Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Parkdean and lots of other companies are all on there. So, you can make a saving simply by clicking through the link before you book!

 

15. Save on travel costs

Driving your own car when you go away can really cut down on additional costs of hire and insurance. Save even more by hunting out the cheapest fuel prices along your route. Often, the services along the motorway charge a lot more than other petrol stations – which can really add up on a long drive. But, you can avoid this issue by visiting a website like petrolprices.com to quickly compare fuel prices along your route.

Read my article: Family road trip essentials: 13 things to pack on a road trip with kids to make sure that you have everything you need for a stress free family road trip before you set off!

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, photo of campervan at seaside

 

16. Compare hotel rates and providers

If you’re staying in a hotel, use hotel comparison websites to secure the best price. Why pay more for exactly the same room? It’s often worth a visit to the hotel’s own website too – without affiliate costs it may be cheaper to book directly.

Often mid-week prices are considerably less than weekends, and be sure to check for local events as peak dates can also make prices soar. Do your research, and plan your stay around the cheapest rates.

If you shop at Sainsbury’s, you can get free hotel stays through their Nectar reward programme too – a tip from follower Laura who uses her points to book a hotel near Disneyland every few years! Great idea!

 

17. Find a Groupon deal

Groupon deals can be a fab way to have a fun day out when you’re away without spending lots of money. Use their ‘Local’ section to get the best offers close to where you’re visiting for discounted family days out, or cheap restaurant meals.

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, deals and discounts, bowling alley photo

 

18. Travel for a quid

If you’re in the South East, kids can travel on the train for just a quid –  making getting away, or having days out, so much more affordable. For all of the info you need on how to benefit from this deal, check out my post on Southeastern Rail. Not travelling in the South East? Take a look at the area you’re visiting to see if they have any deals running – lots of companies offer deals during the school holidays.

 

19. Head to the capital

Surprisingly, cities can often be really affordable places for holidays and days out. In particular, 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. (And the tube is free for kids aged 10 and under too!) Check out my post on free days out in London with the kids for more info.

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

 

20. Hunt out restaurant deals

Loads of places offer cheap kids meals, or daytime saver menus – so you can still have a treat when you’re away without spending a ton 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 lots of supermarkets and chain restaurants offer cheap or free kids meals during school holiday times – so have a google before you go, and plot meals out around the best deals!

 

21. Enjoy nature

There are so many gorgeous beaches, hills to hike and country parks dotted all over the country – each offering a new (free!) adventure whilst you’re away. Whether it be woodland walks, sand dunes, lakes or large green spaces, they’re always a winner for a family day out.

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. If you’re feeling energetic – you could even climb a mountain; we had a great time in Wales climbing Mount Snowdon!

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, snowdon, north wales, family photo at peak

 

22. 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 all over the UK. 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.

For home-educating families, you can get a year’s National Trust family membership for a discounted rate of 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.

 

23. Check out free local events

The summer is the best time to find free events and activities – do some research to see what’s is happening in the area you’ll be visiting. 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!

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

 

24. Plan your excursions

Set a budget for days out and work from there. Before you go on your trip, do some research to pre-plan the things you’ll want to see and do in the local area to get the most from your time and money.

Lots of zoos, theme parks and children’s activities will have peak and off-peak prices. If it’s cheaper to visit on a Tuesday than a Saturday, a little bit of pre-planning will ensure that your visit coincides with the cheaper prices. (Avoiding the weekends will reduce the crowds too!)

Making a rough itinerary for your trip is a great way to ensure that you can do all of the things you’d love to do while you’re away without breaking the bank. It’ll also help you to balance out pricier excursions with cheap or free activities for some frugal days out too.

 

25. Prepare in advance

Work out your average annual travel costs and divide it by twelve, then set up a monthly direct debit into a savings account to collect the money year round. That way you’ll have a good chunk of money to work with when you need it, and won’t need to borrow to book your family adventures.

With compounding interest, relying on credit cards can make your trip so much more expensive and stressful, so try to save, save, save instead! If you do need to use a credit card, shop around for 0% interest and make sure you clear it or transfer it in time. Lots of holiday companies also allow you to pay in instalments, so that could be an option too if you’re booking far enough in advance.

UK family budget travel, cheap staycation holiday, frugal mum tips, isle of wight children photo overlooking sea

 

Getting ready for your family holiday?

Check out my Ultimate Family Holiday Packing Guide – with free printable checklist!

frugal mum free printable family holiday travel checklist

 

Looking for lots of ways to save money on family fun this summer? Check out these articles too:

Budget Family Holiday Tips: How to travel abroad cheaply with kids

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The Ultimate Eurocamp Holiday Guide – and money saving tips!

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How can my child get a Blue Peter Badge? Enjoy over 200 UK free days out to UK attractions!

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TUI Holidays Review and Tips: Are TUI good? How can I save money on my TUI family holiday?

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Cheap UK days out with the kids: 20 ways to have fun on a budget in the school holidays!

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Wales with Kids: Greenwood Family Park Review, North Wales

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

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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

 

Need some ideas for rainy day family fun?

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!

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

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2 comments
  1. Hey Natalie,

    Thanks for putting together such an informative guide on budget-friendly family travel in the UK! Your tips are a goldmine for those planning staycations and looking to make the most of their budget. The idea of having a perfect family adventure without leaving the country is truly enticing!

    I particularly appreciate your suggestions on off-peak travel, self-catering, and exploring cost-effective accommodations like campsites and budget hotel chains. These insights not only save money but also open up opportunities for more frequent and extended trips.

    And let’s not forget about Butlins – what a fantastic recommendation! A Mon-Fri break for just £88 is a steal, and with so many free activities, it’s like getting a week away for the cost of a day out. Your detailed reviews on Butlins experiences are invaluable.

    I also love the inclusion of money-saving hacks like cashback websites, Blue Peter Badges for free entry, and Travelodge £29 rooms. Your practical advice on decanting toiletries and using Tesco Clubcard points is a game-changer for frugal travelers.

    Now, here’s a little gem for your readers – when planning your travel adventures, consider checking out [https://www.splitsaving.co.uk/](https://www.splitsaving.co.uk/) for some exclusive tips and tricks on train travel savings. It’s a fantastic resource for making your journeys even more budget-friendly.

    Thanks again for sharing these amazing tips. Your guide is a treasure trove for families looking to create memorable experiences without breaking the bank. Here’s to affordable and unforgettable staycations!

    Happy travels,

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