10 free or cheap days out over October half term

If you’re staying at home this October half term, you may be dreading the cost of keeping the kids entertained for a week when it’s likely to be chilly and wet outdoors.

And according to a recent MoneySupermarket poll, 53% of you are worried about being able to afford Christmas this year, so spending too much of your hard-earned cash on family days out in the run-up to the festive period is probably something you are trying to avoid.

But days out with the kids are a great chance to enjoy quality time together as a family, and they will give you something to look forward to. And, they needn’t cost you a small fortune.

Here are 10 suggestions of days out this October half term that won’t break the bank.

1. Enjoy seasonal spooks, spells and storytelling

Halloween falls midway through many schools’ half term this year, so why not have fun making costumes with the kids and plan a spooky day out for all of the family? Look out for free events in your local area such as pumpkin carving, storytelling sessions, Halloween themed trails and treasure hunts.

Free and cheap events across the country include Happy Halloween Pumpkin Carving in Gateshead’s BALTIC (free; October 29-31), Halloween Hauntings at the Old Hall in Cheshire’s Tatton Park (£3.50 for children, £5.40 for adults; October 23-31), a pumpkin carving competition in Fortnum & Mason in London with prizes also awarded for the best fancy dress (free for the children’s competition but you need to call to sign up at 0845 602 5694; October 31), Spooky Sunday at the National Museums of Scotland (free; October 28), and Halloween Trails in the WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre (the trail is free but entry to Slimbridge costs £5.41 for children and £9.95 for adults; October 20-31).

Or, older children will love being scared on a ghost walk in one of Britain’s historic cities such as York, Edinburgh, Chester and London. Many of the walks cost less than £5 per person, but be sure to do a little research before you turn up to make sure they are suitable for your child’s age.

2. Wrap up warm and go for a walk

Temperatures may be dropping but that’s no excuse not to venture outside – just wrap up warm and enjoy crunching through the leaves in the beautiful British countryside.

If your children need some encouragement to leave the sofa, why not set up a treasure hunt or compile an I-spy list to include items such as conkers, types of trees and any animals you could see along the way? The National Trust has come up with a fun activity sheet you can use if you are short of time.

Or, if you are stuck for inspiration, why not go on one of the National Trust’s arranged “Family stomps” over October half term? Take a look for a walk near you and you can even upload your own recommended walk for other families to try as part of the National Trust’s Great British Walk festival.

3. Expand your knowledge – for free!

Just because it’s the school holidays, it doesn’t mean the kids – and you – can’t learn something new. Many of the UK’s libraries, museums and art galleries will have special half-term activities on in the next week or two and, even better, many will be free. So look out for events in your local area.

For example, if you live in Birmingham, there’s a Spooky Crafts Mask Making workshop on in Birmingham Museum on October 25 (11am-4pm; £1 per child). Or, if you are in Liverpool, why not head to the World Museum on October 28 where you and the children can learn all about how Halloween, or The Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico. The free event runs from 1pm-4pm and you can all make an unusual souvenir to take home.

Take a look at our video ‘How to have a free family day out’ to find out more about the range of fantastic free attractions on offer in the UK.

4. Explore your local area as if you were a tourist

It’s amazing how many families take the city or town they live in for granted and how little they know about its attractions. So, if you and the kids have never learnt about the history of your home town, why not look up tourist activities nearby so you can appreciate your area’s background?

Or, head to a nearby city and learn all about what makes the UK so special. Keep an eye out for free tours – in Bath, for example, free two-hour walking tours are on offer every day of the year (apart from Christmas Day) at 10.30am (and 2pm Sunday-Friday). Or take the children to a local library to research local history and devise your own tour looking out for historic buildings and statues.

And, if you are planning on travelling by train for the day, don’t forget to go online and book your tickets in advance as even buying them the night before you travel can save you money. If you frequently travel by train as a family, consider investing in a family and friends railcard too to make further savings.

