Days out are a great way to relax at any time of year, they are opportunities to make the most of a weekend or to explore new places on holiday. Whether you are hoping to treat yourself to a unique experience or you are working within a strict budget, there are endless attractions to tempt you. The UK has a varied coastline, theme parks full of thrill rides and imposing stately homes with beautifully curated grounds, so you might need to make a list.
A Short History of Day Outs
As far back as the 1800s, travelling fairs and seaside towns have been popular with people looking for a fun day out, but attractions like pleasure gardens and small zoos were providing entertainment long before that. More attractions were created in the first half of the 20th century, as people became entitled to paid holidays from work. Since the 1970s the huge growth in car ownership has given us the freedom to explore further afield and enjoy regular days out.
5 Great Ways To Go On A Day Out in the UK
There are many things to do on days out, so before you set off, think about the type of experience you’d like to have and starting planning how you can make it cheaper. Below
Zoos - There are some stunning zoos in the UK, many of which are dedicated to protecting endangered species as well as delivering a great day out. They can be very expensive places to visit but there are tricks to keep costs down. If you can buy tickets in advance it can shave up to 29% off the gate prices but using Tesco Vouchers to pay for the entire trip is even more cost-effective. Regular visitors might want to invest in an annual pass which many of the largest zoos, including Bristol Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Chester Zoo all provide. London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo even have a membership pass which allows unlimited entry to both attractions for one year. Most passes work out cheaper than two visits at full prices, so they are well worth the money if you love the zoo.
Theme Parks - Fun on the rides can be expensive if you pay the full price, but there are lots of ways to get cheap days out in a theme park. Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be used to pay for your entry at Legoland, Thorpe Park and Alton Towers. Alternatively, you can use buy a Merlin Pass. These provide access to Sea Life, Madame Tussauds and the London Eye, as well as Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventure and Alton Towers. A Merlin Pass can save you hundreds of pounds over the course of a year, if you regularly visit the attractions it covers.
Museums - Many of the best museums in the UK are free, these include the British Museum, the National History Museum and the Science Museum in London. Further afield many cities and towns have free museums or offer local residents free entry at certain times of the year. Just check on their websites for more details. Alternatively, National Rail has discount schemes for museums and more across the country when you travel by train.
Experience Days - Family experience days are offered by a number of well-established providers, these include Red Letter Days, Virgin Experience Days and Not on The High Street. Aside from stadium visits to places like Old Trafford and Twickenham, there are tree-top adventures and packages which include one night at a nearby hotel. These deals can be a convenient way of organising your day out, but it’s worth confirming the price is good value compared to planning the day yourself.
National Parks - Some of the most exhilarating days out are to be had in one of the country’s thirteen National Parks, but you may need a map as these are pretty remote places. Snowdonia in Wales has breath-taking valleys, while the North York Moors boasts industrial architecture. Whatever your outdoor interests, there are National Parks which are free to the public and work to conserve the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area. You can enjoy a day out in the countryside at your own pace, taking a picnic, following a waymarked path or setting off by bike on one of many trails.
Video: An unbeatable view can be yours [National Trust]
5 Great Discounts on Days Out
If you time it right and plan what to take along in advance, there are clever ways to minimise the amount you spend on a day out.
Annual Discount Days - These regular events give you access to numerous buildings that would either be private or costly to enter usually. Check with Heritage Open Days website to find churches, homes, gardens and local government buildings that are open to all for a few weekends in September each year. A good chance to explore for free in the capital is the Open House London event, the idea is similar and it also runs every September. If your ideal day out is one spent in a more rural setting, Open Farm Sunday in June each year is managed by LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to let the public see what happens on a working farm. Entry is free for 95% of the farms that take part and you can try your hand at pond dipping, go on tractor rides and watch demonstrations.
2 for 1 Days - At cinemas, museums and family attractions across the country, you can halve the price of a visit with 2 for 1 days out offers. One of the most popular is that offered by National Rail where a train ticket provides entry to hundreds of landmarks in the UK from Kew Gardens to the Blackpool Tower Circus. If you won’t be arriving by train, you could still claim the deal by arriving with a single ticket to the station closest to your attraction.
