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Enjoying yourself on a bank holiday weekend needn't cost the earth. Whether you are looking for cheap food and drink, going to do a bit of DIY, or heading out for the day, the long weekend shouldn't leave you with empty pockets.

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Sun cream deals

  • Summer is coming and you should be wearing sun cream in the UK, not just on your holiday abroad. Staying safe needn’t cost the earth though, if you’re willing to ditch the brands you know, you could save with sun cream for £1. It sounds too good to be true, yet we've found a number of products available for £1 rather than the usual £6-£12. We've contacted skincare experts to find out how safe the lotions are.

    Are they safe?

    We've been in touch with the British Skin Foundation (BSF) charity and the Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) trade body. Both say people shouldn't be put off by low prices, as long as they check packaging for:

    • The UVA rating. This tells you how much protection the product is giving you from harmful long-wave ultra-violet UVA rays. Some bottles have a star rating (the BSF recommends four or more stars) - while others don't, they should at least contain a circle with the letters UVA inside, as this indicates the minimum level of UVA protection. See images below for the logos you should be looking for.

    • The SPF number. This stands for sun protection factor. The higher the number, the greater the level of protection against harmful medium-wave ultra-violet UVB rays. The label should also tell you whether the product provides "low", "medium", "high" or "very high" protection against UVB. See the CTPA's section on sun protection for more info.

    The BSF says: "When choosing a sunscreen look for a high protection SPF (SPF 30 or more) to protect against UVB, and the UVA circle logo and/or 4 or 5 UVA stars to protect against UVA."

    You might be a bit sceptical about sun cream for £1, we always are too, but we’re trusting that these big companies such as Savers (owned by Superdrug) have done their own independent checks to ensure these sun creams are fully tested and are legit.

    Important -  As with any product, if you have sensitive skin it’s important to do a patch test before using any new skin care or hair care product and sun cream is no exception.

    How long will it last? 

    The period after opening (PAO) number should also be included on the bottle. This will be displayed as an "open jar" symbol with a number inside indicating how many months the product will be safe for after opening, providing it is stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight (see example below). 

    Don't automatically chuck old sun creams away

    Most of the cheap sun creams we found are good to use for at least 12 months from the date of opening, so don't throw away your excess sun cream after your holiday, check the PAO as it's likely you can use it again on your next trip.

    £1 sun creams

    We checked the big pound store chains and scoured the high street. The products we found may not be the same as the ones you find and are subject to stock, so make sure you do the checks above. It's also worth noting these bottles are slightly smaller (40ml-120ml) than some of the better-known brands (norm 200ml). They may not be brands that you recognise, but all have the UVA rating symbol to indicate they meet at least the minimum level of UVA protection.

    Poundland (find your nearest)

    It stocks a range from a brand called Anovia Tropical Sun, which should be available in its 400+ stores for £1. We found:

    • Tropical Sun lotion for kids SPF 30, 65ml (next cheapest £4.95 delivered via a third party Amazon seller)

    • Tropical Sun lotion SPF 30, 65ml (next cheapest we found, £5.99 delivered via a third party Amazon seller)

    Savers (find your nearest)

    It stocks a range from a brand called EAD sunscreen, which should be available in its 230+ stores at £1. We found:

    • EAD Sunscreen SPF 30, 120ml (next cheapest we found, £3.49 delivered via a third party Amazon seller)
    • EAD Sunscreen SPF 45, 120ml (next cheapest we found, £3.49 delivered via a third party Amazon seller)

    A 200ml EAD sunscreen SPF 50 is also available, but that's £1.99.

