How to survive the school holidays – without breaking the bank!

School’s out for summer for our UK followers. It can be hard to keep the kids occupied over the long summer break, so this article looks at some school holiday entertainment ideas.

Some of the suggestions include product recommendations and affiliate links meaning that I will receive a small commission for any purchases made via the link. However, there are also plenty of ideas of school holiday entertainment that you can enjoy for free. So get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

Take a break

When I think of school holidays, I think of quality time with the family (it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s a different article!). And a big part of this is the annual summer holiday.

It is painful the way that the price quadruples in August, but I can still find some week-long holidays in August to Majorca, Tenerife or Benidorm for less than £500 per person. Having spent the last hour or so browsing the web for that elusive affordable deal, my preferred comparison site is www.holidaypirates.com. They let you leave fields blank to bring up search results if you aren’t looking for a particular destination, or might be flexible about where you fly from.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

But £2,000 for a family of four can still be a stretch for many of us. Cut out the flight costs by staying closer to home. Booking.com is my preferred site for accommodation deals (they always seem to get the best deal for me). A quick look today shows me that I can get a week’s accommodation for 2 adults and 2 kids for £355 in Blackpool, £400 in the Lake district, £580 in Beaumaris or from £700 on the south coast.

Or, if your budget is absolutely minimal, try camping from £7 (or £12 if you want a shower and a toilet). Find your perfect site at www.pitchup.com. If you need a tent, try the North Gear Camping Mars Waterproof 4 Man Dome Tent £54.99 from Amazon. Or click here to browse their camping range.

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Days out

Whether you’re on holiday or at home, a day out is a great way to keep everyone entertained (and stop them messing up the house!).

The day out with the kids website is a wonderful resource for ideas, savings and tips. Or just try searching the web for ‘days out with kids near…’.

If you know which attraction you want to visit, try a quick internet search to see whether there are any deals available. Often there is a reduced rate for booking in advance rather than on the day.

And sign up to a daily deals website like Groupon to stay informed of any available deals for school holiday entertainment.

Avoid additional costs by taking your own food and avoiding the gift shop. Although, let’s be honest, that’s practically impossible these days. You can either give in and steer them towards the cheapest items, stick to a firm no, or perhaps buy a treat in advance and pull it out at just the right moment (my kids are 4 and 6. I’m not sure how long this technique will work).

And remember that there are plenty of free days out available. Beach days, the local country park, a number of museums offer free entry, and these are all great options for school holiday entertainment. For my kids, playgrounds are usually the highlight of any trip (again, this may not work for older kids). www.boundless.co.uk has some great ideas for free activities. Or try an internet search for ‘what’s on in (place) in (month)’ for details of events.

Entertainment at home

Chances are, you’re going to spend some of your time stuck at home with bored kids. I try to schedule the days out for 1-2 per week to break this up.

Whilst unstructured play is good for your kids (it promotes imagination and creativity which helps their development (source)), it’s useful to have a back up plan for those days when they (or you) are just not up for it.

Image by Rudy Anderson from Pixabay

If the weather’s nice and you have a garden, get them outside in the fresh air. See below for the latest deals on Sports and Outdoors toys from Amazon UK. Anything with water is a firm favourite in this house, but ball games, ride-ons and nerf guns are also popular. Or they can use their imagination and make up their own games. Rocks, sticks, bugs and dirt are also favoured play things.

I love this Outdoor Explorer Kit and Bug Catcher set:

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One idea for fending off boredom is the ‘boredom jar’. Take a jar and some small scraps of paper, and write an activity on each one. It could be a treat, a regular activity, or a job. Fold them up and put them in the jar. Any time someone says ‘I’m bored’, they draw something from the boredom jar. Pro tip – make sure you are actually able to deliver on the activity (don’t put in trips out if the jar is likely to be used while you’re making dinner – stick to things they are able to do on their own). Check out these cheap toys and games if you want to include little gifts from the jar (write the name on the scrap of paper and keep them hidden until drawn). Activity books, colouring, puzzles and games can keep them amused fairly cheaply.

Sometimes a TV day is what’s needed. Especially if they’ve had a big day out and need a rest. I like to go all out and make it a PJ day. Click here for the bestselling kids DVDs on Amazon UK.

Final thoughts

School holidays are prime times for mum guilt, with working mums often feeling like they should or want to be home with their kids, or stay at home mums struggling to cope with the extra demands. But they can also be great opportunities to have fun and connect with your kids.

Make sure you consider the things that you like to do when you’re planning activities, and find ways to take time for yourself. Include plenty of downtime (for you as well as the kids) and don’t overschedule. Remember, it’s good for them to be bored – so finish your cup of tea before tending to the latest whinge of ‘I’m booooored‘! You never know, they may have created a magical world from their imagination while you do.

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9 Replies to “How to survive the school holidays – without breaking the bank!”

  1. I have 3 kids and am always trying to think of new things to keep them active both their bodies and minds without so much screen time. It’s hard here in Australia at the moment, where I live it’s winter and really cold so doing a lot of outdoor stuff is off the cards… We do a lot of crafty stuff, painting, playdoh, kinetic sand, colouring, etc makes a huge mess, but makes them happy so worth it. 🙂

    1. Hi Candice, Yes, I’m in NZ so we’re in winter too (but we have quite a few followers from the UK, so I wrote this article for the UK perspective). We’ve been blessed with a very mild winter (so far), so we’ve still managed to get out and about a fair amount 🙂 I’m not so good at dealing with the mess when we’re stuck indoors!!

  2. My wife and I are both teachers so we can identify with the need to keep kids entertained in the summer/school holidays. I absolutely agree that it’s good for kids to learn to be bored. I also think it’s great to get kids comfortable with camping from a young age.

  3. Well, our youngest is heading off to college in a few weeks, but before that, we are taking a family trip to London, which we fully realize may be one of last family trips we take together. But when summer would come, with money and without, working or not, like you mentioned, we would spend more time taking family walks and bike rides together, and just more time out enjoying nature. We also would take them to the library at the beginning of the season to stock up on books to read when they were home and would get bored. If they were too bored, we’d visit story time or the park. No matter who you are or what your circumstances, summer is a time to spend a little more time enjoying family.

    1. Absolutely! Even if you don’t have a garden – take them to the park, the beach, a wood… If you need to stay home to do housework, maybe team up with some other parents and take it in turns to take all the kids.

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