A break which won't break the bank

20th July 2007 at 01:00
How to enjoy the summer holidays without it costing a fortune.

Alison Brace reports

There goes another school year. As your class waves goodbye and disappears into the sunset to spend the holidays with their families, it's time for you, if you're a parent, to spend quality time with your own kids. Or do we mean costly time?

Every day of a school break seems to make fresh demands on parents' finances. Holiday camps, tennis courses, swimming lessons, new shoes, ice creams they all add up.

So how do you make the most of the summer without breaking the bank? Well, we hate to say it but it's all in the planning. You might have had enough of this in the past three terms, but it does hold the key to a successful summer.

If you're off travelling around the UK, think ahead and get a family railcard. It costs pound;20 but with a third off adult fares and 60 per cent off children's, it will probably pay for itself on your first journey. You can now buy the card online, visit www.family-railcard.co.uk

A current special offer means that if you have a railcard, you can join Days Out UK for pound;4.95 saving pound;10 and have access to printable money-off vouchers at 330 of the UK's top family attractions such as Legoland and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Visit www.daysoutuk.com

If you live in London or the South East, also check out National Rail's two for-one offers. And if you are booking with Virgin, make sure you pick up your free goodie bags for five to 12-year-olds.

Also, don't forget to check how many Tesco vouchers you have for another money-saving approach to a day out. Five pounds in Clubcard vouchers gives you pound;20 in vouchers for trips to historic palaces, Sea Life centres, safari parks and museums. For pound;4.75 in Clubcard vouchers, you can buy an adult and a child's entry to the Eden Project in Cornwall, saving you more than pound;14. Visit www.tesco.comclubcarddeals

If West End productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Mary Poppins have always seemed too expensive, Kids Week is for you. Organised by the Society of London Theatre, the event, which runs from August 17 to 31, means children can go free to any of the listed performances as long as they are accompanied by a full-paying adult. You can buy up to two extra children's tickets for half price.

Although booking lines opened on July 18, many theatres release further tickets nearer performance times. See www.kidsweek.co.uk for lists of free activities and events, like behind the scenes tours or even some swashbuckling stage fighting.

If you can't make it to the West End, it's worth seeing if your local theatre has some free children's activities lined up. If your child is a budding computer geek, Apple stores are staging free summer camps for children aged eight or over, but under-13s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The two-and-a-half hour workshops will cover podcasting, iWeb, iPhoto, music and movies. Children will receive a CD or DVD with their project burned on it. See www.apple.com to apply for a place.

But if your main aim is to keep the kids away from the computer screen as much as possible, don't forget that entry to all national museums in the UK is free. Most also stage free workshops for children, as do libraries. Arts and Kids (www.artsand kids.org.uk) will let you know about paying and free events at theatres, museums and libraries in your area. And if you're serious about keeping costs down then avoid the gift shop and take a picnic

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