As we all know, the school holidays can be very expensive. Whilst you want to make the most of the holidays, it is always a constant balancing act between entertaining the kids and not spending too much money.
Even if you bring your own food, tell the kids they aren’t getting any toys and have the best intentions to save money, a simple day out can soon escalate into a budget blowing exercise in no time.
Here’s my 5 top tips for a successful half-term on a budget.
1. Annual Passes
Annual passes are always in my family budget.
Most family locations throughout the UK offer individual, joint and family annual passes. They are fantastic value for money and can be paid for outright or by monthly direct debit. A direct debit is definitely the most cost effective way to manage annual passes as often your payment could be as little as £5 to £9 a month.
Annual passes are a wise investment if you know that you are going to visit somewhere a lot. Once you have it, you always have somewhere to go in your back pocket and the pressure to ‘get your monies worth’ out of the day isn’t there as you can always go back another time.
There are also many extra benefits associated with an annual pass. For example, reductions on food and/or merchandise and you can sometimes get free or reduced entry for friends/family.
A fantastic example of how an annual pass can benefit your family is the National Trust. Not only do they have hundreds of historical buildings and outdoor places to visit, they provide a variety of free or affordable half-term activities.
Top tip – If you decide you would like to purchase an annual pass after buying your entry tickets, most companies will simply upgrade the ticket you already have to an annual pass. Therefore, the cost of the ticket you have already purchased is taken off the cost of an annual pass.
2. Plan Ahead and Get Organised
There is nothing worse than being stuck at home being asked “What are we doing?” every five minutes only to find out that everything they want to do is booked up. This is a guaranteed way to blow the budget as you just want to get out of the house and will agree to take them anywhere for an easy life.
This simple tip just involves a little bit of prior planning and booking up one of their favourite places early. An added bonus is this enables you to be that annoying early bird who gets in there first and then brags about it at the school gates. “Well, I have booked their favourite place for half-term. What do you mean you haven’t booked anything yet?!”
3. There’s No Place Like Home
Not every day has to be action packed. I like to have one down day a week so the kids actually appreciate it when we do go out. Whilst this will be the longest day of your life, it will give you and the kids a chance to play with long forgotten toys, dust off board games, do some baking and just spend some time
not spending any money at home together.
Ensure you manage expectations though. Before school has broken up, outline the activities you have organised and explain that there will also be plenty of time spent at home. By doing this, they (hopefully) won’t expect to be whizzed off to one exiting place after another.
If cabin fever does sets in, you can always invite some friends over for a play date or go to the park.
Top Tip – Use this an opportunity to do things you don’t have time for in the school week. Make a cubby lunch, get the paints out and generally make the day special by surprising them with things you never can normally be bothered to do!
4. Local Council / Leisure Centres
Most councils and leisure centres run special holiday clubs, taster sessions and/or activities for school aged kids (including pre-school).
These are a fantastic option as they are usually offered at extremely reasonable rates or are heavily subsidised by the council. This allows your child to experience activities which you might not normally be able to do due to cost and time constraints. Activities often include quad biking, rock climbing, tennis lessons and drama clubs.
They have the added bonus of being local and you can always ask around at school to see if any of their friends want to come along too.
Top Tip – Bookings are normally taken about one month in advance and get booked up pretty quickly. Therefore, ensure you sign up to the various newsletters to find out the date when bookings go live.
5. Save the Best until Last
This is the big hitter. The grand finale. The thing you are basically going to threaten them with missing out on all week when they are naughty!
Whilst this doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be something special which they will really look forward to. This could be a sleepover at a family member or friend’s house, a trip to the cinema to see the latest movie or, depending on which month half-term falls in, something specific to that season. For example, an Easter egg hunt at the park or a Halloween circus (yes, they do exist!).
Top tip: Research local family magazines/websites and chat to other parents to find out what is going on in your area.