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100+ tips for cheap school holiday family fun

Ideas to entertain the kids this Easter

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Rhiannon | Edited by Gary

Updated 30 Mar 2016

Spring is in the air and although it may feel as though the kids have only just gone back to school after the last half-term, they'll need entertaining once again this Easter. There’s no need to break the bank though, our guide is jam-packed with egg-cellent free and cheap activities to keep the little ones entertained, plus deals and tricks for cheap family days out.

Ideas include a free one-month Kids Pass, Easter egg hunts, plus 2for1 theme parks, attractions and zoos. There is also cheap train and bus travel during the holidays - plenty to keep your munchkins occupied until school starts again, whether they're toddlers or teens.

If you spot any more cracking deals or have other ideas, please let us know in the Free ways to keep kids entertained forum discussion thread.

Free one-month Kids Pass

Kids Pass
  1. Kids Pass members get access to about 3,700 offers, including kids eat free and up to 40% off cinema tickets. We've blagged a free month trial (usually £7.50) which you can get until Thu 31 Mar that won't auto-enrol you afterwards - meaning you can try it for free, with no strings attached. You'll need to download an app but can use it right away - great for the Easter break.

    It's a closed group so we can’t share the specifics of most deals, but we've seen a preview and decent savings include: Free child meals at 1,300 restaurants, eg, Giraffe, Loch Fyne and Handmade Burger Co (with a paying adult); up to 40% off cinema tickets, including adult and child tickets at 420 cinemas; up to 50%ish off theme parks, including adult and child entry; and 2for1 bowling at 32 MFA bowling centres.

    For the full details and to to get your one-month free trial, see Kids Pass deals.

Easter egg hunts

  1. Discover Greenwich

    The Old Navy College in Greenwich is hosting its own Easter trail until Sun 10 Apr. For £2 you'll get a map to follow to find hidden details in paintings and buildings at the World Heritage Site. There's even a prize at the end. See ORNC to see the full details.

  2. Bank of England treasure hunt

    Until Fri 8 Apr the Bank of England Museum will have a treasure trail for kids to follow around the museum to hunt for hidden eggs and chicks. Each child will get a chocolate egg and the chance to decorate an Easter mask. Better still, entry is free. See the Bank of England Museum for the full info.

  3. Chatsworth House egg hunt

    If your kids love a challenge (and chocolate), Chatsworth House is running Easter egg hunts free with a ticket to the House (family tickets are £54 for two adults, three kids. Some activities are £2.50 per person). The Easter bunny will even make a special appearance. See Easter at Chatsworth for more.

The great outdoors

  1. Visit the park

    Here's a handy page where you can search for award-winning parks near you - and they are free! See Green Flag awards to find your nearest park.

  2. Become a nature detective

    Complete totally free Woodland Trust activities from a choice of about 100 from its website for outdoor and indoor fun with nature. Activities include downloadable guides for outdoor fun making squirrel-proof bird feeders and more and for bad weather there are craft activities such as colouring sheets. See Woodland Trust for the full info.

  3. Tablet Roald Dahl adventure game

    If you can’t get the kids to put down their phones and tablets, why not try Persil’s free Roald Dahl adventure game? It involves doing certain tasks outdoors to progress through a story. See Persil for the full details.

  4. English Heritage kids go free

    If you’re already an English Heritage member, you can get free entry for up to six children (up to 18 years and within the family group) accompanied by an adult. See English Heritage for the full details.

Free (or up to £50) activity holiday

  1. Teens in England and Northern Ireland aged 16-17 can apply to the National Citizen Service for a two/three week programme including activities such as canoeing, climbing and hiking followed by a team project in the community. It's either free via a bursary or capped at £50 with all meals included.

    How: Enter details on the National Citizen Service page (parents or teenagers can fill it out) and your local provider will contact you to explain more. You must be 16 or 17 at the time of the trip.

    It's a Government initiative and bursaries are available to some with low income or those receiving certain benefits. This has been popular with MoneySavers before.

