Whether or not you’re going on holiday this summer, chances are you are planning at least one day out with kids. Whether visiting museums in London, a thrill-seeking at a theme park, or the Zoo for wild adventures, planning a family trip like this can be a daunting task!
I home-educate my boys, and as a family we enjoy family days out at attractions. We have passes to several places and make as much use of them as possible! A big family day out with kids can cost quite a lot of money , depending where you go. When investing financially in the day, it helps to put time into planning how to help it go as smoothly as possible! I’ve rounded up some of the questions we go through organising some of our big days out with kids!
Bag a bargain day out with kids
Wherever you’re going, it is always worth checking for any special offers to make it cheaper! Money Saving Expert is an excellent resource for special offers on days out Keep an eye out in shops, newspapers or magazines. Merlin, especially, does a lot of promotions for 2for1 entry this way but other attractions do too. Check local papers for local attractions as well as national!
Reward card schemes like ClubCard and Nectar often include attraction tickets in their rewards. You might be able to save on entry using them. However carefully check how to redeem the points; some need to be booked online in advance, and some are redeemed at the attraction.
Some attractions also offer a discount if you travel there by public transport. They sometimes need to be booked together or you need your tickets to redeem, so again double check the terms! If you can, book online in advance. Often there will be at least a small discount for booking this way.
If you intend to do this day out more than once then check the cost of annual passes against the cost for one entry. For many places an annual pass costs about the same entry on 3 or 4 day trips. Annual passes may be a great alternative if you can afford the upfront cost. Also check your ticket terms because some places include free returns for up to a year after your first trip. Do you know a friend with passes? They may be able to get you in free or cheaper; perhaps a group day out with all of the kids might be an option!
Plan your travel
How will you get to your chosen destination? Will you be using public transport or will you drive?
Using public transport for your day out with kids
If you are doing a day out with kids on public transport, check where the nearest stop is and whether you will have a long walk to your attraction. Big theme parks can be difficult to get to. Inner city museums are often easier on public transport than by car.
Check your timings. What time do you need to leave home and what time will you need to end your day out?
How are your children on public transport? Will your kids fall asleep on the way home, maybe in a sling, allowing you to head home later? Or do you need to head home earlier? How will you entertain a tired kid/s on he journey home?
Can you book all of the transport in advance or will you need to buy some on the day? If you need to do the tube, buses, trams or other local transport check how to pay – card or cash!
Car journeys with children
If you’re driving double check your route and the usual traffic at the time of day you’ll be travelling to ensure you have a realistic idea of travel time. Google Maps can be a really useful tool as you can check usual traffic for different times of day!
Where can you park and are there parking charges? How easy is it to get to your destination from where you park. If possible double check in advance whether you need change to pay for parking; that will also make your life easier.
If you’re travelling into London check the congestion charge zone. You can pay it in advance, or make sure to avoid it!
Do you have things for your children to do in the car? Do they sleep in the car? This might affect your choices of when in the day to travel! We aim to set off early and sometimes kids travel in pyjamas. We also take pyjamas and change them into them before we leave. That way if they fall asleep on the way home we can just transfer to bed.
If you have the option and the funds to do so, staying at a hotel, youth hostel, bed and breakfast, airbnb or even camping might be a great option to make the travel to and from a big day out with kids less stressful!
Some big theme parks have hotels and there are deals to be had – again Money Saving Expert and other online sites can be great tools for finding a good price. Look for hotels within easy travel distance. The closest ones might charge a premium to stay nearby, but if you go a little further afield it can become significantly cheaper.
Do you have local friends and family? Perhaps you could combine a visit and a day out and stay with them.
Don’t rule out camping – it is often very cheap and for one or two nights most people can put up with sleeping in a tent!
Check before you go where and what you can eat at your destination. Most places will have some kind of cafe or restaurant, however many places charge a premium for food for their captive audience. Check if there are picnic areas – and places to eat a picnic inside if the weather is poor. However if you are taking a large group then carrying the whole day’s food for everyone can be tricky!
A tip I had from a friend to get a full day out was to take lunch and snacks, and then buy an evening meal. If that can fit into your travel plans and budget it can be a great way to get the most out of your day.
Do you have allergies or other eating needs that need taking care of? Make sure you either take what you need or that your chosen destination can cope with all of your needs. Double check directly with them if you can!
Drinks can be the heaviest part of a long day out. We now have refillable bottles for the big Merlin theme parks – once you’ve paid for the bottle it is 75p to refill which is far cheaper than buying most drinks and easier on us than carrying lots of drinks all day!
Another tip which has worked well for us is to take a folding shopping trolley on big days out! We can fill it with food, drinks, spare clothes, slings and anything else and taking it it turns dragging it is easier on both of us than carrying heavy bags around. It also means we can sling both of our children without worrying about backpacks!
Once you are out and about on your big day think about how little ones will get getting around. Sometimes even the strongest legs will get tired if there is a lot of walking involved in your day so a buggy or a sling might be a great tool. If you don’t want to push a buggy and you have older children then hiring a larger carrier might be great to give you some options!
Some theme parks and other places have buggies or slings available to hire or borrow whilst you are there, so it is worth checking if this is a service available and if you need to book it in advance.
Don’t forget good shoes for everyone if you will be doing lots of walking! If you would like some sling advice, you can book a consultation with us! We offer both phone and video consultations, and 15 minutes on the phone is free! Get in touch for more support.
Check the weather forecast before you travel obviously, but plan for various combinations! UK weather is notoriously unreliable so it is always useful to have a waterproof or somewhere to escape indoors. If you will be outside a lot suncream and sunhats might be needed, or lots of layers.
Enjoying your day out with kids
If you have paid a lot of money for a day out there can be a lot of pressure to ensure everyone is Having Fun all day! But this is a lot of pressure for many little ones, especially if you have any little ones who are neurodivergent.
Bear in mind how your family usually reacts to lots of input and potentially walking around! If you know it will be overwhelming, consider going when it is quieter. Prepare by having a quiet day beforehand and at least one day afterwards for recovery!
Take people’s calming items, where appropriate, so they can use their preferred calming practices. These may include items like ear defenders, chewlery, favourite blankets, clothes or teddies. This can be sensible with food too – comforting food that is safe will help you get through mealtimes too!
Know everyone’s limits and plan in advance what you definitely want to do and what would be nice; you might find that you do less but that everyone gets more from the day!
We hope that you enjoy your fab days out!