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How to enjoy the summer holidays during a cost of living crisis

School holidays can be a really costly event for parents with the summer holidays being the most expensive. The cost of living crisis we are experiencing means this year, the school summer holidays are going to be really tough for many UK families.

A highlight of the summer holidays is the quality time we spend with our children. These can be some of the best and happiest days of the year. However the increased costs of entertainment, meals and childcare can make it really stressful too.

The weekly food shopping bill increases significantly during the weeks that the children are off school, and for families who receive free school meals this is another big addition to the summer holiday costs.

There is pressure for the government to extend the free school meals programme for the summer holidays. There is a risk that more than a million children will face going hungry without the free school meals programme being extended. The government is being urged to act like they did during the Covid pandemic.

A good education doesn’t come cheap. In the UK, the average back-to-school cost for 8–16-year-olds is £300 and that usually just includes school uniforms, sports gear, equipment and school trips.

By the time you’ve factored in spending money and paying for tablets and smartphones – then it’s easy to find yourself out of pocket in a hurry. Before you know it, the school holidays arrive.

As well as keeping the kids busy and entertained, the price of childcare and overseas travel tends to rise during the holidays so it’s wise to budget for those periods throughout the year.

For many parents the school holidays can be a very taxing period, both timewise and financially. In fact, an Equifax survey shows that 1 in 5 parents have admitted that they find half term holidays stressful.

(Source Reference: Equifax)

Taking trips during school holidays can cost up to 3x more. Is that fair? Let’s be real for a second - if you’re currently working somewhere other than a school, you’re probably pretty jealous of the six-week break kids and teachers get each summer. What you’re probably less jealous of is the amount of extra money anyone with a child or teacher in their family has to shell out if they want to take a trip during the school holidays. Some number-crunching by The Mirror suggests it’s not uncommon for holidays abroad to cost 3x more than they would during term time, which can mean many families end up spending hundreds of extra pounds.

To get energy costs down during the school holidays it is worth a quick check around the house to turn off appliances which are not being used. Kids will often leave their televisions, game consoles, laptops and phones on standby and switching them off can make a big difference to your energy bills.

(Source Reference Our Economy)

Keeping the children entertained...

To help you keep the children entertained during the long six-week break without breaking the bank, we have come up with these ideas. We believe that with a little planning you’ll be able to have fun and keep the children entertained and happy.


Kids love getting involved in cooking and it is a great way of getting them to try different foods and flavours. Baking is always a great way to start getting children excited about being in the kitchen, with lots of mixing and moulding and then a lovely treat at the end! Let them help you prepare your evening meal or lunch or how about packing a picnic. BBC Good Food have some great recipes suitable for children to make.


Picnics are a great way of spending a few hours on a dry day without spending any money. Find a nice spot in a park or forest, lay your picnic blanket down and you are good to go. Why not encourage the kids to help you put the lunch items together to get them involved in the preparation.
Taking along, balls, rackets or kites can also add to the entertainment.


I’m sure you would have thought of this one but I think it should still be included as all kids love parks and they are free! To mix things up a little and add a little variety, why not try to find new parks that you have never been to before or parks which include a splash park or skateboard park.

Treasure Hunt

These can be great fun and can be done in a park or forest but can be just as much fun doing one in the garden or even in the house. Create a map for them to follow to get to the X spot or hide treasure in the garden or house for them to find.

Visit a Museum

Museums are great as they are mostly free to go to and you can spend hours looking around them. Take a picnic and you have another free day out. My favourite museum is the Natural History Museum in London, there is so much to see and the children will be fascinated by it all. Most museums ask you to make a donation if you can afford to, so you can give what you can afford.

Play Days

Speak with friends and arrange play dates for your children. This can solve a couple of problems in one go, it keeps the children entertained and it can also help with childcare costs during the holidays. Arrange a kid swap once a week with parents who have the issue of childcare in the holidays and have each other’s children to help keep the childcare costs down.

Restaurant Deals

Check out which restaurants offer special offers in the school holidays like “kids eat free”. You would usually need to buy an adult meal to receive this offer.

Loyalty Schemes

Supermarkets are great for this and allow you to exchange your loyalty points into vouchers for days out. This is a great way to treat to kids to big days out like theme parks.


Camping can be great fun for all the family. Glamping may be preferred by some while others may prefer getting away from it all with simple tent camping. A camping holiday can work for all budgets with the option of pitching up a tent in your back garden. Camping is good for both body and mind. Benefits include learning new skills, unplugging and getting away from screens, connecting with nature and stress reduction.


Parkruns are free, weekly, community events. You can take part in the 5k runs on Saturday mornings in parks and open spaces. On Sunday mornings, there are 2k junior parkruns for children aged four to 14. They are positive, welcoming and inclusive experience where there is no time limit and no one finishes last. Everyone is welcome and you can walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. Find a parkrun.

A day at the beach

Is there anything better than a day at the beach when the sun is shining? The beach is perfect when on a budget, you just need to pack a picnic, some towels and you are good to go! It’s best to plan your day, decide which beach to go to and how to get there. If going by car, find out where to park and the costs, many seafronts have parking available on side streets. If going by train, many train operators offer discounts in the holidays if you travel off peak so it may be kids go free. All you need to do is decide which flavour ice-cream you want.

Rainy Days

It can be tricky to keep children entertained when the weather is not so great and your low priced options are limited. A fun way of getting children to use their imagination and get creative is to get some bedding and cushions and make a secret den indoors. Once the den is made they can have lots of fun inside the den, watching a film or playing a board game, maybe even eating their lunch or snacks in there. Adding some sparkly fairy lights will make it extra special and cosy as it gets dark.


Over the last 15 years tastecard have been helping their members save money on the things they love. You can get discounts on dining out, movies, attractions, take-aways and more. The dining out offers 2 for 1 meals or 50% off food at thousands of restaurants. With discounts from popular brands and local hidden gems, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Buy your tastecard via TheGivingMachine and you will also raise a £2.10 donation for your chosen cause.


With many young kids often preferring the cardboard boxes which toys came in to the actual toys, boxes can provide great entertainment. Help the kids get creative and make something special with these boxes. Some ideas of what they could make are: a castle, a house, a space rocket, a plane, a boat, a treasure box, a puppet theatre or a car wash. The list is endless and they can really stretch their imagination. Just add a few arts and crafts and this task can provide hours of fun.


About the author

Luisa Gatward

Our Head of Operations, Luisa is responsible for the smooth running of all operations including marketing and partner relationships. Having started working for TheGivingMachine in 2010, she has seen our Charity grow and develop into what we have today.

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