Keeping everyone entertained every weekend, especially during the long summer months, can work out really expensive. Particularly, if you pay as you go with individual tickets. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit in and watch TV all the time. Choose the right passes and you can enjoy unlimited visits to your favourite attractions. From theme parks to cinemas, zoos and nature reserves to horse racing, for far less than you might expect.
Free entry anytime
The best part about having an annual pass is that you can go anytime you want. You don’t have to wait until you have some spare cash and you don’t have to worry that you are spending money that you should be using more ‘sensibly’. If you pay for an annual pass through your bank account, it becomes part of your regular monthly bills rather than an individual expense each time. This makes it so much easier to enjoy yourself without worrying about what you are spending.
Zoos, Nature Reserves and Sea Life Centres
Zoos make a great day out, but they can also be hugely expensive on a single ticket basis. What’s more, most of them are so large that you can’t possibly see everything in a single visit. Yet when you have paid so much, you feel obliged to tear around and try, just to get your money’s worth. Zoo membership means you can go whenever you like and take your time, giving each animal or exhibit the attention it deserves.
Single adult membership at Chester Zoo starts at £95 for a whole year, compared to £26 per day at the gate, and London Zoo membership starts at £99 compared to up to £31.50 on peak days. If you prefer your wildlife underwater, you can join the Sea Life Centres, with an annual pass for just £45 per person, compared to around £20 on the door for every visit. Membership also gets you a free ticket to a range of other attractions, including Legoland in Windsor.
History and heritage
If you like exploring ancient castles and stately homes, then it is well worth joining either English Heritage or the National Trust. English Heritage has over 400 historic places to visit for just £60 per year or £5 per month, while the National Trust offers 500 historic sites the length and breadth of the country for £72 per year or £6 per month. Both not only include entry into castles and historic houses, but also free car parking, which can be worth the money on its own on busy days.
Big screen entertainment
If you already enjoy the savings of Meerkat Movies, then perhaps you should consider going one better and joining your local cinema chain. Not only will you get unlimited movies, anytime you want, you’ll also get entry to similar cinemas around the country. With a free cinema pass, you can try films that you wouldn’t normally pay to see, without risking your precious cash if you don’t like it. You’ll often find yourself surprised by films you didn’t expect to enjoy.
The Odeon group has over 120 cinemas and you can access them all from just £17.99 per month with their Limitless pass, or £19.99 if you want to include Central London cinemas such as the famous Odeon Leicester Square. The Light is a fast-growing group that also offers monthly passes, called Infinity, for just £16.95. Both passes include free entry to most movies, and they also give you valuable discounts on your popcorn and drinks too, which is where the real cost of your cinema trip often lies.
Theme parks thrills
The most fun annual pass of them all has to be the Merlin Annual Pass. This amazing membership gets you in to thirty of Britain’s biggest and best attractions, including the rides of Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, the dungeons in Edinburgh, York, Warwick Castle and London, plus the Sea Life Centres across the UK. You can even ride the iconic London Eye big wheel in the centre of the capital.
The Merlin Annual Pass costs £8.99 per month, with a £29.99 joining fee, making 12 months of fun £137.87. You can also choose premium membership, for £11.99 that also includes car parking and unlimited access on days when standard passes are not valid. A single day ticket for Thorpe Park costs £33 online or £55 on the door so you can see the savings. The pass also lets you bring friends for 50% discount and saves you up to 20% on food, drinks and shopping.
Whatever your interests, you’ll find an annual pass to suit that saves you a fortune over the course of a year. For example, if you enjoy a day at the races, then free Race Pass membership gets 18-24 year olds into any Jockey Club event for half price all year round, so you can watch the favourites at the Grand National, Royal Ascot or Glorious Goodwood for less. A National Art pass costs just £104 and gets two adults into over 200 museums and galleries for free, with half-price admission to major exhibitions. Or for just £55 per year, you can join the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and gain entry to all ten of their fascinating centres around the UK.
Try before you buy
Of course, an annual membership is a big commitment and you need to be sure you will use it, or it could work out even more expensive than paying on the door for your single visit. Fortunately, most attractions will let you trade in the cost of your daily ticket against the cost of annual membership if you join on the day or soon after. This means you can try before you buy, to see if you like it, without adding to the cost.
When it comes to great value fun and leisure, annual passes are hard to beat. They give you the freedom to go when you like to your local attractions, as well as the flexibility to try other venues all around the country when you are on holiday or taking a break. And best of all, you get to spread the cost in affordable monthly payments that you will barely even notice. So let the low-cost fun begin!