Parenting is all about balance, isn’t it?
Like on the one hand, we want to give our little ones special half-term days out and magical memories. And on the other hand, we like having money left at the end of the month.
Let’s face it, days out in the UK can quickly become really expensive.
There’s petrol and parking, and the “bargain” clothes that your child is desperate for, not to mention attraction tickets and the ridiculous cost of eating out.
A Day in London – Without Breaking the Bank
This half-term, Flea and I headed to London with the aim of having a day out that wouldn’t break the bank.
I was feeling pretty good about partnering with National Rail on this post from the outset. The folks at National Rail invited us to take a complimentary trip using a Friends & Family Railcard, to see just how much we could save on a day out in London.
Travelling by train is definitely my preferred way to get to London. There’s no hassle with parking, congestion charges and busy streets. Just the chance to catch up on a box set, or a new book.
That said, train tickets can be horribly expensive, especially during the week. But with a Family & Friends Railcard, you can save up to a third on adult rail fares, plus up to 60% on children’s fares.
Family & Friends Railcard
We usually travel from Preston to London via train.
Those tickets would usually cost £139 (on off-peak trains) or over £300 (assuming we travel home on a peak-time train). Using a Family & Friends Railcard, the cost drops dramatically. Using off-peak trains, the cost is as low as £80, with peak-time tickets costing £170.
Considering the Family & Friends Railcard costs just £30, this is an absolute no-brainer.
Bonus fun fact: you can buy your Family & Friends Railcard in a digital format, meaning you get it instantly, and keep it on your phone. No more having to remember to pop it in your purse before a day out!
Getting a Family & Friends railcard can pay for itself on a single journey. Our trip to London was £130 cheaper, but that’s not all we saved.
Cheaper Days Out with Merlin and National Rail
Right now, National Rail has teamed up with Merlin so that you can save money on a range of London and UK attractions when you travel by train. We opted to go the London Eye, where our Railcard could have saved us up to £40 on a family ticket, thanks to the 2 for 1 offer (we were given complimentary tickets as part of this review).
You can also save money on loads of other London attractions, and Merlin-owned attractions around the UK. Find out more at the Days Out Guide website.
Getting a birds’ eye view of London is a great way to help children understand the layout of London, looking West up the Thames towards Wembley, and East past St Pauls. Try to go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
A Day Out in London for Teens
The weather this week has been lovely, and it was warm and sunny on the South Bank. We took some time to wander along the river, enjoying the street performers and buskers, before settling down with a drink to people watch.
Flea’s recently been fascinated by the idea of “thrift shopping” and I was keen to encourage any trend that might save me some money.
From South Bank, we took the tube to Covent Garden, and headed to Rokit. This vintage store claims to be “all killer, no filler” and Flea was in raptures over the rails of vintage jeans and sweaters. There’s even a section of the store where old 70s and 80s tees and sweaters have been cropped and cut to a more modern shape.
Flea ended up buying an oversize sweater and a pair of vintage Levis, and was unconvinced that these were EXACTLY the clothes I wore as a teenager.
We had time for a late lunch at Ed’s Diner in Covent Garden, a quick stop at a shoe shop for the new trainers Flea has been swooning over for weeks. Then we walked back to Euston in time for our 6pm train. By 8.30pm we were home, eating toasties in front of the telly, with Flea madly Snap-chatting her new trainers to show her friends.
Did We Save Money?
Our day in London wasn’t cheap. But this is mostly because “vintage” doesn’t necessarily cost any less than new clothes. Especially if you’re in super-trendy Covent Garden.
But we did save a load of money on tickets, using the Family & Friends Railcard. If you add up the saving on our train ticket and the London Eye admission, we saved over £150 on our half-term day out.
A cheap day out in London? Yes, it is possible. Just make sure you use a railcard!