Kids Go Free Days – Every year in August, under 16s can watch a theatre show for free, so long as they are with an adult who is paying. Up to two further children’s tickets are available at half price and you won’t have to pay any booking fee. Official London Theatre site to find comedies, musicals and plays, some of which lay on workshops or tours to make the day extra memorable.
Adults Go Free Days – One of the few promotions where adults are free with a full-paying child, this theme park deal at Kellogg's is well-established. To redeem the offer, buy a cereal pack that advertises the deal and then enter the code inside on the Merlin website, before choosing the date of your visit and booking. You can turn up on the day as well, just hand over the voucher from your cereal pack when paying. Participating venues include Thorpe Park, Legoland Windsor, The Bear Grylls Adventure and many more.
Free Rail Travel - It is also worth bearing in mind that all children under the age of 5 will travel for free on most National Rail services. Between the ages of 5 and 15, they’ll be charged at half the adult fare.
How To Have A Cheap Day Out with Your Family
Taking children along for a day out can end up being pretty expensive if you’re not careful. With a little forward planning however, you can sit back on your next family break without worrying about money.
Avoid the shops – If you tend to drift around the high street when you’re on a day out and often get tempted by what’s on offer, it makes sense to stay away from the shops.
Bring a flask – Coffee can cost £3 or more per cup and if there are two or more adults, this can really begin to add up over the course of a day. If you have a Thermos lying around at home, take it along on your next adventure to enjoy a few homebrews wherever you are. For the kids, refillable water bottles or squash can save huge amounts compared to quenching their thirst with shop-bought drinks. Plus, you’ll have less packaging to carry around and most venues have facilities for refilling a water bottle.
Have a picnic – These can be as elaborate or as basic as you like. All you really need is a blanket, with food and sandwiches from the supermarket, but you can jazz your lunch up with pillows, outdoor games and parasols, to make a day of it.
Bring your friends - If you can send out the invites early enough, you may be able to link up with more family members or friends with children to bag better discounts. When you visit with more than ten people, you’ll notice the advance booking prices drop by up to 20% at big attractions like London Zoo or Whipsnade, while at theme parks like Alton Towers you’ll cut the individual ticket price by 30% for group bookings.
Check for school holiday freebies – The school holidays are crunch time for parents looking for cheap ideas to keep everyone happy and some local facilities respond brilliantly. If you have younger children especially, you may find nearby museums or libraries with crafting or literary events to keep them occupied. For older kids, council-run sports centres can provide more active pastimes like swimming or climbing. Look on the website of your local council for out of school and holiday activities that are usually free or very reasonably priced.
Find Top Deals on Family Days Out
Venues often announce any upcoming reductions through their social media pages and via newsletters. To be ahead of the crowd, sign up for email updates and follow the pages of your favourite attractions. The big ones to watch are Merlin for theme parks and Sea Life Centres and the National Trust or English Heritage for historic landmarks and stately homes.
Family experience days can be purchased from companies like Buy a Gift or Red Letter Days, where you can select something close to home or in another part of the country.
Usually, the best time to book a day out is well in advance, this is certainly true of large year-round attractions like zoos and theme parks. The same goes for theatre shows, as by booking before everyone you get first dibs on tickets that have just been released and potentially the best seats available. Many special events that may be discounted or include bonus activities are announced for seasonal moments like Christmas, the summer holidays in August and Easter. So it’s certainly worth checking what’s planned for the coming months at attractions you’d like to visit. On Black Friday, you'll find fantastic deals for next year's holiday season from theme parks and other outdoor attractions.
Get Great Days Out for Less at Hotukdeals
Having a good old-fashioned day out can be one of the most relaxing ways to spend time with your family. The hotukdeals Days Out page is an excellent resource for finding cheap activities close to home or further away. So, make sure check out the hotukdeals listing before you go on your next big day out with the fam.