By Kate Pattinson

For parents, the summer holidays are a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that you get to spend more time with your little ones and your family, and a curse when one of yours comes home from school talking about their classmate who is spending three weeks in Walt Disney World…

What do you mean we can’t go too? I always feel a pang of guilt when I can’t take the family on an all-expenses first class holiday, but it just isn’t realistic for us. I always try to make sure my kids have the best summer possible, but I do have to work to a budget! Here are just a few hints and tips to help out over the holidays and make sure you and your little ones forget your holiday envy and have a fun, exciting summer.

Staycation

Many summers, instead of jetting off, we have opted for holidaying closer to home. There are always some beautiful beaches and coastlines within driving distance. With a little bit of forward planning you can get a seaside weekend retreat that the kids will remember forever, and won’t break the bank. We always look to AirBnB for cool, quirky places to lay our heads that the kids will love. No flights, no hassle, holidaying near home can also be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with friends, especially if they have children of similar ages – and splitting the cost of travel and lodgings never hurt anyone!

Reverse Planning

If you can’t resist a trip abroad and want to really give the kids a treat (we went to Bulgaria a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it!), then why not try reverse planning a trip? Instead of choosing a destination and then checking for the cheapest accommodation and flights, look instead at when is best for you to travel and search for a flight to “anywhere”. The SkyScanner app is amazing for this and can throw up some really interesting kid-friendly holiday options that I wouldn’t have even thought of originally. Using this method instead of getting the cheapest flight to Mallorca by organising your time around the holiday, let the holiday organise around you, and get the cheapest flights in the world.

Reward Me Now

Speaking of apps that can save you megabucks over the summer holidays, the Reward Me Now app is absolutely brilliant for saving when you shop online and in-store. It’s almost like having a student card again, and offers discounts of up to 10 per cent on brands across the board, from Argos to Waterstones. All you have to do is simply buy an e-Gift Code through the app and enjoy savings instantly, and most of the gift codes stack on top of the summer sales, making for even better savings! I use the Reward Me Now app every time I shop, and can’t wait to see the savings rack up over the summer and in the run up to Christmas!

Museums, Libraries and Parks

Free entry to museums, libraries and parks are an absolute godsend throughout the holidays. Museums are a great way to sneak a little bit of education into the holiday period and can help inspire a feeling of wonderment in your little ones, and a walk around a quiet, calm, dimly-lit air-conditioned building is sometimes just what you need! The Ulster Museum is free to explore plus don’t miss the “Kids Go Free” voucher for all other National Museums NI venues on the back page of the insert with this issue.

Libraries are another great resource that can be used and reused over and over. Although screens are (unfortunately) king in my house, a trip to the library gets my young ones reading and talking with excitement about their favourites, and the screens are (at least momentarily) forgotten. As part of The Big Summer Read initiative for kids, there will be lots of free events and activities happening over the school holidays in your local library, and a run around or play in the local park is my go-to activity with the kids as it keeps them fit and active and always tires them out. A picnic or packed lunch always goes down a treat and mine always get a good nights sleep after exhausting themselves playing outdoors all day.

I hope these little tips and tricks help, and that you and your family have a stress-free, fun- filled, budget-friendly summer.

Kate is a money expert at AshleighMoneySaver.co.uk the UK’s leading shopping influencer.

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