10 family days out for under £5 - how to enjoy the summer holidays on a budget

Making the most of the summer holidays on the seafront at Felixstowe

Making the most of the summer holidays on the seafront at Felixstowe

What are we doing today? A question every mum dreads during the school summer holidays.

Walberswick by Tim Murphy.

Walberswick by Tim Murphy. - Credit: citizenside.com

A day at the big theme parks can easily cost £150 or more for a family of four, and is fine for a treat but what about the other five and a half weeks?

Here we share 10 ideas for cheap days out.

A bucket and spade day:

Nothing beats a day on the beach and in Suffolk and Essex we are spoilt for choice. Frinton is a particular favourite.


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Free parking, shallow water, no gift shops to tempt the children – it’s a lovely spot.

Build a sandcastle at Frinton

Build a sandcastle at Frinton

There is a wide, sandy beach perfect for sandcastles, flying kites or a family game of cricket.

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Take a picnic, or splash out on a bag of chips - but watch the open times as the town’s only chip shop fries for just a few hours each day.

Don’t forget the suncream and a sunshade to protect you from the midday sun.

For alternative options, see our beach guide hereFruit picking:

Suffolk is the bread basket of England, so make the most of it and see what delights you can find at your local PYO farm.

Wheldons Farm at Newton Green or Spencers Fram at Wickham St Paul both do pick your own in the summer months and it needn’t cost too much if you keep it to a punnet per child.

PYO at Wheldon's Farm

PYO at Wheldon's Farm - Credit: Gregg Brown

It’s fun, outdoors and you have some lovely fruit to take home with you.

Check for council-organised activities:

Each Wednesday during August there are family fun days at Holywells park with a movie fun day, petting zoo visit and fairgorund themes planned for this summer.

Leisure centres offer rollerskating, archery, football, trampoling and fun splash sessions, all reasonably priced.

Alternatively, there is a Horrible History tour around Ipswich at a cost of £4 per person.

The Horrible History tours of Ipswich are always popular

The Horrible History tours of Ipswich are always popular

Or spend the day hopping on and off the open top bus around Ipswich - with a special group ticket available for just £4, and valid for the whole day.

Lose yourself, and a few hours, in a maze:

It seems the concept of getting lost is more appealing than ever, with maize mazes opening in Southwold, Witham and at Blake End, near Braintree for the summer break.

Entry to the mazes costs from around £3 to £6 per person.

Southwold maize maze - the maze takes on a different theme every year

Southwold maize maze - the maze takes on a different theme every year

Kids will burn lots of energy, and some mazes offer you the chance to collect stickers from each base.

And each site has plenty more to offer from the bouncy pillow and go-karts in Southwold, to duck racing, a straw bale mountain and quiz trails in Witham.

At Blake End there are craft barns to look around, an ice cream stall, a free adventure park and a crazy golf course, making it a whole day out.

Dump the car, and get out and about on two wheels:

Dig out your bikes and take in the views of Suffolk under your own steam.

Take in the action at Alton Water

Take in the action at Alton Water - Credit: Archant

A cycle ride along the Valley Walk into Long Melford and a picnic by Liston Mill guarantees a cheap but special day.

Or enjoy a trip to Alton Water at Holbrook to watch the water sports. The path is easy going for bikes, and the view over the lake is stunning.

Alternatively, cycle to the nearest park, it will always turn up something of natural interest.

Pop into your local library:

It wasn’t that long ago that libraries all over suffolk were facing the axe - so make the most of these priceless local amenities.

Framlingham library

Framlingham library - Credit: Archant

A trip to the library is very different to what it used to be. Story telling sessions, arts and crafts sessions and reading competitions are all hosted throughout the summer.

And as well as borrowing books, children can also take advantage of the CD and DVD collections.

Some Suffolk libraries even loan out iPads so you can try before you buy.

Crab fishing:

With miles of coastline, there are plenty of crabbing spots in Suffolk and north Essex - Maldon, Mersea and Felixstowe Ferry are particularly popular.

Crabbing is a childhood must.

Crabbing is a childhood must. - Credit: Archant

A ball of string costs less than £1, and you can usually find a bucket, net and suitable weight - a few large nuts work well - in your garden shed.

Most butchers will offer you scraps as bait for little more than a charity donation.

Get there two hours before high tide, as the tide comes in, so will the bites.

Remember some spare change for parking and to check the tides.

Make your own entertainment:

Rendlesham Forest could be the ideal backdrop to your very own movie

Rendlesham Forest could be the ideal backdrop to your very own movie

Suffolk is home to some amazing woodland - Thetford Forest, Combs Wood and Rendlesham Forest to name but a few.

And Liz Nice, managing editor at Archant Suffolk, explained that her children use these as the perfect backdrop for their own family movies.

“We made a movie in the woods by our house, written by and starring the children called Zombie Adventure! I don’t think Spielberg will be signing us up any time soon but we were stars and we loved it.”

If your off spring are more interested in sport than amateur dramatics, why not turn your garden into a sports field?

Liz said: “I also set up an obstacle course in the garden which got everyone involved, including my teenage nephews who became very competitive with my other half.”

Keep an eye out for different species at RSPB Minsmere

Keep an eye out for different species at RSPB Minsmere - Credit: Archant

Get back to nature at RSPB Minsmere:

RSPB Minsmere is perfect for those with younger children in tow, they have buggy-friendly paths meandering through the reserve and ramps up to some of the hides, meaning that you can enjoy a spot of bird watching if your little ones are calm enough.

The cafe has plenty of highchairs and the friendly staff make you feel welcome - and the fresh air is great for bigger children.

Under 5s get in for free, and there are all sorts of special events laid on for older children.

Take a step back in time - for free:

Christchurch Mansion, in Ipswich

Christchurch Mansion, in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Visit Ipswich Museum or Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, which have special events on during the summer.

These are free and ideal for wet-weather days, or if sun is shining you can turn a mornign out into a day-long adventure - get the bus into town to avoid paying parking, have lunch in the park and let the children burn off excess energy in Christchurch Park during the afternoon.

For more historical attractions in Suffolk and north Essex, see hereFor more summer fun, visit our summer pages here

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