Holidays

How families can keep costs down over the summer holidays

Many families are in the thick of the most expensive weeks of the year – the long summer holidays. 

According to the Family and Childcare Trust, the average cost of childcare during the period is £125 a week in England – slightly less in both Scotland and Wales. The costs are double what most families spend on food and drink in a week.

Even those parents who stay at home with their children face rising bills. A recent survey by deals website Groupon indicates that parents spend £251 on activities to keep their children occupied during the school holidays, and spend an extra £138 on other outgoings such as food.

Careful planning: Kayleigh and Chris Zimmermann with Harry, left and Josh

Careful planning: Kayleigh and Chris Zimmermann with Harry, left and Josh

Rising costs and squeezed budgets are driving some families to a summer breaking point.

Online trade-in site Ziffit says a quarter of parents struggle to cover childcare costs over the summer break, with one in five admitting they argue more with children and partners during the holidays as costs mount.

Richard Salt, managing director of Ziffit, says: ‘This time of year can be especially stressful for families. Children have finished school but many parents still have to work.

‘Finding appropriate childcare is one issue, but it is also clear that parents feel under pressure to go the extra mile and ensure their children are entertained.

‘It is not surprising that parents struggle to cover the extra costs and that this causes more tension in the family home.’

Here are some ways to save money on keeping the children entertained during the break.

I’m constantly looking for discounts for the kids’ trips

Kayleigh and Chris Zimmermann, pictured above, have to budget extra hard during the summer holidays.

Although self-employed – Kayleigh is a beauty therapist, Chris a carpenter – they rely on help from family and friends as well as working shifts around each other to get through the long weeks without childcare.

The couple, from Horsham, West Sussex, have two children, four-year-old Joshua and Harry, seven. Kayleigh, 29, says: ‘I plan carefully for the holidays, mixing cheaper days out such as a trip to the beach with more expensive trips to Chessington World of Adventures. 

‘I am constantly looking for discounts and vouchers to keep the bills down. We have also bought a discount pass for the cinema for those inevitable rainy summer days.’

Despite her rigorous planning, Kayleigh has to save up for the school holidays. She says: ‘Our bills definitely go up in the holidays. The children are constantly grazing so even the food bills are higher.’

Careful planning: Kayleigh and Chris Zimmermann with Harry, left and Josh

HOLIDAY CLUBS

For those parents working over the summer, both council and privately run holiday clubs provide childcare and new experiences for children.

Some can even be cheaper than family days out, as well as leaving parents guilt-free.

Council-run projects are cheaper, as many local authorities subsidise fees. The most recent holiday childcare survey from the Family and Childcare Trust shows that the average cost of a council-run club is £105 a week per child, against private clubs at £129 a week.

There are often extras such as trips out with some clubs, as well as the hours covered. Private clubs tend to offer wraparound early morning and evening care at an extra cost.

Council and privately run holiday clubs provide childcare and new experiences for children

Council and privately run holiday clubs provide childcare and new experiences for children

Council and privately run holiday clubs provide childcare and new experiences for children

PAY WITH CHILDCARE VOUCHERS

One way to cut the cost of clubs is to use childcare vouchers via your employer, which allows you to pay for childcare out of pre-tax income.

The amount of salary you can take in childcare vouchers depends on your tax bracket – basic rate taxpayers can take more, saving £933 a year.

The Government is bringing in a new tax-free childcare scheme. This will offer greater savings to some parents, including those such as the self-employed, who are not eligible for the vouchers.

You can find out more and sign up at website childcarechoices.gov.uk. If you receive tax credits, be careful about signing up to either scheme as they can affect your eligibility.

Even if you do not need tax credits for childcare in term-time, you might be able to claim for holidays. 

You may also be eligible for childcare tax credits for summer holiday activities – even if you do not require childcare in term time, depending on your income. If you need more information, call the tax credit helpline on 0345 300 3900.

As well as credits and vouchers, some holiday clubs offer discounts for early booking, or discounts for siblings. Supercamps, one of the country’s largest providers of private camps, offers a ten per cent discount if you book ten sessions per season. Booking a full week at a time, rather than odd days, can also be cheaper.

For younger children, or those who prefer a home environment, childminders will often accept childcare vouchers. You can find a directory of local childminders at childcare.co.uk.

HAVE YOU GOT A SPARE ROOM?

If you have space in your home, a summer au pair could provide older children with a companion for outings. Charges work out at around £80 a week for 25 hours.

You also need to provide a bed and board, and cover their share of the cost of any trips they take with the children. If you recruit an au pair via an agency you may also have to pay a recruitment fee. 

Try BAPAA.org.uk (the British Au Pair Agencies Association) for a list of reputable agencies. For information about taking on an au pair, visit gov.uk/au-pairs-employment-law/au-pairs.

HOW TO SAVE AT HOME AND TRIPS OUT

Even if you are not paying for childcare, the cost of entertaining children, as well as extra food, can mount up. 

Making the most of free or discounted day trips will help keep a lid on costs.

Download the Hoop app on to your phone for details of free or cheap local activities. Many local authorities offer free swimming for children with a library card, while libraries themselves run summer reading challenges.

David Pugh, managing director of financial website Lemonade Money, says: ‘Your council website, library, children’s centre or other community venue is a great place to hunt down details of children’s activities.

‘You will find information on child-friendly places to visit and things to do – everything from museums, library reading schemes and sports camps to woodland walks and swimming. Most of these will be free.’

Other ways to get cheap days out include checking the National Rail 2for1 scheme for half-price entry to many major attractions when you travel by train. Venues included are The Edinburgh Dungeon, Alton Towers and The London Dungeon.

The Football Association provides free football sessions for boys and girls (faskills.thefa.com), while stores including Lego, Apple, Pets at Home and Hobbycraft run holiday workshops for children.

For cinema trips Vue, Odeon and Cineworld all have cheap morning screenings for children, though they may not be the most recent film releases.

Parenting group Netmums has developed a free-to-download app – SeeSaw – that helps parents find things to do with their children near to where they live. About three-quarters of the activities listed on SeeSaw are free.

THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST HOLIDAY MONEY DEALS

 

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