This year, due to our imminent house-move we have not booked a summer holiday - partly due to frugality and partly because we don't know at what stage in the house sale process we'll be at. Now that Ruby is at pre-school, I'm finally realising why people complain about the hike in prices over the school holidays. According to research, once school starts back in September, prices for holidays abroad drop by an average of 32% while UK breaks fall by more than 50%.
In an effort to stave of sulks and wails of "it's not fair", I'm planning and plotting a toddler friendly staycation. We've had a trial run 'mini-homiday' over the Easter break, so here's how we made it fun:
Me and campsites do not get on. I'm not enamoured of communal shower blocks and mile-long hikes to the nearest toilet. Pitching your tent in the back garden means you get the best of both worlds! Even better when you persuade Daddy that it is an excellent father-child bonding experience. They get the fun of sleeping under canvass, midnight feasts and stories by torch-light, while Mummy gets a blissful night's sleep with the double bed all to herself. Ruby thought it was fabulous and being the contrary child that she is, actually slept better and got up later than she normally does in her own bed.
There's nothing better for a free afternoon of summer fun than getting the paddling pool out. Add in some plastic or inflatable toys and invite some of their friends or cousins round for hours of splashing and squealing. It might not be the Algarve, but as long as Ruby can chuck some water about, she's happy!
Picnics and BBQs
Make sure the holiday spirit extends to mealtimes too by eating al fresco. Lunch on the lawn, breakfast on a blanket in the garden and dinner fresh from the barbie - you'd never know you were still at home! I'm normally a bit more relaxed about food and treats on holiday, so on our staycation we'll have ice lollies (homemade for cheaper, healthier alternatives to the additive ridden shop variety) and good old barbecued bangers and burgers.
One of the big expenses of holidaying is the day trips out and about. What with parking, entrance fees, food in the cafes and the lure of the gift shop, a well-meaning visit to a museum or fun-park can cost you a fortune. There's so much pressure to keep kids entertained, but with toddlers they are perfectly happy with a trip to the local park, a walk in the woods or feeding the ducks.
This Easter we've explored what's available nearby much more than we normally do. We've had lovely days out for free at parks and open spaces we can walk or cycle too. Check out your local paper for free fetes, festivals and community events too. Most of these will have kids entertainment and activities. Make the most of your local amenities - we have a free art gallery and museum locally who offer activities throughout the holidays, and libraries are great too.
And if it rains on your parade? I'll be turning the living room into a cinema - cones made from recycled magazines, filled with homemade popcorn, and a favourite Disney DVD on the box. Perfect!
It's all about the attitude
To properly enjoy holidaying at home, you need to enter into it wholeheartedly. Switch off from your normal day-to-day, kick back and relax!
Got any more tips for us?