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Share your top tips on Great British Days Out with your family and win a £100 National Trust voucher

(77 Posts)
TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-May-12 14:47:42

As part of the launch of their Great British Days Out Facebook app, the National Trust want to find out what you think makes a really good day out in Britain - we're thinking places to go, things to do, what to eat/drink etc etc.

Here's what the National Trust say about the app: "Just visit our new Facebook App to create your own dream event - design a truly memorable experience by selecting the theme and type of venue from a range of incredible National Trust places and choose which friends you'd like to invite."

What's the best day out you've had as a family in Britain? Why was it so good? Did anything particular happen that made it really memorable? Was there anything that made it particularly British?! If so, what was it?

What sorts of places do you like to go as a family? Do you like being outside, at the beach, in woodland or gardens? Or are you more into exploring buildings e.g. castles, churches, historical houses etc?

What are your top tips for making a family day out fun? Do you pack a picnic full of special treats? Do you dangle the carrot of a Mr Whippy for good behaviour?! Please share your pearls of wisdom!

Everyone who adds their comments to this thread will be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 National Trust voucher.

Thanks and good luck with the prize draw
MNHQ

TitanicMoviesAlwaysGoDownWell Tue 01-May-12 14:58:33

My tip is to take the filling part of your lunch as a packed lunch then you've got money left for the ice-creams etc. If you've shelled out for full lunch for everyone then you're going to feel like scrimping on the extras, but if everyone's filled up on rolls etc from home then slush puppies all round won't feel like the end of the world.

Jolyonsmummy Tue 01-May-12 15:05:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DameHermione Tue 01-May-12 15:34:34

Leave early so you miss traffic build ups and take a picnic so picky eaters don't make a fuss about there not being anything acceptable to eat.

BornSicky Tue 01-May-12 16:00:10

buy an annual membership, so that you can save on multiple visits to a good local venue. i live near the eden project and it's great to be able to just go for the day with a picnic. costs are reduced to fuel and snack/ice cream.

great to have indoor and outdoor space in case of lousy weather and child-friendly design really helps too.

i'd buy an annual membership to the NT, but there aren't any houses/gardens etc near me.

We usually like to go somewhere with lots of outdoor spaces for the dcs to run around in. Adventure playgrounds are a big hit, as are forest walks with coloured signposts for the dcs to find their way. They like castles and particularly like it when the castles give out an age appropriate quiz sheet or get them to look for specific things in each room. They like tours if the tour guide remembers there are also youngsters in the party.

We usually take a picnic with us and love it if there are good places to sit and eat it. This leaves money free for a cup of tea and a cake if it is cold or an ice cream if it is warm.

They particularly enjoy a day trip if there is a chance to interact with some wildlife along the way. Ants and ant hills are enough but frogs, Clydesdales, llamas, donkeys with foals etc have all made days out extra special for the children. That is very often the bit that they remember most vividly afterwards.

choccyp1g Tue 01-May-12 16:11:35

Don't bother going in the "Home" part of the Stately Homes, just enjoy the grounds and cafe.

(especially if you have boisterous children, who go on ahead of you leaving you stuck with the toddler and having a heart attack when you here security calling for help because something is broken...turned out they'd managed to bust the "touch this to see how fragile it is" exhibit)

TheProvincialLady Tue 01-May-12 17:10:16

I like historic places and luckily my children do too. Always take a picnic - not so much because of the price of buying it in the cafes but more because there is always a ridiculous queue which is unpleasant when you have already spent an hour making your children behave nicely indoors. Also, it's character building and leaves more money left over for ice cream etc.

I would say we like a range of environments - beaches, stately homes, gardens. The ones I find most stressful are formal gardens because my children think they are Outdoors and can therefore run wild. A play park is always appreciated but I don't expect it.

Our best day out was probably Calke Abbey. The boys loved it, the weather was gorgeous and there was so much space for them to run about and explore.

lynniep Tue 01-May-12 17:16:30

As a parent of young children (2&5) I always look for places that have room to run around and explore without being (too) dangerous (theres always an element of danger where my 2 yr old is involved)

They love just going to the woods to look for monsters. Give them a stick to fend off any baddies and they are happy. Preferably not near any water!

We recently went to dinosaur adventure in Norwich for the first time and I thought it was brilliant for children. Loads of climbing and sliding and hiding. Activities to do and animals (they saw a sheep give birth!) sadly now they no longer accept tesco clubcard vouchers.

I always have a bag full of sandwiches, snacks and drinks. That way I'm happy to buy them treats because they inevitably sniff out an ice-cream van or similar.

BenedictsCumberbitch Tue 01-May-12 17:59:22

Anywhere that is enclosed but seemingly spacious for my two. A good range of 'trails' and 'quizzes' and 'treasure hunts' is a big hit also. We always try and take a packed lunch but it would be great if there was always somewhere dry to eat it. More often than not it ends up a car picnic, we're the weirdos with the steamed up windows!

Things that the kids can get involved in without doing it wrong or can complete at their own pace are always good, adventure playgrounds are great but in inclement weather can be less fun.

We're members of a local farm, and visit regularly as they always have themed events.