    • Week 1: This is spent at an outward bound facility, participating in outdoor activities such as abseiling, water rafting and canoeing.
    • Week 2: Teens continue to live away from home, typically at local university halls of residence. They’ll learn to be self-sufficient, cook for themselves and their team, manage a budget and develop skills including presentation, teamwork and leadership.
    • Phase 3: Based back at home, teens will continue to work together, organising a community project of their choice to help make a real and lasting difference to the lives of others.

For all the details, see National Citizen Service deals.

Days out deals

Eden
  1. Eden Project Eggstravaganza

    Get 10% off when you book at least one day in advance online and a 'free' one-year pass when you choose to donate your entry fee to the Eden Trust when booking. So you’d pay £22.50 per adult, £12.60 per child and get entry to the Eden Project in Cornwall for a year. Special activities include the Easter Eggstravaganza (free with admission), with fairground-style activities, egg hunt and trails with prizes.

    For more information, see Eden Project.

Theme parks & attractions

Theme Park Deals

Theme park entrance fees are often just as scary as the rides themselves. Buying tickets on the day could set you back £50, enough to make you scream for the wrong reason.

The main deals for cheap days out include 2for1 with Kellogg's cereal or National Rail tickets, and exchanging Tesco Clubcard vouchers for attraction tickets.

2for1 with £3ish cereal

Look for promotional packs of Kellogg's cereal and snacks, including Rice Krispies, Frosties, Crunchy Nut and Squares (£2ish-£4ish in supermarkets) to get a 'Grown-Ups Go Free' voucher for 32 Merlin theme parks and attractions.

Effectively this is a 2for1 (or better) as you have to buy a full-price child or adult ticket to get a free adult entry.

The vouchers can be exchanged for entry on the day at attractions such as Alton Towers, Legoland, Thorpe Park, Chessington, Sea Life centres and Madame Tussauds until 30 June 2017.

See Merlin deals for the full details.

2for1 with a valid on-the-day National Rail ticket

Buy a National Rail ticket, register with Days Out Guide and print vouchers. You need to print a voucher AND have a valid rail ticket with the closest station to the theme park as the final destination, bought from National Rail on the same day.

It's worth doing this even if you’re not travelling by train – a cheap single ticket is available for a few quid, far cheaper than the entry price.

Exchange Tesco Clubcard vouchers for theme park and attraction tickets

If you shop at Tesco and collect the points using your Clubcard, then there's a way to get up to three or four times the value on your points by converting vouchers to Clubcard Boost*. See the Tesco Clubcard page for the full details on how to convert points to rewards.

Participating theme parks and attractions

Here's a list of the major theme parks and attractions included in the deals, we have noted where they don't apply to all. Some attractions may exclude special events, so always phone ahead to check first.

  1. Legoland Windsor

  2. Alton Towers

  3. The Blackpool Tower

  4. Sea Life centres and sanctuaries

  5. Drayton Manor Clubcard only.

  6. Legoland Discover Centre

  7. Madame Tussauds

  8. Cadbury World National Rail only.

  9. Warwick Castle

  10. Kew Gardens National Rail only.

  11. Chessington World of Adventures

  12. The London Dungeons

  13. Blackpool Pleasure Beach Clubcard only.

  14. Thorpe Park

See the Cheap Theme Parks page for a list of all the attractions and deals.

Free in-store activities


  1. If your kids are into crafts, Hobbycraft runs free workshops and demonstrations at weekends and throughout the Easter break in some of its stores, all supplies are provided. See Hobbycraft for the full details.

  2. The National Gallery is offering free art workshops and drawing sessions on Sundays. See The National Gallery for more info.

  3. Dobbies Garden Centre is offering free workshops for 4-10-year-olds at its centres, including planting seeds and learning about nature. See Dobbies for the full details.

  4. Lego offers a free toy build on the first Thursday of every month for 4-14-year-olds in official stores. See all Lego deals.

  5. Halfords is running free kids' bike checks courses for 7-11-year-olds. See Halfords bike checks.

Earn a Blue Peter badge

Blue Peter
  1. Kids aged six to 15 can tell Blue Peter about something they've created, such as a model or cake, including photos of it with their application, or write an interesting letter, to earn a famous Blue Peter badge.

    Not only will it keep the kids busy, but what's more, a Blue Peter badge gets a child free entry to 200+ attractions across the country, eg, Legoland and London Zoo. It's win-win.

