Stressed about keeping your kids entertained during the summer hols? The best budget & free days out for parents

SUMMER holidays are when family memories are made, but keeping youngsters entertained for five long weeks can be a daunting (and expensive) prospect for parents.

So we’ve scoured the internet for the best deals and tips, searched up and down the country for the top budget activities and even tapped up the experts at Visit Britain for their advice.

This is the result: our comprehensive guide to a fun-filled summer your kids will remember – without breaking the bank.

Save 50% on theme park tickets

Holly Smith, the bargain hunter who set up the Facebook group Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK, revealed how to get half-price entry to theme parks this summer using an amazing Home Bargains and Carex coupon.

She said: “If you buy Carex at Home Bargains for only 99p, there’s a voucher on the back which will give you half-price entry to Merlin theme parks and attractions.” 

The deal includes Legoland, Alton Towers, Chessington and more, and it’s valid until May 2022. 

Find your closest Merlin theme park here.

Take a walk on the wild side

Britain’s woodlands are bursting with screen-free activities in the great outdoors – and best of all, they’re free!

Whether it’s foraging for food, building a den or identifying 10 species of British caterpillars, the Woodland Trust’s website is full of inspiration to beat the boredom this summer.

Young nature-lovers will also love taking part in their ‘Nature's Calendar’ for a fun summer project.

It’s the longest written biological record of its kind with almost 3 million records spanning 300 years – and anyone can contribute.

Simply get your kids to pick a species and a behaviour to watch out for, fix the place you’d like to record from (like your garden or local woodland) and your family can help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

You can find your nearest woodland here.

A trip to Madame Tussauds London is great fun for the family.

Join the Royal Family in the most regal of settings, strut your stuff on the catwalk with Cara, or take a seat with Tom Hardy and feel his heartbeat (swoon).

The new interactive ‘Awards Party’ zone is also a must-see.

To get your free tickets, simply download the Sun Savers app, or sign up at

Then go to the 'Offers' section and click 'Start collecting' on the 'Superdays – Madame Tussauds London' page.

Get two free tickets to Madame Tussauds London worth over £65

Next, collect nine Sun Savers codes from the 18 printed in The Sun between Saturday, August 7 and Tuesday, August 24.

Enter or scan your Sun Savers codes on the app or website to unlock booking.

Once you click 'Book', you will receive a unique booking code via email and steps on how to book at the Madame Tussauds London website.

Or, you can collect ten in paper tokens and book using the form in the paper on launch or online at

Bring books to life

Parents of little book worms living in or visiting the North East this summer should check out Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books and only one of its kind.

Set in a beautiful listed building over seven storeys in Newcastle upon Tyne, there are several free and low-cost options for families.

For little ones, head to the interactive Winnie the Witch and Wilbur room where tots can cook up a spell in the cauldron in Winnie’s kitchen, help draw Winnie’s house on a magical chalkboard wall and snuggle up to share a magical story (free, suitable for ages six and under).

Alternatively, check out the Seven Stories Exhibition, which explores the theory that there are only seven basic stories in all storytelling.

There, kids can see the original sketches of The Gruffalo, curl up for story time with Mog, design their own amazing underpants and more! (Free, suitable for all ages).

Book here and discover other immersive experiences running this summer (priced from £6.50) here.  

Have a Wacky time for £3 a week

Wacky Warehouse has launched a Summer Play Pass nationwide which offers action-packed daily play for kids for just over £3 a week during the holidays.

The early-bird discount has ended, but if you buy a £16 pass for one child, you can get up to another three half price.

Waiting parents will be happy to hear there’s also a 10% off food and drink deal included.

They’re available to buy until August 3 and must be bought in person at the pubs. Locate your closest Wacky Warehouse here.

Fire up the kids’ imagination at the museum

Make the most of the universal free admission to national museums this summer and give youngsters a mind-expanding taste of whole new worlds.

Museums and galleries fill their summer schedules with low-cost, family-friendly activities so it’s well worth checking out what’s on in your area.

In London, blogger Karen Edwards, AKA Travel Mad Mum, recommends the South Kensington museum neighbours – the Natural History Museum and Science Museum – for a fun-filled family day out.