Firawla Tue 01-May-12 18:00:05

for us somewhere with outside space is the best, eg space for children to run about
we dont normally bring a picnic but we started doing this recently and saved a lot of money, and was fun to eat it outside so we might start doing that a bit more often
i like to go somewhere that is quite focused and catering towards kids, so does have playgrounds or exhibits specifically for children otherwise they get bored eg if i just took them to a stately home i think they may find it boring and i would be worried about them touching things - so other than outside places i like interactive kids museum type places eg science museum or london transport museum. places with things they can touch and do, not just look

Freeze small cartons of juice and stash them in the picnic bag. They keep the food cool and fresh and you have lovely cold juice by lunchtime.

And countdown to leaving time (it is entirely acceptable to claim the NT property you are visiting closes at 2pm if your children are too young to read the sign that says they close at 5 if they are being little sods). But in any case 'we are leaving in ten minutes, one more go on the swings etc.' is better than a sudden removal.

Snapespeare Tue 01-May-12 18:31:49

Part of the fun is a rainy day by the beach, with amusement arcades & little cafes to shelter in (drinks only, we packed our lunch! ) & somewhere with a park, preferably with a petting zoo.

MegBusset Tue 01-May-12 18:32:36

We like to go to the beach or walks round the broads - if you take a picnic and Thermos then apart from the occasional parking fee, they're free! We are NT members but our closest places are an hour's drive away so tend to be reserved for holidays. Nature reserves are good as they have loads of space, mine are generally happy romping through the woods although they do like an organised trail.

We subscribe to the school of thought that small children are like dogs: if you want them to sit and stay they need to have a good run about and chase a ball for a while firstgrin
Great family days out usually involve a car picnic, gift shop money comes out of their chores money (that makes them think whether they really need it), and a good run about in a large area.
We use the parcel shelf of the boot as a picnic preparation and service area, with DH as head chef.

Iggly Tue 01-May-12 19:10:33

Our best day out was a simple thing really - a walk through woods with wooden animal statues dotted along so our 2 year old could run about and find them. He also liked climbing on them especially the wooden crocodile which he fed with pine cones grin there were pushchair friendly paths - nice and wide for ds to run on and if we needed to we could pop ds in his pushchair for a bit. We brought our own food but an onsite cafe with child friendly snacks would have topped it off although not the be all and end all.

Days out need lots of stuff with two little ones (now have a baby and toddler), so as long as there are toilets we're fine. Ds can be cajoled to keep going with promises of snacks although we tend to go for places which he'd like anyway eg farmland with animals, seaside for digging sand/stones etc. I'd say take a toddler outside, let them splash in muddle puddles, dig in the mud with sticks, build sandcastles or look for animals and the day should pass quite quickly!

everythingtodo Tue 01-May-12 19:33:32

Take a large flask of coffee - it makes a cold dreary day so much better!

CMOTDibbler Tue 01-May-12 19:41:57

My top tip is really comfortable shoes. You'll look more stylish in wedges, but with trainers or walking boots on you'll be much less ratty by the end of the day.
An emergency few carrier bags rolled up tight at the bottom of your bag take up no space and let you sit comfortably on wet ground.
And a secret stash of sweets can save the day when overtired children have to walk a long way back to the car grin

mamaduckbone Tue 01-May-12 19:52:16

Always take a picnic and water bottles.
Don't plan to do too much - most things take longer than you think and it's disappointing if you were hoping to visit x,y and z and you only manage x.
Let small boys loose in woods and they will be happy for HOURS - sticks, dens, climbing = very happy!

maples Tue 01-May-12 20:28:31

Lots of nappies are a must grin

JeanBodel Tue 01-May-12 21:34:03

If there are entrance fees we pretty much only go if we're going to buy a season ticket. We currently hold season tickets to two places; when they run out we'll replace them with somewhere else. Season tickets rock. Entrance prices for only one day do not.

Leading on from this, there has to be some sort of undercover fun so we can have fun in the middle of winter, or the English monsoon season.

My eldest child is 5 so atm we wouldn't consider anywhere without a playground. That's the main attraction as far as the kids are concerned.

They do like animals, but can only look at so many before getting bored. They love the boat ride at Longleat as this is a real adventure for them.

The onsite shop must stock appropriate emergency supplies of clothing, ie wellies and umbrellas in the rain, sunhats and sunglasses in the summer. I would have spent so much money recently if I had been able to buy dry socks and wellies for the kids, but the shop was only selling stupid branded hoodies and other various tat.

severnofnine Tue 01-May-12 21:54:19

My top tip would be how to save money ( sorry thats probably what you dont want to hear, national trust) as it can get very expensive to have a good day out.

Always take your own drinks and food. Sometimes a cafe looks great but a trip to a posh cafe always ends in angst with the children..... and it costs A LOT to buy drinks and food for all 5 of us. Every child ( from age 4 up) has their own bag/ backpack with water bottle, food and waterproof/ hat depending on weather. that way I am not overloaded like a pack horse!

On a nice day a trip to the seaside is cheap. When the weathers like this a trip to somewhere like the science museum is always good.... even with the travel costs if you take a picnic they have indoor picnic areas to sit in so dont have to spend lots on food and drinks.

