How to save money on school holiday breaks and days out in 2020

The kids are back in school and while the next half term might seem like an eternity away, if you get preparing now you could save some serious cash on keeping the family entertained. Even some of the big - and typically expensive - attractions can become a more affordable option if you think smart and plan in advance. If you're planning ahead for the coming half term and summer break[1], there are plenty of savvy ways to save money on those big days out and even on a getaway during the school holiday.

Most require little effort, just some forward planning and creative booking. Check out our comprehensive guide on how to save the GBPs[2] while planning for an action-packed 2020.

Save on days out

Save on big attractions including Alton Towers

 

While places with free entry are the best way to make sure you don't have to splash the cash, many of the top parks and attractions charge entry - and when there's several people to pay for that can soon add up. There are plenty of simple tips that can make sure you aren't spending over the odds on that special day out.

Book ahead and save If you're planning on visiting a paid-for attraction, consider booking ahead of the date to get a fairly substantial saving on the gate price.  For most places, you'll find the best prices online.

For instance, if you're debating a trip to Chester Zoo. you can save up to GBP4 per person by booking tickets more than seven days in advance.  Book online before 9.30am on the day and you'll still save GBP2 per ticket. Or over at Alton Towers, you can get a massive GBP20 off gate price by booking online in advance - and you get their Rainy Day guarantee included, meaning you get a free return visit if the weather is rubbish on your chosen day.

Prices at LEGOLand Windsor are substantially cheaper if you book online in advance too - looking at from GBP29 per person compared to upwards of GBP49 on the day. Sign up to a discount site If you are flexible with where you want to go, it might be worth signing up to a discount or voucher site, all which regularly have voucher codes and money saving offers.

You can also set it to discover localised deals based on where you are. At the time of writing, Wowcher was offering entry to The Crystal Maze Live Experience for four, plus souvenir photos for GBP99 - a saving of 50% on the door price. Meanwhile, Groupon had discounted entry to Go Ape! and Blackpool Tower and Circus.

Do your research, as parent forums like mumsnet.com[3], money-saving deals sites like hotukdeals.com[4] and voucher codes sites like Voucherbox.co.uk[5]  can also help cut the cost of your day trip. Consider an annual membership If you find yourself visiting a particular place more than once a year, it might be worth considering a membership or an annual pass. 

Plenty of places offer year-round entry at a fixed or monthly fee, and could end up in a huge saving compared to the cost of individual visits.  Many of the passes cost little more than the cost of standard entry. For instance, a season pass for Alton Towers is GBP58 when booked online - the same price as a single standard gate entry.

LEGOLand Windsor have their season passes down to GBP59 per person - down from GBP89. When you consider the gate price is upwards of GBP49 it makes sense if you think you'll be there again. Most zoos and animal parks also offer memberships, which usually end up being a huge saving providing you get your use out of them. 

Blackpool Zoo's Bronze Family membership is just GBP90 for unlimited Sunday entry throughout the year - compared to GBP67 for on the day family admission. Annual memberships for heritage sites across Britain, such as those looked after by the National Trust, English Heritage or Cadw, are fairly cheap. Family tickets are roughly GBP10 per month depending on the trust and can be a great option if you want to get out and about - not to mention usually a huge saving on the door price.

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Travel in a group

If you can get a fair few of you together for the trip, there's savings to be made as many attractions offer decent discounts for group bookings.  Bletchley Park offer a 24% discount on groups over 12, while Chester Zoo offer up to 30% off an fast track admission for groups of 15 or more. Book using free cashback sites

Cashback sites like Quidco[6] and TopCashback[7] allow you to earn cashback on purchases from hundreds of retailers, top attractions and booking sites. It's a great way to save a bit extra on something you would've bought anyway. Join social media pages and mailing lists

As well as checking the attractions website, it's also worthwhile heading over to their social media accounts to see if they have any deals or offers advertised there.  Sometimes these are limited to social media only and not promoted on the website so there could be a saving to be made by making a quick visit to their Facebook. And if you have a particular attraction or event in mind, pop your email address on their mailing list. 

The newsletters often have offers inside - and can sometimes give you advance notice on events and planned discounts. Check the back of tickets It's not just online where you can find offers.

Parking tickets, bus tickets, train tickets sometimes have deals printed on the back to encourage people to visit.  Check the M.E.N.'s print edition too.

There's always money saving offers to be found

How to save money on school holiday breaks and days out in 2020There are plenty of money-saving offers if you look in advance

 

If you're well-prepared and do your research, there's usually discounts available for your days out.  These are just some of the offers available during 2020.

