Budget friendly family days out
Family days out don’t have to be spend, spend, spend.
Show them culture, history and the great outdoors with our savvy guide to days out that cost on a budget and save on travel with the LNER Family Return ticket.
Spending time together is one of the most important elements of family life.
Spending time together is one of the most important elements of family life and getting the best value for money possible will be more important than ever when you’re considering a family day out.
We want to help and have compiled a list of top tips and travel inspiration for those money-saving and memory-making trips.
Tips for travelling on a budget
Before you even get to your destination and start looking at attractions and things to do, you've got to think about the cost of travel.
Here are some helpful tips to know about travelling, especially with children, that will make it more affordable.
Budget friendly travel destinations
Once the capital of the North, York is one of England's most historic cities.
Photo credit: Make It York
From Vikings to chocolate, York's history is equal parts vast and fascinating. There's something for everyone, old and young.
Click read more for budget-friendly tips or book your journey to York.
The National Railway Museum in York is a fantastic way to spend a few hours, just a short walk away from the railway station. Best of all, there is no entry fee. You could combine it with a walk on the city’s medieval walls (also free), which offer great views and plenty of social-media-friendly selfie spots along its two miles.
Get lunch at Spark, an outdoor food court in York a five-minute walk from the Jorvik Viking Centre. Because it’s made up of a number of different outlets, you can put an economical lunch together by choosing a starter from one place, a main from another, a dessert from a third, and it’s great for sharing.
Buskers on every corner, free museums and plenty of outdoor space to enjoy.
Right in the heart of Yorkshire, Leeds has so much to offer, especially for those on a budget. Plus there are great value fares to be had, especially for families.
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Whether it's your first visit to Leeds or you're a regular visitor, you're sure to love this ever-changing city. Three staples of any visit to Leeds are the Leeds Armoury, Leeds Art Gallery and Leeds Museum, all of which have free entry.
Take a stroll over to Leeds Trinity shopping centre. Here you can usually stop and listen to a busker outside for a few minutes before heading up to Trinity Kitchen, a food hall with independent street food stalls. The perfect chance to try different cuisines!
Travel as far north on an LNER train as possible and venture all the way to Inverness - the gateway to the Highlands.
Photo credit: Visit Inverness Loch Ness
In Inverness, you're only a short journey away from the rolling mountainscape of the highlands, the mystical Loch Ness or the cultural and historical city centre.
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There are plenty of free things to do around Inverness. For example, you could explore Inverness’ Botanic Gardens, and put together a great-value picnic from the farmers’ market on the High Street (held on the first Saturday of each month) to enjoy there.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on Castle Wynd allows you to explore the unique history and culture of the Scottish Highlands, and it’s free to enter. Galleries feature both permanent and temporary exhibitions with works from local artists and those further afield.
Hop on a bus from the city centre to explore the battlefield at Culloden, where the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising took place in 1745. Or head a few miles south by bus to walk along the shores of Loch Ness. Peer out over the inky-blue waters to try to glimpse the famous monster – or at least take home a fridge magnet.
Find more tips at Visit Inverness Loch Ness.
Scotland's 'Sunniest City' is waiting for you.
Not only can you get a decent dose of vitamin D, but you can also soak in the architectural design that makes Dundee so unique.
It's a UNESCO city of design and is home to unique and award-winning buildings and museums.
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The city of “jam, jute and journalism” has plenty of fun things to do that won’t cost the earth. For example, the McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee Contemporary Arts, and the V&A Dundee are all free to enter.
For a tasty treat that will give you change from £2, pop into Fisher and Donaldson bakery on Whitehall Street for one of its famous fudge doughnuts, filled with a layer of custard inside and topped with a thick squidge of creamy fudge on top.
The city centre is easily walkable, but if you want to go slightly further afield – to explore the free-to-enter castle at Broughty Ferry perhaps – you can hire a bike from Dundee Cycle Hub on the waterfront (from £5 for a half day).
Check out xploredundee.com to see the local bus company’s money-saving deals. At the time of writing, “Wonderful Wednesdays” offer half-price entry to attractions such as RRS Discovery (the ship that took Captain Scot and his team on their ill-fated journey to Antarctica) and Verdant Works (to see how the jute industry brought great wealth to 19-century Dundee) for concessionary pass holders (up to two adults and two children) if you show a local bus ticket. Great for Grandparents treating grandkids to a day out.
dundee.com has a free list of tours, trails and walks in the city. For the best panoramic look out, head up to the Law, as Dundee’s highest point is known. It’s 572ft above sea level, so pace yourself.