There are some great free similar museums in cambridge which people dont seem to know about.... they have treasure hunts and activities to do. In fact I think my favourite day out was a trip to the fitzwilliam museum followed by a run around and picnic in the botanical gardens. We had crisps and strawberries for lunch... not very healthy but very enjoyable smile it was sunny then though smile

UseTheForce Tue 01-May-12 23:14:18

One wee tip is to play who can keep quiet the longest in the car, journey out and back. Some of you might be amazed at how long the kids keep stum. Dangle the Haribo sweets before you start!

PurpleHat Tue 01-May-12 23:20:09

Make up a bottle of squash and pop it in the freezer overnight, it will thaw gradually as the day goes on.

Consider the places you are likely to visit, and then think about how often you are likely to go in a year. In my experience if you plan to go at least 3 times then an annual ticket is a worthwhile investment.

If you take a packed lunch, use tin foil/cling film rather than lunchboxes which means you are less likely to be left carrying rubbish around with you all day!

I put satsumas in the freezer the night before- they make a nice 'ice pop' type healthy snack thus saving the temptation of sugary, expensive ice lollies.

AliceInordnung Tue 01-May-12 23:36:33

We find it pays to plan throughly before we go so we know where to park, what times things are happening, lists of satnav addresses, where to buy food etc. Saves lots of time and stress, although sometimes it is a bit over-organised and I feel the spontenaity had gone out of the day. But it's better than being spontaneously lost or lacking a loo.

Tripadvisor is useful for not only holidays but activities and restaurants too. I'd rather research a recommended place to eat than take pot luck.

We have a sturdy rucksack that dh humps around full of drinks and snacks, to make sure we're well-fed and watered - fresh air seems to stimulate the appetite.

We like lots of activity and mental stimulation - so back-to-back museums, etc - we'll pack in so much into one day. If there's a walk through a wood or on the beach it has to be balanced by poking round shops or getting a history fix. Couldn't stare at the sea all day! We like Go Ape or canoeing type things - playing old-fashioned games like coits or croquet at NT properties is fun.

WannaBeWildCosMyLifesSoTame Wed 02-May-12 07:37:25

Our best days out have generally been at 'non organised' places where we can walk or bike ride without seeing many other people - none of us is fond of crowds! Sometimes though, the best days are at places everyone goes to because they are so great you just can't miss them. We went with a group of friends to Dovedale in Derbyshire last year and had an absolutely brilliant time. It's so beautiful and with lots to keep everyone happy - stepping stones and paddling for the kids, challenging hill/mountain to climb for the blokes and a nice place to eat your picnic and get an ice cream for greedy me smile

We find it harder to keep DD amused on days out as she's getting older unless friends come along but one thing that never fails is any kind of trail/quiz - she would walk round anywhere if it meant answering some questions/looking for clues and getting a small prize at the end! I understand NT places are very good at this but we have never joined because there aren't many properties near us - seriously considering it this year though because so many of our friends are members and it would mean we could all meet up at NT places for a cheapish day out.

My top days out tip is to keep loads of stuff in the car - wellies, raincoats, suncream and hats, bats and balls, picnic rug, kite, frisby etc so wherever you end up and whatever the weather is like you are always prepared.

ripsishere Wed 02-May-12 07:50:06

DD loves quizzes. Even if there isn't a prize at the end, she will go and find the answers to questions. She is almost 11.
If we do go out, I always take a packed lunch and some pop. She so seldom gets fizzy drinks, that is often more of a treat than the place we are visiting.

ripsishere Wed 02-May-12 07:51:06

At the end, we play spot the stuff we've seen internationally. You'd be surprised at how the same tat appears in museums in Switzerland, Belgium and Thailand. Must be a supplier of stuff somewhere that sells to all.

Mama1980 Wed 02-May-12 09:17:14

Top tip is definitely to buy annual tickets/passes. My children 14 and 4 live going out. The list of all the memberships we have is ridiculous. We visit a lot of museums and castles, ds 4 is particularly keen on historical reenactments so we go to hampton court when they have their joust, Warwick when the warriors are there etc. the festival if history is a pretty cheap and awesome day with something for everyone.

Pozzled Wed 02-May-12 09:44:43

We live near London, so loads of fab days out in easy reach. My DDs are young (oldest is 3.8) so I try to keep it pretty low-key and relaxed. The best combination for us is starting with a mentally stimulating/interesting place like a museum, and then moving outside to a park when it starts to get too much.

Favourites are:

Science Museum (transport hall and 'The Garden' toddler area) followed by Princess Diana Playground.

National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Park

South Bank- Golden Hinde (a 'real-life pirate ship' in DD's eyes!) and then the area by the London Mayor's offices- there are some fantastic fountains here that you can play in, young children will be happy for hours on a hot day.

My top tips would be:
Don't feel under pressure to do/see everything, watch the children and stop as soon as they get bored or tired.
Take plenty of snacks, drinks and something to do in case of queues, like a magazine or children's smartphone app.
Make eating as informal as possible- pref sandwiches in a park somewhere, or fast food if you have to go indoors- nothing worse than trying to entertain tired young children while you wait for food in a quiet restaurant.

What's the best day out you've had as a family in Britain? Why was it so good? Did anything particular happen that made it really memorable? Was there anything that made it particularly British?! If so, what was it?

