Summer Holiday Fun (that won’t break the bank!)

Are you feeling the strain of the school holidays yet? We’re a couple of weeks in now. My social media feeds are full of frazzled parents reaching for the wine! Right there with you with my glass of Malibu in hand! So many articles and posts about how much families struggle financially with the long school holidays. Days out, events and even a trip to the park can quickly see you spend more than you’d planned to. We want to give our children a summer to remember and of course your Facebook is full of everyone else having the best time on their days out. It’s so easy to feel you should be going here there and everywhere. But when you look back to your carefree summer days of childhood, what do you remember? I remember my Mum washing my dirty feet as I sat on the toilet on a towel. I’d spent the entire day in my garden with my brother, just us and our imaginations. Well until our bellies rumbled! I recall days out on my bike, trips on the bus, picnics in the park, long walking adventures.

I thought I’d write a little blog about how we keep costs to a minimum around here. I may be recovering at home from surgery but I’ll be honest, our holidays wouldn’t look much different even if I wasn’t!


Things to do for free/cheap at home

– Water –

So many things you can do with it. This hot weather calls for lots of cooling off in the paddling pool, you could invite friends over for a mini pool party! But it doesn’t have to always involve swimming costumes and being naked. (Though I’ve seen a lot of naked from my kids so far this summer!) Grab a little bucket/bowl and a couple of paintbrushes. Get the kids to paint the fence, the patio, everything! They can paint pictures or simply see how quick they can cover a paving slab. Keeps mine entertained for a while and it’s an easy go to activity that anyone can do. One of my followers told me how she stood her children near a wall/fence, got them to make different poses and she sprayed them with the hose. Makes cool kid shapes on the wall, plus parents can get their own back a little for all those snack requests, win win! Then there’s making water foot prints, bathing their dolls/toys, washing their bikes like a car wash and even painting YOUR feet/legs!

Add bubbles or colouring to paddling pools. Get their tea sets in the garden to enjoy pouring. And do you remember making potions when you were little?! My children have been raiding my herb garden to mix with water, mud and shells!

So yeah, water, so much to do!

– Chalk –

We love the packs of big chalks. They’re usually around 99p in a shop like Home Bargains. Get the kids drawing on the path, patio and walls outside. It’s lots of fun and just comes off with water so easy to clean up. You could all work together to make a colourful mural or simply let them colour in whole bricks or slabs. Time them to see who can fill their slab first! I sometimes like to draw out an area for each child with a bit of distance between them to (hopefully) stop the inevitable “you drew on my slab” arguments!

– Paper Plates-

Ah the cheap paper plate, a favourite in our art supplies! SO much to make. We’ve made flowers, aliens, fish (cut out a triangle mouth then use that piece to make a tail), bumble bees, masks.

– Cooking –

Ensure you have some store cupboard staples and keep them topped up. Flour, caster sugar, icing sugar, dried yeast, butter, eggs, olive oil etc. Kids love to bake with you and of course it’ll make a lovely treat to eat. As well as cakes we’ve been making bread and pizza bases – They loved that we’d all worked together to make our meal. The great thing is that you don’t even need recipe books anymore, just a quick internet search! I often use search terms like “easy” or “for kids” and pick the one with the fewest ingredients!


Utilise your friends

Obviously it’s great to get together with friends. We all need some adult interaction and the kids love to see their friends too. Lots of days in your own garden can start to feel a bit samey so switch it up for a day in a friend’s garden then repay the favour. Plus obviously their friends toys are so much more exciting than their own! Play date/wine with a friend, what’s the difference?!

And if your children are a bit older give your fellow parents a break by offering to have their children over for sleepovers and play dates. Be ready to repay the favour! Not only do you get to entertain your own children for a bit, you’re also giving another parent a well deserved break! A couple of hours can make such a difference to your sanity.


Use vouchers

We absolutely LOVE our Tesco Clubcard vouchers. We’ve used them to visit so many attractions that would otherwise have cost us a small fortune with three children. We’ve used them for Legoland, Eden Project, Chessington, many meals out (Pizza Express usually!) and lots of cinema trips. Our most recent trip was to Woburn Safari Park, we had a lovely day out and all it cost us was petrol and ice creams!


Cheap days out locally

Colchester Castle – Grab an annual pass for the castle for residents (for your admission fee!) , run around the park, have fun in the fantastic and pit.
Hollow Trees Farm – A fab farm trail, you can bring a picnic!
Mersea/Frinton/Walton – Go early when the beach is quieter and the sun isn’t so strong. Bring a picnic, snacks and drinks. You can check tide times online on the day of your trip, especially handy for Walton on the Naze as much of the beach goes during high tide.
Country parks – Lots of woodland to keep out of the sun, bring some bats/balls/bubbles.
Your local park – Most of us have a park within walking distance, great for a break during a day at home. Bring drinks, maybe some chalks to draw. Meet friends.
Garden centres – Pathways to explore, plants to spot (you could make a plant bingo) and some have activities to do during holidays.


There are of course so many places to go, local events etc. Ask your friends for some ideas too, they might have some little gems you’d never heard of!


How to rein in the spending on a day out


  • Before you decide on a location look online for vouchers – Tesco Clubcard boost, 2 for 1 deals etc.


  • Pack a picnic – It doesn’t have to be fancy, just basic sandwiches and snacks for everyone. We also often travel with a second cool bag for large bottles of drink, sometimes one frozen bottle. We use these to fill up our smaller bottles. Pop in some extra fruit or frozen yogurts for the journey home, they’ll be nice and cool!


  • Ice creams – A lovely treat to buy on a trip out. But with a large family the cost can quickly get out of hand with all the optional extras. Set a budget per person or simply tell the kids what you’re happy to buy. Usually helps to just all get the same thing! Or they can bring any pocket/birthday money they have and make their own choice.


  • The gift shop – Where all parents inevitably loose their minds! Honestly these places were made for stress and spending a ton of money you don’t have or want to spend. We tend to avoid them completely but if you do find yourself hot and sweaty in a gift shop why not set a budget for your children. They can spend up to that amount. At Woburn we gave our children the choose between £1 in the gift shop (pencil, rubber etc) or a Slushy… Woo hoo they picked the Slushy! We all got a nice sweet drink and not extra tat (erm treasures?!) entered our already overflowing home!


We’ll be spending the majority of the holidays at home. A few get togethers with friends and family each week with a couple of treats along the way. If you have any more ideas for cheap or free things to do then I’d love for you to comment on my Facebook page. I can then add some more ideas to this blog.

Have a fun (and hopefully cheap-ish) Summer!



« Back to My Blog