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Low Cost Summer Holiday Activities


With the six-week summer holidays upon us, you’re no doubt thinking about activities to keep everyone entertained. Trips out with the kids can add up quickly and with the cost of living increase, our bank accounts drain quickly. However, having a summer of fun doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some summer holiday activities that won’t blow the budget.

Thanks to Sarah Thake – friend, crafting supremo and deviser of a 101 rainy day activities – for these great ideas.

13 cheap and cheerful summer holiday activities

Picnicking: house, garden and even the car!

We have the routine of eating dinner at the table so a chance to have a picnic is always exciting. The kids love helping me prepare the picnic then we pack it up and grab a ball or frisbee and visit a different park. You might find a new playground or daisies to make a daisy chain or the perfect place to make a den. My children enjoy a car picnic just as much, and it’s great if the weather isn’t playing ball. I fold the seats down and we sit in the boot.

You don’t even have to leave the house. Mine rarely get to have a TV lunch or dinner so a picnic rug in front of a film is a treat. You could even watch a film at night in the garden or make your own film and have a red carpet unveiling.

Treasure hunts, scavenger hunts and escape rooms

Treasure hunts around the house are another family friendly activity. I don’t have to write all the clues as the children like making them up as well. Alternatively, there are loads of online resources to provide a helping hand.

Scavenger hunts are a spin on this. Provide a list of items that everyone has to find in a certain time. The person who finds the most is the winner.

If the kids like solving problems then try an escape room. There are plenty of box sets online. Why not try geocaches – there are 8,391 around London alone?

Get busy in the kitchen or on an open fire

Summer holiday activities

Try out a new recipe. This is a great opportunity to make something new for dinner. The children love getting involved, even better if they have been somewhere to pick their own. If you prefer being outdoors, cooking sausages or meatballs on the fire is a great option. You can follow with a s’more made with marshmallows and digestive biscuits.

Set a challenge

Children love a challenge so use whatever they enjoy and make it more exciting with a competition for all the family. Set a theme and off they go. We’ve done everything from an animal Lego challenge and dress the Barbie using newspaper to making a house for a Guinea pig, cake decorating and make up/face painting competitions.

Starry, starry night

Enjoy the sky! There is nothing like enjoying the starry sky on a clear summer night. Download a star app on the phone to find out what you’re looking at or be the first to spot a satellite. If you live in the city perhaps take a drive (with a flask of hot chocolate) and find an alternative spot near open fields away from the light pollution and see what you can find.

Board games and quizzes

Summer holiday activities

Enjoy some family time and gather around the table for a fun board game. Play an old favourite or borrow a new one from someone else. You could even make your own!

Alternatively, make a quiz or get the children to make a quiz. Mine also love dressing up from famous films, songs and art and taking photos for our family quizzes.

Water play

My kids love water and spend hours playing in it on a hot day. Pack up your swimsuit, towel and sun cream and drive to a beach, river or lake. If sand puts you off try a free splash park, babbling brook or paddle in a stream or visit a local lido. Alternatively turn the garden into a water park with water guns, water balloons, sprinklers and a paddling pool. If the weather is rubbish put on your wellies and get them to jump in muddy puddles!

Arts and crafts

Get creative, encourage your children to use their imagination and have an arty afternoon. Pick up cheap supplies or use things you may ordinarily throw away and up-cycle them. Play with playdough, paint canvases, make cards, build sculptures from recycled rubbish, make beads from paper, do rock painting, create papier-mâché masterpieces, make soap/bath bombs or take fun photos that play with perspective and make an album.


Have fun making gifts; it’s never too early to get ready for Christmas! Make Christmas cards and wrapping paper by decorating brown paper. You could even make christmas pressies such as candle holders, calendars and bookmarks.

Plan a day

Summer holiday activities

Get the children to plan a day. It could be a spa day with face packs, a yoga session, massage and nail painting or a sports day with obstacle races, jumping and throwing competitions. You could even hold a pyjama day party and raise money for charity at the same time.

Visit a museum

Summer holiday activities
London Transport Museum

There are hundreds of museums up and down the country many of which are free. You could spend your day learning about a topic you don’t know much about or finding out more about one you do. It’s worth checking out the website before going as many have family events, activities and interactive exhibits scheduled to take place in the holidays.

Check out your local library

Local libraries are a great source of information and offer the chance to find a new favourite book. Many also provide a programme of free activities over the summer as well as their annual reading challenge.

Get close to nature

Summer holiday activities

Get closer to nature: try a sensory walk, go on a mini beast hunt or build a bug hotel. Make a bird feeder for seeds and fat and get bird watching; all kids need are their eyes and their ears. However, if you want to help your children get the most out of it then a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book from the library will help.

What are your favourite summer holiday activities that don’t break the bank? Feel free to add below in the comments 🙂


About Author

I’m Fran: wife, mother-of-three and freelance publicist. My love for communicating and writing mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. I love good food & wine, Italian culture and football and have a keen interest in personal finance. I also blog over on Epsom & Ewell Families and Habyts, and write sporadically for a number of other sites.

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