What do the summer holidays mean to you? For many parents, the school holidays add a lot of additional stress and this is especially true for working families or single parents. You need to figure out the logistics of your children’s care while you’re at work, but the costs of this can often pile up very quickly. However, if you take time off work to look after the kids, or one parent choses to stop work, then this can significantly reduce the income for the household.

Parents will agree that giving children the opportunity to do new and engaging activities is really beneficial over the holidays. Those school-free weeks should be a great time for kids to get out and explore, developing new interests and social skills in more fun and relaxed environments.

However, the emotional pressures on parents can be heavy when wishing to provide positive experiences for their children, especially in relation to their peers, when money is tight at home. So how can the costs of this be managed?

1 How to cope with: Rising costs of holiday childcare

Are you feeling the pinch of rising holiday childcare costs? If you are, you won’t be alone. Whilst in Wales, reports show that childcare costs are falling, in England and Scotland, working families have seen an average rise of 4% from just last year. Such additional expenditure for weeks over the holidays can put working parents under a lot of financial pressure.

One reason for the rising costs is that there is not enough council-run childcare available for all those who could really benefit from this cheaper option. Most local authorities in England are struggling to provide enough summer childcare services, or cannot guarantee that enough will be available, but costs of private and voluntary holiday clubs can be significantly more expensive.

Different child-focused organisations are calling on the government to fund more affordable play-schemes over the summer holidays, but the current governmental provisions just aren’t enough for a lot of parents to manage on a tight budget. If you’re struggling to afford childcare this summer, what are your options?

If you don’t ask you don’t get

First of all, remember that parents of under 16s are entitled to request flexible working hours once they’ve been with their employer for 6 months. Your employer doesn’t have to accept your request, but if your suggestion doesn’t negatively affect the business, they should be willing to accommodate your needs. One tip is that if you can change your hours to avoid travelling at peak times, you may be able to reduce your overall commuting time, leaving more time at home with your kids.

Also, if you receive tax credits, parents can claim additional money for childcare costs over the summer holidays. Otherwise, why not check if your employer offers childcare vouchers and research which holiday clubs and also childminders in your area accept them. Call the Families Information Service national helpline on 0800 2346 346 for more information.

Nevertheless, rallying together with other families in a similar situation is one of the best solutions. It may not be an option for everyone, but if families can co-organise their time off work, everyone benefits. Having well-thought out plans for activities and logistics will make the task of minding additional children seem a whole lot easier. See below for our entertainment top tips on a budget!

If you do go for an informal arrangement like this, think about whether it’s worth drawing up a short contract, signed by all involved, that releases parents from legal liability if a child gets injured. Having a full and open discussion with all parents at the start like this means you’re all on the same page and puts everyone’s mind at ease.

2 How to beat: Boredom!

How many times do you think your child complains of being bored during the school holidays? Some say the average is 106, although for others it probably feels like far more!

In reality, even more creative parents are likely to start struggling for entertainment ideas with the kids at home for all those weeks and missing having their friends around them every day. You might be equally worried about your children spending countless hours glued to video games or going square-eyed in front of the TV.

But parents would be forgiven for thinking that the most exciting activities for children are those which are very expensive and unaffordable for many families. However, there are loads of ways to keep kids energised and entertained throughout the holidays without emptying your bank account. And getting up and active or involved in creative tasks may even benefit the adults a lot as well!

Transform everyday activities by adding inventive twists

For totally free adventures, find out where your nearest forest is and set the children free to use their imagination, climb trees, ride their bikes or discover the wide variety of nature. Try giving the kids a checklist of things to find around the forest and see who is the first to return with all the items. You could also ask them to collect an array of items to stick onto paper to create imaginative works of art later on. For older kids, try a photography competition, with different prize categories, using a camera or camera phone.

Organising a picnic is also a way to instantly transform a boring mealtime into a fun outing, and a good opportunity to get the kids involved in preparing their own food as well. If children feel more involved in choosing what they eat, they are more likely to try new foods and learn vital cooking skills. Making it a teddy bear picnic for younger children will only add to the excitement. Remember lots of these activities also work just as well in your garden or even inside on a rainy day.

If the weather isn’t on your side, cooking or baking at home can offer hours of entertainment. Allow kids to experiment creating their own signature dish from random ingredients, e.g. start with something simple like sandwich fillings. Setting the challenge to see who can bake and decorate the best cupcakes in the family will also keep kids interested with a healthy dose of competition. Older kids can help to supervise younger children in this kind of activity, or having the older ones set up treasure hunts by hiding objects in the house or garden is another great way to involve all ages.

