Top 12 ways to save in the summer holidays

Sarah Willingham, Consumer Champion featuring on This Morning and Daybreak

Sarah Willingham Daybreak

The key with the summer holidays is to manage expectations.  It is unrealistic to think that you can take the children out every day so it is all about finding the balance between big treats and entertaining the kids at home.  With 4 kids I know that you can feel pressured – mummy guilt can be strong during the holidays – BUT it is not worth getting into debt over.

1.       FREE STUFF

English Heritage

Some of the BEST attractions in the UK are free, especially the big museums.  It isn’t just in London either, lots of them across the UK simply ask for a donation instead of a full entrance fee.  Try your local council website as they usually list all of the activities going on around your town, most of which are far cheaper than private options, with some full days of sport starting from £15.

English Heritage lists loads of fun stuff to do in the school holidays for FREE but it can be worth joining up for annual membership (around £40) as this will give you access to HUNDREDS of CHEAP deals all year round.

Just watch the small print.  What can appear to be a FREE activity can sometimes end up costing the most.  We went to a soft play centre that had a great discounted entrance fee, it was only when we got there did we realise that to use the electric car track, play air hockey and get a balloon all cost extra. 


Tesco Clubcard

Saving your supermarket loyalty points for the summer is a GREAT way to boost their value and cut your costs. Tesco Clubcard Rewards vouchers are often worth up to 4 times on restaurants and days out! For example, £5 worth of Clubcard vouchers will give you a £20 voucher off your food in a PizzaExpress. One of the best ways of taking advantage of this is converting your cashback into Tesco Clubcard points, in some cases quadrupling the value of your cashback!

3.       VOUCHERS

The London Dungeons

Before you book ANY day trip, make sure you’ve checked for vouchers, TopCashback offer a wide range of vouchers for attractions to restaurants, not to mention cashback – sometimes when you wouldn’t expect it.

Still can’t find any? Type the name of the attraction into Google along with the word voucher and the month you want to go and then see what pops up. There is usually ALWAYS a discount to be had.  Many voucher sites have vouchers MONTHS out of date so don’t get caught out.  If you forget to get a voucher code whilst out and about then don’t worry as you can usually search for one using a smartphone.

Keep an eye out for the 2 for 1 deals in newspapers or on the back of car parking tickets and tell family and friends without children to save anything they see.


Red Spotted Hanky Trains

If you spend more than £84 a year on train tickets then you should seriously consider investing in a railcard as you get a third off travel.  We love the Family and Friends card. If you travel with a child between five and 15 years old then you’re eligible. It costs £28 for a 1 year Railcard or £65 for a 3 year Railcard, and saves you a third off adult and 60% off kids’ fares across Britain for a year.

When booking your train tickets, there are even more ways to save. If you know that you’re making a train journey this summer holiday, book as soon as you can! The optimum time to book is 12 weeks before but even booking the night before you travel is still likely to save you a hefty sum! Try RedSpottedHanky, there’s no admin fee or card fees and you can earn loyalty points.

5.       PARKING


There is nothing worse than heading into town and getting stuck with a MASSIVE bill just for parking the car. However, have a look at Parkopedia and find out where to park CHEAPLY or FOR FREE. Just enter the postcode and it will bring up a list of places to park, their opening times, and how much they cost. It has a great community of people sharing their secret parking tips too! It is particularly good on city centre parking so great when on a day out with the kids.

6.       ANNUAL PASS

London Zoo

If you live close to an amazing theme park or zoo then it can often work out cheaper to buy an annual pass than to keep buying daily tickets.  Places like Peppa Pig World, London Zoo and Beale Park in Oxfordshire all offer discounted annual passes.  Work out how many times you’ll need to visit to make it worthwhile and then decide.

If you decide on a Merlin Pass, why not use your cashback to redeem one full annual membership from Tesco Clubcard Rewards for just £50!

Lots of places like Blenheim Palace also offer a full year’s entry for just one day’s ticket – so keep your eyes peeled.

 7.       CINEMA


Loads of the big cinema chains offer CHEAP cinema tickets at weekends and over the school holidays where you can get tickets for as little as £1!  Vue, Odeon and Cineworld all have discounts and offers on new releases as well as old favourites and classic Disney films!  Don’t forget if you are an Orange customer you can get 2 for 1 cinema tickets on Wednesdays too.


Fa Skills School

If you enjoy playing tennis as a family, then check out tennisforfree who tell you all of the places in the UK where you can play tennis for free 50 weeks of the year! There are 2584 courts and 12 free coaching programmes too so check out the nearest one to you. We also love the FREE football skills sessions that Tesco run in conjunction with the FA.  They are for children aged 5 to 11 and run in most school holidays so check where your local centre is and ENJOY!

9.       SWIMMING

Check out any FREE swimming sessions at your local pool.  Sport Wales along with lots of local councils including Brighton, Glasgow and Manchester offer free swimming for under 16s! Check your local council to see if there are any in your area. You can also now use Nectar points for cheap swimming.  The new Nectar Swim initiative allows cardholders to double their points and swap them for swimming sessions at their local pool. A Nectar Swim starts from as little as 300 points for a child’s swim, 500 points for an adult or 1,500 points for a family swim.



A really fun FREE summer holiday activity is geocaching, a form of hi-tech outdoor treasure hunt. Using a GPS or smartphone you follow co-ordinates to try and find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are loads all around the country.  The container usually contains goodies like plastic toys or games (anything that doesn’t decompose or get damaged by the weather). Whatever you take, you must replace with something of equal value, but you’ll find with kids that most of the fun comes from the looking anyway! Visit the geocaching site to find out the nearest locations to you.


If you need to use holiday clubs, remember that if they are OFSTED approved, then you can pay with childcare vouchers. This can save you HUNDREDS.  Childcare Vouchers last from any age until your youngest child is 15 so can see you through years of summer holidays!  My children have taken part in SuperCamps, ballet summer school, tennis lessons and holiday play schemes all paid for with childcare vouchers.  Your local council probably runs loads of things from sailing through to drama and even movie making, the majority of which will be OFSTED registered.

12.   FOOD & DRINK

Bobble Bottle

When you are out and about, food is EXPENSIVE almost everywhere so take a picnic. My kids LOVE a picnic.  They help me make the sandwiches, bake cakes, slice fruit.  I try and take disposable things too so that I am not carting too many bags around for the rest of the day.  We all like using ‘bobbles’ which are water bottles that filter as you drink so that you don’t need to buy expensive bottled water when you are out and about.  They come in loads of fun colours and the kids love them, you can pick one up from Tesco for £6! Before going anywhere, it is worth checking that you can bring your own food.  If you can’t consume your own packed lunch, then eat elsewhere BEFORE or AFTER lunchtime.  Just don’t get caught out paying for overpriced fried stuff!

Posted on 07 Aug 2013  |  Posted in  Tips & Updates
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