Days out with kids can become really expensive so as a family we are always looking for tips on how to make our money go further.
Some of these tips require an initial investment but often it works out worthwhile in the end, as I always say “You have to speculate to accumulate!”.
If you’re looking for more ideas check out our list of family things worth investing in.
9 top tips to save money on family days out
1. Take a picnic
Food and drink really add up and let’s face it kids are always hungry! To counteract the lure of the café/fast food joint we always take a picnic when we go out for the day. Pork pies and sausage rolls go down well with my kids and make a nice change from endless sandwiches.
To prevent myself from using tons of sandwich bags I try and pack my picnic goodies in plastic pots like these great Sistema boxes. If you like to picnic in style then why not invest in a good fold-up picnic rug like this to stash in your bag?
2. Don’t forget the water
I don’t know what it is about being out and about but it always seems to make my kids super thirsty. To stop myself wasting money on bottled water or fizzy drinks I always pack a refillable bottle of water or two.
As a thirsty family of five a normal water bottle always seem a bit small so I was really chuffed to find an amazing 1.5 litre water bottle from Decathlon which has proved invaluable. It costs less than £10 but has stood up to 3 kids (and a dog!) flinging it around, dropping it etc.
3. Join the National Trust
A family membership is currently £120 for two adults and up to 10 children which, although quite a hefty amount, if you have plenty of good properties near you can prove to be a sensible investment. Plus knowing you don’t have to pay means you are more likely to venture further afield to more distant properties.
Our membership means we visit the places near us (Wimpole and Anglesey Abbey are particular favourites) at least once a month. Additionally when we holiday around the UK we always visit a couple of places en route, saving us yet more pennies.
Lots of beaches and nature reserves are looked after by the National Trust too and membership means you get free parking.
4. Go for a walk
When we moved to Cambridge I invested in a couple of good walking guides, I really like the Pathfinder series as they have walks for all levels. A nice walk with interesting landscapes is a great way to spend time as a family and is free (bar any parking charges).
Make sure you start your kids young with walking and it will seem normal to them.
My kids are so used to us taking them out for walks they now don’t bat an eyelid at long or challenging walks (they recently climbed Snowdon with much enthusiasm!).
5. Look for deals
On a rainy day a trip to the cinema is a great way to while away the hours but when you are a family of four or more the cost can really stack up.
To this end it is a great idea to investigate if your cinema does any cheaper deals such as kids’ club films or Sunday morning sessions.
Our local cinema does a special morning showing on Sunday mornings of a fairly recent kids’ film for the bargain price of £3 per person.
6. Get on your bike
One of the brilliants thing about getting your kids cycling is that it can become the activity in and of itself. Going on a nice cycle ride can be a great way of getting active and seeing the sights of the city or countryside near you.
Pack a picnic, plan a few stops at playgrounds, parks or woodland and you have a wonderful free day out.
Also look out for dedicated off-road bike trails near you. Thetford Forest is not too far from us and for the price of parking we can access their miles of bike trails – from easy, fairly flat family trails to hardcore mountain biking trails.
7. Sign up to local events newsletters
Most cities host special events for families at some point during the year.
We are lucky enough to live near Cambridge where the University runs a number of brilliant (and free events!).
Our favourite is the Science Festival which runs every spring and has a huge number of workshops, free talks and demonstrations for all ages. Sign up for local what’s on pages and keep your eyes peeled for similar free family events.
8. Get the bus
Sometimes parking in town becomes the most expensive thing about a day out – not only do we have the boredom of sitting in traffic but then the stress of searching for a parking space.
As a result we have opted to use the Park and Ride instead and saved a ton of money as a result. I can travel into town with three kids in tow and spend all day there for just £3.
9. Make the park fun again
As your kids get older the fun of the park can pale, which is a shame as parks are a great free bit of entertainment.
To counteract this growing boredom I have been making a real effort to make the park fun again by playing games with my kids.
Now when we go to the park I always pack a Frisbee, a tennis ball and our table tennis bats and balls.
Frisbee is great for all ages and quite easy to pick up for younger kids. They can be quite hard for younger kids to throw so one of these ‘flying rings’ (or an ‘Aerobie‘ if you’re from the same generation as us!) is easier to get the hang of and flies for miles with minimal effort.
If you’re a purist or a Frisbee devotee these weighted ones from Amazon (see right) are good — and much less likely to infuriatingly fly off course in windy conditions.
With the tennis ball we play catch and then enliven it with a bit of One-Legged Soldier: throw the ball to your opponent and if they fail to catch it they have to go down on one knee and cannot stand up again until they catch the ball again. If they drop it again they have to go down on both knees and so on. You can make this even harder for the adults playing by making them catch one handed!
They needn’t be expensive (you’re not going in for Wimbledon) this cheap pack of 3 balls is fine.
Our local park also has ping pong tables so I invested in a couple of table tennis bats and balls and often enjoy a good game with my 10 year old.
You can retire to a nice bench to read your book while your kids terrorise each other with weapons. This usually keeps mine happy for ages!