I love family days out but they can cost an absolute fortune. My policy is to try to never pay full price to visit an attraction. I’m usually able to stick to that. Below are my tips on how to save money on family days out in the UK.
Save money on family days out by Booking ahead
The vast majority of places offer a discount for booking ahead now. Most only require you to book the day before so you can be fairly confident that the weather or a sick child won’t change your plans. Discounts are usually between 10% and 30% so it well worth doing. I booked ahead for a local softplay recently and while I only saved £3 that bought me a coffee and snack while we were there. For places like Zoo’s and theme parks the savings are much bigger.
Stay in touch to save money on family days out
If there’s somewhere you think you’ll want to go in future, sign up for their emails and follow them on social media. This way you won’t miss out on special offers. You’ll sometimes be sent a discount just for adding yourself to a mailing list. Diggerland, the digger based theme park, often send special offers to people on their mailing list.
Visit out of season for a cheaper day out
Lots of outdoors places run special offers to get people in during the winter months so it’s worth keeping an eye for these. Colchester zoo often runs a January sale where entry is just £10 per person, this is around half of the gate price in the summer holidays. Our local farm also offer half price entry every January.
Use Clubcard Vouchers to get a “free” day out
If you collect clubcard vouchers one of the best value ways to use them is to save money on family days out. There are thousands of places around the country that accept them, including most of the big theme parks. You can also use them for cinema trips (Nectar points can be used for the cinema too) and eating out.
Visit expensive attractions on a Teaching Training Day
Visiting on a teacher training day will often mean that you are visiting out of term time. This alone can save you a fortune. Last year we did an overnight visit to Chessington World of Adventures, arriving on the last Sunday of May half term and leaving the next day which was a teacher training day for us. We saved over £100 against what it would have cost to go in the main half term week.
Look out for 2 for the price of 1 entry offers
Train lines, cereal boxes, newspapers, McDonalds, even my soap package had a 2 for 1 theme park offer on it recently. If you’re just going for the day and don’t have Clubcard vouchers to use, 2 for 1s are a great way to save on the cost of entrance.
Annual passes for regular family days out
If you go somewhere a lot, work out of an annual pass would be good value for you. When I have annual passes I usually use them once during each of the shorter holidays and a few times in the summer. That’s my benchmark for weather or not they are worth it. I like having them as it gives us one “free” day out each holiday. Look our for added benefits like discounts on food or for friends and family who visit with you. The annual pass for or local Aquarium is not much more than a day ticket and includes 20% off food both there and at their partner theme park.
Save money on family days out all year round with Local Passes
Not every area of the UK has on of these but if yours does you are in luck. In my area we have the East Anglia Pass which gets us discounted entry to loads of places in the region as well as cinemas and restaurants. The offers vary, sometimes it’s a percentage off, sometimes it 2 for 1. The pass itself costs £14.99 a year and I always save much more than that.
Groupon, Wowcher and Littlebird
Signing up for emails from these guys is a great way to save money on family days out. My kids had been asking to see the “Walking with Dinosaurs” show for ages but it was just too expensive. It then came up on a Groupon deal and I was able to take them. Littlebird is good because it focuses on family activities, we got discounted entry to Kidzania (awesome mini city for kids in London) last year and they always have theatre offers on.
Saving money on eating during days out
Food outlets at attractions are often expensive. The most obvious way to save money is too take a packed lunch. If you aren’t keen on sandwiches, how about hot dogs? Take a flask of hot water along with buns and frankfurter sausages. When you’re ready to eat, just pop the frankfurters in the flask for 5 minutes. Dry them off with a piece of kitchen towel and pop them in the buns. If you’re really organised, you can collect sachets of tomato sauce and mustard to take too.
If we’re doing a full day out we often have dinner before we come home. This means that the kids can fall asleep in the car and then we can just put them in bed when we get home. Rather than going to a restaurant, we quite often go to supermarket cafes. The food is decent, there’s usually a good selection for the kids and it’s great value. Tesco’s doesn’t often have a proper restaurant at many of its stores these days but Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s are usually a good bet.
Saving Money at the Cinema
The cheapest way to go to the cinema is to make use of the “kid’s club” showings. They take place during the mornings at weekends and in the school holidays. The films are older (they usually show things that are just about to come out on DVD) but it’s still the full cinema experience and younger children won’t even realise it’s an old film. Both The Odeon and Cineworld run kid’s clubs and plenty of independent cinemas do too.
You can also save by using Clubcard or nectar vouchers, local passes (I get around 20% off with mine) Meerkat movie codes (just buy your insurance through compare the market) or some employers offer discounted cinema tickets as a staff benefit.
What ever you do, don’t spend the money you’ve saved on snacks. Take your own and save a fortune. While cinemas aren’t keen on it, they won’t actually be searching your bag!
Saving Money on Theme Parks
The day out that costs the most is without doubt the theme park. Lots of the tips I’ve already covered apply to theme parks but there are a few other things to mention. Getting the best value on theme parks involves a lot of research. If you are looking at an overnight stay, look at the offers on the theme park’s short break page but also price it up separately. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book your hotel stay separately. Particularly if you have 2 for 1 entry vouchers or Clubcard vouchers.
It’s also a good idea to choose the right theme park for the right age/height of child. If you wait until they are of a height where they can go on most of the rides you’ll get the best value for money. Peppa Pig World offers free entry for children under 1 metre, you’ll get the best value by taking them when they are between 95cm and a metre because at that height they can go on all of the Peppa Pig world rides (and a lot of the Paultons Park ones).
The other thing to consider is fast track entry passes. They let you go straight to the front of the queue. These are expensive but can make the difference between needing two days (and an overnight stay) to do all of the rides and getting through them in one day which will obviously be cheaper.
Hopefully these tips will help you to save money on family days out. If you have your own tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments! If you’re looking for more money saving tips, check out My Money Saving Month.
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