    Take a look at the full info on how your kids can earn a Blue Peter badge.

Get creative indoors

Flora has a free tips and inspiration section packed full of ideas for family fun during the holidays, including recipes and activities. Ideas include:

  1. Sandwich art

  2. Paper flower crafting

  3. Dairy-free baking

Get baking

Everyone wants a sweet treat over the Easter break and what's better than baking it yourself? Why not try your hand at baking one of the following:

  1. Victoria Sponge

  2. Homemade Hobnobs

  3. Biscuits

Search through our Old Style MoneySaving thread to find easy and cheap recipies for treats like Homemade Hobnobs.

Get creative in the garden

You don't need to splash the cash on the biggest and best scooters, swings or slides. There are loads of activities you can get involved with for free, such as:

  1. Make your own tent or hidden den

    Get those tatty and unused curtains, clothes and sheets over a clothes horse and secure them with pegs for an instant tent - who needs Glastonbury? Thanks to forumite Elsewhere who posted in the Free ways to keep the kids entertained discussion thread.

  2. Treasure hunt with small treats

    With a few packs of sweets, little toys or another clue, you can bury them round the garden, hang them off tree branches or stick 'em to the fence for your kids to find.

  3. Mini crazy golf circuit

    Find pipes, trays, wood and anything in the garden to make your own mini golf circuit - just make sure you have a set of clubs!

  4. Camp out and star gaze

    If your garden's safe and secure (and the weather isn't too cold), then why not wrap up warm, camp out in the garden and star gaze? Hopefully you'll be able to wish upon a star too.

  5. Get their hands dirty with gardening

    Kids will enjoy helping out in the garden or planting things of their own, if it's frosty or too chilly, try growing cress on the windowsills.


    Try more ideas

    See the great Free activities to do with kids forum thread for more inspiration and to add your own ideas.

Zoos, including 2for1 tickets

If your kids are flapping around for something to do, why not take them to the zoo to see some real little monkeys? As tickets can be costly - up to £30 (more if it's a combined zoo and theme park ticket, such as Chessington) - we've compiled roar-some deals and discounts to make a family day out cheaper.

Zoo Deals
  1. Chessington Zoo £27 (norm £47)

  2. 20% off Bristol Zoo when you cycle

  3. Edinburgh Zoo kids go free with ScotRail ticket.

2for1 with a valid National Rail ticket

Buy a National Rail ticket, register on Days Out Guide and print vouchers. You need to print a voucher AND have a valid rail ticket with the closest station to the zoo as the final destination, bought from National Rail on the same day.

It's worth doing this even if you’re not travelling by train - a cheap single ticket is available for a few quid, far cheaper than the entry ticket price for the following major zoos:

  1. ZSL London Zoo

  2. Sea Life Centres in Blackpool, London, Brighton and more.

Up to 75% off zoos with Tesco Clubcard

If you shop at Tesco and collect the points using your Clubcard, then there's a way to get up to three or four times the value on your points by converting vouchers to Clubcard Boost*, which can be redeemed at these zoos:

  1. Amazon World Zoo Park

  2. Banham Zoo

  3. Zoo Deals
  4. Blackpool Zoo

  5. Colchester Zoo

  6. Drusillas Park

  7. Exmoor Zoo

  8. Longleat Safari & Adventure Park

  9. Woburn Safari Park

  10. Whipsnade Zoo

Even more offers

See the Tesco Clubcard page for how to convert points to rewards and the Cheap Zoo Deals page for all safari, animal park and zoo deals.

Free sports coaching

If you or your little 'uns fancy yourselves as the next Andy Murray or Mesut Ozil, then see if your nearest sports club offers:

  1. Free tennis coaching

  2. Check out Tennis for Free's website to find out where there's free ongoing coaching sessions in your area.

  3. Free court usage

  4. Tennis for Free also works with councils to provide free 'walk on and play' court access throughout the year, so your serving won't suffer through the colder months.

  5. Free football coaching

  6. If your kids love footie, take a look at FA Skills website to find out where there's free football coaching sessions near you.

