Cheap Family Days Out During the Summer Holidays
We all seem to remember our own summer holidays as children with nostalgic fondness - endless days and weeks filled with fun and frolics (and given that we’re looking back with rose-tinted glasses, lots of sunshine as well). We probably didn’t give a second thought to the adults who were tasked with caring for us and entertaining us during the month and a half we had away from school and it’s only now that we realise just what hard work it can be for parents and carers.
Of course, we love our children and we love spending time with them, but the summer holidays can challenge even the most imaginative among us when it comes to providing new and exciting things to do each day. Of equal importance is the fact that for many families there are budgetary constraints, meaning that we can’t just do a grand tour of all the UK’s theme parks and tourist attractions without a second thought.
Taking all of the above into account, I thought it might be useful to go through a few of the ways in which it’s possible to have some cheaper days out with your family over the summer holidays.
Firstly, enjoy whatever might be right on your doorstep. Local parks, nature reserves and other outside areas can all be visited for free or for very little money. Even if these are places where you regularly spend time anyway, going along for a whole day with a picnic, a book and a ball (and possibly an umbrella - best to be prepared...) can help you to see them in a different light. The advantage of doing things close to where you live is that travel will be simple and cheap and you can always come home if things don’t work out as you planned, which can occasionally happen with small children.
Look at local noticeboards
Make sure to check your local library, Tourist Information Centre, supermarket and church hall noticeboards for posters and flyers about upcoming activities. We were in the library recently and I spotted a sheet detailing some free workshops in one of our local parks offering to teach children of all ages how to make homes for insects, which I just know will be great fun for my children. There are a few other bits and bobs going on as well, including the Summer Holiday Reading Challenge in libraries nationwide (my children are too young for this, but it’s definitely worth doing if yours are old enough) and some story and craft sessions that our local library is organising and none of them cost a penny.
Look out for money saving deals
Keep your eyes peeled for offers in newspapers, on the back of receipts and supermarket schemes to double the value of your loyalty points if you use them to purchase vouchers for tickets to tourist attractions. These come around reasonably regularly, but the chances are there won’t be one the week that you need it, so make sure you’re always on the look-out for these offers and then store them up so that they are ready and waiting for the day that you require them.
Ask others for advice
The internet really comes into its own in situations like this, so log on and start chatting with people from your local area about what they like to do with their children. A good place to start is Net Mums, which has local forums, as well as emails that you can subscribe to once you register with the site, so the latest local news and events updates will be in your inbox regularly ready for your perusal.
Ride the bus around your local area
This might sound like a slightly odd suggestion, but you can usually get tickets that allow you unlimited bus travel within your area for one day and you could take along a picnic and just hop on and off whenever you chose. It might be an idea to pack a timetable just in case you get whisked off to somewhere that you don’t recognise, but for children it can be really exciting to see their neighbourhood from a different perspective and to learn more about the place in which they live.
If you don’t fancy riding the bus, perhaps you could go for a walk around your local area instead, talking paths and roads that you would never normally choose.
A few tips that could apply to any day out
Firstly, take your own lunch - both food and drinks. It can be ridiculously expensive to buy refreshments at most tourist attractions and your choices are likely to be quite limited. Taking your own food will save you a lot of money and will also ensure that everyone gets something that they like to eat.
Share transport with other families or buy group tickets for trains. This can make journeys significantly cheaper for all involved and if you’re going further afield it means you’re likely to have at least one more adult to help with the directions. Once you arrive, having more hands on deck will make life easier as well, because something as simple as a loo break can require military planning if you’re on your own with a group of children!
If there are tourist attractions that you know you are likely to visit frequently, it could make financial sense to buy season tickets for you and your family, which will reduce the cost of each day out (as long as you work out the minimum amount of times you’d need to go in order to get your money’s worth). Some season passes allow you to visit other attractions which are owned by the same company as well, but always check the small print before you buy anything.