Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Frugal educational trips: entrance fees

Some of the best educational trips are free but sadly, others can be expensive. For the parent looking at trips, entrance fees make up a large part of the expense.

These are a few thoughts on reducing costs. Most of these apply mainly to the UK-apologies to those readers from elsewhere. Please feel free to add your own tips!
  • Visit free venues. In the UK, many major museums are free as they are given tax breaks for not charging. They recoup costs in other ways-see later in the series! In London, the British Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert are amongst the free museums. Do note that special exhibitions within these free museums are usually not free.

  • Use vouchers. Tesco Clubcard and Nectar points can be a way of going to often expensive venues for less. Both can be used towards English Heritage membership and Clubcard points can go towards National Trust for Scotland visits. Amongst other sites that these schemes can be used for are Royal Horticultural Society membership which allows visits to their sites, Eurostar for European trips, the Eden Project, Warwick Castle, Sealife centres, Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Hampton Court Palace and more. I often have a visit or two waiting for sufficient points and with a largish family, waiting doesn't usually take long.

  • Visit before birthdays! Under threes and sometimes under fives go free. We have had several visits just before a child has turned three.

  • National Trust and/or English Heritage membership. Both these organisations run multiple historic sites. Both have annual family membership which dramatically reduces the cost of visits. We've found that the first year we have a membership, we use it and the membership pays for itself over and over but after this, there is a tendency not to use the membership to advantage. This may vary for different families. Some years ago, we had one year of National Trust membership followed by a year of English Heritage membership which worked well as they run different sites. There are sometimes offers allowing 15 months membership for the price of 12.

  • National Trust free weekend happens once a year, usually in the Spring. The dates for 2014 don't appear to have been announced yet.

  • National Trust and English Heritage have schemes for home educators. The National Trust scheme offers reduced cost membership but it can only be used in term time and not at weekends. It wouldn't work for us but may be useful for some families. English Heritage offer a scheme where groups of home educators are allowed free entry. I have been on trips arranged under this scheme and these have worked well.

  • 2 for 1 offer with National Rail. This offer allows two people to get into an attraction for the price of one with the appropriate voucher and their train tickets. Many, but not all, of these venues are in London. We have used this offer, though, for a trip to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth.

  • London Open House happens once a year. This is a weekend when buildings in London, many of them not usually open to the public, are open for free. To be honest, I've never been to one of these events as they seem to happen on a Saturday when we are busy and we don't do Sunday trips but some of the buildings sound fascinating.

  • Visit out of season. This doesn't work for many venues but zoos can be less expensive and less crowded in winter.

  • It is always worth checking the internet for other vouchers!
Please add your money saving ideas for entrance fees.


  1. Helpful information overall, but very disappointing to read of Tesco clubcards. Tesco supported a recent London "Gay" pride parade, and, some Tesco stores sell Halal-slaughtered meat. You may know that Halal slaughter is the Islamic method of slaughtering animals and it is cruel. We have not shopped in a Tesco store for many years because we discovered around about the year 2004, that they were providing contraception to under-age children. We don't shop at Asda either, for similar reasons.

  2. Thank you for commenting. My preference would be to shop in a supermarket which is run on Christian principles and doesn't make its staff work on Sundays. Sadly, the supermarkets that run on these lines are few and far between.
    In terms of the Halal meat, I wouldn't choose to eat it but believe that it is covered by 1 Corinthians 10 v 25.