Ah, the long summer holidays – bliss for kids, but a financial obstacle course for working parents. So save money and spend some quality time together with our suggestions for great value things to do.
Soak up a free festival
Family-friendly festivals like Latitude and Camp Bestival have ballooned in recent years, but with camping tickets often costing £500+ for a family of four, they hit your pocket hard. If you’re economising, you could just visit for a day – or take advantage of one of the summer’s many free festivals and events.
Two of Bristol’s biggest outdoor events of the year are free – the waterside entertainment of Bristol Harbour Festival (21-23 July), and the aerial spectacle of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta (10-13 August). Meanwhile, over in Eastbourne, you can enjoy the aerobatics of the Eastbourne International Airshow (17-20 August) without spending a thing. At Manchester’s Festwich (29-30 July) you can even watch The Police, Joy Division and The Killers play live for free – or at least, top-notch tribute acts rocking their classics. And come the late August Bank Holiday, London shimmies and shakes to the Notting Hill Carnival - Europe’s biggest street party and (for now, at least) free of charge.
Discover a free museumSnapping the silverware at Manchester’s National Football Museum
In the UK we’re lucky enough to have some of the world’s best free museums and galleries, so why not take advantage? London’s South Kensington museum quarter alone could keep you busy all summer, with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and newly-enhanced V&A – featuring the new Exhibition Road Quarter – all offering access to most of their treasures without charge.
Outside London, there’s Wales’ Big Pit Coal Museum, Manchester’s National Football Museum, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Leeds’ Royal Armouries – among many, many others. All have family-friendly exhibits, making a trip enjoyable as well as educational for the kids. Enjoyed your visit? Make a donation, or at least splash out in the café.
Hit the beach
Now here’s an easy sell to the kids. If the mercury’s above 20°C, you won’t find a better value family day out than a trip to the seaside. With nowhere in the country more than 70 miles from the coast, there’s guaranteed to be a beach within striking distance: get up early to beat the traffic and you could be breakfasting with a sea view. Not sure where to go? Fancy doing something more than just building sandcastles? Check out our roundup of the UK’s best beach experiences – from rockpooling to stand-up paddleboarding.
Get creative at home
If a day trip isn’t on the cards, how about getting creative in your house and garden? You can stimulate kids’ minds with games and activities that cost nothing. Here are five quick and easy ideas from Dawn Isaac, author of the brilliant 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside.Water balloon piñata Fill balloons with water, hang from a height outside and let children attack!
Make a human sundial
Put down a stone to mark the centre of a sundial, stand on this every hour and add stones to mark where your shadow falls.
In 20 minutes find as many different objects around the house or garden that will fit into the box – the one with the most wins.
Nature walk bracelet
Add double-sided sticky tape to a piece of card stapled to form a bracelet, and stick on nature finds to decorate it.
Set up camp
Inside or out, use old blankets covering a clothes drier or tied-together bamboo canes to make your own tent.
Save on a day out
When it’s time for a family treat, you can save on many of the UK’s biggest theme parks and attractions. Tackle the rollercoasters at Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, marvel at the underwater world at a SeaLife centre, or let kids of all ages get hands-on with big machines at Diggerland.
And if they’re not entertained after all that, well – never fear: school starts again in a few short weeks…