Saturday 23 August 2014

10 top tips for a relaxed UK family holiday (on a budget)

A couple of weeks back we were on holiday in Poole with my parents and their dog and it was great, a real time of old fashioned and low-key fun.

I don't know about you but sometimes I find that holidays are a bit too full-on and constant activities can be exhausting. After a long term at school, my three kids are very ready for a break and need to chill out. They don't want to mind, but as I have the title 'Mummy', I get to make the decisons and rather than constant activities we have been enjoying time together as a family and just being in each others company.

I'm sure there are other parents like me so I thought I'd share my top 10 tips for a chilled and easy holiday away (on a budget) with the family -
  1. Try out a student house. This is not going to be for everyone as you have to be quite flexible about the area you stay in and the decor of the house but basically we rent a 5 bedroom student house in Wallisdown (between Poole and Bournemouth) for one week of the school holiday each year and this costs just £400. Compare that to a regular holiday let and we save hundreds for the 7 of us to stay. It pays to shop around and to consider places you might not normally.
  2. Plan ahead but don’t over commit. Have a good search of the Internet or contact the local tourist board and find out what is going on locally during your stay. There are often free events that can be enjoyed and will keep the cost down, for instance this week in Bournemouth my children have been able to help light the candles in the park and watched free performances by the beach. We have also made use of our existing National Trust membership. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to leave some times unplanned. I do think it is important to have times when everyone can just relax and choose what they want to do. It is of course really good to have lots of time where we all come together but we also need to charge our batteries and different people do that in different ways. I have two book worms and a crafter and a quick visit to the local charity shop provided new books for next to nothing. 
  4. Take the pressure off yourself. Within 15 miles of where we are staying there are probably in excess of twenty quality beaches that we could visit and on other times I might have pressured myself to try out new places each day and to ensure the kids went out every night but on this holiday we visited the same beach a couple of times and had a family movie night in, both of which the kids loved.
  5. Take a pack of cards and some board games with you. On the first night my kids were hassling us to go into town for an ice-cream and a go on the penny machines but after a long drive, shopping and unpacking all I fancied was a cuppa and a game of monopoly. I promise you, they had just as much fun as going out.
  6. Take some cheap outdoor sports toys with you. There are so many great free parks across the UK and it seems a shame not to make use of them. Of course the kids love to play in the park but more than anything I find they love to play with us, so rounders, racket ball, handball and football are all big hits. Or we sometimes create a circuit for us all to move around together - skipping, spin the hoops, get the ball in the net, scramble through a tube or use whatever is about, like tree stumps and free exercise equipment in many parks.
  7. Buy some ready meals. Go on, stop being a snob and just go for it. You cook enough at home and going out each day as a family is really expensive and can be a bore if the younger ones are tired. So I like to go to a quality shop like M&S or Waitrose and buy some ready meals that can just be put in the oven and enjoyed around the table.
  8. Or light the BBQ and use disposable plates and cutlery. Don't make life difficult for yourself, the kids think it is a real thrill to eat outdoors and to just be able to bin everything at the end of the meal!
  9. Let them break through the boredom barrier. I often find that my kids have the best fun when I have allowed them the time to get bored. Especially JJ, as a geeky boy he would happily sit on his laptop or iPad the whole day long but when I tell him it is a tech free day he will then play with his sisters and make fun from nothing. Camps get built, hide and seek is played and they come to me with ideas of what they want me to help them do.
  10. Take rainy day activities with you. It is Britain after all and it may (probably) will rain so it is best to be equipped. The house we stay in is always well equipped and during rainy stays we have painted stones we collected from the beach, made fairy cakes (or even decorated digestives when we have not had a cooker available) and created flags for our next sandcastle building day.
What are you best tips for a nice easy family holiday?
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