Cheap family days out this Easter and how to treat the kids on a budget in 2022 as cost of living crisis continues its squeeze
The Easter holidays are upon us and with the bills rising so might the stress levels at the thought of having the kids home for two weeks and what it might cost to keep them amused.
If you're watching the pennies closely but are still keen to get out with the family this Easter, here's a run down of some deals, tips and current offers that might help you plan a more economical outing.
1. Supermarket loyalty points
How often do you hand over that loyalty card and never do anything about the points which are quietly adding up? Cashing them in for family outings or extra treats during the holidays can be an ideal way to take the family out and save.
Among them, is Tesco Clubcard which enables you to triple the value of your vouchers when exchanging them for something like attraction tickets or money off a meal out. Wild animal parks, big name restaurants, cinemas and bowling alleys are among the places offering an exchange deal that lets you swap 50p of your Clubcard vouchers for £1.50 to spend on a trip.
While Eurostar, Cafe Nero, British Airways, The Woodland Trust and Sky are among those that accept Sainsbury's Nectar points.
2. Discount vouchers and apps
As we move into the summer months cereal packets, hand soap and chocolate wrappers are often among the household items that might contain a 2 for 1 day out voucher on the back. Whether you've an outing planned or are saving for a rainy day, it's always an idea to spend two minutes cutting out any deals you spot on your shopping items.
Mobile voucher apps are also worth a quick check off to see if they too are harbouring a fantastic deal for a day out.
Vouchercloud describes itself as the UK's 'original and most downloaded' voucher app and is reportedly used by around 10 million people. It has discount deals and ticket offers and with attractions including trampoline parks, farms and wildlife parks, Hollywood bowl, Paulton's Park and some Merlin Entertainment attractions such as Alton Towers.
The app is free to download and join but each deal will have its own unique terms and conditions. Learn more here.
3. Book in advance
Who doesn't love an impromptu outing when the sun decides to shine! But deciding where to go and booking your attraction tickets online ahead of your visit is often a guaranteed way to save some pennies when planning an outing with the kids. And pre-booking is something we've all got far more used to since the coronavirus pandemic.
It is always worth finding out if the attraction you want to visit offers a discount for tickets bought online before you visit - and don't be put off checking as late as the night before or even the morning of your trip.
Among those in Kent to offer a discount for an advanced booking is Wingham Wildlife Park and while the money off each ticket may only be a £1 or £2 it all can quickly add up and may give you a couple of quid back to put towards a takeaway coffee or an ice cream.
4. Annual memberships
If you love an attraction and return time and time again, often the way to get the best value is through an annual membership.
Memberships are usually more than the cost of a basic day ticket - but if you are a regular visitor or think you'll make more than a couple of visits over the course of a year then the annual pass is economical if your chosen attraction offers it.
You can also sometimes pay monthly by direct debit to spread the cost even further - for example at Wildwood a family 12-month membership is a monthly cost of £8.50 a month (compared to £40.45 for a one-off family visit).
And if spreading the cost of an annual membership sounds like a good way to guarantee a year of outings but you don't want to be tied to just one place to visit - both English Heritage and National Trust offer memberships which give access to all of the properties, grounds and attractions they are responsible for.
Each organisation has a large number of places to visit in Kent (as well as your membership giving you access to their properties nationwide should you wish to travel further afield or take a UK-based break) and an annual membership lets you visit the lot as many times as you like in a year.
What's more, sometimes the cost of an annual pass is often not as much as the price of two separate visits and so if you think you might visit at least one other attraction in the group during the same 12 months taking out a yearly pass could definitely be the way to save.
For example - Dover Castle is £23.60 an adult and £14.10 for a child for the day (without the added option to make a donation) while an English Heritage annual membership offering unlimited visits to its attractions nationwide, including Dover Castle, is £111 a family for the year or just under £10 a month for two adults and up to 12 children.
5. 2 for 1 with National Rail
Travel by train this summer and numerous places to visit across the country will offer you a 2 for 1 ticket deal to come inside.
The popular National Rail offer is always a firm favourite with families as it not only gives you a means by which to travel but can help you save on calling into some big name attractions too.