    Own-brand sun cream for less than £5

    At MSE we're always trying to get you to think about downshifting, so we've had a look for the cheapest own-branded sun creams on offer, all under a fiver:

    • Aldi Lacura sun spray SPF50+, 200ml - £1.99 in store at Aldi. Five-star UVA rated.
    • Lidl Cien sun lotion SPF 30, 250ml - £3.49 in store at Lidl.
    • Boots Soltan kids SPF 30, 200ml - £4 at Boots*. Five-star UVA rated.
    • Superdrug Solait SPF 30, 200ml - £4.49 in the buy one get one half price offer at Superdrug*. Five-star UVA rated.
    • Asda Protect SPF 30, 200ml - £2.39 at Asda*. Five-star UVA rated.
    • Wilko Suncare SPF 50, 200ml - £3.50 at Wilko*. Five-star UVA rated.

    Other low-cost branded sun creams

    For those who just can't ditch a brand they know and trust, we've also compiled a list of the cheapest we've found some of the most popular products. When they are cheap, we found quite often prices elsewhere are only a few pence more.

    It's worth remembering that sprays and special formulations (eg, clear/coloured/sensitive) usually cost more, so check to see if your chosen cream could be cheaper in a different bottle.

    • Garnier Ambre Solaire kids moisturising spray SPF 50, 200ml - £4  at Asda* (next cheapest we found, £5 at Sainsbury's).
    • Garnier Ambre Solaire ultra-hydrating sun cream SPF 30, 200ml - £4 at Asda* (next cheapest we found, £5 at Tesco and Sainsbury's).
    • Nivea Sun moisturising sun protect & moisture SPF 30, 200ml - £4 at Asda* (next cheapest we found, £5 at Tesco and Sainsbury's).
    • Piz Buin allergy sun-sensitive skin spray SPF 30, 200ml - £4.99 at B&M Bargains (next cheapest we found, £8 at Superdrug, Boots, Sainsbury's and Asda).
    • Nivea Sun moisturising sun lotion SPF 50, 200ml - £4 at Asda* (next cheapest we found, £5 at Tesco and Sainsbury's).

    Buy before you fly - watch out for hand luggage restrictions

    Research from the Post Office suggests sun cream is generally cheaper in the UK than abroad, so it's best to buy before your holiday - especially with the weaker pound this year. Don't forget though, if you're flying, you can only carry a maximum of 100ml in your hand luggage, unless you buy in shops after you've gone through check-in. You may find items will be taken off you if transferring flights, so be sure to check before flying if you're unsure.

BBQ & food deals

  • With the bank holiday weekend upon us, there could be an ideal opportunity to light up the barbecue, so we've rounded up some of the cheapest barbecue deals we could find, including portable charcoal barbecues from £9, disposables from £1 and 5kg bags of charcoal from £3.50.

    £1 barbecues 

    Disposable barbecues are available for £1 in store at Poundland, and you can also find them for £1.49 at Home Bargains. The next cheapest we've found are £1.99 in store at B&M or £2 at Wilko*. They often sell for up to £5 in some supermarkets, so if you want one it's worth making the trip to one of the stores above if you have one nearby.

    You should check the quantity of charcoal and burning time if you plan to cook for several people, as there's a lot at steak (sorry), and you may need to purchase more than one – or risk a grilling.

    Portable barbecues

    • 13" diameter portable BBQ - £5 at Homebase in store or click and collect only.


     

    Standard-sized charcoal barbecues 

    If you're cooking for a family of four, a standard-sized free-standing barbecue should do the job. On Fri 4 May, we found these deals:

    • 17" diameter kettle BBQ - £26.99 at Argos*. Incl utensils and cover. Collect in store for free or delivery is £3.95. OUT OF STOCK
    • 18" diameter kettle BBQ - £28 at M&S*


     

    5kg charcoal £5 or less

    The hottest deals we found on 5kg bags of charcoal, which are sure to get you sizzling, include:


     

    Instant lighting charcoal bags

    If you don't want guests barbe-queuing up for a sausage whilst you're still trying to light the grill, then you might want to opt for the easier option of instant lighting charcoal bags. We checked the prices at these retailers:

    • £3.99 at Home Bargains for a 4kg bag
    • £4 at Wickes* for a 2kg bag or two for £6
    • £3 at Wilko* for a 3kg bag
    • £5 at Sainsbury's* for two 1.5kg bags
    • Barbecue safely

      Whichever barbecue you choose, be sure to follow the Fire Service's barbecue safety advice, never leave your barbecue unattended, always dispose of charcoal or disposable barbecues responsibly and never bring your barbecue indoors.

