A piggy bank

It’s the beginning of July, which, if you’re a parent, means one thing. The summer holidays are just around the corner.

As you drag both yourself and your children through the final weeks of term, attending sports days and hoping their school shoes will last, thoughts of no more school runs and homework all wrapped up in endless summer days become a welcome distraction.

However, the reality of unpredictable weather, juggling work schedules, play dates, clubs, activities and the endless need for snacks can leave families frazzled, bored and drastically out of pocket.

It is possible to make the most of the summer break with a bit of planning, however we understand that finding time to do research, make lists and work out costs is as tricky as hiding the last piece of cake from your chocolate loving child, which is why we’ve done it for you.

Below you’ll find top hints and tips on free attractions, money saving days out and even rainy day activities.

Money saving tips

Of course you’re going to want to treat your family to the odd day out – it helps break up the weeks and sharing experiences is what holidays are all about. Thankfully, there are money-saving offers out there that’ll enable you to make the most of your time together as a family:

Theme parks and attractions

Look for promotional packets of cereal that offer a 2-4-1 theme park pass or a Grown-Ups Go Free voucher for 32 Merlin theme parks and attractions.

You can also get 2-4-1 on all tickets if you buy a National Rail ticket and register with Days Out Guide and print out the vouchers. Even if you’re not travelling by train it’s worth buying a cheap ticket, as it will still save you money off of the park or attraction entry price.

Go wild for the zoo

Getting organised and buying tickets in advance can help save money off of your ticket – for example if you book five days in advance for Chessington World of Adventures you can save almost 50%.

If you cycle to Bristol Zoo, and can prove it when you get there by showing your bike helmet, you can get 20% off of your entry price. If you can’t cycle but you’re still in need of a deal you can also save 15% by booking online.

If you travel to Edinburgh on a kids go free train ticket, you can present your ticket at Edinburgh Zoo to get a free child entry, saving you £12.50.

Whatever your plans this summer, we hope you make the most out of the sunshine and having your children home before they start the new school year in September.

Rainy day ideas

But you also need some ideas for when the weather isn’t on your side.

One thing we can certainly rely on here in the UK is the unreliable weather. Rainy days can push up boredom levels, which can also increase costs as you look for something dry to do to entertain the kids – after all, that family cinema trip doesn’t come cheap! Below are a few ideas for free indoor activities that even the wettest day couldn’t dampen:

Treasure hunt

With a treasure hunt you really can unleash the creative and competitive side in your family. Write up or draw clues and place them around the house. You can even make a ‘prize’ for the winner.

Create a family recipe book

Take a leaf out of Roald Dahl’s book and create your own deliciously different recipe book full of family favourites. Make up your own names for dishes and give the children free reign to design their own gourmet meal. It’s a great afternoon’s activity for them, not to mention a wonderful keepsake for you.

Indoor camping/den-making

Building a den is great fun for both children and parents and can soon turn a rainy-day frown upside down. Follow these basic den-building rules and don’t forget to leave room for pillows and games.

Chef for a day

When was the last time you cooked with your children? We know what you’re thinking, it feels less like cooking, more like witnessing a kitchen nightmare, however it’s also an opportunity to turn something you have to do into something fun for all. Pick a recipe from your new family recipe book, make pizza faces or stick to chocolate cornflake cakes. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious and fun.

Make your own sock puppets

Finally a way to make use of all the errant single socks that come out of the dryer! Check the backs of your drawers for buttons, safety pins and bits of fabric and get sticking, pinning and sewing. You can even give your puppet a name and get your children to make up their very own play.

Blow paint aliens

You don’t have to be creative or a born artist to enjoy this activity. You simply need some paint, paper, a straw and, if you fancy it, some googly eyes or a black pen to draw some on. Put your blob of paint on the paper, give your child the straw and ask them to blow gently to scatter the paint making their own weirdly wonderful, individual alien. Stick on or draw some eyes and repeat.

Go outside

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing! So step in those Wellington boots, pull on your waterproof jacket and go out to jump, splash and play in the puddles. It’s only rain after all!

Festival Fun

But if the weather is nice, why not head to one of these family-friendly events.

Whether you pack your bucket and spade for the Roald Dahl Plass at Cardiff Bay, or your bow and arrow for the Robin Hood festival in Nottinghamshire, a bit of research into events in your local area can turn up some real treats for both parents and kids.

Below are our top picks from around the UK:

When it’s happening


28th August

Notting Hill Carnival Children’s Day


An exuberant parade for children as the whole carnival team spins, whirls and twirls along the carnival route to music dressed in their extravagant costumes.

Full details on the official site

22nd July – 4th September

Roald Dahl Plass

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff

An urban seaside setting with a giant child-friendly sandy beach, water play area, free live entertainment, funfair rides and games. Entry is free with additional charges for facilities on site.

Full details at Cardiff Events

24th – 30th July

Monmouth Music Festival

Monmouth, Wales

This free nine-day festival caters for every musical genre and also includes a carnival day on Sunday 24th featuring stalls, circus acts, street entertainers and floats.

Full details on the official site

24th – 30th July

Red Sails Festival

Portstewart, Northern Ireland

A family-friendly festival with lots of free music from local bands and orchestras, Irish dancing and fireworks display.

Full details on the official site

1st – 7th August

Robin Hood festival

Sherwood Forest Country Park, Nottinghamshire

A free week of entertainment and a daily programme packed with education and entertainment for all ages

Full details on Experience Nottinghamshire

11th – 14th August

Bristol Balloon Fiesta

Ashton Court Estate, Bristol

The largest hot-air balloon event in Europe, with over 100 hot-air balloons, an entertainment village and a craft marquee.

Full details on the official site

20th – 28th August

Herne Bay Festival

Herne Bay, Kent

Live music, street theatre, performances, workshops, parades and fireworks.

Full details on the official site

To find out about other events in your area, check out the listings in your local newspaper, while online city guides and social media sites are another handy source for upcoming events.

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