There are attractions both in the capital and those outside of London to choose from and you don't necessarily need to make the entire journey by train as long as you can prove part of your trip was made using public transport.
You will need to download your 2 for 1 voucher and show it along with your valid train tickets, at the ticket desk of the attraction you wish to claim the offer from when you arrive. Alternatively you can book and plan your day out in advance. More details about discounted days out with National Rail are available here.
6. Rush tickets and theatre lotteries
As magical as it is, a family trip to the theatre is no cheap outing but there are ways to grab tickets that can keep costs down.
West End shows including Cinderella, Matilda and Moulin Rouge are among those which run regular lottery draws which you can enter in advance to be in with a chance of buying tickets at a heavily discounted rate. While Disney Tickets Magical Mondays enables you to purchase tickets for participating Disney shows, including Frozen and Mary Poppins, on Mondays at noon for that week's performances for only £25.
And for those adept at snapping up seats on ticketing websites and apps - heavily discounted theatre tickets known as Rush Tickets are available with Today Tix at 10am each day. You'll need to be quick once the tickets are released mid-morning and be on the site as they come online but the deals offer significantly cheaper seats for shows playing that day if you are able to take the risk and wait until the morning of the day you wish to go. For more details click here.
7. Cinema kids clubs
Taking the whole family to catch the latest blockbuster when you throw in drinks and popcorn might easily run to the monthly rise in energy bills! But there are some hidden ways to save on family movies if you're not in any particular hurry to see the latest releases the second they hit the big screen.
Both Odeon and Cineworld frequently run weekend-morning children's showings of family films known as Kids Club at Odeon and Movies for Juniors deals at Cineworld.
All tickets - both adults and children - cost little more than around £3 each, you can still book in advance and choose your seats, and the prices make for a fantastic Saturday or Sunday morning out of the house for often little more than £10.
8. Buy a ticket and visit all year
Being selective about where you visit depending on the price or the deal available is obviously the biggest way to save in the long run on a day out. Whether that's because you've got a voucher for a particular attraction, you're aware it's running a kids go free deal or you have already exchanged your supermarket loyalty points with a particular participating animal park or restaurant.
But another way to get the most from your budget is to pick an attraction that will allow you to return time and time again for the same price as your regular day admission ticket.
In Kent both Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, and Chatham Historic Dockyard in Medway grant unlimited repeat visits for the cost of your day ticket. This is unlike a yearly membership where you're paying more than the price of a day ticket to have an annual admission pass.
Instead, for the same price as your regular admission ticket for one day you can make unlimited return visits for the next 12 months which means you not only get good value from your admission price but - crucially - it enables you to return time and time again with the kids over the next year particularly during the school holidays when pennies are often stretched and youngsters are desperate for something to do.
Some terms and conditions are attached to these deals and special event days are sometimes not included or may require an additional fee to attend.
9. Free in-store activities
The school holidays can be long and costly but sometimes getting the kids out of the house for an hour or two is enough to break the day up.
Pets at Home, the Lego Store, Hamleys and Hobbycraft are among the big name retailers who often run in-store activities, games, meet and greets, demonstrations or short events for families often at no charge. These can include the chance to meet and learn more about a particular small animal or reptile or some sort of crafting or building session.
You may have to book in advance - but a regular check of their websites during any major school holiday may provide you with an unexpected free outing that will keep the kids engaged and occupied for an hour or two.
10. Make the most of all the free stuff
Alongside Kent's many parks, playgrounds and wonderful beaches, which will offer endless hours of free entertainment, keep an eye out for the many free events which will be happening regularly during the better weather.
From carnivals and street parades to events like harbour days or family fun days, there's a raft of events that happen in town centres or coastal spots during school breaks that charge no admission fee and you can perhaps visit for little more than a price of a packed lunch or picnic.
You could also seek out a free museum - with The Beaney in Canterbury, Maidstone Museum or the Guildhall in Rochester among those to have a raft of interesting finds and displays in its cabinets as well as many hands-on activities too - and it would be worth not forgetting to drop-in on your local library as these too often hold storytelling or music sessions for children during the school holidays.
Plus - a child's library membership is free and delving through the books available to borrow is also a great way to spend a quiet morning or afternoon. Learn more about signing your family up to Kent's libraries here.