Known for more than just its nightlife, Newcastle is great for families
There's so much to do in Newcastle. With loads of free museums and galleries, plus beautiful river walks.
Photo credit: NGI
Click read more for budget-friendly tips or book your journey to Newcastle.
Newcastle and Gateshead have a long list of free-to-enter attractions including the Great North Museum, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Discovery Museum, Laing Art Gallery, Lit and Phil Library, and The Biscuit Factory.
Check out the website of Nexus Tyne and Wear for travel deals on local buses and metro. For example, up to three kids (11 and under) can travel free on the metro when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. There are also money-saving offers for local attractions such as the Theatre Royal, Playhouse Whitley Bay and Sage Gateshead.
The centre of Newcastle is relatively compact. One way to explore is along the waterfront of the River Tyne by crisscrossing over its seven bridges: Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Tyne Bridge, Swing Bridge, High Level Bridge, Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, King Edward VII Bridge and Redheugh Bridge.
Want to visit the city voted in the top 10 of most romantic and most Instagrammed?
Photo credit: Visit Lincoln
With beautiful green spaces, a towering castle and filled with stunning riverside eateries, Lincoln should be high on your list of places to visit.
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If you’re using the city of Lincoln as a base from which to explore the county, grab a Lincs Pass (£9.99) which gives discounts on family attractions, restaurants and cinemas.
The grounds of imposing Lincoln Castle are free to enter - when there are no events going on – and make the perfect spot for a picnic. If you do want to explore further, a family ticket would save two adults and three children around £16 compared to buying individual entry, so be sure to ask at the entrance.
It’s about 15 minutes by bus from the centre of town to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life on Burton Road, which is free to enter and celebrates the culture of Lincolnshire from the mid-18th century to the modern day.
Get your daily exercise by walking up aptly-named Steep Hill, which, according to Ordnance Survey is the fourth steepest in the country, and is a link between the main shopping areas near the railway station and Lincoln Cathedral and Castle at the top. There are tea rooms and sweet shops along the way if you need an excuse to stop.
If you’re in town in December, the annual Christmas Market is free to wander around and is a great way to soak up some festive cheer.
Spend some time in the capital.
Photo credit: Photos London
Living the life in London doesn't have to be expensive. With 2FOR1 at attractions in London with your train ticket, travelling by train is even better value.
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With a bit of planning, Central London is more walkable than you might think. For example, Knightsbridge (where you’ll find swanky shops such as Harrods) to Piccadilly Circus is only about 30 minutes and takes you past Hyde Park Corner and Green Park. The Tate Modern gallery to Covent Garden along the River Thames and over Waterloo Bridge is about the same time.
Open-top sight-seeing buses are a lot of fun, but if you can do without the commentary just go upstairs on a regular double decker for some great views. For example, the Number 24 can take you past Westminster Abbey, Horseguards Parade, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and up by Camden Market to Hampstead Heath, while the 11 will show you Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England. Find fares at tfl.gov.uk.
The Underground has peak and off-peak times to travel, so you’ll save money on weekdays if you avoid 6.30-9.30am and 4-7pm. Children under 11 travel free on most public transport in London if accompanied by a fee-paying adult. Children aged under 15 can get free or discounted travel with a Zip Oyster photo card.
If you want to splash out on a posh meal, make it lunch not dinner, when fancy restaurants often have 3-course set deals for £35 or less (plus service), even at Michelin-star locations.
Westminster Abbey is £25 to enter, but free if you’re going to a service.
There are lots of world-famous museums and galleries that don’t charge to enter in London, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and Tate Modern – you’ll find a comprehensive list at visitlondon.com.
The Scottish capital, home to an ancient volcano and the Scottish Parliament.
There's so much to see and do in Edinburgh, with so many family-friendly activities that are perfect for exploring on a budget.
Click read more for budget-friendly tips or book your journey to Edinburgh.
The National Museum of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland (which include the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) are free to enter.
If you book online, all films at the Vue in the Omni Centre on Leith Street are £4.99.
In Edinburgh on a sunny day and want to tick off 10,000 steps on your fitness app? You could climb Arthur’s Seat – actually, an ancient volcano that was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design” – then amble down the magnificently-atmospheric Royal Mile and finish in the Botanic Gardens and some shopping on Princes Street.
If you’re struggling to find a decently-priced hotel room downtown, especially during the summer festival season, consider a B&B a short bus ride away in a neighbourhood such as Newington, or Portobello which also has its own sandy beach.
Visit the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse to enjoy old master paintings, rare furniture, decorative arts and images from the huge photo collection, and hang on to your ticket. At the end of your visit ask a warden to stamp it, which means you can come back as many times as you want during the next year for free.