MoneyMagpie

Jul 19

Family fun on a budget

Planning the family fun, such as holidays, this year could present us all with some exciting challenges. The economic downturn not only makes the working week a little more worrisome but when you do have the chance to take a break, you feel like you still need to save money.

There are literally hundreds of ways to be thrifty without compromising on fun! Whether you stay for a week or just for a day you can find exciting activities, whatever the weather and whatever the budget. There is a world of adventure and hidden gems to be found on British soil – and a great deal of them are free of charge!

Staycation

Staying at home for the summer doesn’t have to be boring – if you break with the old routine, and find somewhere new to explore.  When was the last time you went to your local museum, gallery or national trust house? Most galleries and museums provide free entry for children, and a lot of National Trust properties allow you to walk for free in the grounds, even if you do have to pay entry into houses.

Local libraries, as well as museums, often run free arts and crafts activities for children in the holidays,  allowing you to have a break while the kids get entertained by someone else for a couple of hours.

The National Trust have some beautiful properties to explore this summer, so why not take a picnic and explore the grounds of your local National Trust estate? Just a few of the places you could visit are:

Brownsea Island, Dorset

family fun

Brownsea Island, Dorset

Catch the ferry across to the island in Poole Harbour, famous for being an unspoilt, natural haven with a colourful history. The island is one of the last places to see red squirrels as well as many different kinds of seabirds. There are lots of walks, some suitable for even the youngest children, beautiful beaches, and the island is car free so every inch of it can be explored.

Activities:

– Watch the cormorants, oyster-catchers, terns, shelduck and other seabirds nose-diving into the sea
– Head to the visitors centre and hear how the island was used as a decoy during the Second World War to protect the nearby towns of Poole and Bournemouth from bombing
– Hunt for wildlife in the many bomb craters on the island
– Pay a visit to the outdoor centre and see the Scout stone – Brownsea was the founding place of the Scout and Guide movement.

Blickling Hall, Garden and Park, Norfolk

family fun

Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Blickling Hall is a quirky-looking building and has a spectacular collection of Dutch gables and turrets, striking brick chimneys and massive yew hedges.  Learn what life was like as a servant and hear the stories of the real people who kept Blickling in ship-shape. Henry VIII’s second queen, Anne Boleyn, is thought to have lived in an earlier house on the estate when she was a girl. Some say they’ve seen her headless ghost riding up to the house, in a coach pulled by headless horses. Outside, enjoy extensive garden and parkland, with 400 year-old yew hedges and historic trees.

Activities:

– Find the hidden pyramid, a tomb built for one of Blickling’s owners
– Have a picnic in the orchard
– Spot local wildlife, including woodpeckers, herons and owls
– Play croquet on the lawn
– Hire a bike to explore.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

family fun

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

There’s so much atmosphere and adventure to soak up at this World Heritage Site, making it the perfect kids’ destination. From the dramatic abbey ruins, which could tell a thousand tales, to the stunning, landscaped water gardens complete with temples, statues and follies.

Activities:

– Play hide and seek in the abbey ruins
– Have a go at grinding corn in the mill
– Spot the species of bat that live in the abbey
– Discover the trough where the monks washed their feet – they only had four baths a year.

Holidaying in the UK

If you don’t fancy a stay at home holiday, but do want to give travelling abroad a miss this year, then look closer to home and holiday in the UK. Scotland, Northumbria, Yorkshire, the Lake District, Cornwall and Devon are just some of the places you could have a wonderful time visiting this summer – but without breaking the bank.

Cheap accommodation

Hotel price comparison sites are a godsend but we recommend using at least three to be sure you’re getting the very best prices.  You’ll probably already know about sites such as Hotelclub.com and Laterooms but Trivago.co.uk is another lesser known site that often comes up trumps.family fun

We also like Hotelly.com which has some fantastic video reviews and if you’re on a budget, but are willing to be flexible on exactly where you travel to, Priceline allows you to name a price and destination and it will find accommodation to fit your budget. However, always check directly with the hotel to see if they can offer you a better deal.

