School holidays don't have to break the bank

Gill Oliver

Gill Oliver

First published in Life Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

Summertime and the living is easy, according the song. Er, well, not according to new research by the Post Office, it ain’t.

Apparently, parents can expect to splash out £500 on entertaining their little darlings during the summer break.

That includes £66 on other people’s children, £106 on childcare and £119 on petrol.

This is a quarter up, compared to last year, so not surprisingly, more than half mums and dads are worried whether they’ll be able to afford it.

And it seems pester-power is alive and well, because a similar number feel they have to spend to keep up with other parents.

Almost half the cash will go on taking kids to theme parks and museums, while eating out and holidays abroad are the other two main biggies.

So how do they plan to pay for this?

According to the Post Office survey, a third of all parents are willing to give up buying new clothes, miss out on their regular takeaways and treats such as magazines or coffees this summer to foot the bill.

Others are prepared to take more drastic action, saying they’d skip paying household bills, or even mortgage payments.

But there are ways of keeping the costs down, such as:

* Track down deals online to find discounts and two-for-one offers on theme parks, cinema, family days out and restaurants.

* Check the Oxford Mail’s Guide and Oxford Times listings for local attractions and community events, as these are often free or very cheap and you can usually walk or cycle to them.

* Train travel is nearly always cheaper if you book tickets in advance and avoid peak times. If in doubt, phone and ask enquires help you plan your journey cost-effectively.

* Plenty of Oxford museums and art galleries, such as The Ashmolean, Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers and the Museum of the History of Science have free entry all year-round and the summer break is the perfect time to make the most of this.

* Whether you’re off to the park, a museum or just a day in town, take a packed lunch to save money on eating out.

* Look out for deals at supermarkets that could save money on packed lunches, or plan it so you eat at home before you leave.

* An activity day at home, baking, painting or crafting is a brilliant and cheap way to keep the kids happy but if the work, time and mess involved puts you off, try roping in a relative or pal to plan, or even run it, for you.

* Shop around to find the best deal before you fill up on petrol and drive in a way that’s fuel efficient to save extra cash.

* A day in your own back garden or working on an allotment can be just as fun as a day out at an amusement park, if there’s a group of you and you’ve got plenty of drinks and sun.

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