The summer term is coming to an end, schools will finally be out and the long summer break begins. It can be a daunting time for parents, worrying about entertaining the children for 6 weeks as well as the cost of trying to keep them busy. In this article, we provide 15 free and cheap ways to stay busy on a budget this summer.
Free things to do with kids this summer
Free days out over summer with Heinz
When you’re doing your supermarket shopping, keep an eye out for promotional packs of Heinz. Buying a tin of beans or ketchup could be your key to free summer holiday activities for your kids. If you see a Heinz product labelled with ‘Free Dayz Out’ buy it and enter the batch code of the product online to get a free day out. This includes thousands of venues nationwide including bowling, trampoline parks, go-karting, swimming and much more. You can claim up to 2 codes a day, and you’ll get a free ticket for each product you buy. You can pick between a free adult or kids ticket (depending on the venue). For full information, head over to the Heinz Dayz Out website.
Free sports sessions for kids with Aldi
If your usual supermarket is Aldi, and you spend more than £30 in-store this summer, you’ll be able to get a free taster session from a choice of over 50+ different Olympic sports. When shopping a voucher should be printed off at the till which will give you a unique code. Head over to the promotional Aldi website where you can enter the code and book a session of your choice. There are lots of different options to choose from, including swimming, boxing, rock climbing, tennis and more, and the sessions are scattered all over the UK. You have until July 31st to get the vouchers at the till at Aldi, but until the end of September to claim them so there’s plenty of time to get your free session. For more details, and to get the deal, head to the Aldi website.
Adults go free at Merlin attractions with Kellogg's
This summer, when you buy selected Kellogg's products, you can get one free ticket for theme parks, aquariums and major attractions nationwide. You’ll need to purchase one ticket at full price to get the 2nd for free. The freebie can either be an adult or child ticket (though adult tickets are worth more). If you have multiple people in your family, you can get this deal more than once if you have more than one voucher. So for example in a family of 4, you can use two vouchers getting 2 tickets free and paying full price for the other two. Vouchers can be used at attractions such as Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Sealife Centres, Dungeons, the London Eye and many more. Tickets to theme parks such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington will set you back £60+ so it’s quite a saving with the voucher. To get the deal once you've bought a Kellogg's product with the voucher head over to the Merlin website and book your tickets. In previous years you’ve been able to bring the box to the front gate but this year you have to book in advance. For full information, and to see what's included, head to the Merlin website.
Kids Pass - 3 months for free
Kids Pass is discount club that gets you money off activities around the country. They don't tell you exactly which retailers are discounted until you sign up, but it does include major brands we all know. You can get offers of up to 50% off things such as bowling, cinema tickets, restaurant meals and theme parks.
Right now, you're able to get 3 months for free. It's being offered by Hungry Horse who are currently giving everyone access to Kids Pass for 3 months without paying a penny (usually this costs £3.99 a month).
This would last you the school holidays, so perfect timing if you have kids off school.
For full details, and to sign up for the deal, head over to the Hungry Horse Website.
Free tennis sessions this summer
If your kids have been inspired by Wimbledon, you could get them a free tennis lesson thanks to ‘Tennis For Free’. There are 44 locations nationwide that are offering free tennis coaching sessions but your kids will need to be aged 12 or under. Sessions last a total of 90 minutes long and if you had paid for these, you’d probably be looking at paying £20+ for a session. Only so many sessions are put on each summer so you’ll need to book in advance as spaces do fill up fast. Go quick if it’s something your child might be interested in. For more information, and to book, head over to the Tennis For Free website.
Check your local council for FREE events
One of the best places to find free and cheap events is to head locally! There are plenty of things happening right on your doorstep that won’t be broadly advertised. It’s worth checking on your local council website as you may find a list of free organised events happening in your area. Also join local Facebook groups that will give you the heads-up when something is happening. And be sure to check your local libraries, as they also run events in the summer such as book clubs and toddler groups.
Free activities in stores this summer
There are lots of high street shops and retailers that offer free classes and activities for both kids and adults. Most often they are totally free and there is no requirement for you to buy anything in-store to attend them. Quite often, however, you do need to book in advance. Here are some events that we’ve spotted happening this summer:
- Apple - Offering lots of free classes for families, children and adults covering topics such as art, photography, music and coding.
- Pets At Home - Offering free animal workshops for children aged 5-11.
- Dobbies Garden Centres - Children aged between 4-10 years old can enjoy a free gardening workshop with the garden centre. Workshops run on the first Sunday of every month and last 45 minutes to an hour.
- IKEA - Take part in crafting workshops in store including making your own hot air balloon.
- Hobbycraft - Take part in arts and crafts workshops across its stores. These can be for both adults and kids but most of them you will need to pay for.