Wine & beer deals

DIY deals

Restaurant deals

  • If you go online to Just Eat* you can get between 20% and 30% off selected takeaways. This is an ongoing offer, but the takeaways participating change from week to week - so it's a bit of pot luck whether the restaurant you want is included.

    To see if you can get money off a takeaway near you, simply enter your postcode* and look for the ones marked with a red flag stating the amount of discount. When we did a search with a London postcode, lots came up with 20% off but a few had 25% or even 30% off.

    You'll only get the discount if you reach a minimum spend, which varies between restaurants (in most cases it's £20-£30), and the money should be deducted automatically for you at the checkout - but make sure you double check the amount before you order.

    It's not valid with any other Just Eat offers or discount codes.

    While in most cases this discount should make Just Eat the cheapest way to order, it's worth checking the price of ordering direct from a restaurant if they offer a delivery service as sometimes it can work out cheaper than ordering through a third party.

Cheap days out

  • Look for promotional packs of Peperami, including single sticks, five-packs and some flavours of minis (from 79p at most supermarkets), to get 2for1 at Alton Towers or Thorpe Park until 31 May 2019.

    The wrappers can be exchanged for entry on the day at either park, however, some dates are excluded - see 'more info' below. You can also exchange the code on your wrapper for an online code if you wish to book online.

    You'll need to get your hands on a promotional pack before 31 Dec 2018 to sign up for the code, but once you have the promotional wrapper or code you'll be able to use it until 31 May 2019.

    How strong is this deal?

    While attraction prices vary, the most you could save with this offer is £55 based on the priciest Alton Towers tickets (norm £55 each on the gate, so £110 for two, but you could get two for £55 with this deal).

    If you’re only interested in visiting a specific attraction, possibly more than once, and aren’t going in a pair, it’s worth checking to see what other deals are available. Find ticket prices for other attractions and see our round-up of theme park deals to check which works best for you.

    You can also book online

    To guarantee entry and beat the queues, there's also an option to book your tickets online in advance at Thorpe Park or Alton Towers using unique codes found on the Peperami packs (though you'll still pay the on-the-gate price).

    • Ensure you take the voucher with you on the day. It can only be used against the gate price, not the discounted online price. Valid for standard entry tickets only.

      Also check the venue's individual opening dates as some are closed at certain times of the year. There are also some extra excluded dates in 2018 listed below (2019 dates will be added in 2019):

      • 3-4 Nov 2018 at Alton Towers
      • Special Events at Thorpe Park incl 19-31 Oct 2018.
      • Alton Towers will be closed: 4-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 Sep 2018 and 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 Oct 2018.
      • Thorpe Park will be closed: 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 Sep 2018 and 1-4, 8-11, 15-18 Oct 2018.
  • Look for promotional packs of Cadbury chocolates, including Dairy Milk Giant Buttons and Crunchie Rocks (norm £1ish), to get a voucher for 2for1 entry at more than 20 Merlin attractions.

    The voucher's valid until 31 July 2019 at Thorpe Park, Legoland, Alton Towers, Chessington, Sea Life centres, the Dungeons, Madame Tussauds and more. Some dates are excluded at selected attractions, including some in August - see 'more info' below.

    • Just present the voucher at your chosen attraction when buying one full-price on-the-gate adult ticket (usually up to £60) and another person will gain free entry.

      Cadbury 2for1 Merlin attractionsPromotional packs (like the ones above) are expected to be in stores until Aug 2018, but they're subject to availability, so could be snapped up sooner.

      How much can I save?

      As on-the-gate tickets cost up to £60 at Legoland, this deal could save you £59 if you buy one of the cheapest promotional packs of chocolate and want two tickets. Even compared with buying tickets online in advance, where they’re generally cheaper (but still as much as £47 each at Legoland), you'd save a significant amount with this deal.

