When money’s tight, the family summer holiday can often be the first thing to go. However, the great thing about living in the UK is that there’s always plenty going on right on your doorstep – and a lot of it won’t stretch your finances to join in.
Here are our tips for some great ways to entertain the kids this summer without breaking the bank.
Explore the countryside
The British Isles are home to some of the most beautiful countryside and landscapes in the world and no matter where you live, you don’t have to travel far to reach it. From Scotland’s lochs and the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales in the north to the Norfolk Broads and Jurassic Coast in the south – there’s some beautiful places to explore.
You can spend a whole day in the countryside with your family. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a walk, letting your kids lead the way with maps and compasses. Alternatively, you could go on a ramble to enjoy nature, and get your little ones to note down all the wildlife they spot. Days like these are entertaining, informative and – apart from what you spend on travel – they don’t cost a penny.
On yer bike
The Sustrans National Cycle Network is a web of cycle paths that spreads across the UK and Northern Ireland. As well as the many on-road routes there are also plenty of traffic-free paths you can take, which are perfect for children.
Some paths make their way around the coastline and others follow abandoned train tracks, and all of them cut through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Again, no matter where in the country you live you won’t be far from a cycle route, so you shouldn’t have to travel far to reach one. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything to spend a day pedalling.
Hit the beach
Of course, the traditional favourite summertime activity is a day at the seaside. Your kids can have fun building sandcastles, scouring rock pools, riding donkeys and playing ball games, and, again, you can pack a lunch to enjoy there – saving money and allowing your family to spend even more time on the beach.
The Daily Mail recently compiled a list of the 50 best beaches in the UK that rival the seasides of the Mediterranean. Among the newspaper’s top picks were Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset, Croyde Bay in Devon, Pembrokeshire’s Barafundle Bay, West Beach at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, Lincolnshire’s Cleethorpes Central Beach, Lytham St Annes and Blackpool in the North West, Whitby and Scarborough in the North East and St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. So, no matter where you live you should be no more than a few hours away from the seaside.
Expand your minds
As well as its beautiful scenery, another great thing the UK has to offer is its rich heritage. Every year, millions of people from all over the world choose Britain as their holiday destination so they can visit historic places like the Tower of London, Stratford upon Avon or York – and these attractions are right on our doorstep.
In addition to heritage sites there are also loads of museums across the country, and a lot of them are completely free to visit. A list compiled recently by the Guardian picked the National Football Museum in Manchester (a must for young sports fans), the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, Coventry Transport Museum, and the World Museum in Liverpool as among the best attractions in the UK – and they’re all free to visit!
As well as year-round attractions, the UK is also home to plenty of extravaganzas that only happen in the summer. Festivals have never been more popular, and while taking the whole family to Glastonbury would be expensive, there are loads of smaller festivals taking place around the country this year, and many are free to attend.
MoneySavingExpert has put together a map listing all the free festivals this summer – and there are so many there’s bound to be one near to where you live. For instance, if you live in the North West you could check out the Feel Good Festival in Rochdale at the end of August, where there’ll be live music, food stalls and the chance to meet top celebrity chefs. Or, if you’re in the Midlands you could make your way to the Godiva Festival in Coventry this July, where the Happy Mondays will be playing.
An evening at the theatre
If you live in or near London, or you’re planning to visit the capital this summer, there’s a great offer that’s simply not to be missed. As part of Kids Week from the 1st to 31st August, children aged under 16 can see their pick of 35 shows for free providing they’re accompanied by an adult.
For under-threes there’s entertainment like The Tiger Who Came To Tea, while for older kids there are spectacles like Disney’s The Lion King</a, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Horrible Histories. There’s also plenty to keep big kids entertained too, like Billy Elliot: The Musical, War Horse and The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time.
We hope we’ve provided you with some tips for keeping the kids busy this summer without stretching your finances. Why not share your own ideas below?