You can also save 50% on luxury hotels through Lastminute.com’s ‘top secret hotels’ promotion. The way it works is to offer a host of cheap four and five star hotel rooms – but without telling you which hotel it is until after you book it. This may sound a bit scary but you do know where the hotel is situated as well as its star rating and a basic description of facilities.

The idea behind all the secrecy is that top class hotels can fill their rooms without having to reveal to their regular patrons that they are willing to drop their rates, so you can actually secure yourself a stay in a gorgeous hotel for a fraction of the price.

Don’t forget to check out Hotels.com too – they have a huge selection of great places to stay, and are always running fantastic offers.

House swapping

If you have a house in the city but want to holiday in the country this summer, have a look at homeexchange.com or homesforexchange.com and see if you can find a house swap that interests you. House exchanges work by two people exchanging houses for the duration of their holidays. For example, if you have a house in London, but would like to go for a holiday in Cornwall, then you could set up a swap and stay in a house in Cornwall rent free, while someone lives in your house.

This not only saves money on accommodation, but means that if you have a pet, you could save money on kennels if the people you swap with are willing to take care of them. It also minimises the risk of someone breaking into your house, as you won’t be leaving your property vacant while you are away.  Just make sure you leave instructions on how to work all your major appliances, such as the washing machine and central heating, and an emergency contact number.family fun

If you were planning on going abroad this summer, than there are also loads of properties on these sites from all over the world, so you can swap with someone just about anywhere!

Farm and cottage holidays

If you don’t like the idea of someone else living in your home while you are on holiday, you could always go for the next best thing, and rent your own house or cottage in the countryside. During July and August there are some great deals on if you fancy escaping into the countryside, and it’s a great cheap way to get away. Most cottages sleep between 4-8 people, so why not about buddy up with some friends, split the cost and all go away together.family fun

Cottage Holidays rent out cottages in the south west of England in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, and they have some great offers that change on a weekly basis.

Sykes Cottages have cottages all over the England, Scotland, Wales and Irland, there are lots of special offers available throughout July and August.

Dales Holiday Cottages specialise in holidays in the Scotland and North West. Choose from a selection of charming cottages and houses in Yorkshire, Scotland and Derbyshire. Special offers often apply to particular weeks, but it could still save you money if you are looking to rent in August, which is high season.

Camping and caravan holidays

Another cheap and fun holiday option is camping or caravanning. There are literally hundreds of campsites dotted around the UK, and a lot of them don’t charge much to pitch up at for the night.family fun

At the moment Haven have some fantastic summer deals available, get up to 50% off July and August school holiday holidays, with electric pitches for as little as £18 per night.

Camping’s changed a lot in the last few years, and if you don’t want to take the risk of seeing your tent bobbing around in a sea of mud, than trade in your tent for a spot of glamorous camping – or ‘glamping’ as its known. Glamping is almost exactly like staying in a hotel, except it comes with a canvas roof so that you can be ‘closer to nature’. Stay in luxurious yurts or a tipis rather than the traditional tent, and we aren’t joking when we say some of them come equipped with such luxuries as dish washers and under floor heating!

Tipis are a great way to bring a new twist to traditional camping, at 4 winds Lakeland Tipis. Set in the heart of National Trust owned Low Wray Castle park land, north of Lake Windermere, you can hire a Tipi that sleeps 6 (they do go bigger though) for £260 for a 3 night stay in September.

Cheap and free days out

Trade in your loyalty points for free days out

Trade in your supermarket loyalty points for family days out from as little as £3. Both Tesco and Sainsburys are offering to swap clubcard loyalty points for tickets to top UK attractions, such as Alton Towers and Blue Reef Aquariums.

family funTesco has a whole range of family day out tickets available from zoos to farms and theme parks. When you receive your club card vouchers through the post, simply log on to the Tesco online store and get swapping. Often buying with clubcard points is far cheaper than buying from the venue itself; for example, an annual standard Merlin Pass costs £50 worth of clubcard points, but if you were to purchase the card from the Merlin Pass website it would cost £124.80. Saving you over £70.

