10 great value and free days out with children over the summer holidays

Time together as a family doesn’t have to break the bank

Family travelling in a car with a canoe strapped to the roof
(Image credit: Getty images)

School summer holidays can be expensive, now more than ever with cash strapped households facing soaring food, fuel and energy prices. But time together as a family doesn’t have to break the bank.

You can easily wave goodbye to £200 if you’re planning a trip to a theme park – so here’s ten free days out the whole family will enjoy.

1. Visit a lifeboat station

Most RNLI lifeboat stations open their doors for free visits and in some cases this can be all year round. There’s over 200 of them around the coast of the UK and Ireland so plenty to visit especially if you’re on holiday. 

Bembridge lifeboat station on the Isle of Wight is open every day from 11am – 4pm during school holidays and Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast opens from 10 – 4pm.  

And if the kids want to spend their pocket money in the gift shop – it’s money well spent as you’re supporting an amazing cause.

2. Free city views

You may get the highest view across London from the Shard but with tickets costing from £28, it will set back a family of four more than £100.

But you can get amazing panoramic views over the city from the stunning Sky Garden  - London’s highest public garden, complete with an observation deck and open air terrace - and it’s totally free.   

The entrance is hidden away at 20 Fenchurch Street in the heart of the city but it is best to book in advance because there may be limited walk in availability on the day.

3. Go swimming

Some local councils offer free swimming sessions during school holidays including Dudley and Oxford and in some leisure centres across Kent

It’s worth searching online or asking your local council about free swimming sessions. In some cases you might need to register for a free swimming card to show on the day.

4. Zoos, theme parks & cinema tickets

If you’re a Tesco shopper you can swap Clubcard vouchers for three times their value to get tickets for days including  Zoos, theme parks, and cinema tickets.  

You’ll need to swap vouchers through the Tesco website, rather than bowl up at the venue waving your clubcard.  

Once you’ve swapped your points, you’ll usually get codes to book tickets yourself or show on your phone for entry.

5. Free tennis coaching

If you’ve been bitten by the Wimbledon bug head along to your nearest free LTA Big Tennis Weekend event.   You can find one by putting in your postcode.

Events are held in parks, tennis clubs and community centres throughout the summer and into September with free coaching, games and competitions.

6. Pack a picnic and head for the forest

You can find local forest trails with the Woodland Trust who manage over 1000 areas of woodland across the UK and all free to visit.  

At Heartwood Forest in Hertfordshire, you can take the Magical Meander trail to see woodland characters which is just a short one and a half mile stroll.  Free parking here too.

7. Spend a day at the beach

Beaches are free but you can often get fleeced for parking especially at some of the more popular beaches.   

Bournemouth is famous for its seven miles of award winning sands and it’s even got a free beach bus to get you there. 

This summer you can park up at Kings Park in Boscombe and hop on the free bus to Boscombe Pier which runs every 15 minutes from 9am, every day until 31 August.  £5 all day parking charge.

8. Days out with train tickets

Take the train for ‘2 for 1’ deals on days out including Sea Life Brighton, or take a trip on the London Eye.  Choose your attraction on the website, download a voucher, and when you buy one full price admission ticket, you can get another free by showing your train ticket.

9. Take a city tour

Explore your own city or take a tour of a new one. Sandemans run free walking tours in cities around the world including Edinburgh, Liverpool, Dublin and London.  

All tour guides live and work in the city; they show you around and you’ll usually get a two to three hour tour for free, although tips are welcome.  They also run other ticketed tours so make sure you book on the free ones – which go fast!

10. Free tickets for TV shows

TV production companies dish out free tickets for shows that need a lively audience.  

This can be a great way to see behind the scenes of your favourite show, but do get there early because ticket outlets usually send out far more tickets than seats, in case people don’t turn up as they don't want empty spaces.

For BBC shows you can go on the website and see what’s on and sign up for the mailing list. And shows including Britain’s Got Talent & Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway are advertised on the Applause Store.

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!