Seven things to do for free on a rainy summer holiday

Free things to do on a rainy summer holiday

Summer is always eye-wateringly expensive - a recent survey by Groupon found that it costs us £389 on average.

When it rains, things get even more ruinous, because going for a picnic, letting them run around the park, taking a trip to the beach, or having a walk in the country are all out of the question.

SEE ALSO: Seven homes with holiday lets attached


See also: Labour: Holiday childcare costs up by 51% since 2010

Unless you plan to keep the kids cooped up all summer, you need a handy list of things to do for free when it rains.

Fortunately we've brought together seven handy options.

Track down a free museum
Childcare website Childcare.co.uk has produced a massive list of ideas - suitable for sunny days as well as rainy ones. One of the most useful things on it is this handy list, which shows a huge number of UK museums, including a number of free ones. If you've never been to the Natural History Museum in London, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, the Army Medical Services Museum in Surrey, or the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow (or any of a huge number of alternatives), then a free day out awaits.

Go to a free pet workshop
Pets at Home is running free workshops at its stores throughout the holiday. You can learn about caring for small furry animals, play games, do puzzles, and cuddle a creature or two. The workshops are free, but you need to book, and it's worth doing so as early as possible as they tend to get fully booked.

Try a free craft
Hobbycraft is holding free craft workshops at its stores between 12pm and 2pm during the holidays. It's a handy distraction, and a great chance for the kids to get messy somewhere you don't have to clean up. The only possible downside is that you need to avoid getting sucked into the sale while you're there.

Get a free cinema ticket
The cinema is never a cheap treat over the break, but there are loads of great films out for kids at the moment, so a freebie comes in handy. If you buy one of a number of insurances or switch utilities with Comparethemarket.com, you qualify for Meerkat Movies. You then need to download the app, and you'll get 2 cinema tickets for the price of one every Tuesday or Wednesday. By far the best bet is to do this by switching utilities, because if you haven't switched for years, you could save a small fortune into the bargain.

Go swimming
The government is keen for kids to get fit, so councils all over the country offer free swimming for kids. You'll need to check with your council, and may need to apply for a swim card. Some councils offer an impressive array of swimming activities. In Wales, for example, in addition to the free splash sessions, there are weekly sessions ranging from snorkelling to canoeing and water polo.

Hide from the rain in a restaurant
There's nothing stopping you doing something outdoorsy if you plan a lunch/dinner stop during the worst of the weather. Naturally this is an excessively expensive option, unless of course the kids eat for free. There are loads of restaurants offering children's freebies this summer (you'll usually only get one freebie per adult buying a meal) including Jamie's Italian, Las Iguanas, La Tasca, Bella Italia and Giraffe.

Go to the theatre for nothing
Kids' Week in the West End in London is offering free children's tickets - when you pay for an adult one. Despite the name, the deal runs on selected days thought August. It's a great way to get to see a show without breaking the bank - and could save you as much as £70 - so is worth considering. This is an enormously popular offer, so remaining tickets are going to be thin on the ground, but it's worth checking the website, and bearing it in mind for next summer too.

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Save money on shopping: ten great tricks
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Save money on shopping: ten great tricks

The more work you are prepared to put in, the more you stand to save. If you put your shopping list into mysupermarket.com, you can identify where each individual items is cheapest, and can technically buy every single item at its lowest possible price.

If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, a reasonable compromise is to shop at two supermarkets: once at the weekend and once mid-week. You can buy each item at the cheapest of the two shops, and save money without devoting hours to shopping.

There are several deal-sharing sites, including hotukdeals.com and latestdeals.co.uk. Most of them have a ‘freebies’ section, where you can get items completely free, and all have a section where they post fantastic deals that are well worth taking advantage of.

They will often point the way to coupons for brilliant discounts too.

The more time you have spare to spend looking for these, the more you can save.

It’s worth following your favourite brands on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also important to pick up in-house magazines, try your free local paper, and check any letters from supermarket loyalty schemes for your vouchers. If you have a Nectar card, visit the website before you shop, so you can upload the latest deals to your card.

While you’re in-store, keep your eyes peeled for promotions on packets, and on receipts. Often the deal-hunting websites will offer a short cut to many of these, but if you have the opportunity to do some legwork, you will find plenty of others.

Compare the price of your branded goods (after you use the coupon) with the cheapest supermarket alternative. If the discount makes it the cheapest option, then feel free to use it immediately.

However, if it doesn’t bring the price down below the own brand price, then don't throw it away. Hang onto the coupon, and check Mysuupermarket.com every few days to see if there’s an offer running on the brand at any time before the coupon expires. A deal plus a coupon is often the cheapest option.

Prices change all the time, but it pays to have a shopping list annotated with the usual price - or an old receipt - on hand when you are shopping. When something is on sale, compare it to the usual selling price from your list, to decide if it’s really as good value as it purports to be.
The frugal experts have decent storage areas at home, so if there’s a very special deal on washing powder or toilet paper, tins or toiletries, they can stock up for a few months at a knock-down price. It’s not generally worth doing on fresh produce, or packets with a short shelf life though, because throwing something away that’s out of date will undo all of your good work.
There can be some incredible bargains in the ‘yellow sticker’ sections of the supermarket. Most stores will have a spot for fruit and vegetable reductions, somewhere for chilled food price cuts, one for bakery products, and a final one for those with a longer shelf life that may be a bit battered, or separated from the outer packaging. Check them all for a possible discount.

The ’yellow sticker’ items will usually be reduced at least twice a day: once in the afternoon and once later in the evening. If you can wait to shop at around 7.30pm or 8pm you can get astonishing discounts.

If you want to time your shop exactly, then your best bet is to ask in store when they do their final reductions - don't be shy!

Get to know the rules around freezing ‘yellow sticker’ items, so you can buy when they are cheapest and use over the following weeks and months.

Don't assume something is perishable without checking. Everything from cheese to beansprouts is fine to freeze as long as you treat them correctly (beansprouts need blanching, chilling in ice water, and freezing immediately).

It’s never worth buying something just because it’s cheap: you also have to be able to factor it into your life. If you can't immediately think how you would use that over-ripe avocado, a pack of cut-price tongue or kippers, then don't buy them.
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