Our guide to saving your summer when you can’t afford to leave

Can’t afford to leave? Our guide on how to save your summer…and some money at the same time

  • At Hungry Horse pubs children can eat for free between 8am and 12pm
  • Pick-your-own fruit farms make for a great day out and admission is usually free
  • An annual National Trust membership can be much cheaper than day tickets

For those put off by the cost of a vacation this summer, there are plenty of options closer to home to keep the kids entertained – without breaking the bank.

Here, Holly Thomas shares the best bargain packing tips for the whole family.

Adventure: Alffi and Lili Jones at the Llanelli Wetland Center

BUY DISCOUNT DAY TRIPS

Advance tickets to local attractions are almost always cheaper. For example, an online ticket to Legoland Windsor costs £29, compared to £53 on arrival. Using a Tesco Clubcard or Nectar points to purchase tickets can further reduce the price. On a day out at one of the 150 attractions, every 50 cents worth of Clubcard vouchers is worth £1.50.

For Legoland Windsor, this means a one-day entrance pass can cost as little as £11.50 in vouchers – less than half the online price. Websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk and hotukdeals.com also list discount codes for major attractions. Try the discount website picniq.com for offers such as up to 23 pc off tickets to Chessington World of Adventures.

FOR LESS EATING OUT

Plenty 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 08:00 and 12:00 if an adult breakfast is also ordered.

At Sizzling Pubs & Grill, young people eat from Monday to Friday between 3pm and 7pm for just £1, with each adult main meal purchased. Farmhouse Inns offers a similar deal, but you can eat at any time of the day, Monday through Friday. And restaurants without promotions can still be affordable; at Bella Italia the kids menu starts at £5.99.

At restaurants without promotions it can still be affordable;  at Bella Italia the kids menu starts at £5.99

At restaurants without promotions it can still be affordable; at Bella Italia the kids menu starts at £5.99

FUN ON THE FARM

Pick-your-own fruit farms make for a healthy day out. Strawberries are the most common fruit to pick, but apples, gooseberries, rhubarb and blueberries, as well as vegetables like sweet corn and zucchini are up for grabs. Anything you want to take home will be charged by weight.

Entry is usually free or just a few pounds, but there is usually a minimum spend of around £4. Farms often provide containers, but to save plastic you can bring your own. Many places also organize additional activities for children, such as adventure playgrounds and nature trails. Visit pickyourownfarms.org.uk and pyo.co.uk to view the different options.

MOVIE NIGHTS ODEON

Cinema will host Odeon Kids screenings all summer, with tickets from £2.50. Check online (odeon.co.uk) for showings at your local movie theater. There are also mini mornings from £2.49 per ticket at your local Vue cinema (myvue.com).

At Vue cinemas there are Mini Mornings starting from £2.49 per ticket

At Vue cinemas there are Mini Mornings starting from £2.49 per ticket

HALF PRICE SHOWS

Theater buffs should make sure they’re signed up to receive updates and offers during Kids Week, an annual August promotion where an adult and a child (aged 17 or under) can get half-price tickets to shows. You can book a maximum of 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 staff Catrin and Neil Jones, from Carmarthenshire, Wales, have bought multi-year memberships so they can fill the summer with fun days out with their children, Lili, seven, and Alffi, four. Catrin says: ‘We don’t plan on going abroad anytime soon, so we’ve decided to make sure we explore as much of the UK as possible, 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 been three times already,” says Catrin. The couple, both 39, also have an annual pass to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the National Trust and Cadw, which manage 130 historic properties. They have documented their travels on YouTube and social media under the name Silver Nugget Adventure.

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If you live near National Trust properties or a local zoo and can visit regularly, an annual membership can be much cheaper than day tickets. An annual ticket 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 day pass costing £34.95 for adults and £26.20 for children, you only need to visit three times a year to take advantage. A National Art Pass gives you free entry to hundreds of museums and galleries, plus a 50% discount on major exhibitions. Passes cost £73, or £45 if you are under 30 and £10 for children under 16 (artfund.org).

GREAT FREEBIES

The Canal & River Trust (Canalrivertrust.org.uk) offers free fish tasting sessions for those who want to learn. If you are in possession of bicycles, the National Trust has a selection of child-friendly cycle routes (nationaltrust.org.uk), while some municipalities offer residents free swimming in their nearest pool. You can also pack a picnic and head to one of the UK’s Woodland Trust forests (foresttrust.org.uk).

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