      There’s also the added benefit of not having to commit to your plans seven or more days ahead – allowing you to wait and see what the weather’s like, and simply rock up at the gate with your voucher.

      Before using the voucher, you should compare this offer against others to see if there's a better one for you (see all theme park deals).

      The participating attractions are Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Legoland Windsor, Warwick Castle, Shrek’s Adventure! London, Madame Tussauds London or Blackpool, The London, York, Edinburgh or Blackpool Tower Dungeons, The Blackpool Tower Eye or The Blackpool Tower Circus, Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester, Sea Life Bray, Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park and Jurassic Skyline, Sea Life centres and sanctuaries in the UK (Birmingham, Great Yarmouth, Loch Lomond, Blackpool, Gweek, London, Oban, Brighton, Manchester, Scarborough and Hunstanton).

      The age classification for an adult ticket varies between attractions so make sure you check before you go. Also check the venue's individual opening dates as some are closed at certain times of the year. For example, Chessington and Legoland Windsor are closed in November. There are also some extra excluded dates listed below:

      • All attractions: 25 Dec, any secondary ticketed events/hotel events/concerts/Christmas events
      • Legoland Windsor: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep, 1 Dec 2018 - 1 Mar 2019
      • Thorpe Park: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep, 19-31 Oct
      • Alton Towers: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep, 3-4 Nov
      • Chessington, Warwick Castle, Sea Life London Aquarium and Madame Tussauds London: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep
      • Shrek’s Adventure! London: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep, 31 Dec
      • The London Dungeon: every Fri, Sat and Sun in Aug, 1-2 Sep, 27-29 Oct
      • The Blackpool Tower Circus: 6 Oct-4 Nov
      • The Blackpool Tower Dungeon: 27-31 Oct
      • York and Edinburgh Dungeons: 27-29 Oct


      2019 exclusion dates will be available at the end of the 2018 season. Promotional vouchers don’t guarantee entry into attractions in the event of venue capacity being reached. Voucher can't be used with any other offer or concession, reward or loyalty schemes, pre-purchased/advance tickets, online or call centre bookings, combination tickets, two day passes, annual passes, Q-bot, Fastrack, rail inclusive offers, secondary ticketed events, hotel events, concerts or group bookings. Only one voucher can be used per person and per transaction. See full T&Cs.

  • Look for promotional packs of Kellogg's cereal and snacks, including Rice Krispies, Frosties, Crunchy Nut and Squares (norm £2ish-£4ish at most supermarkets), to get 'free' adult entry via a voucher for 30 Merlin attractions until 30 Jun 2019.

    Effectively this is a 2for1, as you must buy a full-price on-the-gate child or adult ticket to get the free adult entry, but this could actually work out better than a 2for1 ticket if you're an adult going with a child as generally child tickets tend to be cheaper than adult ones.

    The vouchers can be exchanged for entry on the day at Merlin attractions including Legoland, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington, Sea Life centres and sanctuaries, the Dungeons and Madame Tussauds. Some dates are excluded and these vary between attractions - see 'more info' below.

    Promotional packs will be readily available in stores until mid-April, after which they'll be harder to find. 

    How strong is this deal?

    While attraction prices vary, the most you could save with this offer is £57ish based on peak Legoland Windsor ticket prices (norm £60 each on the gate, so £120 for two, but you could get two for £63ish with this deal).

    As it covers a large range of attractions and the vouchers are valid for over a year, this is a particularly strong deal if you and one other person are considering visiting one of the participating venues.

    However, if you’re only interested in visiting a specific attraction, possibly more than once, and aren’t going in a pair, it’s worth checking to see what other deals are available. Find ticket prices for other attractions and see our round-up of theme park deals to check which works best for you.

