Family days out and adventures are what summers are all about but I can’t be the only one whose noticed how it can all add up to a very expensive holiday. There are times when renting a villa in the Algarve for six weeks seems like a cheap alternative. We’re not suggesting you give up on paid-for-fun completely this year – that’s a big ask for even the most stoic kids. But a few freebies in the mix are a good plan, since you might have to splash out on stuff like eating and wearing clothes come September. Here’s how to be cheap without looking cheap and still have a great old time all summer long.
Free museums and galleries all over the UK
Most of us take it for granted, but the UK’s free public museums and galleries are the envy of the world. It costs at least €16 at to visit any European museum, but everywhere from the Glasgow Art Gallery to the V&A invites you to come along and bring the kids for nothing. They even organise children’s events and activities during the holidays. Quite a few have free kids goodie bags all-year-round. And, fantastic collections like Bristol’s Blaise Castle or the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, have huge grounds to run around in too.
Free National Trust family day’s out
The National Trust don’t just take care of stately homes and castles, they look after huge stretches of coast, fantastic beaches, woods, forest and parkland as well. So you can go roam for free and still have well-marked walks, maps and guides, toilets and picnic areas, surfaced paths for buggies, cycle routes and plenty of wild fun for older kids.
Throw a ‘Just Because’ party
You know the mid-holiday slump when everyone’s a bit bored? It’s the perfect time to invite a few friends for a ‘just-because’ party. You’re not celebrating anything in particular and the challenge is to use what you have to hand (works best immediately after a supermarket run). Juice, snacks and ice-lollies are all you need. If your kitchen has bi-fold doors fold them back, open up the space and put your food table outside. Get kids involved in designing invitations, choosing games, cookie-cutting sandwich shapes and decorating the garden. And don’t forget to tell parents it’s a just-because party so, no presents – but don’t refuse offers of help or cakes.
Free Community Gardens to fill holiday afternoons
Summer’s a great time to get to know your local Community Gardens. Loads of them are open to visitors and volunteers in July and August and plenty have small farm animals as well as plants. Good fun if you don’t have a garden and excellent for picking up tips, cuttings and friendly advice if you do.
Organise a fundraising holiday garage sale
Pick a charity you all like and raise some money from outgrown toys, clothes, games and anything else you can think of. Making up leaflets and posters to put round the local area, sorting out stuff to sell, setting up stalls and pricing everything can fill holiday weeks easily. Get friends and family to help out and contribute and make sure everyone knows it’s for a good cause. Saturday morning is best for the big event itself. Most charities have branded stickers, bags and money boxes if you want them. And, as well as the feel-good factor, you almost always get a nice letter, certificate or even an invite to visit, especially if it’s a local charity.
Free coaching, sports and events for the holidays
Check out your local council website for sport, coaching and activities during the holidays. Several major cities have card-programmes for kids which gives them no-cost access to all sorts of stuff when school’s out. The Woodland Trust has downloadable fun activity sheets to inspire you to get out and use their forests. If you live in or near Manchester, under 16s can use city swimming pools for nothing this summer. Make A Splash in Camden has free swimming lessons for locals. And Glasgow’s KidzCard is free-of-charge to all families with kids at school in the Glasgow area.
Remember, parks and gardens are plenty exciting in summer – look online for nature ‘treasure hunt’ ideas. Beaches are brilliant and there are lots of public transport holiday offers, especially for family day’s out. And, if you’re really stuck for ideas, just go outside. With the right attitude, a bit of imagination and plenty of energy, even a walk can be an adventure. Have fun, that’s always free.