Cost Effective School Holiday Ideas to Save Your Money and Your Sanity This Summer

July 2, 2019

The school holidays can make many parents anxious – especially those of us that have to stick to tight budgets – but entertaining the kids constantly for 6 whole weeks is hard, and is it just mine or do all kids eat 5 times more than normal when they’re at home?
Every year I try and come up with a few ideas to make those long 6 weeks fun and interesting for the kids without making myself completely skint or worrying about not having enough for certain activities.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some fantastic ideas for things to do that won’t break the bank and help you create a fun but frugal summer/school holiday on a budget to help you create fun and long-lasting memories.

Make a 6-week Summer Planner.

Ok, so first things first. Mark out a 6-week calendar big enough to write an activity for each day. I did this a few years ago and found an A3 piece of card was a perfect size but these days I’ve created a printable version that I can reuse each year.

Mark out all the dates and then add any appointments or plans you may already have. As you start to plan the rest of your holiday, you will have it all clearly set up and can avoid double booking etc.
Don’t worry about filling each day, it does children good to be bored once in a while and use their own imagination.

A planner is also a good visual tool – add stickers for certain things, count down sleeps, colour code boxes – decorate it together and allow everyone to contribute to the activities that you choose. Want a copy of my free printable planner? Scroll down to the bottom – I’m giving it away free as a thank you to anyone that signs up to my mailing list.

Get some extra pennies in

Just before the kids break up from school, go through and sell some of their toys that they no longer play with, clothes they no longer fit in and anything else you might have lying around that you no longer want or need. Put the proceeds in a holiday pot and use this for things like when the ice cream man comes around or to buy a couple of holiday supplies (see a list of ideas further down)

Book some play dates!

The great thing about the summer holidays is that you are not alone. Everyone else’s kids are off school too, so put a call out on your facebook page or text those mummy friends you haven’t seen for a while and get play dates booked in. (Add these to your calendar you’ve just made.) Even if you only see 2 friends, twice each, that’s 4 days sorted where you haven’t got to plan or organise a trip out. Do something simple for lunch like beans on toast or a £1 pizza and you’re well away. If you’ve not got any mummy friends that have children the same age as yours, why not speak to some of the parents on the school run so your little ones still get to see their school friends.

Go to the park.

Not the same park you always go to.. mix it up a bit. Try a week of going to a different park every day and then maybe ask the kids to pick their favourite and go back there over the weekend. You could even get them to rate them on various things. Make some simple scorecards and rate the swings, slides etc.
If you have one close by, why not try a water park or even a skate park.

3 children sat on a basket swing
Siblings that swing together


They don’t need to cost you any more than eating at home. Pasta is cheap and easy to make and can be eaten cold. Freeze a tub of cocktail sausages and get some frozen sausage rolls and just take out enough for that day’s lunch. This way the food will last a lot longer and you’ll always have something in for a last minute trip. Even if you just take out a cheese sandwich, an apple and a bag of crisps, there’s something about taking your food outside that just makes it that bit more enjoyable.

Get some culture.

Many places like libraries or museums will put on events or activities over the holidays. Many of these are free or only ask for a small fee or donation to cover costs. Library reading challenges are normally quite popular and often reward the children with certificates. Search in facebook groups and those free local magazines you find in shops or takeaways

Create a holiday journal.

For less than a couple of quid you can pick up a kids sketch pad or exercise book and a pack of pencils and they can create their very own journal of the holiday. At the end of each day or week, they can write (or draw) their favourite moments. Maybe they could collect things to stick inside too (tickets, photos, wrist bands etc). It makes a great way of looking back at the fun they’ve had plus offers some quiet time for you. Of course, you may need to help if you have younger ones.

Create a treasure hunt.

You can use pictures of things to find, give clues, draw a map, tick lists – however you want to do it. Find a certain flower, tasks to climb a tree or answer a wildlife question before you can move on maybe. A picnic at the destination is a great motivator.

Chores disguised as fun.

Let them clean the car and end up with a water fight, make a small washing line and wash dolls clothes. Kids love sweeping and mopping. Maybe cut the grass and let them have a grass fight.

Buying summer supplies.

A trip out at the start of the holiday to buy lots of things to use over the coming weeks is one day filled by just preparing for the rest of the weeks. My essential summer shopping list includes things like a paddling pool, pavement chalks, bubbles, boxes of ice pops, maybe a kite or a new ball, perhaps even a water pistol or two (or three) etc. All relatively cheap things but all keep the kids occupied. 

Camp in the garden.

Borrow a tent if you haven’t got one and camp out in the garden. If your kids have been bugging you for a sleepover, this is a perfect opportunity. Don’t forget the marshmallows.

Get out.

Go for walks. Go for bike rides. You can check out my guide to teach your child to ride a bike. Don’t have a bike? You can get some beautiful adult tricycles with lots of baggage room these days. Even electric ones or ones that fold.
Get a daily bus ticket and go on the busses all over town you. You might find a whole new area you never knew about.



Bird feeders, wind chimes, junk models can all be made from household rubbish.
Join in a local litter pick or even organise one yourself

Building dens.

Blankets, chairs, washing lines, pegs, golfing umbrellas and parasols can all be used to make some awesome dens. Even cardboard boxes and garden canes can be used. We like to go to our local country park where branches like these are deliberately left for den building.

Rickerby Den – Version 2.0

Go to a PYO farm.

Entry is normally free and you only pay for what you pick. Pick something nice like strawberries and go home and make some jam or put them in a trifle. Maybe a plum pie. We went last year and got some lovely corn, courgettes and squashes.

Join the National Trust.

For a monthly fee, you can get free entry into many places of historic interest or natural beauty. They also have a page on their website that gives you a list of 50 things to do before your 11 and 3/4 it’s all stuff you can do for free!

Be a Nature Detective.

Check out the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website – loads of printable nature stuff, hunts, ID sheets, colouring pages, craft ideas…


The worlds largest treasure hunt. Download an app onto your phone and use GPS to direct you to geocache locations. Some will have clues, some will have treasure and almost all of them have some sort of log you can sign to say you found it. Start with the easy ones and build up. Maybe plan a walk hitting as many caches as you can.

What would you add?

Those are my top tips for a summer holiday on a budget – what would you add to the list?
What’s the one thing you do to get you through the school break without tearing your hair out?
Don’t forget to get yourself on my mailing list for occasional updates and as a thank you, I’ll send you my 6-week summer holiday planner.

As a thank you for joining MessyBlogMail, you can download and keep a FREE Summer holiday Planner HERE!

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  • Reply Wave to Mummy July 26, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Lots of great ideas! I will definitely try some of these 🙂

    • Reply Leslie Rickerby July 28, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Hope you have fun 🙂

  • Reply Tin August 2, 2017 at 8:46 am

    There’s some awesome ideas on here! We are National Trust members and I was just thinking about going to our local site today as a great way to kill the afternoon! Camping in the garden also sounds like great fun xx

    • Reply Leslie Rickerby August 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Ah thank you, glad you found it useful. Hope you enjoy your day out 🙂

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