Get a free ticket to a Merlin attraction Cadbury's are currently offering a free ticket to Merlin attractions when you buy a promotional pack.  The voucher is redeemable at over 20 locations with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket - both for entry on the same day.

The voucher is valid for visits until July 2020 - you can find out more here[8] . Get 2for1 entry with National Rail Register with National Rail's Days Out Guide and you'll get a printable voucher for 2for1 entry to over 300 UK attractions if you travel by train. 

Attractions include Alton Towers, Cadbury World, the MUFC museum and tour, SEA LIFE and Chessington World of Adventures. You can search the full list of attractions here[9].  But remember you'll need both the voucher and a train ticket bought from National Rail on the same day. 

Full Ts & Cs here[10] . Adults Go Free Another Merlin attraction offer - this time where an adult gets free entry with the purchase of a full-priced adult or child ticket to select attractions. 

All you need to do is get a promotional pack of Kellogg's cereal, cut out the voucher on the box and take it with you to one of the participating locations - or book in advance online and use the unique code printed on the inside of the box to get the same deal. The voucher is valid until June 30, 2020. All details and Ts & Cs here[11] .

Get 50% off your next visit There have been 23 reverse vending machines installed at parks and attractions across the UK, and all you need to do is recycle a 500ml bottle to get half price of the gate price on your next visit. You'll find these machines at Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham, Sea Life Blackpool and Warwick Castle Resort. 

Just pop your empty bottle in and you'll immediately get a voucher.
And you don't have to use it at the same place - you can put it towards the admission cost  to other selected attractions, up until March 31, 2020. These include Madame Tussauds: London and Blackpool, The Blackpool Tower Eye and Circus, The Bear Grylls Adventure,  The London Eye, Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester, The Dungeons: London, Edinburgh, York and Blackpool Tower and all the Sea Life centre branches.

Check your breakdown cover for member benefits Motorists who have breakdown cover often have discounted days out as part of their membership perks. At the time of writing, AA members could get up to 49% off entry to Thorpe Park, over 40% off at Shrek's Adventure, up to 50% off at Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures and up to 49% off at the UK's SEA Life centres.

While RAC members could enjoy up to 32% off Blackpool Tower Attractions, GBP20 discount on The Railway Touring Company's steam specials in addition to huge savings on Merlin attractions.

School holiday getaways

How to save money on school holiday breaks and days out in 2020

 

Planning a getaway during the half term breaks and summer holidays can be an expensive experience.  Dynamic pricing based on demand means firms jack up the prices outside of term time, and the threat of fines for parents taking their children out of school adds to higher prices. While it is undeniably going to be more expensive to holiday during the school breaks, there are a few things you can do save money on your trip.

Pick your dates carefully If you are restricted to a break away during the school summer holidays, it pays to go for the latest possible dates available.  Travel in the last week of August or the first week of September and you are likely to find prices are much cheaper than the rest of the holidays - as much as 15% compared to the rest of the peak season prices.


Consider travelling mid-week - flights in particular are generally cheaper mid-week, even in the peak summer months. Check your school's holiday policy Some schools are incredibly strict and do not allow any holidays during term times under any circumstances. 

Where others may allow you to apply in writing for the time off, which has to be approved by the head.  While it's wise to assume it's unlikely the school will grant time off for a family holiday, it's always worth checking directly with the office just in case they are a bit more flexible with the policy.

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Find hidden cheap booking dates Not all UK school term dates match up - and if your kids' school differs from everyone else's, this could mean big savings on a trip. 

Just figure out where your dates differ from everyone else's, which could be as much as breaking up a week earlier or finishing a few days later.  If your school is off while other's aren't, you'll probably find a bargain. Ever-changeable inset/teacher training days, which are set by the school rather than the council, can also add up to cheaper rates when booking a long weekend away. 

Check your own dates and compare them with other schools' dates via the Gov.uk search tool[12] . This also works abroad as term dates vary from country to country, so it's worth a quick check before picking which week to go. This also works for child free people wanting to take advantage of term-time prices, or wanting to avoid a holiday resort being potentially packed with kids.

Take advantage of Kids Go Free places

How to save money on school holiday breaks and days out in 2020

Many travel firms offer free places for kids up to 16 years of age, which could be a way to save money when booking a family holiday. Lots of operators have their own online search tools where you can search for free places to best suit your needs. A large majority of these free places apply to the school holidays and half terms, too.

