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Cheap School Holiday Activities

The school holidays can cost parents on average of £100 per child, PER WEEK!

Holiday clubs, camps and day trips soon add up but, there are some great activities you can do FOR FREE over the holidays

And with childcare vouchers, loyalty points, vouchers and cashback you should be able to soften the blow of school holiday spending


Need to know

  • NEVER book a day out without first checking for discounts. Merlin (who run Chessington, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland and Sealife Centres) ALWAYS have deals in papers, with supermarket loyalty schemes, through cashback sites or just because you book online in advance.  Keep an eye out on cereal boxes and snacks too as there are usually vouchers to cut out which can save at least one entrance fee
  • Use your loyalty card points: with Clubcard and Nectar you can boost your points by up to 4 times their original value by spending them on vouchers for days out or meals.  It is much better value than using them on groceries
  • When you're out and about take a picnic and bottles of water to stop you spending at expensive tourist cafes. If you want to price check your picnic have a look at mySupermarket
  • Book train travel early through the trainline to get the best fares. If you spend more than £84 a year on trains travelling with at least one child, consider getting a railcard which will save you A THIRD on your travel
  • If you get childcare vouchers through an employer, you can use them to pay for OFSTED registered activities and holiday schemes. There are lists for your local area on directgov
  • If you're staying in and fancy doing some baking Flora has some great, low cost, family friendly recipies
  • Sport Wales along with lots of local councils including Brighton and  Glasgow and Manchester  offer free or cheap swimming for under 16s! Check your local council to see if there are any in your area. 
  • If you like adventures, join in the free nationwide treasure hunt called geocaching which you can do using the GPS on your smart phone. It is SO much fun! You and your kids follow co-ordinates to try and find the geocache (a container of treasure) hidden in that area. You then leave behind your own treasure for the next person!
  • Even if an attraction is advertised as free always watch the small print.  Some places don’t have an entrance fee but will charge for hidden extras during the visit. Inevitably these will soon add up
  • Set the kids a gift shop challenge.  Rather than have tantrums about a soft toy, set them a limit of £2 and see who comes back with the best item.  It’ll teach them about maths too!

Holiday fun

Tenpin Deal

Why we like it:

  • At least 1 game of bowling and a burger meal £8.49 for kids, £10.99 for adults runs during the school holidays- weekdays before 5pm
  • book games online, no booking fee
  • excellent deals all year round

Watch out:

  • deal differs at certain Tenpin centres
  • telephone booking costs 10p per minute (minimum) and has £1.95 booking fee

Halford's Kids Bike Club

Why we like it:

  • free advanced bike workshops for 7-11 year olds
  • shows kids the advanced skills of looking after their bike
  • all children receive a goody bag
  • book online
  • Next workshops will run over the Summer holidays

Watch out:

  • limited spaces
  • for kids who have previously attended a workshop or already have basic bike maintenance skills
  • Not every school holiday

Sunny days

Britain's got loads of lovely places to go for a cheap or free day out:

English Heritage has LOADS of free attractions for the whole family to visit

National Trust does charge for membership and access to some of its attractions however they often do free heritage open days and children under 5 are FREE. They also offer discounted garden-only tickets for many of their properties. 

City farms offer free or cheap outdoor fun in the heart of dozens of cities across the UK

The Woodland Trust website helps you find your nearest free woodland walks and picnic spots

Also check out your local council's website for info on parks and free events in your area

Tennis For Free

Why we like it:

  • search for a free court by postcode
  • all the free tennis courts near you are listed
  • get court details and location

Watch out:

  • you can't book a court
  • you'll have to bring your own equipment
  • search the park/ venue to find out opening times

The FA Skills

Why we like it:

  • free coaching sessions for kids aged 5-11 over the holidays
  • run by the FA
  • also run afterschool clubs
  • can book sessions online

Watch out:

  • children can only sign up for one session (morning/afternoon) a day
  • England only

Rainy days

There are loads of free museums around the UK including: 

Museums around London

National Museums of Scotland

National Museums of Wales 

Imperial War Museums

And LOADS more around the country including the national children's museum Eureka!

Most museums do ask for a donation, but you can give as much or as little you can afford. 

Odeon Kids

Why we like it:

  • with every child's ticket you get a free adult ticket
  • children's tickets from £2.50
  • every Saturday and Sunday morning
  • everyday during the school holidays

Watch out:

  • times and prices depend on your local Odeon
  • discount only applies to selected films

Vue Kids AM

Why we like it:

  • tickets for both child and adult from £2.49
  • every Saturday and Sunday morning
  • every day in school holidays
  • can use Nectar vouchers to pay for tickets

Watch out:

  • 3D screenings £2.79
  • discount applies on selected films only


Why we like it:

  • £2.00 tickets for parents and children
  • save 10% with mycineworld
  • on Saturdays or Sundays in selected cinemas
  • Runs every day during half term

Watch out:

  • not available at all Cineworld cinemas
  • £3.50 for 3D

Sure Start Centres

Why we like it:

  • centre have a variety of groups which can include ’Stay and Play’ and baby signing and are free or a couple of pounds
  • government funded centres are at various locations around England
  • search function will quickly show you your closest centres
  • centres also provide advice for families

Watch out:

  • site does not show classes available at centres- you will have to google your chosen centre for timetables
  • only available in England

For the teens

National Citizen Service

Why we like it:

  • scheme for 16-17 year olds
  • includes a few days living away from home
  • they learn life skills- budgeting and cookery
  • live with fellow teens and make friends
  • take part in adventurous activities like climbing and abseiling
  • participate in community activities
  • great for the CV and UCAS applications

Watch out:

  • can cost £50, may cost less or even be free depending on your circumstances
  • only available in England and Northern Ireland

The inside track

  • Normal cashback rules apply: find what you want for the best price and then see if you can get it through a cashback site
  • If you want to gain even more from the summer holiday spending have a look at getting a cashback credit card, Some do great opening offers (amex- 5% back for the first 3 months) which are especially good if you've got an expensive few months
  • If you like the idea of keeping your kids active with free sports have a look at our fitness for less guide for even more ideas
  • If you've got bigger kids have a look at the applause store, a site where you can sign up to be audience members on shows like Big Brother, Got to Dance and X Factor
  • If you're looking for something to fill a rainy day check out Flora's Family Fun Guide which has loads of lovely ideas

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