Meanwhile with Sainsbury’s you can spend Nectar points at Vue Cinemas, Blockbuster and Amazon. If it is fun days out you’re looking for, then trade your Nectar points for £5 (500 points) off tickets to Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Madam Tussauds, Warwick Castle and LegoLand Windsor.

2 for 1 entry into London attractions with a National Express ticket

If you’re travelling by train or coach this summer remember to keep a hold of your tickets. National Express has teamed up with some of London’s top attractions, restaurants and shows to save you money with a selection of fantastic 2FOR1 offers in London, Bristol and Birmingham. London Zoo, Hampton Court, The Tower of London, selected exhibitions and tours and The London Aquarium are all participating partners in the offer and you could save up to £18 by using a train ticket. All offers available until 30September 2011.

Blue Peter badge holdersfamily fun

Blue Peter badge holders can get into literally hundreds of places for free including: Chessington World of Adventures, Hampton Court Palace, The London Dungeons, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, ZSL London Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit, Home of Charles Darwin, Scotland’s Lighthouse Museum, Cromer Museum and Dan-Yr-Ogof Showcaves to name just a few.

There are almost 200 places throughout the UK you can visit, so if you have a Blue Peter badge don’t forget to pack it if you are going away this summer!

Travel offers

As petrol prices continue to rise, more and more people are only using their cars for important journeys, such as getting to work everyday, to save petrol. With petrol costing more than £60 a tank to fill up, its not surprising more than a million motorists in the past 12 months have given up on driving. So, here at Moneymagpie, we’ve taken the time to round up some of the best car-free transport deals for you this summer.

Railcards

Railcards are great way to get around if you frequently use the trains, and you can quickly make your money back in ticket savings. A Family & Friends Railcard will save you up to a third on adult ticket prices, and a whopping 60% off kids train tickets, so it really is worth having. Better still, up to four adults and four children can travel on one card.

The railcard costs £28 for one year, or£65 for three years, and right now you can get 10% off the price.

National Express £9 anywhere coach fares

This summer if you book up to 14 days in advance your National Express coach ticket will, at the most, cost £9, regardless of where you are travelling too in the UK. If you carry a concessionary card, such as a younger persons or over 60s coachcard, you will still be entitled to your regular discount.  You must book by 29 July.

East Coast Trains

If you are planning on travelling to any East Coast destinations this summer, East Coast trains are offering up to 10% off when you book online. You can also get 10% off Cottages4you, and use your tickets for 2for1 entry at some of London’s top attractions.

With train tickets to any destination, if you can book in advance and are flexible on exact timings you can normally save at least 40% off a standard priced ticket. If you are going on a long journey,  Red Spotted Hanky say that if you book advanced tickets with them, you can save as much as 80%! Red Spotted Hanky also offer a loyalty reward scheme, giving you 1 point for every £1 you spend with them. These points can then be turned into an e-voucher which you can use to spend on your next rail journey.

Travel in groups

Take advantage of the National Express GroupSave deal this summer where four adults can travel together for the price of two.  When two or more adults buy off-peak day returns, one or two more adults can travel for free, and up to four more children can travel for only £1 each!

Weekday travel restrictions apply, but weekend and bank holiday travel is unresricted. Off-peak singles, returns and day travel cards are accepted for the offer but railcards are not. There is no need to book, just arrive at the station and ask for ‘GroupSave and Go’. This offer is accepted at all National Express stations.

Car sharing

family funWith the cost of train tickets and petrol constantly rising, the practical solution is to either stop driving or only drive when it is essential. But there is another option: car sharing. Websites such as National Car Share enable regular drivers and passengers to register for free and find other people who take the same routes as they do, thereby splitting the cost of petrol in half – and cutting down on C02 emisions.

What you pay the driver, or what the passenger pays you, is a matter for you both to agree on as the website does not suggest a fee, but they do suggest that you could just split the price of fuel or agree on a set amount in accordance to milage.

National Car Share works well for work or the school run, but for a holiday you could easily pair up with friends and travel together on days out or on the way to a holiday destination. The advantages are that the price of fuel is halved, you have someone to split the driving with and you have some adult company to keep you entertained.

Useful links

Holiday Extras

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