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How to fill the kids' #summerholiday break on the cheap

horse racing 2357030 640It feels like a throwback to an earlier age but there is still a summer season – racing at Ascot, Wimbledon, the Summer Exhibition, Henley Regatta and ending up with the Last Night of the Proms. It’s a festival of posh frocks, sport and copious quantities of alcohol – and demanding similarly large amounts of cash. Not being the target market for Tatler, this all bypasses me, I’m glad to say. (I once went to Wimbledon, it rained non-stop). But what’s developed in the last few years is an almost as expensive summer season for children. And I think we have no-one to blame for this but ourselves.

Here’s what it is. Children have a long summer break of at least six, and for some more than eight, weeks off. That time needs to be filled. A couple of weeks can be accounted for by the family holiday, hopefully. But then there’s the rest to fill up. That means days out, weeks of tennis/football/swimming courses, holiday clubs, visits to theme parks, beaches etc. Frankly it probably works out as expensive as the adult version. I’m as guilty of this as any other: I’m looking at empty weeks on the calendar and panicking, wondering what I can fill them with. At the moment, there’s probably a week at tennis club (£150); a football course (same price, probably); and maybe a weeks’ holiday if I can run to it. Having an only child and worrying about him getting lonely is a big part of it. I’m not an only child but I can’t claim my (older) brother and I hung out a lot together when we were little. From what I remember, I spent a lot of the six-week summer break reading books and doing little else. I don’t think any parent would be so unprepared these days.

But it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Going to the park/beach/woods is cheap enough if you can avoid the expensive ice-cream van. Playdates are easy and all you need to do is provide lunch and be prepared for the noise. Museums and galleries are often free and sometimes have special kids’ events in the summer. Then there are vouchers and cut price deals – Money Saving Expert has a list of them, including half-price entry to Alton Towers if you buy Carex hand wash or Cadbury’s chocolates. Sites such as Groupon are worth keeping an eye on, too. Make it your summer resolution never to pay full price for entry to any event. Indeed, why not get the children to search out good deals? It’s one way of filling up the time...

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Monday, 10 December 2018