But there’s no need to put half-term fun on hold because money’s tight. With a little forward planning, you can keep your costs to a minimum. Here’s our top five ways to save money – whether you are going away this half term or staying at home.
1. Going away? Pre-book your holiday extras
If you’re spending quality time as a family this half term on an overseas holiday, make sure you don’t pay a penny more than you need for your holiday extras.
For example, if you are planning on hiring a car for your break, pre-book your vehicle now rather than just turning up to your destination and taking pot luck. You could secure your transport for the week for as little as £7 a day.
You’ll also be able to compare vehicles in your own time and opt for the best one for you rather than having to choose from a smaller selection of whatever is left on arrival.
We did a quick search for a family car from Tenerife South airport over the February half term (with pick-up on February 16 and drop-off on February 23) and found medium family cars on TravelSupermarket from just £80.19. This is less than half of Europcar’s pay-on-arrival price of £187.78 for a medium family car on the same dates, and shows how much money you can save just by being organised.
When you’ve hired your car, avoid throwing money away at the last hurdle by sorting out your excess insurance at the same time. This can bring the price down from as much as £20 per day at the desk when you arrive to just £2.99 a day.
Similarly significant savings can be made by pre-ordering your travel money online rather than going to the high street or waiting until you reach the airport, by pre-booking your airport parking space and by shopping around for the best travel insurance policy.
So spend a few minutes online now and squirrel away the money you’ve saved for your next break.
2. Don’t pay for half term activities
If you’re staying at home this half term, you may shudder at the thought of the cost of days out. But there’s no need to resign yourself to a week cooped-up in the house as plenty of family-friendly days out needn’t cost a penny.
Take a look at the website of your local museum or library to see if they are offering any free events this half term. Manchester Museum, for example, is offering a range of free activities for children around the theme of “Ancient Worlds” while the Natural History Museum in London has a week-long series of events including “Curious Collectors” - an interactive event where all the family can take a trail through the museum, get creative and dress-up.
Or, if your children have been inspired by the Australian Open, why not take them to a free tennis coaching session? Tennis For Free offers free lessons in 14 courts across the country - simply go to their site, type in your postcode and click on the name of your local court for information on dates and times.
If you can’t find a coaching session nearby, the site also lets you search for free courts in your area – you could teach the kids yourself and burn off some calories while having fun.
For more inspiration on days out this half term, take a look at our video...
3. Sort out your transport now
Whether you’re travelling to the airport or taking the kids on a day out and plan to get there by train, pre-book your tickets now to ensure you snap up the cheapest possible fares. Even booking tickets online the night before you travel can result in savings – so don’t just take your chances when you arrive at the station.
The best way to find cheap fares is to look for your tickets on a comparison site such as TravelSupermarket’s rail channel and to be as flexible as possible about the time you leave and arrive - a train just 10 minutes later could be significantly cheaper, so make sure you look at all the options side by side before you book.
And families with a child between the ages of five and 15 who travel regularly can save even more money by investing in a Friends & Family railcard. The card costs £28 and you can save a third off the price of adults’ fares and 60% off children’s.
4. Never pay full price
With vouchers available online for everything from money-off dinner bills to discounts on days out, if you do your homework, you can avoid paying full whack for a whole host of items.
If you want to treat the kids to some food out over half term, for example, MoneySupermarket’s voucher channel has a number of special offers including 20% off your food bill at Frankie and Benny’s and 25% off food at Zizzi (only valid until February 13). Take a look for offers at your favourite restaurant.
Or, if you are planning a day out with the kids, take a look online to see if there is a voucher available to cut your costs.
MoneySupermarket currently has offers including 25% off the price of admissions to the Eden Project , two-for-one on admissions to WaterWorld in Stoke and up to £12 off the price of entry to Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port.
And don’t forget to look out for discounts elsewhere too. If you travel by public transport, for example, there are often details of deals on the backs of tickets, so pay attention in the run-up to half term. Or, if you collect supermarket points, take a look to see if you can use these on days out.
Plus, a fun activity for children who are fans of Blue Peter could be to write a letter to the show or to send in a picture to stand the chance of being awarded a coveted Blue Peter Badge. These little badges will get children in for free at more than 200 UK attractions.
5. Take a picnic
When you’re away from home, the cost of food and drink can soon spiral, so another easy way to save money is to take a packed lunch for all the family. This will not only help you to keep valuable cash in your pocket but it means you can control what the kids are eating. And, if you take some healthy treats along too, you can prevent any dreaded sugar lows.
This is equally important when you are travelling. Recent research from TravelSupermarket revealed that the average mark-up on hot food and sandwiches on a flight was a staggering 257%, so taking a packed lunch with you for your journeys is also a money-saving technique for savvy parents – just don’t forget the 100ml rule for liquids at the security gate.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.