The summer holidays are upon us. And while that will have children clapping their hands in glee, it’s also likely to have parents wringing theirs in despair. Not at the thought of spending six weeks with their children – but the cost.
Six weeks of laying on entertainment 24/7 can take its toll on your wallet. And for working parents in particular, the long school holidays can turn out to be nothing but a headache – both an organisational and a financial one.
However, while it’s all too easy to spend a fortune entertaining your kids, with a little planning you can cut the cost by half, and even bag yourself a few activities for free.
1. Head to the park
If the sun’s shining the best place to head is the park. It’s completely free – ice creams aside. But the park’s not the only place to go. If you live in a city visit your local city farm. They’re free and often run special events for children at weekends and during school holidays.
And if the sun isn’t shining? Then head to a museum or art gallery. Your kids may groan at the suggestion, but many offer lots of free activities for kids of all ages. These can range from storytelling sessions to messy play groups and educational activities for older children. They’ll not only be entertained, they could learn something too.
2. Pack a picnic
Whether you’re heading to the park, a museum or simply a day in town, take a packed lunch with you and you’ll save a fortune. Not only that but you can also make sure your kids are eating healthily.
Best of all, you won’t find yourself with a hungry child in tow, and no idea where the nearest eatery is.
3. Look locally for fun
You don’t have to go far afield to find a wealth of activities to keep your kids occupied over the long summer holidays. Your local council or library is the best starting point. They may run a summer programme of events that kids and their families can take part in.
These range from days trips to the seaside or city attractions, to play sessions and activities. And while they’re not usually free these days, you should find they’re seriously subsidised. Likewise try your local leisure centre. Many now offer annual passes that mean some activities are free while others are subsidised for members.
Otherwise trawl the web to find out about everything that’s going up just up the road from you.
There are plenty of sites aimed at parents looking for guides to events and activities for children in their area. Try Netmums, Mumsnet and Families Online. And if you live in London, or are planning a trip to the capital take a look at Day Out with the Kids and Timeout’s kids’ guide.
4. Schedule your holidays to fit in with your kids
If you can, it pays to schedule your holiday time to fit in with your kids’. Of course, you’re unlikely to have six weeks’ leave to take all in one go, but if your partner also works you could schedule your holidays so one of you is at home for part of the school holidays, and then the other one is off work for the rest, or at least some of the remainder of the kids’ break. That way you’ll save serious money on childcare costs.
5. Use the holidays to spend time with grandma and grandad
If you have grandparents on hand who are willing to entertain the kids for a few hours, a day or two, or even more, take them up on it. It’s a great option that saves you money and keeps everyone happy.
For tips on activities and events that will keep both age groups happy visit The Grandparents Association.
6. Keep an eye out for a deal
If your kids are hankering after a trip to an expensive theme park keep your eye out for money-off vouchers and ‘kids go free’ deals. Collect vouchers for a free swim from packets of Kellogg’s cereals. And, if you collect Tesco Clubcard points, Nectar points or you can convert these into vouchers for days out too.
So there are just a few ideas on how to make child’s play of keeping your kids happy over the summer holidays, without paying through the nose for it.
And relax. Before you know it summer will be over – and you’ll be worrying about the cost of Christmas, yet again!