Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve already seen Family days out without remortgaging (part 1), giving you lots of ideas of things to do that won’t cost the earth. But once in a while we all want a day out to a big attraction, and these usually come with a hefty price tag. I don’t have any magic answers to save you paying the high entry prices, but I do have a few other little tips to stop the cost of the day out from soaring any higher:
Plan & Budget – If you decide to go on a ‘big’ day out then make sure you can afford it. Plan ahead, budget, and try not to go during the same time as all your other big expenses hit. I try to put aside the money from when I sell items and I use this for one-off expenses like big days out.
Look around for discount tickets – Cereal packets, O2 priority moments, McDonalds etc often have offers on (particularly for Merlin attractions) such as 2 for 1. You can also pay with Tesco Clubcard vouchers at many attractions, but you may have to convert your points in advance so don’t leave it too late!
Book in advance – Most attractions now offer a discount if you book online. Sometimes you have to book a day in advance but sometimes it will let you do it just before you leave the house, or even on your phone when you arrive. We visited Thomas Land at Drayton Manor theme park a little while ago where an adult ticket is £25 in advance compared to £39 on the gate!
Pre-school tickets – If you’re going with children who are not yet at school, try to visit at off peak times as the prices are often significantly cheaper. Some attractions also offer reduced rates for pre-schoolers with an accompanying adult at certain times. Eg Thomas Land adult ticket advance rate is £25 and child age 2-3 is £7. However, during term time they do an adult and toddler ticket for just £20 for both.
Annual membership – these often look very tempting, but always look at how many times you would need to visit in the year to make it financially worthwhile. Taking Whipsnade zoo as an example, an annual membership for 2 adults and 2 children is £243, so you would need to go 4 times to make it worthwhile. Now I love the zoo more than most people, but I’m extremely unlikely to go 4 times in a year, especially given that it’s an hour’s drive away. Merlin have an annual sale on their passes in January, so if you’re considering membership at any of their attractions then that may be worth a look.
Take a picnic! – This seems so obvious that I almost feel silly writing it, but often it takes so much effort to get the kids out of the door that making a picnic as well is just too much effort. But if you plan ahead (make it the night before?) then not only can you save significant sums of money but also time (& prevent hungry whinging children!). We recently went to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, which was a fab day out. Due to a number of factors, we ended up buying lunch costing around £30 for chicken nuggets and chips for 4 of us. It wasn’t even particularly nice and I had to entertain a hungry 2 year old for around half an hour while Daddy queued up for the food. Never again! You could always take most of the picnic and just buy some chips as a special treat accompaniment? Or promise ice creams (or hot chocolates!) instead of lunch in the café?
The dreaded gift shop – Kids always love the gift shop, but how often do you end up buying an expensive cuddly toy or some other overpriced tat which then sits unused in your child’s bedroom for years to come? Why not give your child a set amount of money (something small like £2) to choose something they want. They can choose a pencil or a pocket money toy, so they have something to remember the day by but without wasting money that could be better spent on something else. It’s good for your kids to understand that the toys they’re looking at are really expensive and that if you buy that then you won’t be able to spend the money on something else. (see my previous blog post on “teaching our kids the value of money“)
We’ve had some lovely family days out already this year, some of them to places with high entry fees. But by budgeting, planning ahead, and trying to keep the expenditure down while we’re there, we haven’t had to make sacrifices elsewhere in our daily lives to fund them.