2for1 regional attractions

You can save a packet with 2for1 vouchers to regional attractions such as these through Visit Heart of England:

  1. Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  2. Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, West Midlands.

You can also use the rail ticket trick to get 2for1s. See 2for1 attractions with National Rail for more info and how to get your vouchers. Here some examples:

  1. Museum of Transport in Greater Manchester.

  2. Dinosaur Museum in Dorset.

Free audience tickets

Rather than sitting at home in front of the box, you can get behind the big screen yourself with free audience tickets for big shows such as:

  1. The X Factor Judges Auditions (8+)

  2. Britain's Got Talent Semi Finals (12+)

  3. The Big Friday Wind-up (8+)

Register your details with Applause Store. It tends to operate a reserve list system where you register your interest and if you're chosen, one of the site's researchers will be in touch with show dates. Free audience tickets

Plus SRO Audiences offers free tickets for shows such as:

  1. Sunday Night at The Palladium (12+)

  2. The Voice Live Finals (14+).

Some of the bigger shows have a waiting list, so you might have to wait for a cancellation to get a seat at a very popular show.

Always make sure you check out the lists for these free ticket shows, so you never end up paying money for them on eBay or other ticket sites.

Depending on availability, you should always be able to get them for free. See a full list of free audience ticket websites out there and find out how to grab them.

Free car games

If you're heading to an attraction or to visit the family there is a way to avoid the kids asking "are we nearly there yet?". Speed up car journeys legally with simple games (or even try them at home or on the train). Ideas include:

  1. I-spy

  2. Martin's favourite - Scrabble

    Take turns picking letters then buzz when you have the longest word.

  3. Rat-a-tat

    Great for country roads. When you see a post box, shout "rat-a-tat", for a church it's "ting-a-ling" and for a phone-box it's "ding-dong". Thanks to forumite justanna for the rat-a-tat suggestion.

  4. Fizz Buzz

    Count upwards and when there's a number which divides by three, say "fizz" and when a number divides by five, say "buzz". If a number divides by three and five, you have to say "fizz buzz". Thanks to JayW for the suggestion.

  5. Travel bingo

    Think of five or 10 things to find - for example, a horse, pub, or yellow car - and then try to find them. First person to cross everything off wins. Thanks to mummypops for the travel bingo idea.

  6. Car snooker

    Instead of playing with balls, play with cars. Just make sure you get the order right. Thanks to maidmarion44 for the car snooker tip.

See the Free car journey games forum thread for loads of other free and imaginative car games to keep them, and you, entertained while on the road.

Cheap Travel Deals

Cheap travel tickets

You can streamline the cost of travelling by booking in advance, snapping up discounts or swapping Tesco points for rewards. Here are the best ways to get bottoms on seats for less:

  1. Buy train tickets with Tesco Clubcard Boost

    You can buy rail tickets using Tesco Clubcard vouchers* on rail site RedSpottedHanky. £5 in vouchers gets you £10 in rewards. Full details in the Cheap Train Tickets Guide.

  2. Get 50% off First TransPennine with 16-25 Railcard

    Anyone with a 16-25 Railcard can get half-price advance fare tickets when they book online. See TransPennine Express for details.

  3. Plus £2 unlimited bus travel, 20% off Family & Friends Railcard & more

    We've got a comprehensive list of the cheapest ways to get around in Cheap Train & Coach Deals.

Kids eat 'free'

Just as familiar as "are we nearly there yet?" is "I'm hungry!" Keeping the kids fed, especially in restaurants, can soon add up for families. Fear no more, you can still enjoy a meal out for the adults and feed the kids for a fraction of the price.

With some offers, you can walk in - with others you'll need to register and print a voucher off first:

  1. La Tasca

    Get a free kids' (8 and under) main meal when one adult spends £10 or more. See La Tasca Deals.

  2. Crown Carveries

    One child can have a free kids carvery when a full-price adult carvery is bought on Sundays. See Crown Carveries Deals.

  3. Table Table

    A kid eats for £1 when an adult buys a main before 5pm Mon-Sat, saving £4ish. See Table Table Deals.

  4. Slug and Lettuce

    A kid eats for £1 (usually £5ish) on Sundays when an adult dines from the main menu. See Slug and Lettuce Deals.