5. Get moving!

Are you looking to get fitter, or perhaps your children love all things sporty? Why not use half term as an opportunity to get active?

If swimming is your sport of choice, check whether your local pool has free swims on offer over the school holidays for under-16s. Or, if your child is a budding footballer, why not book them into one of the free football FA Tesco Skills sessions that are taking place across the country this half term – enter your postcode here to find a taster session near you.

6. Catch a film

Perhaps you and the kids are film buffs and love going to the cinema together. However, once you’ve factored in tickets, drinks and snacks, a trip to the cinema can be an expensive afternoon or morning out – but it doesn’t need to be.

Take a look at your local cinema’s website for special kids’ screenings and discounts – for example, Odeon Cinemas run children’s screenings every Saturday and Sunday mornings with ticket prices ranging from £1-£4 for children and free tickets for parents. Vue Cinemas have a similar offer on Saturday and Sunday mornings with kids’ tickets on sale from £1.75 and 3D film tickets from £3. Or, if mornings aren’t convenient, Vue also offers family tickets (with a minimum of two children) where everyone in the family pays the price of a child’s ticket.

And, if you’ve saved on your ticket price, don’t waste valuable money on sugary drinks and snacks. Instead, take some provisions with you as a treat for everyone.

7. Enjoy a day out by the sea

How many days have you spent sunbathing on a beach in the UK this year? Unless you’ve been incredibly lucky, probably not many! So don’t let the cooler weather put you off heading to one of the UK’s seaside towns this half term.

Traditional seaside destinations such as Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton will be in full swing over the half term holiday whether you want to stroll along the pier munching on fish and chips, treat the kids to a fairground ride or two or visit the towns’ fun-filled attractions. Before you plan a trip to an attraction, do some research online to see if you can find a discount voucher or if you get money off for booking a ticket online in advance. At the moment, for example, MoneySupermarket has a code for 3-for-2 admissions to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

But, if money is tight, you don’t need to spend a penny to have fun by the sea. Pack a bucket and spade and build a sandcastle, play some games such as football or cricket on the sand or venture to one of the UK’s less touristy stretches of sand for a family walk – the chances are, you’ll have most of the beach to yourself.

If you decide to extend your day out and spend the night in a seaside town, shop around online in advance of your trip to find the best hotel and B&B deals.

8. Treat the kids to a meal

If you have older children and they are using the half term to revise, or perhaps you have to work, you could treat the family to a meal out one evening so you can spend some time together?

Buying food and drink for all of the family can be eye-wateringly expensive but with a little forward planning, you can shave pounds off restaurant bills. Take a look at MoneySupermarket’s food and drink vouchers for inspiration whether you are out for the evening or want to grab some food while you are out and about.

Family-friendly half term offers include a children’s menu consisting of three courses and a drink for £5.95 at Prezzo, 25% off food at Zizzi, kids eat for £1 at Sizzling Pubs and free scampi and chips at Yates’s.

9. All creatures great and small

If your children have ambitions to be the next David Attenborough, you’re sure to get brownie points for organising an animal-themed day out.

You don’t need to pay high zoo entrance fees either – younger children will love feeding the ducks at your local park and look up where your nearest pets’ corner or urban farm is.

If you do decide to go to a paid attraction such as an aquarium or a zoo, take a look online for vouchers before you set off. Current offers from MoneySupermarket include £2 off entry fees to Blue Reef Aquariums throughout the country, £2 off per ticket at Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port and kids go free at Dudley Zoo.

10. Be inspired

If you’re still stuck for ideas, why not be inspired by offers at your local attractions so you can try them out for less. Sign up to newsletters to find out about all of the deals first and take a look at MoneySupermarket’s voucher channel where current days out vouchers include buy one ticket get one for £1 at Ripley’s Believe it or Not London, buy one get one half price at Waterworld and kids go free at Bamburgh Castle.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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