Although family tourist spots from zoos to water parks may cost a fortune, the good news is there are plenty of things your family can do for free these school holidays.
Just follow our guide to the top ten summer activities that will keep the kids occupied… but won’t break the bank:
Take a picnic to the seaside
A week by the beach may be out of the question, but if you live close enough to one of Britain’s bits of beautiful coastline then a day by the sea can provide a host of free fun. Set off early for a full day building sandcastles, paddling and even playing beach games such as Frisbee or cricket. Pack some sandwiches, crisps, a flask and some juice and you’re all set for a day without flashing the cash. Just pack your wellies, macs and a windbreak in case the weather breaks (again).
[Related article: Rain-proof family days out]
Visit a lido
Expensive water parks and luxury hotels with pools are off-menu but that doesn’t mean the kids can’t get a bit of water-filled fun. Visit www.lidos.org for a comprehensive list of all Britain’s best lidos. You can generally pick up a family ticket for four for around £14 – or go early in the morning or later in the evening for more reductions. And if it’s a sunny day, you can enjoy a bit of R&R by the poolside while the kids splash about, too.
Enjoy the National Trust
The National Trust doesn’t have to mean forking out for afternoon teas and tours around stately homes. The NT has a host of sites across the country where you can walk and cycle, enjoying the glorious scenery, for free. Take the bikes and find family-friendly cycle paths at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/cycling. Or pick a walk at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/walking
Catch the Olympics – without a ticket
Get caught up in the thrill of the race without spending a penny: there are dozens of so-called ‘Live Sites’ across the country where giant screens allow you to tune in and soak up the atmosphere with hundreds of other sports fans. They include London’s Victoria Park, outside Belfast City Hall, Guildhall Square in Portsmouth and Millennium Square in Leeds. For full info see www.london2012.com
Visit a museum or gallery
Pretty much all of the major museums and galleries are hosting special events for kids these summer holidays – and the good news is that admission is free. The Natural History Museum in London has a daily ‘Hands on nature – Dinosaurs’ event this month, while the National Museum of Scotland has free activities from gallery safaris and colouring to object handling. See www.visitbritain.com
[Related article: Big TV screens 'bringing' families together]
Laze about in a library
This summer some 97 per cent of the UK’s libraries is running a Summer Reading Challenge called Story Lab. The challenge for four to 11-year-olds is to read six books over the holidays – just head to your local library at the start of the hols to sign up (for free) and your child will get a membership pack. Everybody gets a certificate and there’s a host of other incentives, rewards and activities on offer, too… See www.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk
Bag a free swim
To mark the Olympics, British Gas is offering everyone a free swim this summer – just find a pool near you, choose your offer, enter your details and confirm your free swim by August 30. Vouchers are valid for one adult and up to two children. Go to www.britishgasswimming.co.uk
Free sports at the supermarket
Well, not quite cricket in the chiller aisles but both Tesco and Asda are offering free sports sessions for kids this summer. Five to 11-year-olds can sign up to a free FA Tesco Skills coaching session at schools and sports centres nationwide via FA/Tescoskills while Asda Active events include family tug-o-war and fun runs in Great Yarmouth to football, martial arts and basketball in Newport. Register at AsdaActive.
This August 1 is Playday – a national day celebrating children playing outdoors. Free events range from BMX and skateboard sessions in Arnot Hill Park, Nottinghamshire, potato-printing, den-building and more for the under-fives at Green Head Park in Huddersfield and face-painting, treasure hunts and jewellery making at Acton Park Children’s Centre in Ealing. See www.playday.org.uk
Get cheap cinema deals
Cinema visits can be pricey, especially for all the family. But it is worth sussing out the cheap deals on offer this summer. Vue Cinemas have kids’ films screening throughout the school holidays at £1.50 per child (one adult per child goes free), while Odeon Kids has £2.50 kids’ tickets (again, one adult goes free).