    You can also book online

    To guarantee entry and beat the queues at selected attractions, there's also an option to book your tickets online in advance using unique codes found inside Kellogg's cereal packets (though you'll still pay the on-the-gate price). Technically, these codes can be combined with the physical vouchers to obtain two free adult tickets with two full-price child tickets purchased - see 'more info' for full details.

    • Ensure you take the voucher with you on the day. It can only be used against the gate price, not the discounted online price. The age classification for an adult ticket varies between attractions so make sure you check before you go. Valid for standard entry tickets only.

      Also check the venue's individual opening dates as some are closed at certain times of the year. There are also some extra excluded dates in 2018 listed below (2019 exclusion dates will be available from the end of the 2018 season):

      • 21-31 Aug and 25 Dec at all attractions
      • 30 Mar-15 Apr, 21, 22 and 28-29 Jul, 4, 5 and 11-12 Aug, and 31 Dec at the Coca-Cola London Eye
      • 14-17 Apr and 31 Dec at Shrek’s Adventure! London
      • 14-17 Apr and 27-29 Oct at The London Dungeon
      • 6-Oct-4 Nov at The Blackpool Tower Circus (The Blackpool Tower Eye is open subject to weather conditions)
      • 19-31 Oct at Thorpe Park
      • 27-31 Oct at The Blackpool Tower Dungeon, 27-29 Oct at The York and Edinburgh Dungeons
      • 1 Dec-1 Mar 2019 at Legoland Windsor

       

      Promotional vouchers aren't valid at secondary attractions and don’t guarantee entry into attractions in the event of venue capacity being reached. Offer can't be used with any other offer or concession, reward or loyalty schemes.

      Or book online in advance using promo codes on cereal packets

      To guarantee entry in advance, you can book tickets online (excludes The Blackpool Tower Circus) at a special Merlin website ahead of your visit. To do this, you need a unique code found inside promotional packs of Kellogg’s cereal only, on the underside of the carton flap.

      This method of redeeming the offer requires you to pay the gate price in advance and print out your tickets. At selected attractions, you can scan these tickets and walk right through the gates, enabling you to beat the queues.

  • If you register and print a voucher from Days Out Guide then buy a National Rail ticket, you can get 2for1 entry to over 300 UK attractions, including SeaLife Centres, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers and Legoland Windsor when you present both at the attraction. See the full theme park list or the zoo and wildlife list

    You need to print a voucher for the relevant attraction (follow the link above and search for it) AND have a valid rail ticket bought from National Rail on the same day for a single or day return ticket, or within the days of travel for a return ticket. 

    What if I live near the attraction/am travelling by other means?

    It's worth doing this even if you are not travelling by train as a cheap single ticket can be available for a couple of quid, far cheaper than the entry ticket price (Legoland Windsor is the most expensive at up to £60 on the gate).

    Just stop by the nearest station on your way and pick one up, then present both to get your 2for1. Crucially, your rail ticket must show that you have travelled to one of the stations nearest the attraction. So for Thorpe Park, you need to have a ticket with an end destination of Staines or Chertsey. 

    The offer's ongoing, but check the voucher for each individual attraction's restrictions, as these vary. See the full T&Cs including which tickets are valid.

    • Excludes Oyster cards, Freedom Passes, and tickets and travelcards bought from London Underground. Can't be used with other offers or promotions.

Shopping deals

Other bank holiday deals

  • If you're heading off on any long car journeys – and even if you're not – it could be worth getting your car checked over. Drive to any Halfords* store or Halfords Autocentre, and you can ask for a free six-point summer car check until Sat 13 Oct.

    Halfords values it at about £15 and it's available in 700+ locations nationwide.

    What's covered by the Halfords car check?Halfords car check

    • Battery 
    • Light bulbs 
    • Windscreen wipers
    • Oil levels 
    • Screenwash levels (topped up for free)
    • Air conditioning 

    Halfords says it'll take 15 minutes and you don't need to book in advance – just turn up and speak to a member of staff. Be warned... they may try to sell to you, but there's no obligation to buy anything or act on any advice you're given. These checks are completely free.