But remember, most of these free places are limited in availability and are in high demand, so it pays to book sooner rather than later when the offers are launched. Otherwise you'll have to wait till the next wave of places are announced. Some of the tour operator with kids go free place finders include:

Tui[13] Jet2[14] First Choice[15]

Coop Travel[16] Easyjet[17] Espritski[18]

It's worth noting if you're travelling with multiple children only the first child goes free, you'll have to pay full price for other kids. Resorts themselves also offer limited time Kids Go Free deals.  At the time of writing, LEGOland[19] was offering free child places - subject to availability - and include a second day free on short breaks.


Other popular destinations including Alton Towers Resort and Disney are also known to have free kids places on selected dates, so it's always worth checking before booking.

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Travel ideas, unmissable experiences and destination guides

Keep an eye out for room sales If you're planning a UK break, keep an eye out for flash room sales at hotel chains.  They're subject to availability, but usually include the school half term holidays and summer break. 

And it's not just city centre locations included, many have branches in some sought after holiday destinations. Both Premier Inn and Travelodge regularly hold room sales[20] throughout the year, with many rooms going for less than GBP29 a night - that's just over GBP7pp per night based on a family of four sharing. Slash the cost of a Center Parcs stay

Resorts in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands can be massively cheaper than the UK Center Parcs resorts - especially when booking a school holiday break. These days they are run by who separate firms under the CP umbrella, the experiences are incredibly similar and worth the effort if you can handle the journey over.  The folks at MoneySavingExpert.com[21] have discovered that there's huge savings to be made here.

They found that a three bed lodge at Woburn Forest park in Bedfordshire started at GBP2,028 for early August 2020. This was compared to just GBP573 at its Park Hochsauerland site in Germany. With the addition of flights for a family of four at GBP350 the total came to GBP923 - GBP1,105 less than the UK break.

Follow tourism writer Zara Whelan on social media

How to save money on school holiday breaks and days out in 2020

To follow Zara on Twitter click here[22].

To connect via Facebook, click here[23]. Zara also runs our Discover The North Facebook group[24] specialising in all the latest on things to do, where to drink, eat, shop, go out, events and travel guides across the north of the UK. You can join the conversation here[25].

Here's a link to the M.E.N.'s main Facebook page[26] where we share our latest stories. Fly from Scotland If you're thinking of going abroad over the summer holidays, you could save a packet by flying from Scotland instead. 

The schools over the border have different term dates to those in the rest of the UK, with most kids back in lessons by mid-August, meaning prices drop substantially around the time the local kids go back in the latter half of the month.

Follow us on Twitter[27] and Facebook[28] for the latest news.

We are also on Instagram[29].

If you are on the go, the M.E.N. app helps bring you closer to the latest news where you live. Available on iPhone and Android[30], the app can be tailor-made to bring you the latest on what matters to you.

Breaking news, the latest on your football club, the pick of the week's events and the latest travel - you can tailor the app to suit you.

Our push notifications help highlight the biggest stories to you first.

Download it on iPhone and Android here[31].

References

  1. ^ summer break (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  2. ^ how to save the GBPs (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  3. ^ mumsnet.com (www.mumsnet.com)
  4. ^ hotukdeals.com (www.hotukdeals.com)
  5. ^ Voucherbox.co.uk (www.voucherbox.co.uk)
  6. ^ Quidco (bit.ly)
  7. ^ TopCashback (bit.ly)
  8. ^ here (www.cadbury.co.uk)
  9. ^ here (www.daysoutguide.co.uk)
  10. ^ here (www.daysoutguide.co.uk)
  11. ^ here (www.kelloggs.co.uk)
  12. ^ Gov.uk search tool (www.gov.uk)
  13. ^ Tui (tui-uk.7cnq.net)
  14. ^ Jet2 (www.jet2holidays.com)
  15. ^ First Choice (www.firstchoice.co.uk)
  16. ^ Coop Travel (www.firstchoice.co.uk)
  17. ^ Easyjet (www.easyjet.com)
  18. ^ Espritski (www.espritski.com)
  19. ^ LEGOland (www.legolandholidays.co.uk)
  20. ^ Travelodge regularly hold room sales (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  21. ^ MoneySavingExpert.com (www.moneysavingexpert.com)
  22. ^ here (twitter.com)
  23. ^ here (www.facebook.com)
  24. ^ Discover The North Facebook group (www.facebook.com)
  25. ^ join the conversation here (www.facebook.com)
  26. ^ Facebook page (www.facebook.com)
  27. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
  28. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  29. ^ Instagram (www.instagram.com)
  30. ^ Available on iPhone and Android (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
  31. ^ Download it on iPhone and Android here (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)

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