The school summer holidays evoke the same sort of mixed emotions in most parents as does Christmas. Both should be happy family occasions, both are preceded by a build-up of excitement – and both are prone to disappointment, or worse.
Another common feature is the tendency for spending to run out of control, creating financial hangovers in January and September.
So, our first survival tip is a simple one.
Whether you are planning a fortnight in the Seychelles, or a series of day trips from home, a proper budget is essential.
Strong nerves for bargain hunters
Such a budget should be realistic. Wishful thinking about how little money will be needed is likely to result in the budget being quickly overspent and then discarded.
This applies to everything from car journeys to flights. Spur of the moment impulse trips, home or abroad, may sound attractive, but they have the potential to cause financial and emotional problems.
On the financial side, items such as rail or plane fares tend to cost less the earlier you book them. Yes, operators sometimes slash prices at the last minute on the basis that an empty seat on a certain day can never be sold again. But you will need very strong nerves to hold out for such bargains on services to your destination of choice. More likely is that you will be offered cut-price tickets to places you don’t actually wish to visit, these being all that is left on sale.
Emotionally, impulse trips can take their toll, whether in terms of a day out ruined by traffic jams (which could have been foreseen), or the need to shepherd children through airports at unsocial hours, this being the only time a flight was available.
It is too easy on holiday to indulge in spending that would never normally be countenanced, whether that be on expensive coffee and snacks or overpriced souvenirs. Previous generations understood this, which is why a Thermos flask and homemade sandwiches were key features of British holidaymaking.
Children need rest
Somehow, we have lost that good sense.
Similarly, both at home or abroad you should never assume that an attraction is desirable simply because it is expensive. Museums, galleries and historic sites are often either low-cost or free. Walks in the country with spectacular scenery, to a secluded beach or cove, both cost nothing.
On the same subject, it is true that children’s interest needs to be maintained on long journeys, but this need not always involve costly screen-based entertainment. Popular audio-books can be taken out of the library for a modest charge, and games such as I Spy never go out of fashion.
If all this forward planning sounds rather joyless and lacking in spontaneity, always bear in mind that its sole purpose is to free you from worries to enjoy your holiday. Have a great summer!