We have had so many lovely days out that it is hard to pick one. I guess the one that stands out most is a day trip we had to the Cotswolds and a walk up to Bellas Knapp. We stopped off and bought some really lovely munchies at a deli that we passed, and that sat in some woods with our picnic table and chairs, drinking and eating, followed by a stroll up the site. We attracted a few odd looks because neither of us had planned to go for a picnic or walk in the woods and were dressed rather smartly, OH in a suit and me in a floaty dress. It just felt terribly British to be having an eccentric picnic.

What sorts of places do you like to go as a family? Do you like being outside, at the beach, in woodland or gardens? Or are you more into exploring buildings e.g. castles, churches, historical houses etc?

He likes castles, I like houses, we both like churches. When it's sunny we love gardens. As we work full-time our time together as a family is incredibly precious so we make the most of it by having fun days out whenever and wherever we can.

What are your top tips for making a family day out fun? Do you pack a picnic full of special treats? Do you dangle the carrot of a Mr Whippy for good behaviour?! Please share your pearls of wisdom!

I always pack snacks for the car and a drink. Ice cream or a cream tea are a must so we factor in expenses for treats. Our top tip would be to get a really good map book of Britain and choose a general direction, look for places that may be of interest but don't be afraid to head off in another direction if you see an interesting signpost.

Roseformeplease Wed 02-May-12 10:30:50

We like to go places where there is loads to see and talk about afterwards and where the children enjoy looking as we do. We loved Hadrian's Wall, Castles, Science things. We tend to eat a huge, late breakfast or take sandwiches so that we can save our pennies for the lovely tea rooms or coffee shops that always come in or near the best places to visit.

Pinot Wed 02-May-12 14:19:53

Don't plan it too far in advance - often the best days are the ones you just wake up feeling motivated, grab some drinks and sandwiches from the local shop and drive to somewhere. It's spontaneous and that's what makes it fun.

And we always always buy a magnet for the fridge everywhere we go. It's a cheap reminder of happy times.

FreePeaceSweet Wed 02-May-12 14:52:43

If you want to take pasta in your picnic but don't because of the mess serve it up in disposable cups rather than on plates.

In the summer raid the reduced aisle of the supermarket and buy anything that you can make into sandwiches or can be eaten cold in a picnic. Make up various batches of sandwiches and apportion things like mini sausage rolls, cooked chicken legs etc into bags and freeze. These can be taken out the night before or even in the morning. Once defrosted they can be eaten and they'll be cool. Just make sure to throw away leftovers as these can't be refrozen.

Make up a small first aid kit with plasters, sudocrem, antibacterial wipes, a bandage and paracetamol. I use an old pencil case and keep it in my bag. You never know when it'll come in handy.

If you're in the car or pushing a buggy take a golf or fishing brolly. Instant shade or shelter for everyone.

If you're a distance from home take the kids pyjamas and get them changed before you come home. They can fall asleep in the car and you don't have to faff getting them ready for bed. You can just drop them straight in there when you get home.

Buy a picture postcard of the place you have visited and write the date and a memorable comment. My mum did this when we were kids. I never anticipated how much I would love going through them as an adult. Some comments simply said "Home. Now. VODKA!" grin

To always take the following:

A towel
Wellies
Puddlesuit and umbrellas
Sun cream
Sun hat
Ball
Sandwiches
Thermos
An emergency chocolate bar

SurvivalOfTheUnfittest Wed 02-May-12 20:50:51

Buy an annual membership and then you can go back even for an hour just to blow the cobwebs away. We like the gardens more than the houses as are worried the dc would break something!
We take our own food due to allergies. Some places do gluten free things. If they could just be dairy free too we'd be made up!
We really like to find a playground-like at Coughton or Waddesdon - or some animals. Then we barter for time walking and admiring the gardens while they get time to play and climb.
Liking the 50 things to do booklet at the mo.

Definitely being outside, with lots of safe space for DS (18 months) to run around. Gardens, parks, seaside all great. We take a packed lunch with lots of snacks (on a budget!) but will normally end up treating ourselves to tea and cake :D

My main bugbear is when places get really busy - then it becomes stressful rather than a nice day out. So to be honest we tend to avoid popular attractions at weekends or bank holidays and will use our holiday in the week to go places - better traffic, quiet, get to see things better, feels more like 'our own' special day.

zipzap Wed 02-May-12 21:59:14

I have a kit of things that I take with me in the car when we are going out for a trip or on holiday to make life easier.

I have a small plastic tray, a teatowel and one of those jolly coloured knives with a cover, that I can then use to cut up fruit/food on the go as necessary (obviously when dh is driving - not when I am grin) - cucumbers go down very well, as do red peppers. I wash and de-seed anything before we set off then I can just cut chunks as we go and pass them out without having any rubbish to worry about.

Cucumbers are also good when it is hot as they are nice and refreshing but don't spill grin

I take either the 99p for 6 ikea plastic beakers that everyone has with me or some disposable cups and use them to hand any food back to the dc instead of plates - easier for them to hold, less likely for food to fall off and if they do get dropped, tend to be less messy.

