theatre, Things To Do, top tips

Cheapskate Top Tips for Theatre Trips

It’s that time of year when finances feel stretched by the urge to splurge on personalised Quality Street tins or extravagant advent calendars. I’ve been pulling together another post of family friendly theatre highlights for the festive season but when you’ve got fancy food and Christmas dos competing for your pennies maybe a family trip to a show has fallen off your list.

I’m here to say (in the words of Celine Dion) “think twice” and to share some of the ways you can cut the cost of tickets this Christmas.

1. Groups

Most theatres and arts centres offer group ticket deals. It can take a bit of organising but it can be so worth it. Could you arrange it with a group of families from your children’s school or a sports club that they go to? Deals and offers vary but don’t ask, don’t get. If you ask, some theatres can send extra flyers to promote a group trip. If you’re a theatre keeno it’s a great time of year to share the love and persuade other families and friends to join you for a social at a show.

2. Go small

The biggest and most expensive productions can be a real treat but lower price and smaller venue don’t mean it’s any less of a treat. We saw a show at Chapter one year for only £5 each and it was AMAZING. Take a chance on a company you’ve not heard of before or try out a more local arts centre rather than trek to town to the massive venues.

3. Early Bird

Some venues offer early bird ticket deals so it can make money sense to book as soon as you can.

4. Sherman 5

For people living close to or in Cardiff, Sherman 5 can help remove barriers to going to the theatre, maybe you’ve never been before, can’t afford it or want to join one of the Sherman 5 Communities like their Deaf Theatre Club or Theatre of Sanctuary: their Refugee and Asylum Seeker Community. I’ve joined as part of a community group to introduce new families to the theatre. They put on extra experiences, pre show events as well as making tickets far cheaper at £5 for adults and £2.50 for kids. shermantheatre.co.uk/sherman5

5. Time Credits

If you’ve not heard of Time Credits, look them up. They’re a voucher type payment for volunteering and can be “spent” at a wide range of places around the UK so could help offset the cost of a theatre visit. Check with the theatre first as they don’t all accept them and sometimes they’re limited to certain shows. timecredits.com

6. Gifted

Instead of paying for tickets and presents, make the trip a gift experience. Last year my granddad gave me money to get something for the children. Instead of using it all on more toys and tat that we have no room for, I bought them tickets for a theatre show at Christmas. They knew it was from their great granddad and it was a lovely treat. I know very young kids can fail to really get the gift experience concept but if you’ve got relativesasking you for ideas for Christmas presents, either tickets or maybe a voucher for your local theatre would be a good idea.

7. Hynt (Wales only)

Have you heard of the hynt card? Hynt is the national access scheme for theatres and arts centres in Wales. It’s a card scheme for people who need a carer at the theatre and they’ve got listings of shows with accessible features. If your kid or anyone else in your family needs additional support, go and apply if you haven’t already as membership gives you free tickets for carers. If anyone in your family needs captions, BSL interpretation, audio description or touch tours check their listings page. Same goes for Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances. It’s an Arts Council of Wales initiative so it’s only in Wales. hynt.co.uk

8. Concessions

Concessions are basically discounts for all sorts of reasons. Don’t ask, don’t get. If you’re taking anyone over 60 with you, ask about discounts. Not every show or every venue will have this concession but they do exist. Not heard of any reduced tickets for people on statutory maternity pay (the poorest I have ever been in my life) but lots of theatres also have discounts for students, unwaged people, under 16s, under 25s and even under 30s.

9. Plan ahead

This is the stuff that can get a bit boring but you can save by doing a bit of prep. I’m useless at this. I’m a last minute Larry. Car parking can cost a fortune, especially if you’re going to a city centre venue. Some theatres have deals with car parks (Wales Millennium Centre for example) but if they don’t their box office staff should be able to advise you on the cheapest car park. This is the kind of thing you need to arrange when you’re booking. We’ll sometimes leave extra time to find free or cheaper on road parking and a bit of a walk rather than spend a fortune in a rip off NCP multi-storey. I don’t always have the car so we’ll get public transport.