Cheap things to do with kids this summer
Tickets to London or Whipsnade Zoo from £3
If you’re on a budget but wanted a trip to London or Whipsnade Zoo, you can visit for just £3 for a child and £5 for adults if you receive certain benefits. Usually, these tickets can cost £20+ each so it’s a massive saving with this deal. There are a number of government benefits that are eligible for this deal including Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance. If you are claiming one of the above benefits, you can book the tickets online in advance. Be mindful, however, that when you pick up the tickets at the gate, you’ll need to show proof of the benefit you receive (in the form of a letter). For full details, and to claim your tickets, head to the London Zoo or the Bedfordshire Whipsnade Zoo website.
London West End theatre shows from £7 each
Over the summer, London's West End offers cut-price tickets for some of its top and lesser-known shows. Prices start from £14 total for an adult and £7 for a child. You can find tickets to shows such as Les Mis, Grease, Frozen the Musical, SpongeBob the Musical and many more. Popular shows will be more expensive, costing you around £50 for both an adult and a child (£25 each). Lesser-known shows will be much cheaper. You can choose a number of dates throughout August but tickets are first come, first served and may run out. If there’s a show you’d like to see, have a look on there sooner rather than later. For full details and to grab some tickets, head to the Kids Week website.
Eat Out With Kids Eat Free (Or For £1) Offers
Many popular chains of restaurants offer free meals for children this summer. Usually, the free meal comes when an adult pays for a meal too but there are some places that offer completely free food also. Here are a few restaurants offering free or cheap food for kids, check our Kids Eat Free article for more offers:
- Morrisons - Head into a Morrisons Cafe for breakfast and ‘Ask For Ellen’ at the counter to get 2 free crumpets. Valid every day until 13th August.
- M&S - Kids eat for free when an adult spends more than £5 on food. The free kid's meal is worth £4, and it’s valid until 1st September.
Ongoing deals & freebies to do this summer
1. Visit a national museum
If you’re looking for a bit of culture, you’ll find a lot of museums are free to enter - especially if you head to London (though they may ask for a donation). Major museums such as the National History Museum, the British Museum and the Science Museum are all free - though you will need to book online in advance if you want to go. Have a Google for museums near where you live too, as you may find one you didn’t know about.
2. Free scavenger hunt nationwide with Geocaching
Geocaching is great fun for the kids and it’s free to use. Little treasures have been hidden all around the country (and the world) and it’s your job to find them. Once you’ve downloaded the Geocaching app you’ll find treasures (also known as caches) marked on a map. These are usually in secret spots and give you clues to find them. Caches usually have logbooks so bring a pen and write your names in the book when you've found the hidden cache. Sometimes there are treats inside that you can take but often they like you to put something else back in the cache to replace what you take. There is a paid-for version that unlocks more caches but you can still have fun with the free version. For full information, and to download, head to the Geocaching website.
3. Free visits to lifeboat stations nationwide
Everybody knows about the RNLI but not many people know that you can go for visits to the stations year-round. You can see all around the stations, see the lifeboats and meet with some lifeguards who work there. Some stations also have gift shops where you can buy some RNLI merchandise or make donations to the charity. There are over 200 stations around the country's coastline each with different opening hours. For full information, head to the RNLI website.
Your kids can also learn how to swim in open water for free, thanks to courses from the RNLI. Learn more here.
4. Use the train to unlock 2-for-1 deals
If you’re heading somewhere on the train you can use your ticket to get yourself 2-for-1 deals at attractions nationwide. There are plenty of places in London, such as the London Eye and Tower of London participating, as well as theme parks and stately homes nationwide. As long as your train ticket is going to a location close to the attraction, you can get yourself a 2-for-1 deal which could save you quite a bit of money on more expensive attractions. You’ll find lots of places to choose from, some of which need booking online in advance, so check the website before going. For full details, head to the Days Out Guide website.
5. See TV recordings for completely free
Did you know that you can watch your favourite TV shows live and in person for free? You'll need to book tickets online in advance, but there's no guarantee you'll get in. Tickets will be sent to you for your date of recording if you are successful, but tickets are oversubscribed to make sure all the seats are filled. So get there early on the day if you wanted to get in. Keep an eye on the websites Applause Store, Lost in TV & SRO Audiences to snap up your favourites.
Are you a working parent? You could be entitled to the tax-free childcare scheme
If you are a working parent the school holidays can be stressful when it comes to organising childcare. Did you know that you could be entitled to tax-free childcare up to £2,000 per child each year? The Childcare Choices website will notify you if you are eligible almost immediately (providing no extra checks are required) and for every £8 you contribute the government will add an extra £2.
Are you eligible for tax-free childcare?
- Working parents with children under 12 (under 17 for disabled children)
- Must earn at least £167 per week
- You may still be eligible if you or your partner are on maternity, paternity, adoption leave, disabled or have care responsibilities
For more information see the Childcare Choices website.
If you have lots of exciting things planned this summer, consider downloading a free Summer Holiday Planner, provided by 'Day out with the kids'.
Going on holiday this summer?
- Read our pre-departure checklist to ensure you're fully prepared for your holiday this summer.
- Wondering what is the best way to take money on holiday this summer? Read our handy guide.
- Are you taking a staycation this year? Read our article, 'Do I need travel insurance for a staycation and how to get the best deal'.