Smarties are another essential - for 'who can make their smarties last the longest' competition (aka who can stay quietest for the longest time) - also works with other sweeties, twiglets, etc and very useful for tricking the dc into thinking they are getting a treat when actually mummy is enjoying the peace

Finding music for the car that everyone likes is another challenge - having once suffered a long journey with a sil (who I had never previously met) who insisted on a 30 minute nursery rhyme tape to be played on a loop for her 2 yr old. arrgh. anyhow, that made me vow to introduce the dc to my nice music from the word go, so I never had to suffer a similar journey.

we have young kids so currently don't really do the historic house thing much - we did take them to a roman re-enactment day that they enjoyed that was on locally and they enjoy going to places with big gardens to run around in, especially if there are hidden corners to explore and maybe a trail or worksheet to fill in as you go to give a bit of a purpose to their running around!

zipzap Wed 02-May-12 22:08:11

oops, forgot to add

In the boot I always keep a cheap football and a couple of tennis balls, frisbee, kite (all supermarket cheapies), an old comic for each child, an old notebook and pack of cheap crayons, couple of biros, an old towel, a first aid kit, sun cream, water-free hand cleaning gel, tissues, a handful of plastic bags, a couple of big bin bags (all bags tied up nice and tiny), a small camping chair for each of us (m&s were doing them as freebies when you bought a handful of deli stuff one year before the credit crunch hit in) and a couple of waterproof-backed picnic rugs so that you are covered for most eventualities - hot, cold, wet, dry, games for inside and outside, stuff to bag up wet/dirty clothes or rubbish or use bin bags as rain covering or sledges in extreme weather conditions...

ImaginateMum Thu 03-May-12 01:09:43

What's the best day out you've had as a family in Britain?

Studland Bay last May

Why was it so good?

Glorious, glorious weather and the sea so calm and warm that children could pootle about in an inflatable boat quite safely.

Did anything particular happen that made it really memorable?

See above

Was there anything that made it particularly British?! If so, what was it?

I grew up in NZ. So being at a beach but ALSO having access to a cafe, a shop, and a clean(ish) loo is unsurpassed British luxury!

Brockle Thu 03-May-12 08:24:26

Money is tight so we do try to go to places with low or no entrance fees. My eldest is six so MOSI in Manchester is brilliant. We often visit stately homes for the grounds really. We love Tatton Park in Knutsford. I have been many times with the kids because there is so much to do. A great adventure playground, lovely grounds, gardens and deer. They have a farm too which is very rreasonably priced.

I think National Trust should look at creating covered picnic areas in the grounds of their stately homes. We always take a picnic and the boys enjoy seeing what I have brought as there is always a box of treats. Picnics are a problem if the weather isn't good but places like the NRM at York and Chester Zoo have covered picnic areas which are great for providing some protection from the elements. If we take a picnic we usually buy icecreams and coffees as the day wears on.

Also comfy seats in their restaurants for breastfeeding would be a great idea. I have breastfed in a number of strange places but comfy seats in cafes reserved for breastfeeding mothers would be great.

Brockle Thu 03-May-12 08:24:28

Money is tight so we do try to go to places with low or no entrance fees. My eldest is six so MOSI in Manchester is brilliant. We often visit stately homes for the grounds really. We love Tatton Park in Knutsford. I have been many times with the kids because there is so much to do. A great adventure playground, lovely grounds, gardens and deer. They have a farm too which is very rreasonably priced.

I think National Trust should look at creating covered picnic areas in the grounds of their stately homes. We always take a picnic and the boys enjoy seeing what I have brought as there is always a box of treats. Picnics are a problem if the weather isn't good but places like the NRM at York and Chester Zoo have covered picnic areas which are great for providing some protection from the elements. If we take a picnic we usually buy icecreams and coffees as the day wears on.

Also comfy seats in their restaurants for breastfeeding would be a great idea. I have breastfed in a number of strange places but comfy seats in cafes reserved for breastfeeding mothers would be great.

notcitrus Thu 03-May-12 09:59:59

Take supply of snacks.
Especially in London but also other places like IoW, go by public transport as it's more fun, kids can jump about and use up energy, and you can slump with a coffee...
Look where toilets are en route, so you aren't running around a museum searching.
Leave before kids get too tired, so the journey home doesn't have meltdowns. Unless you have the car and can fall asleep.

For venues, doesn't matter so much as long as they publicise what is and isn't there and live up to that.

Tamoo Thu 03-May-12 10:16:28

I try to make sure we only go on holiday outwith Summer, because Britain is so beautiful in those months. We live in a city so for us the best days out are heading out of town. We like historic buildings (prefer old ruins as DS isn't quite old enough to appreciate tapestries and 18th century side tables) and places with good stories to tell, the mankier the better from DS's point of view (prisons, dungeons, places of executions, etc...!)

I'm very organised with regards to directions and scheduling; if we've got a few days to go out and about I make an itinerary smile

I always take snacks and drinks because DS always wants something in the car, also it's not always easy to eat cheaply/plentifully, depending on where you are. If we are going to the beach we stop on the way and get a giant picnic from a supermarket. In really hot weather it's nice to freeze drinks in advance, they melt over the course of the day but stay cool.

JS06 Thu 03-May-12 15:01:31

We try to let our two children (girl 13, boy 15) take a friend on day trips. It makes it a bit more expensive but we all enjoy the day, the children seem to be on better behaviour, there is a relaxed calm about proceedings and everyone seems to get a bit more out of it.

disparatefishwife Thu 03-May-12 16:07:30

I second the posters who suggest taking as much of your own snacks as possible. enjoy the cafes for the cake bits and a scrummy latte (hot beverages never taste the same from a flask!)
My other tip is check out your venue online before you go as you might get lucky with a family reduction voucher.
Happy visiting!

ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Thu 03-May-12 19:21:11

We generally like outdoor places with lots of space to walk/run about.

Any form of wildlife is also a big plus - anything from ponds to farms, and ds will never say no to any kind of playground.

Eldest dc is 4 and very active, so in general indoor spaces, especially stately homes etc are more stressful than fun. He loves natural history/geology/zoology museums but it can be a scramble to keep track of him in there. He's not so keen yet on art museums.

We always take food if we possibly can, as it tends to be expensive and often there are not enough healthy choices for children at 'attractions'.

mumah Thu 03-May-12 19:40:01

We have a NT annual pass and my top tip would be to keep an eye on the website for various events happening at your local gardens/homes. We have had lovely days out but then gone back and had even more fun the next visit when we have gone back for things like Santa trails, pumpkin day and apple harvest.

Also don't bypass the stately home just because you have a little one in a buggy. The lovely people at Basildon Park, came over to us in the cafe and offered us a Hippychick hip carrier if we fancied it. Lovely service!

RainQueen Thu 03-May-12 20:20:22

We always take a picnic and will maybe buy an icecream as a treat. NT places are great and good value. We take bikes for the kids and wear them out.

mckenzie Thu 03-May-12 20:42:39

we keep a box with scraps of paper in it for ideas for days out, inside and outside. IF we're bored one day and can't decide what to do someone picks a piece of paper and we all do whatever comes out. It might be a country walk, a trip to a museum, a trip to a certain tube station followed by an explore and a discovery.
I also like to go back to the good old cheap days out ideas and show our children that even though we might not have had a DS, an iPad or even a car we were able to have great fun with a bucket, some string, the sea and a pair of plastic shoes. Also, for miserable kids who think wherever you are going will be boring, take a friend or join up with another family. It seems to make a big difference.

Karenkz Thu 03-May-12 21:53:26

My best day out is to go somewhere where everyone else isn't! We pack a picnic hamper and head out to a river where we can hire a rowing boat and go for a 'Floating Picnic'. Setting off out into the quintessentially British countryside we have our picnic whilst floating along in scenery which could have been lifted straight out of 'Wind in the Willows'. A truly enjoyable day for the whole family.

Floating picnics

We love the gardens or play areas. Anywhere they can muck about or run around. There have been some fantastic play areas built over the last few years. We also like doing forest trails on foot or on the bikes.

Saying that, we went to a local, small theme park recently aimed at younger children and had a fantastic day out. All the dcs had a great time and with an age range from 3 to 16 keeping them all happy is not easy.

The other safe bet of a good time is swimming. It really tires them out too! smile

gigismummy Fri 04-May-12 08:33:16

ROCK HUNTING. Yay!!! With a million things you can do after.
First go to the geology map...
maps.bgs.ac.uk/geologyviewer/
Choose your preferred destination.
To make sure the rocks are accessible, pinpoint a quarry, roadworks or beach.

Pack a picnic, or even a tent. Get beautiful rocks from all over the country on different days and use them to make castles (really lovely tactile sensation for kids and better than plastic - though obviously not if you have a thrower).
You can learn how old they are, how they were made, whether there are dinosaurs nearby, or even whether there are dinosaurs in them!!!!

Our recent destinations were Worthing beach (fabulous lightweight chalk with millions of tiny holes - feels very tactile and scope for wonderful pavement art. Great for my two year old).
The Malverns - stunning volcanic rocks of about 600 million years old!!! They also look like a rainbow of colours when wet.
Buckinghamshire flint (from a roadworks site) which is nodulous and almost like a jigsaw to play with.
Broadstairs beach - more gorgeous chalk with bigger holes that you can even string together.

BiscuitNibbler Fri 04-May-12 09:06:35

I always have a waterproof picnic blanket in the car so even if we don't plan a picnic or on a grey day we can always have somewhere to sit - often all the benches and tables are full.

For days out I pack lots of finger foods in ziploc bags so we don't have to carry empty lunch boxes around with us.

I leave an insulated flask of cold water in the car so that there is always a lovely cold drink waiting for us back in the car at the end of a long day.

We have an annual pass to a local theme park so if the weather is unexpectedly good we can always have a "free" day out at the last minute.

We always try to find somewhere that has a play area or somewhere that DD can run around like a loon - once she's burnt off some energy she is more likely to behave well in more "boring" bits.

We do tend to avoid busy times, and if somewhere is having an event we tend to miss out because we can't bear the thought of the crowds.

ShatnersBassoon Fri 04-May-12 09:32:00

Always be prepared for the worst, then you won't be disappointed. Work on the following assumptions:

- The weather won't be the same on arrival as when you set off
- The cafes will be awful and/or overpriced
- Your children will drink twice as much as they usually do
- Someone will fall in mud/a body of water
- Someone will be sick

I keep rain ponchos, a stock of cartons of drink, sun lotion, a picnic blanket, a small towel (for wiping down wet slides, swings, benches etc), wipes and an assortment of spare clothing in the boot for those times when the day out isn't quite what you anticipated.

