With the summer holidays just around the corner most youngsters are jumping for joy at the prospect of six weeks off – but if you’re a parent, there’s probably a part of you that’s dreading the moment when the bell rings for the final day at school.
According to new research from Freesat, the satellite TV service, summer holiday spending can cripple family budgets, with some people shelling out as much as £2,200 in a matter of months just to keep the kids occupied.
Luckily, for those people committed to keeping an eye on their cash flow this summer, Which? Money’s experts have come up with 10 ways you could save money on activities for your children.
1. Track down deals online
The internet is a brilliant resource if you’re looking to track down bargain show tickets, cheap theme park deals and low cost activity day packages for your youngsters.
Websites such as Lastminute.com are great for finding discounted tickets to big-name events, while KidsGoFree.com and WhatToDoWithTheKids.co.uk are focused on finding deals on activities that will appeal to children.
Elsewhere, check out EnjoyEngland.com for special offers and tips on attractions you might wish to visit, and visit local websites such as the Midlands’ VisitTheHeart.com for information about events taking place near you.
2. Book cheap cinema tickets
A family trip to the cinema could easily set you back as much as £50 these days – but there are ways to enjoy movies on the big screen for less.
Children under 13 and accompanying adults can see selected films at some Vue cinemas for £1.25 at weekends and in school holidays. Visit the Kids AM page of the Vue website for more information.
Meanwhile, Cineworld charges £1 per person for specific Saturday morning films in certain locations as part of its Movies for Juniors scheme, while an adult gets in free with each child paying ‘pocket money prices’ for Odeon cinema showings on weekend mornings.
3. Take advantage of Tesco Clubcard points
If you have a store of Tesco Clubcard points, consider cashing some of them in for days out rather than discounted groceries. Your points will be worth more if you trade them in for reward vouchers, rather than simply spend them in store – and you could use them to get discounts or special deals on meals out, tickets for attractions including Warwick Castle and Madam Tussaud’s, plus a wide range of museums and cinemas.
On a similar note, Nectar points can also be used on tickets to Vue cinemas, on Virgin Experience Days and at tourist destinations like Legoland.
4. Travel by train
Travelling by train could be a convenient and cost-effective option if you’re planning a trip somewhere further afield than usual – not least because booking your tickets online could see you get 2 for 1 tickets to popular attractions such as the Tower of London.
Visit the DaysOutGuide website for more information.
5. Visit free museums
Meanwhile, don’t forget that many big cities are home to wonderful museums that are free to visit.
London’s Imperial War Museum, the British Museum, the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery are all free to enter – along with a whole host of other museums and galleries in the capital.
Further north, York’s National Railway Museum offers free entry, as do the National Museum of Scotland, Swansea Museum and Ulster Museum.
6. Enjoy the sunshine somewhere new
On a similar note, don’t forget that Britain’s National Parks are free to enter – so enjoying the breathtaking sights of the Peak District, the Brecon Beacons or Dartmoor won’t cost you a penny.
Visit the National Parks website for information on how to get to your nearest national park, and the facilities on offer there.
7. Enjoy sport for less
Paying for your children to take part in sports can be shockingly expensive – but there are ways to get your youngsters engaged without breaking the bank.
Government and local authority initiatives aimed at getting young people involved in sport are generally free or very cheap, so be sure to research what’s happening near where you live. Your council’s website is a good place to start searching for information.
8. Get great deals on eating out
At the tired end of a fun packed day out, buying a restaurant meal for the family is tempting – but worrying about how much it might cost may mean you end up slaving over a hot stove.
If you’d like to treat the kids to dinner out, make sure you arm yourself with all the latest restaurant discount vouchers or book a table in advance through a money saving website such as Toptable.com or 5pm.co.uk. Read our Ways to save on eating out guide for more information.
9. Fill up for less
Elsewhere, it’s important to consider the cost of getting to all the destinations you visit this summer. With petrol prices stubbornly high, filling up at an expensive garage or driving in a way that’s fuel inefficient could mean you splurge extra cash without even realising it.
Read our Ways to save on motoring guide for top tips on finding the cheapest petrol in your area and minimising fuel wastage.
10. Cut childcare costs
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that it isn’t always possible to spend every day with your children during the summer holidays – and sorting out affordable childcare can be a real headache for many working parents.
First and foremost, it’s a good idea to find out if you have any entitlement to free or discounted childcare and to use this if you can. Visit the DirectGov website for information.
Meanwhile, summer holiday clubs run by local authorities might be an option for your children – and while they may not be free, they are generally more affordable than private childcare. Your local Family Information Service should be able to tell you about schemes being run in your area.
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