We all enjoy a good day out, but with the rising cost of living in the news and on our minds, many of us are becoming increasingly concerned about our finances. It’s easy to spend far more than you intend on a day out, but the good news is that there are lots of ways you can save money while not compromising on fun.
So, if you don’t want to let budgeting get in the way of a good time, here are 16 ways you can save money on days out.
1. Use supermarket points
If you shop at Tesco or Sainsbury’s, why not look into using points for days out?
Both Nectar and Tesco Clubcard allow you to use your points to pay for tickets to various different attractions, from theme parks to zoos and castles. At many attractions your Tesco Clubcard points are worth three times their value – so if you have £20 in points, you’ll have £60 to put towards tickets.
Even if you don’t have many points, you can still put your balance towards entry to an attraction and save a bit of money. ‘Every little helps’, after all!
2. Take a packed lunch
One of the easiest and most effective ways to save money on days out is to bring your own food.
Lunch for two can easily cost £40, and that’s without factoring in any other snacks or nibbles that might tempt you throughout the day. And in spite of our best intentions, when those hunger pangs kick in, it can be impossible to avoid the lure of a cafe or restaurant!
So, if you’re out for the day, why not make a delicious packed lunch to take with you? A backpack is far more practical than a picnic hamper, and you can fit all kinds of goodies in it. Forget thoughts of soggy sandwiches and smashed crisps – bringing your own food means you can enjoy the meals and snacks you like best.
For inspiration, you might want to check out our article; 10 picnic recipe ideas.
3. Bring your own drinks
Similarly, bringing your own drinks with you on days out can also save you a pretty penny. Buying bottled water quickly adds up and bringing your own reusable bottle isn’t only cheaper, it’s also better for the environment. Most places are happy to give you free refills of water too.
If you know you like a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon, think about bringing a thermos with you. A decent flask will keep hot drinks warm all day, and it also means you can enjoy your drinks outside in the fresh air. Plus, avoiding coffee shops means you’ll avert the temptation of buying a cake to eat with your coffee, too!
For tips on staying hydrated, you might want to read our article; How to make healthier drink choices.
4. Join the National Trust
If you enjoy visiting historic houses, strolling around beautiful gardens, or hiking through notable beauty spots, you might want to think about joining the National Trust.
Annual membership for two people costs £127.20 a year or £10.60 a month. Or for individuals, it’s £76.80 a year or £6.80 a month. Although that might not seem cheap, if you visit National Trust properties even semi-regularly, you’ll soon make some decent savings.
Not only does membership guarantee you free entry to more than 500 National Trust properties – from stately homes to gardens and parks – it also allows you to enjoy free parking. And when you consider that it costs around £40 for two people to visit many National Trust properties, you’ll soon make your money back – and then some.
For some ideas for days out, you may want to read our article; 10 of the best National Trust places to visit.
5. Join English Heritage
If you live in England and are more into historic sites than gardens or parks, you may want to think about joining English Heritage instead. There are 400+ historic sites dotted across England, from palaces and castles to abbeys and Roman forts – and even the odd medieval village.
It’s £115 for a year’s membership for two people, or £66 for under 65s and £59 for over 65s. But just like the National Trust, it’s a good way to save money if you’re planning to visit a decent amount of sites.
If you live in Scotland, why not think about joining Historic Scotland instead? Or, if you live in Wales, you can join Cadw. Membership to either organisation will mean you can enjoy free entry to dozens of fascinating heritage attractions.
6. Save on car travel
If you’re planning on driving during your day out, there are a few ways you can save money on car travel.
First, make sure you’re filling up at a low-price petrol station. You can use the Petrol Prices app to find the cheapest fuel near you — and while paying 5p less on each litre of fuel might not seem like a real saving, it adds up to £2.50 each time you fill up a 50-litre tank.
Then, you can save money on parking by using some free parking apps. If you download JustPark, Parkopedia or AppyParking, you can check out the parking sites. And if there are none, you can compare prices at nearby car parks.
7. Find restaurant deals
If you’d like to enjoy a meal in a restaurant while you’re out – or you’re planning a long day and can’t pack both lunch and dinner – there are ways you can take advantage of some decent discounts.
Just google ‘restaurant vouchers’ and see which restaurants in your destination offer discount vouchers. Or, check out websites where you can retrieve voucher codes, such as VoucherCloud and VoucherCodes. Chain restaurants like Prezzo, Zizzi, and Pizza Express often have great discounts, from 2-4-1 on meals to 25% off your bill.
If you prefer eating at independent places, you might want to think about having an early dinner and making the most of happy hours. Set lunch menus can often save you money, too.