One area that some parents worry about is children forgetting what they’ve learnt in school over the long summer holidays. If you find yourselves at home, convince the children to get out their school books to use for more fun activities. Get the kids to remember areas they’ve been studying and then, for example, practiсe and perform a short play based on a historical period they’ve studied or create their own board game that involves Maths questions, spelling or Science facts.

3 How to save on: the necessary costs that all add up

There’s no denying that there will be extra expenses incurred during the summer holidays no matter what you do. For children who receive free school meals, parents have to spend more on food over the holidays. Household bills may also increase when children aren’t at school because there are more people at home using the gas, water and electricity.

A significant percentage of parents admit that they will skip meals themselves over the school holidays to ensure they can provide proper meals for their children. But there are loads of tricks to keeping your costs from spiraling out of control and still making the most of the summer. Forward planning is usually the key to minimizing spending and being aware of the main areas where overspending tends to occur.

If you don’t already, start keeping a written record of your daily budget and spending, or download a free budgeting App for your phone, to keep tabs on your outgoings over the break. Parents can get caught out by the last-minute costs of back to school gear at the end of the summer, so it’s definitely worth keeping this expense in mind when you’re budgeting over the school holidays.

Save on food and snacks

It’s no surprise that when it comes to cooked meals, using the same ingredients helps you to cut back on price. However, children are the first to notice if they’re getting the same meals too regularly and won’t be impressed. Nevertheless, the internet has hundreds of recipes using the same ingredients but to give totally different results.

Take, for example, the basic ingredients of ground beef/pork/turkey, onions, tomatoes and seasoning: there are only few additional ingredients you have to add to create spaghetti meatballs / a meaty pizza / chili con carne (with rice or baked potato) / meatball soup / sweet & spicy tacos / an enchilada casserole or cheesy beef burgers.

It’s also important when you leave the house to plan meals and snacks in advance. Taking what you can from home will invariably save money, such as bottles of water on a hot day. But also check in advance for places where kids can eat out totally free! Check out www.iguanas.co.uk/kidseatfree and www.giraffe.net/kids-meal-deal for just a couple of examples.

Take advantage of free and discounted entry

Days out = lasting family memories. Even better when you can visit lots of museums and galleries without paying a penny, and the number of interactive exhibits found in larger museums nowadays means kids will usually be far more entertained than you might have expected. Also have a look at popular historical buildings and gardens such as English Heritage sites: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/. Pack a picnic and spend hardly anything on a whole day’s outing.

You can really take advantage of discounted prices at attractions such as theme parks and theatres, so there’s bound to be an option that any child will enjoy. Tesco Clubcard points can be converted into Boost rewards to save up to 75% on theme park tickets. The well-known moneysavingexpert website is also offering a fantastic deal on a Kids Pass that covers all kinds of activities, at £1 down from £15:  https://www.kidspass.co.uk/trial/mse60days. Just make sure you remember to cancel the trial, at any point. You still get full use of the 60-day offer. Finally, check out www.lastminute.com for fantastic reduced theatre deals country-wide.

Pay less for travel

None of these ideas would be any good if it ended up too expensive for you to actually get there. Well, if you’ve followed all of our tips for a cheaper summer so far, no family need feel that the fun is out of reach, especially if you know what travel deals are also available. First of all, you could take one of our short term loans to cover travel expenses and with cashasap.co.uk you can choose the exact amount that you need to buy train or aeroplane tickets for you and your children.

One of the best purchases you can make is a Family & Friends Railcard which costs £30 and saves you 1/3 on adult fares and 60% on kids’ fares across Great Britain for a whole year. Planning your trips ahead of time and booking Advance tickets in this way can vastly reduce your travel costs. Visit the National Rail website to get yours.

National Express coaches also offer Child Fares at half the price of an Adult’s, and children 2 years and under go free. Why not see which seaside locations you can reach from where you live and start remembering some classic journey games for the ride? Pack a bat and ball or just trainers for a good walk in the rejuvenating sea air. Making sure kids keep up some exercise when they’re not at school is really important, as is making the most of the sun while it lasts!

Don’t miss out

Whatever way you choose to spend time with your kids this summer, we know sometimes you do need a little bit of extra cash to tide you over to pay day or when unexpected expenses arise. A cashasap.co.uk loan is really quick and easy to apply for and the decision is instant, with the money transferred into your account within two hours if your application is approved.

You can borrow from £200 to £750 for up to 35 days, or with our Multi Month Loans you can split the repayment over your next three to six paydays. Please read the T&Cs carefully and we hope we’ve done a little bit to help transform any of your financial fears into fun for all the family this summer.