EauRouge Fri 04-May-12 12:02:01

Outdoor spaces are best for us with an energetic 3.6yo.

I think my top tip would be to be as flexible as possible and always have a plan B. Look up other places to go in the area that you're travelling to, just in case, and check that places are open before you hit the road.

Take clothes for every possible type of weather and plenty of snacks and drinks for everyone- people get cranky when they are hungry and thirsty.

Belo Fri 04-May-12 13:05:22

For country walks, we like to take one of the Osbourne spotters guides with us. That gets them tip toeing along, trying to spot birds ore looking at all the trees, trying to identify the leaf shape. Before we know it, they've walked the X miles which we never thought they would!

gilliancd Fri 04-May-12 16:32:32

We've just signed up to the national trust as I fallen in love with Fountains abbey. First sight of the sun and we are off there now!

lorisparkle Fri 04-May-12 21:18:37

Our top tip is to get the family National Trust Membership as a Christmas present. My parents give us ours for the whole family and then a few small presents for the day. We are lucky to have loads of great places near us so it makes for a great present that lasts through out the year, does not take up any room in the house and is enjoyed by everyone!

We have recently been to Coughton Court and Snowshill Manor and are going to Baddesley Clinton tomorrow. The Easter Egg Hunts and other special events are great. Our boys love looking for clues and hidden things around the houses and gardens.

jubilee10 Sat 05-May-12 07:37:54

The National Trust has so many different places to visit which, with a family like ours, is essential. We have teenagers and a little one so finding something to suit everyone can be difficult. The family membership makes it affordable and it can be used all over the country. Just grab a picnic and go!

aristocat Sat 05-May-12 14:36:21

We have been to so many lovely places it is hard to choose one. Our favourites at the moment are Warwick Castle and Alton Towers! We usually take a picnic and this is always a success.
We also love animals and/or wildlife - the DCs are very interested in learning more and more about them.
I prefer outdoor places to be honest so that the DCs can burn off some energy.
Another super trip was to Chester Zoo - definitely recommend this one.

My top tip is to have a stash of essentials in the car boot .... sick bags, water bottles, football, frisbee, sun cream, wet wipes, old towel, hand-gel, spare clothes.
We always have an ice-cream at the attraction (if not 2 blush) ....

ScorpionQueen Sat 05-May-12 18:04:32

Always take drinks and snacks but be prepared to pay for a treat.

Let the kids take a friend so they don't spend the day moaning about how bored they are.

Our top day out is getting the train to London and visiting one of the museums- Kensington Palace is next on our list. A picnic breakfast on the train (or a fry up just outside Paddington), walk through Hyde Park and feed the squirrels, a museum, lunch, then a trip to Harrods or Hamleys, back to Paddington on the tube and home on the train with Krispy Kremes and coffee.

mythical Mon 07-May-12 14:25:47

Planning ahead helps a lot!
We always take snacks and drinks with us and comfortable shoes/change of clothes!
And of course, waterproof clothing, you never know if the weather will stay nice or not!

jennywren123 Tue 08-May-12 09:09:50

My tip is to involve the children in the planning as much as possible. If your destination has a website, look at it and see if there is a downloadable activities pack, or even better a trail or map. See if they can plan your route. If you need to use public transport, give the older children a challenge to read the timetables and come up with the best way of getting there.

Beach on a cloudy day. I hesitate to share this tip as I hate crowded beaches. But it can be warm an dry, but a bit of cloud and the crowds stay away.

thanksamillion Tue 08-May-12 11:30:29

My top tip if you've got small DCs would be to use public transport if at all possible (and i know that for lots of places it isn't). Mine love to go on the train and/or bus and frankly anything you do when you actually get to the destination is a bonus as they've already had the excitement of the journey.

Kveta Tue 08-May-12 11:32:59

for us, the best day out is affordable, has somewhere covered where we can eat our own picnic, and has a variety of items in any gift shop - preferably a lot of cheaper tat stuff aimed at small children which we can then offer as bribery to get DS to leave.

I think once the children are older, our ideas about an ideal day out will change - but at the moment, we are looking for toddler friendly places, so don't want to pay an arm and a leg for entry, only to find that the child has fallen asleep/wet himself gratuitously all over the entrance hall/decided today is the day for the most epic tantrum yet.

The best one recently was a miniature railway - cheap rides on a small train, with plenty to do in the grounds, and a lovely gift shop (although we managed to avoid buying anything this time!).

Worst have been wildlife parks, which are always phenomonally expensive to get into, then utterly miserable as you walk round seeing these splendid wild animals stuck in a small enclosure walking round and round in circles behind signs talking about conservation.

I don't have a tip really, except to avoid wildlife parks.

sphil Tue 08-May-12 16:37:10

Best day out for us at the moment is Charmouth beach, next to Lyme Regis. We get there early and park the camper van on the very edge of the car park, right next to the beach. Pop the roof and make bacon sandwiches and tea. Then I get an hour or so fossil hunting on my own, which is my absolute passion, while DH reads the newspaper and watches the DSes on the beach plays with the DSes on the beach. Soup and cheese for lunch, then more beach, damming the stream, running down the grassy hill, rockpooling, bodyboarding if it's sunny. Ice cream in the afternoon and then home - if it's a nice day the light is always beautiful on the way home, golden on the Dorset fields. Bliss.

sphil Tue 08-May-12 16:40:24

Whoops forgot tips. Take own food, plenty of spare clothes and get where ever you're going early - crowds never seem to appear before 11!