8. Buy a railcard
If you like travelling by train, you might want to invest in a railcard. While you pay an upfront fee for the card, the savings you make can be considerable, and if you plan on using trains a lot you can make some serious savings.
If you live in the South of England, a Network Railcard might be best, as you can enjoy one-third off train fares in and around London and the South East. On average, you’ll save £134 a year with a Network Railcard – plus you can also get special deals and discounts from their partners, which include hotels, experience day providers, and theatres.
If you’re over 60, you can also get an annual Senior Railcard for £30, which gives you one-third off fares all around the UK. Average annual savings are £76, and if you use the trains a lot, you can save even more.
9. Go on a free walking tour in a city
If you’re planning to visit a city for the day, a great way to save money while making sure you see all the sights is to go on a free walking tour. Head over to FREETOUR to check out which tours you can take advantage of – there are plenty of free tours in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The brilliant thing about FREETOUR is the variety of tours on offer. While you can enjoy standard walking tours around a city, there are also plenty of fun themes. In Glasgow, you can go on haunted city tours; in London, you can tour Harry Potter locations; and in Belfast, you can check out the myths and legends tours.
Have a read of our article, 16 of the best UK city breaks, to get inspired.
10. Explore the Great Outdoors
If city tours aren’t for you, why not make the most of our beautiful land and go on a country walk? Hiking in natural surroundings is good for the mind as well as the body – and it’s also totally free.
If you’re not sure where to go, you can head over to the National Trust and check out walks at some of their places – and from challenging clifftop treks to woodland walks, there’s something for everyone. Just remember to pack a lunch!
11. Visit free museums and galleries
many ways you can stay busy (and dry!) for free. Most museums and galleries across the UK are free to enter, so you can have a day of culture and learning without spending a penny.
Whatever you’re into, you’re sure to find a museum or gallery to interest you. Some of the best free museums in the UK include London’s Natural History Museum, Manchester’s National Football Museum, Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, Cardiff’s St Fagans National History Museum, and Belfast’s Ulster Museum.
To check out the full list of free museums and galleries in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, head over to the Art Fund_ website.
12. Stay local
Another great way to save money on days out is to stay local. Check out your local tourist information website and your city or county council website and see what free events are going on.
There might be a free concert you could go to or a literary festival where you could hear local authors speak. Facebook is also a good place to look out for free events near you.
Craft festivals, food festivals and arts festivals are often free, and while you have the option of buying things while you’re there, there’s no obligation. The best thing about festivals tends to be soaking up the atmosphere, and luckily there’s no price on that!
13. Book in advance
While it’s nice to enjoy some spontaneous days out, planning a trip in advance is definitely better for your budget. Booking in advance can save you serious money at many top attractions – for example, for a family of four going to Alton Towers, booking at least five days in advance will save more than £50 on entry.
The amount you’ll save will vary from place to place, but generally speaking, booking in advance saves you around 10%.
14. Look for deals
Another perk of booking in advance is that it gives you more time to research things like free parking spots, or which restaurants might be doing the best deals. If you know you’re going somewhere on a specific day, take time to browse other deal websites, like Groupon, Living Social, and Wowcher to see what deals there are.
You might also want to check out sites like Buyagift, as entry to many top attractions is considerably cheaper when bought here than when bought directly. It’s worth putting some time into researching different prices before buying because entry fees can vary dramatically depending on where you buy them.
15. Go in a group
Another good way to save money on days out is to go with friends or family, if possible. Many attractions have discounted group entry prices – for example, at London Zoo you can save 20% on tickets if you’re in a group of 10 or more people.
Trying to coordinate diaries can be challenging but the savings make it worth the effort. Plus it’s a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones. If you need an excuse to get the families together or meet up with friends, suggesting a group day out is a great idea…as well as a thrifty one!
16. Get pedalling
Going on a cycle isn’t only an excellent way to stay fit, it’s also a brilliant way to explore. If you’re planning a day trip to a specific destination, why not see if you can cycle there?
This will, of course, depend on the distance – but if you live in Bristol and want to visit Bath, for example, cycling is a great option, and only takes around two hours. You’ll save money on transport, be able to admire the views along the way, and you won’t have to worry about parking either!
If you’re new to cycling, you might want to check out our beginner’s guide.
As this article shows, there are many ways you can save money on days out without compromising on fun or comfort.
Having an enjoyable and memorable day doesn’t have to be expensive… or cost anything at all. Packing a delicious lunch and going for a walk or cycle is a great way to spend the day – and if you want to visit an attraction or treat yourself to a meal out, there are many ways you can find discounts and save the pennies.
With the cost of living rising, many of us are understandably becoming anxious or feeling stressed – but this just makes looking after ourselves and making time for enjoyment even more important. And luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to do either.