Between the two, you’ve got rockets, robots, dinosaurs (complete with a roaring T.Rex!), interactive chemistry experiments, plus volcano and earthquake zones.

Admission is free for both, although it’s recommended to pre-book for guaranteed entry on the day.

You can book the Natural History Museum here and the Science Museum here.

Selected temporary exhibitions are fee-paying but the Science Museum also offers a Family day pass for groups of three to five visitors (with no more than two adults) which gives you £2 off per ticket.

In her blog post, Karen added: “If you need a little downtime between the excitement of the museums, the wide open spaces of Hyde Park are only at the end of the road and also come for free. 

“Double – nope it’s triple! – win.”

Incidentally, you can also catch Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic and much-loved Diplodocus cast, on the last stop of his national tour (and the only one in the East of England) at Norwich Cathedral until October 30.

Entry is free and there’s no need to pre-book. Check out the opening times here.

If you go before September 11, you can turn it into a dinosaur-themed day out by following GoGoDiscover’s free sculpture trail.

It features 21 individually-designed T.rex sculptures which have stomped through the streets of Norwich as a guided route to Dippy’s cathedral lair.

Elsewhere, Plymouth’s new museum The Box is running free drop-in arts and crafts activities inspired by a different gallery, exhibition or collection each week. Suitable for children aged four to 11 years.

Hit the beach club

Holidays abroad may be off the cards for your family this year (cheers, Covid), but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out!

YO1 Beach Club – a new family-friendly space in York Tower Gardens – is a fun and safe urban oasis with views of the river and passing boats.

Grab one of the brightly-coloured beach huts and, while the kids entertain themselves in the separate canvas-covered sandpit, let the warm summer sunshine, open barbeque and sand beneath your feet transport you to the beaches of Ibiza.

Entry is free and food starts from £4.50. Children’s options available.

Open until September 5, 2021. More information here.

Enjoy Britain’s stately homes for less

Despite the grand exteriors, stately homes host a wealth of budget-friendly family activities ranging from classical concerts in spectacular grounds, to arts and crafts workshops and meet-the-wildlife days where children can get close to different animals, so it’s always worth checking the website of ones local to you. 

Cheshire’s Cholmondeley Castle (pronounced Chum-ley), for example, is running a Saturday Club with wild swimming in their freshwater lake, lakeside or paddleboard yoga and cycling / jogging / walking a 3km circuit in the gorgeous grounds.

You can take your pick or do all three – either way, there’s something for everyone!

It costs £20 per car (regardless of how many are in the car) or £8 for a single entry pass. Under 4s go free.

Find out when the next Saturday Club is running and book here. The castle gardens are closed during the event.

Farmyard tickets is another wallet-friendly way to enjoy these historical homes.

Accessing the home and gardens of Chatsworth House – one of the country’s most lavish historic homes in the Peak District – for instance, would set you back £24 for adults, £12.50 for children or £61 for a family ticket (two adults, three children).

But for £7 per person, or £26 for a family pass, you get to admire the home’s impressive exterior with its gold-leaf window frames, discover their working farmyard and farmyard friends, then let your kids blow off steam in their woodland playground with a rope park and trampoline, slides, water and sand play.

You can book tickets here.

Celebrate the UK’s new City of Culture

Coventry is commemorating its new status as City of Culture with a host of activities over the summer.

Free library walks are taking place every Thursday at 2pm until September 2 from Foleshill Library to Small Bells Ring – a floating library on a colourful canal boat with the UK’s largest collection of short stories – moored between Stoney Stanton and Foleshill Road. Book here.

Alternatively, grab your compass and discover a pre-historic world of astonishing (and remarkably life-like) dinosaurs at Dinosaur World Live – direct from the West End. Tickets from £13.

You can check out the full calendar of events here and use the slider to set your budget and filter the results.

For even more free ideas, check out Visit Britain’s year-round guide to activities in your area that won’t cost you a penny here.

You can also explore their budget-friendly suggestions here. 

Cheap family summer holidays in the UK with play areas, swimming pools and cinema rooms from £9pp a night.

From playing dress-up to family yoga — top tips for keeping the kids entertained indoors.

Plus mums are sharing their VERY detailed school summer holiday timetables of fun for the kids to stop boredom setting in.

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