I always take a flask of tea for me & my girls' waterproof all-in-ones. At 5 & 3 they love charging about but since it often rains the suits ensure they can just keep playing in comfort.

In bad weather we love Sudbury. Woodland playground, picnic space and the museum for a session of dressing up and telling stories.

In great weather you can't beat Belton House near us for play heaven for children!

Silverlace Tue 08-May-12 19:23:02

We like anywhere where my boys can run round and burn off energy. Parks, gardens, beach, woods. We also like a bit of entertainment eg playground. Belton House is great for this

I always plan ahead, take loads of food and drink and at least one change of clothes and always a flask so we can have a hot drink. I usually take savoury food and then buy an ice cream or cake later.

One of our best days out is in Wales at Coppett Hall beach near Saundersfoot. There is a car park, small shop and toilets. When you have had enough of the beach you can walk to Saundersfoot for fantastic fish and chips. The beach itself is brilliant, large, flat, clean with a few cliffs and rockpools. Best of all there is a stream which the boys can spend all day damming and diverting (physics in action!). A great day out.

MyAmygdalaDidIt Tue 08-May-12 19:24:58

Picnic in the park is great for us right now with a v energetic DS (4) and tiny wobbly walker DD (just 1). We always try to remember a football (or DS will try to half inch one from nearest game taking place... or (inappropriately) try to involve himself in it). Waterproof picnic blankets help with sogginess in the nether regions if grass moist......!!

We have also had a couple of good days out to Twinlakes fun park near Melton Mobray (pretty tame rides for littleys), but take a picnic - food there appalling ... no fresh fruit for sale in one of major cafes there last time. shock. Never, ever drink the coffee there either.... expensive and I believe made from the contents strewn on the floors of the animal pens unless my taste buds deceived me. I took it back and received a gracious swap to a diet coke.

Always take waterproofs and umbrellas on a day out in Blighty... umbrellas can be sun shade on the 2 days in the summer when shade needed.

aftereight Tue 08-May-12 19:55:21

Dress the children in clothes which they can get dirty. To keep costs down, pack drinks and fruit/sandwiches, and buy just coffee/cake/icecream as a treat.
Take photos.

FairyPenguin Tue 08-May-12 20:19:43

One of my most memorable days out was at Polesden Lacey a couple of summers ago. Had a lovely walk in the grounds, with my daughter running ahead and hiding behind things so that she could jump out and say boo! Then she tackled the wooden obstacle course, took her ages as she was only just big enough, but she was determined to do it, and the look on her face when she completed it was unforgettable. We'd taken a picnic but it started to rain so we huddled together at a picnic table with our waterproofs on, then warmed up with some tea. The sun came out, we stumbled across Giant Jenga, my daughter hadn't played it before, and she thought it was brilliant. Her look of concentration, then running away as soon as she pulled a block out in case it all fell down! It was then hot enough for ice creams so we treated ourselves to one each, except my 6 month old son (who was weaning at the time) decided he'd like some of Mummy's ice cream and ate about a quarter of my Magnum (which was nearly as big as his face!).

We prefer outdoorsy places, like nature trails, country parks, NT gardens. Like to know there is a picnic area in the grounds (not just in the car park), somewhere to shelter if it tips it down, and parking!

Top tips: take snacks, go early as it's much quieter, always take a long-sleeved top or coat even in summer as children get cold easily, always make time for cake or ice-cream!

Slambang Tue 08-May-12 20:54:31

Best day out you've had as a family in Britain?

Best day out recently Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire. Because it can be enjoyed at all ages. The kids love climbing. The dog loves running up and down the rocks with the kids. Grandparents can cope with the smoother paths. Beautiful scenery in snow or sun, interesting nature and for the kids it doesn't feel like going for a boring walk.

What sorts of places do you like to go as a family?
We have a dog who is part of the family and who we love going on adventures with, National Trust dog friendly places can be limited. But ideal places have interesting old buildings for mum and dad, plenty of outside scenery and spaces for kids and dog and good icecreams. Fountains Abbey pretty much ticks all the boxes.

What are your top tips for making a family day out fun?
Always take the less worn path to find the secret hidden places. Find your own special place out of the way of the crowds and establish a base (complete with treaty picnic things) and let the children roam free (chocolate always brings them back).

Read the park map/handbook etc from cover to cover...there are usually vouchers for the eateries onsite.

Remember it generally costs the same to enter whether you stay 2hrs or 6hrs so make the most of it.
Arrive ten minutes before opening...then try and be the last family to leave! Means you get to try to most popular attraction without a massive queue...did this at blackpool pleasure beach and in the last half hour before closing we had as many turns as we wanted on the big rides!

The other positive to early arrival/late departure is that you don't have to do battle for a car parking space!!

TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 09-May-12 10:50:36

Thanks to everyone who added their hints/tips to this thread - keep your eyes peeled for an email coming from MNHQ and the National Trust soon - it may feature your comments!

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the £100 National Trust voucher is...
AliceInordnung

Congratulations! I'll PM you to get your details.

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