  5. The Real Greek

    A kid eats for 'free' on Sundays when an adult spends £10. See The Real Greek Deals.

  6. Flaming Grill

    Kids eat for for £1 when an adult orders a main meal every Thursday from 3pm-7pm. See Flaming Grill Deals.

  7. Frankie & Benny's

    Download a voucher from F&B rewards club, and you can get a kids' meal including main, drink, dessert and activity pack free with a main meal on Fridays. See Frankie & Benny's Deals.

  8. More deals

    There are loads of other restaurant offers and vouchers on the Cheap Restaurant Deals page.

Cinema deals from £1.60

Cinema Deals

A night at the movies can have you seeing stars for the wrong reason. A ticket plus a snack and drink can leave you reeling from the cost. But, there are ways to make going to the flicks more affordable.

  1. £1.60 adult/child tickets to Cineworld on Sat/Sun mornings

    Buy online for selected Sat/Sun and school holiday morning screenings and both adults and children pay £1.58 (or £1.75 on-the-door) each with the Movies for Juniors offer. Recently released films you can watch include Minions and Inside Out.

  2. Vue school holiday £1.99 tickets

    Children aged 2-12 can get £1.99 tickets to select morning movies at weekends and in school holidays with the Kids AM offer. What's more, accompanying adults get in for £1.99 as well.

  3. Odeon Kids' screenings for £2.50

    On weekends and holiday mornings, for selected films, adult and kids tickets at Odeon cinemas are £2.50. You can either just turn up at the cinema on the day and trust there'll be seats available or book online.

  4. 2for1 cinema tickets

    2for1 tickets valid Tue/Wed at most cinemas across the UK for Compare The Market customers. See Meerkat Movies.

  5. Want more?

    For a full list of offers, see Cheap Cinema Deals.

Free Museums

Free museums

Culture vultures can stroll through the history of art, find out about forensics or see the evolution of toys at more than 180 free museums and galleries. These include:

  1. RAF Museum in Hendon, north London.

    Walk through five buildings with aircraft, artefacts, aviation memorabilia and photos of the history of aviation.

    This is a fantastic museum. It is very child-friendly with lots of interactive things for children to do. There are picnic areas both inside and outside the museum if you want to bring your own food and snacks. Great for families and all ages.
    - J McEntee
  2. House of Marbles between Exeter and Plymouth, Devon.

    See marbles and glass being made, with handmade artisan glass marbles and trinkets on display. Enjoy interactive marble runs including the largest in the UK.

    There's loads to see and do, including watching the artisans at work. There's a restaurant but also space outside to eat, and the gift shop is mesmerising for kids.
    - Jamie M
  3. Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

    Explore the city's industrial and scientific history through its collections.

  4. Went with the family (10yr old & 3yr old) and can't fault it! Staff were friendly and well informed and the activities, exhibitions and demonstrations were fantastic.
    - Irene Djan
  5. National Museum Cardiff.

    Be a part of Welsh history from early periods to the present day, including archaeology and geology.

    It has loads of different things to see, including a brilliant geology and dinosaur section, as well as a hands-on room where you can handle exhibits. The art collection is superb too with lots of impressionist paintings and pieces by very famous artists.
    - Rebecca M

See the Free Museums & Galleries guide to find your nearest.

Hours of fun with cereal boxes

Who knew there were so many different things to do and make with a cereal box? Well, MSE forumites were brimming with ideas in the forum thread What to do with an old cereal box, including:

  1. Make a Dolls' house

  2. Build a Pinata

Also, why not raid the household recycling bin for even more ideas to keep the kids entertained? They can re-use all the plastics, paper and cardboard to make animals, robots, planes plus much more.

I told my 3 children, aged 9, 8 and 6, they could raid our recycling bin (papers/cartons/empty bottles) and make a spaceship - or whatever they wanted. I couldn't believe how much fun they had.
- Supermaw

Geocaching

  1. Free Geocaching

    If you've got a GPS device, try geocaching for a cheap way to put a smile on kids' faces. It's a great way to educate the whole family about your local area and beyond, and have fun searching for goodies.