10. You don’t have to buy everything

Theatres need to make money to carry on existing. Fact. Most of the theatres and arts centres I’ve worked with in Wales are registered charities with incredibly tiny budgets. If you have lots of money and you’re feeling flash then feel free to splash that cash but if the cost of Christmas is already making you twitch it’s OK to limit your secondary spend. Especially at the larger venues. It’s common sense but you don’t have to buy drinks AND ice cream AND sweets AND a programme AND some crappy flashing spinning thing. It can be lovely to have something as a memento but we’ve kept tickets or a flyer to put in a scrap book instead. I’m a cheap skate  and proud of it. Get drinks OR ice cream. Some venues let you pre book ice creams for a discount when you’re ordering tickets. Don’t get a noisy rustling packet of sweets each, get one to share and pop some little cups in your bag to share them out. It saves the fuss of passing the bag up and down the row during the show (if it’s the kind of show where you sit in a row).

The words BOX OFFICE glow in lights on the side of a wooden shed.
Talk to the staff in Box Office about any deals on offer, competitions and membership schemes that all help save money on tickets too.

A lot of this is common sense and I’m cringing a bit at potentially teaching you to suck eggs. It’s a lovely time of year to have a theatre trip as a treat but I know it can seem like an expensive experience. I’ve written this list to show that there can be ways of making it work and if it pokes just one extra person into going along to a live performance this Christmas then my work here is done.   

Thinking Out Loud

5 Ways to Stay Cool in Heatwave 2017

Yesterday was apparently the hottest day of the year in the UK and today it’s hotter here than in Ibiza or Hell or something.

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a Negative Nancy. Maybe a Realistic Rita or a Cynical Cynthia at a push. However, when it comes to sunshine and the blink-and-you-miss-it British summer I am fighting the negativity. Real life and social media have joined forces to barrage me with moans about how bloody hot it is. Enjoy it! It won’t last forever.

I get that it’s a worry for people with little babies or other vulnerable family members so in the spirit of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (that’s what blogs are, right?), here are a few of my common sense tips for the no doubt sadly short-lived heatwave:

 

Window
Shut Up: close those windows

1. Shut up

Keep your house windows, curtains and/or blinds closed in the day and it’ll be cooler inside than out for the evening because you’ve blocked the sun. Open the windows an hour before bedtime to circulate the air once it’s cooler. It’s counter intuitive but by Jove it works.

heatwave1
Drink Up: stay hydrated. duh.

2. Drink up

Stay hydrated. Just drink. Give your kids extra water. If they need reminding, remind them to drink. If you need reminding that you and your offspring need water when it’s hot then hang your head in shame. You plonker.

Cactus in the sun
Cream Up: don’t burn in that scorchio sun. The lobster look is not cool.

3. Cream up

In the words of Baz Luhrmann, wear sunscreen. Splodge and spray it on your kids, yourself and anyone else who needs it. Avoid squirting random passing strangers. That’s weird. My boys hate being creamed. We compromised on a spray one.

rollercoaster on sunny day
Strip Off: don’t layer up babies

4. Strip off

Strip off. Don’t wrap babies up in vests and babygrows and blankets. I was a baby and toddler in the Caribbean and I didn’t really wear clothes until we moved to the UK. Older kids don’t need duvets at bedtime, just a cotton sheet. For an extra treat keep your pillow case in the fridge.

choc ice at the park
Chill Out: enjoy it, treat yo’self!

5. Chill out

Stop moaning, stay positive, chill out (in the shade or a cool shower if you prefer).

Yesterday we had an outdoor event at school that lasted about an hour. Predictably I heard cries of “it’s too hot for them”, “it should’ve been moved”, “other schools cancelled sports days”. Did anyone actually melt or spontaneously combust? Quelle surprise, no they did not. Were we reminded to apply sun cream and provide a drink and a hat for our little darlings? Why, yes we were. Did everyone have a lovely time? Oh yes indeedy. Last year, the same event took place in the rain. It was (unsurprisingly) the same people saying “it’s too wet for them”, “it should’ve been moved”, “other schools cancelled sports days”. Did anyone actually dissolve or float away? Quelle surprise, no they did not. We are not made of sugar. We are not the Wicked Witch of the West. (Also, a sports day is a DAY, an hour is an hour. Don’t get me started.)

For a place like the Vale of Glamorgan where we can experience four seasons in a week, we can be a tad melodramatic about the weather.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the weather in your paddling pools, your local beach, Ponty Lido, Barry Splashpark or from the cool comfort of your own bath.

Let me know your favourite ways to stay cool in the comments.