Got no money? Want a day out?

The credit crunch has well and truly bitten into family finances – for many of us there won’t be trips to expensive theme parks or outings to the cinema, bowling, castles or aquariums this summer.  Here, Workingmums gives you some ideas for a fun day out without your purse bearing the burden.

The credit crunch has well and truly bitten into family finances – for many of us there won’t be trips to expensive theme parks or outings to the cinema, bowling, castles or aquariums this summer.  Here, Workingmums gives you some ideas for a fun day out without your purse bearing the burden.

Put your best foot forward
A walk is the ultimate cheap day out. Fresh air is free and you won’t have an expensive entrance fee. But if you say to the children, ‘’Let’s go for a nice walk’’, they are likely to be turned off by this. Get clever. Buy them each a pedometer and see if they can work out how many kilometres they’ve walked. This will help their numeracy skills as well as giving them a sense of purpose. Print out a map and set a route beforehand. Put one of the children in charge of the map – they will enjoy the responsibility of being ‘leader’. Make it a weekly date in the diary to have a stroll and see if the children can walk further than the week before. It might be a good idea to have a little treat to look forward to at the end of the walk – a trip to a cafe for a drink and a cake or take the route past the sweet shop home. Let the children take it in turns to choose a route – if they’ve decided on the journey, it will make them more likely to be interested.
 
Pop out for a picnic
A picnic is an inexpensive way to spend the day. Get everybody involved in helping to prepare it – put one person in charge of cutlery and plates, another in charge of rugs, and ask an older child to chop up raw carrots and celery for the dips. Cooking sausage rolls and cakes the day before the picnic is fun – let the youngsters ice their own cakes with the wackiest designs they can think of. To give added interest, choose a new type of food for each person and turn the picnic into a tasting session of likes and dislikes.
Selecting a theme for your picnic food can fire everyone’s imagination. What about food based on the countries in the World Cup? Which teams are in England’s qualifying group? What do people in these countries eat? Can we make that at home too? Or what about the latest Shrek movie? What does an ogre eat? Can we make a cake in the shape of a giant dragonfly?
If you haven’t got much time for preparing food, it is perfectly okay to go to the supermarket and stock up there. Don’t feel guilty about dishing up shop-bought sausage rolls in a carton – doing a shared family activity is far more important. Take footballs, cricket bats and Frisbees for a game afterwards.
 
Head for the beach
If you live near to a beach take advantage of it. Building sand castles, paddling in rock pools, swimming and beach rounders are all free. A day at the seaside can turn into a day of wonderful family memories. Avoid the expensive beachside cafes. Instead, take your own food. Put each child in charge of their own backpack with sandwiches and snacks. Tip: freeze small bottles of water the night before, put the bottle in each backpack and it will keep sandwiches cool as well as providing a refreshing drink as the temperature hots up. Make an ice cream the treat of the day.
If you don’t live near the beach, find out about cheap day train tickets. Work out if you can save money by having a family rail pass, and check which days and times are cheaper to travel. Work out if it’s cheaper to take the train than to pay for petrol and car park fees. Plus, you’ll get a rest from driving if you go by rail – this is likely to improve your mood if you don’t have to deal with traffic congestion and excited children on a hot day.

Guided walks
These are usually free because they’re led by enthusiastic volunteers eager to pass on their knowledge and love of animals, plants and history. Check your local council website to find details of walks and events in your local parks and wildlife areas. It gives you a break too – you can take a back seat and listen and learn. Often the walks have a theme, such as bats or butterflies, so make a trip to the library beforehand and take out a book on identification. Have a competition to see who can spot the rarest birds or who will be the first to see the first blue butterfly of the year.
Historic walks around cities are often free, or relatively cheap. They can be led by actors who dress up in historic costumes and entertain their audience with tales of derring-do and adventure. There’s usually a lot of interaction and fun with youngsters.

Plan for a rainy day
Look up the five-day weather forecast and circle the day when rain is expected. This is the perfect day for pencilling in a trip to the library. Many libraries line up visiting authors – check your local authority’s website – or have holiday schemes where stickers are on offer to reward youngsters who borrow books. Make sure your children see you choosing library books too. You are the biggest influence on your child’s reading, so seeing you getting enjoyment from books is a sure-fire way to fuel a life-long interest in books. Libraries also stock DVDs, which are cheap to rent, so get the children to choose one for a ‘family night in’. Often, there are three for the price of two offers during holiday times.
Entrance to museums is usually free – this is also a good stand-by for a drizzly day. Take your sandwiches to avoid the hefty food prices in the cafe and the queues.  How are you going to avoid the lure of the gift shop? Just say ‘no’, or agree beforehand that the children can spend some of their pocket money and you’ll make a contribution too.  Fifty-fifty is a good deal.

Take advantage of discounts
Do the research beforehand to find out about discount. Ring around other families to rustle up enough of them to get a group discount into attractions.  Ask grandparents to take your children out for a treat - they will often qualify for the senior citizen discount on the entrance fees – while you stay at home.  If you have one child, ask their friend along to reap the benefit of the family discount for two adults and two children.  Ask the other family to reciprocate with your child.  Check rail companies for cheap day tickets.  Often, there are combination deals which give you money off entrance fees if you travel there by train.

Top tip
Buy each child a couple of disposable cameras so they can record their own personal memories of the summer.  At the end of the holidays, get the cameras processed and have a celebration family evening at home to view the photographs.   You will be surprised and delighted at the lovely memories you will have built up without having had to shell out tonnes of money. 





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