It can cost less to go by train than pay for petrol and parking, but only if you don’t try to be spontaneous, says founder of Letssavesomemoney.com, Sarah Willingham. ‘The trick is to book around 12 weeks before you travel, so do it now for a day out in the school holidays.’ Sign up to thetrainline.com/ ticketalert to receive email alerts when discounted advance tickets are available. If you spend more than £84 a year, it’s worth investing in a Family and Friends railcard which will give a third off adult and 60% off kids’ fares.
Ask your train company if you can use GroupSave, allowing four adults/kids to travel for the price of two.
Homemade picnics save a packet, and most venues provide an area where you can tuck in (phone in advance to check that you’re allowed to bring your own food). Sarah says: ‘My kids love helping me make sandwiches and cakes and I take food wrapped in foil, so I’m not carting around bulky lunchboxes.’ If eating out is all part of the fun, then check out vouchercloud.com, or download the app for restaurant deals on the go. If you’re an O2 customer, visit 02priority.co.uk for discounts on eateries such as ASK Italian.
London’s big museums, as well as The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Welsh National Museums, the Museum of Science in Manchester and the National Media Museum in Bradford are among those that ask for a donation rather than charging. Search 'free museums' on Moneysavingexpert.com. At others, such as the London Transport Museum, a one-day ticket gives a year’s entry.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head out on a wet day – you can get good deals and it will be a lot quieter, says Duncan Skehens from Vouchercodes. ‘Weather-dependent attractions offer discounts on miserable days to boost visitor numbers. Sign up for updates at vouchercodes.co.uk or download the app to use out and about.’
Enjoy our history with a National Trust membership (nationaltrust.org.uk). Prices start at £70 for two adults, with kids going free, while an English Heritage (englishheritage.org.uk) family pass costs £84 a year, and up to six kids can go free.
Look for weekend offers from Vue, Odeon and Cineworld on selected kids’ films. Vue is a Nectar partner, with 500 points worth £2.50 off tickets, popcorn and refreshments, and its Kids’ AM offer has some child and adults tickets for £1.75. At Odeon Kids’ screenings on weekend mornings and school holidays, tickets start at £1 for a child, and adults go free.
London hosts Kids Theatre Week during August, offering free and discounted tickets to top West End shows. Booking opens mid-June. Visit kidsweek.co.uk.
Book Londons tourist attractions online for discounts of up to 20% and combination tickets save yet more. For example, a combo ticket from londoneye.com, including the Eye and London Aquarium, will save you around £8. Visit before 11am or after 4pm to beat queues advises the Eyes Lauren Mitcham. There are lots of free events and entertainment on the South Bank, too.
Explore your community on a Sky Ride cycle ride. Suitable for all levels, the nationwide events follow rural or urban routes, with trained leaders. As long as you have a bike and a helmet, it’s a free, fun and safe family day out. Visit goskyride.com.
Tennis for free is a charity that works with local communities to use public courts. Find your nearest court or coaching session at tennisforfree.com.
Play ‘nature bingo’ in the woods to see who can be the first to find the things on your list, or check out rspb.org.uk/ events for free UK activities, such as being a wildlife detective or creating nature gardens. Kids will love geocaching, a free, hi-tech outdoor treasure hunt. Using a GPS or smartphone you follow co-ordinates to try and find the hidden treasure. Visit opencaching.com.