    This real world outdoor treasure hunt hides 'geocaches' at specific locations, essentially plastic tubs containing hidden toy stashes.

    To get started, sign up for a free membership on the Geocaching website, then enter your postcode to find geocaches near you. Enter the co-ordinates of your chosen site on your GPS, and off you go!

    After you've found one, put it back as you found it. The rules of the game state you can take an item from it if you wish. If you do, leave something of equal or greater value for the next person. Discuss your finds in the Geocaching tips forum discussion.

Free craft packs

  1. Fancy a free £5 craft box for your kids? Toucan Box is a subscription service that delivers arts and crafts kits to children aged 3-8 years old, either fortnightly or monthly. We've got a code that allows new customers to get their first box for free, and then you've the option to cancel at no cost.

    Boxes include activities and craft materials such as stencils, stickers, pens and paper.

    For the full details see Toucan Box Deals.

£10 book bundles

Get the kids flicking through the paperbacks with The Book People* bundle sets costing £10 or less (plus £3.95 del). These bundles come as sets of nine or 10:

  1. St Clare's Collection*

  2. Daisy Duck & Friends Collection*

  3. Kitten Stories Collection*

  4. Animal Fun Picture Book Collection*

  5. Battle Stories Collection*

Check out libraries/local tourist info & council sites

  1. Your local council's website or magazine may list lots of free or cheap activities for children to do over the school holidays.

    Check your local libraries for activities. Yesterday we went to a reading of The Gruffalo, complete with toys, followed by singing. We're out somewhere else tomorrow, otherwise we would be at a different library making crafts from around the world.
    - Kingfisherblue
    The local council-run pool here has free swimming all through the holidays - we have taken great advantage of this.
    - Sweetme

    So pop along to see what's on near you with this local library finder tool.

  2. Bad weather is to be expected in spring, however libraries usually set a reading challenge over the holidays, so why not try a good book for free. See the Reading Agency for the full info.

Get crafty indoors

We asked for free ways to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day, and you came up with some right corkers, such as:

  1. Make your own play-dough

  2. Papier-mache masks/hats

  3. Collages or mosaics

  4. Make a kite

  5. Fancy dress costumes

See the Free activities to do with kids forum thread and spill the beans on Free ways to keep the kids entertained and the Great free things to do with the kids thread.

Cut childcare costs

The cost of ensuring kids are safe and supervised while you work can be prohibitive. Luckily, a host of childcare schemes can help. People often think these only apply to babies, not strapping 15-year-olds - but that's not the case.

Free and subsidised holiday clubs

Some schools, community centres and youth groups offer clubs for children during the school holidays, with activities as diverse as motor quads and archery. Kids aren’t restricted to their own schools - ask local councils for details.

Sometimes they're free, sometimes not. If they're not though, holiday clubs are often eligible for payment with childcare tax credits or childcare vouchers (see the Childcare Costs Help guide for more). Speaking of which...

Childcare tax credits

Even if you only pay for childcare in the school holidays, you may be eligible for childcare tax credits (cash paid into your bank account) for kids up to their 15th birthday (or 16th if they're registered blind or disabled). The name sounds complex, but it simply means you can get cash to cover the cost of childcare.

Single parents working 16 hours plus per week, or couples both working 16 hours plus per week, with an annual family income less than £46,000 (or £73,000 for larger families or families with a disabled child), should check if they're eligible via the Childcare Tax Credits guide.

Childcare vouchers

This Government scheme saves many parents £100s a year. You get them through your employer, and many companies take part.

The vouchers let you pay for childcare from your pre-tax and national insurance income. It mightn’t sound like much, but the benefit’s huge.

Most employers use a salary sacrifice scheme. Here, you give up £1,000 of salary, but if you're a basic taxpayer that's only worth around £700 in your pocket. In return, you're given £1,000 of childcare vouchers, so you're approximately £300 per £1,000 better off.

It's worth noting that the Childcare Vouchers scheme will end in 2017, and will be replaced by Tax-Free Childcare. Some will win under the new scheme, but some will be better off sticking with vouchers. Check Childcare Vouchers for a full rundown of how the current scheme works, and the full details of the new scheme.