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How to entertain your grandchildren on a budget

Andrew Stucken / 27 June 2012 ( 07 August 2019 )

Summer is here, so we have loads of ideas to keep the grandchildren amused without breaking the bank.

Grandparents out for a walk with grandchildren
If you live away from a major town, how about a woodland walk, maybe including a picnic?

You can give your grandchildren a great day out without ruining your finances in the process – here are some fun and inspiring, budget-conscious outings...

Get voucher savvy for affordable attractions

Otherwise prohibitively expensive days out can become accessible using vouchers offering 2-for-1 or reduced-price entry. Check local and national newspapers, or search on your local council or Tourist Board’s website.

Your local train company may have deals on day returns combining rail tickets with 2-for-1 entry or discounts at museums, attractions, exhibitions and restaurants.

Lots of popular food brands, from cereals to snacks, also offer reduced price entry or free entry for children to attractions during peak season – see packaging for details. Also look out for deals with Wowcher and Groupon

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Take them swimming

Many leisure centres offer free or reduced-price swimming for the under-18s – especially during school holidays. It's worth checking to see if they run any free or inexpensive multi-sports days at the same time.

Indoor activities to do with your grandchildren

Police and fire station open days

Many fire stations and police HQs open their doors to the public in the summer. As well as learning more about the work they do, there are often demonstrations to watch and sometime freebies.

Look in the local press, online or on Facebook for details of police, fire brigade, ambulance service and coastguard events – in some areas, the emergency services pool their resources and hold 999 open days together. 

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Go fruit picking

When the season arrives, Pick-Your-Own fruit farms offer a fun, inexpensive and active way to treat your grandchildren. As well as the novelty of picking your own fruit and enjoying your harvest later, if you freeze or preserve your fruit and eat them together in the winter, it can bring back happy memories of sunny, summer days.

Turn your fruit into something scrummy with our strawberry recipes

Parks and open spaces

Sometimes simple is best. Whether you live in a city or a rural location, everyone should have access to places where the grandchildren can play.

Many larger towns and cities have “green trails” where you can explore havens for nature, or big adventure playgrounds. If you live away from a major town, how about a woodland walk, maybe including a picnic?

Forestry England has plenty of inspiration for things to do, including family activity trails, mountain bike routes and adventure play areas.  

The 5 best summer drives in the UK

Cheap cinema tickets

There are plenty of ways to avoid playing full price for tickets in the cinema. Some cinemas offer 2-for-1 promotions on certain days of the week, or have reduced prices on morning showings of children's films at weekends or in the school holidays. Always check with the cinema before going though.

Savvy grandparents will also avoid the cripplingly expensive pick and mix and popcorn in the cinema foyer. Instead, stash some fun-sized sweets, snack bags of popcorn or biscuits, and drinks for the children in your bag, so they can still enjoy a treat during the film without you spending a fortune in the process. 

Where to find discounts for the over 50s

National Trust and English Heritage memberships

Whether you already have one or are thinking about joining, don’t overlook National Trust or English Heritage memberships. 

For English Heritage, all Adult Memberships include free entry for children. The Senior Individual membership is available if you’re 65 or over, and you can bring up to six children up to the age of and including 17 years. If you're feeling brave, the Joint Senior membership includes entry for up to 12 children!

National Trust Adult and Joint memberships don't include free entry for children. However Family memberships can be bought for one or two adults – both include entry for up to 10 children or grandchildren (aged 17 or under). However if your grandchild is included on a Family membership and you can borrow their parents’ membership card, they will get in for free. If you already have a National Trust membership and look after your grandchildren on a regular basis or they’re coming to stay for the holidays, a Junior membership costs just £10 a year and is available for children aged 17 or under. Remember that children aged under 5 get free entry to National Trust places.

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Child-friendly museums

While many museums and art galleries charge a high admission for entry, some are more affordable or even free. Go online to search for local options – many hold extra activities for children such as workshops during the school holidays. There may be a small cost for these or you might have to book in advance, so always check in plenty of time to avoid disappointment. 

Factory tours

Some companies are keen to use free tours to promote their business. Watching things being made can be fascinating for kids. It may take a little thought and research to find these tours, but could give the grandchildren a day out to remember.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.