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8 Top Tips For Having Wonderful Summer Holidays With The Kids On A Budget

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Here are my Top Tips for finding things to do in the holidays to keep those kids of yours busy without breaking the bank!

 

1) The Library

There is a summer challenge every year.  This year is the ‘Creepy House Challenge‘ where the kids read 6 books by the end of the summer holidays and they get loads of encouragment from the librarians with stickers and the chance to tell them about each book.

This is a great activity.  It’s Free.  It takes time going to the library.  You can do it when it rains!  Plus it’s a gentle way of keeping them going on reading.

 

2) Forests

I’m an ambassador for The Forestry Commission and love Wendover Forest.  They have a Forest Fairy Tale activity going on at the moment, which is a great way of getting our kids involved in being outside.

Take a picnic, make dens, let their imagination run free!

 

3) Festivals

I LOVE going to small or family festivals.  I’m off to Folk by the oak this weekend and Folk Stock in September.  Check out my top tips for first timers.

Take your own food and drink to keep the cost down and give the kids a purse with their money in it so that they understand there is a limit and can choose what they would like to do, but that it’s not an endless supply.

 

4) Simple Things are good for the kids

Don’t worry about a lack of money, it’s good for the kids to enjoy the simple things in life.

Don’t try to fill all their time, it’s good for them to get a little bored, or to learn to occupy themselves (although you may need to give them a bit of direction or make it easy for them to think about it).

 

5) How to keep the house together and yourself from going crazy

Check out my Top 7 Tips For the Summer Holidays , with ideas on how to keep the kids occupied and help the house to survive!

 

6) When You Are Exhausted

Read these top tips for cheap games to play when you are tired:  so that when you are exhausted, or if you get sick, you have some simple things that take little energy for you to do, or that they will be happy doing over and over.

Take some time out.  Swap with another mum.  Ask relatives to give you a day off.  Or pop the kids into a day’s camp if you can afford it.  You’ll come back revitalised and fun to be with, so it’s a win-win for the whole family!

 

7) Don’t Do Things You Can’t Afford

Don’t put yourself in debt in order to survive the holidays.  Your kids don’t need that.  A simple rule of thumb is that if it’s going to take you more than 3 months to pay off (i.e. a season), then you can’t afford it.

They won’t be ruined forever if they don’t get to go to Disney World or an adventure park.  Look at the free things available instead like museums or community events.

 

8) Don’t Feel Guilty About Working

It’s a fact of life, some of us have to work full or part-time during the holidays.  I’m particularly aware of this as things are going to be really busy this summer with the preparations for my new Salon and Spa as it opens in October.

With the time that you have, be present with them.  Create Memories.  Have fun.

 

What are your top tips?  (Feel free to add your blog post if you have written one, I don’t mind people adding links).

 

 

Toddler in den

Adventure comes in surprising places

Mum and child in the woods
Not so warm!

 

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.

I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.

But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.

Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner.  He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.

Toddler in den
My secret den!

Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.

The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.

Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).

 

Where were we?

A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods.  (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).

We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.

Children investigating
Climbing an imaginary mountain!

I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them.  In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.

We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great.  Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online).  It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter.  So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.

Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!

Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.

Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well.  I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.

I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is.  I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).

I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.

Muddy Puddle At Wendover
A HUGE Muddy Puddle!

Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.

Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car.  I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase.  (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).

 

The Numbers

A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.

Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.

So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.

There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or  10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions).  So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.

You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.

 

Overall

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!

 

Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please!  Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.

Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.

The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.

I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!

For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it.  I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.

We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.

 

Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own.  I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.