Save money on our summer vacation

Some families plan day trips closer to home during school holidays to cut costs instead of booking accommodation

Millions of families across the UK are excitedly looking forward to their first summer break together since the end of pandemic travel restrictions.

But a third of parents worry they will run into financial hardship as they deal with paying for child care, food, entertainment and vacations over the next few weeks, according to research from debt charity StepChange.

The rising cost of living means that many are getting creative about how to make the most of their time.

Marion Zelentino in Cambridgeshire is one of them.

After having her third child, she was eager to contribute to the family budget once again, so she decided to rent out their Airbnb home to vacationers.

“We’ve actually been away a few times this year, on different camping trips, when people have been staying at our house,” she says.

Campsite with several family tents in Bath

Camping has boomed in many areas of the UK during the pandemic

Marion also saved more money by using camping gear and a tent-sharing site called Tentshare, for these trips. People list their tents and gadgets for free on the site and charge whatever fee they think their listing is worth.

“There is no point in buying a tent for only a few weeks a year,” she explains. We rented a large family tent for two [summer] weeks. We’re going camping in my father-in-law’s garden.

“It’s a great way to save a little bit more that we can use on our outing days and reward the kids while we’re camping. It’s going to be an adventure for them.”

While Kent’s Rebecca Douglas is committing to day trips closer to home this summer rather than going on vacation to save money.

“We didn’t want to get caught up in the Covid chaos, hiring at airports and losing money,” she says. “Or, you must pay because of the turmoil.”

As a freelance photographer, her work has also been “stop/start,” she says, for the past two years. “I couldn’t risk a vacation away and then got stranded and then had to lose work.”

Instead, Rebecca and her husband searched for day trips closer to home.

“We realized that we don’t need to go too far to get immersed in nature and have a day off. This means we can also monitor how much money we spend on diesel,” she adds.

Grandma's Box

Grandma Rebecca’s “beach hut” kit in a box included everything from clothesline and pegs to kettle and crockery.

Rebecca spent the long summer at her grandfather’s beach cottage as a child and inherited what became known in the family as the Grandma’s Trust.

It had everything “you might need to set up your beach cottage,” she explains. One day, she realized she could do something similar this summer.

Rather than getting frustrated with “being on the beach shack waiting list for the seventh year in a row,” she says, they decided to instead outfit their car like a mobile beach shack.

“We can load up our picnic items, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, chairs, deck chairs, table, table, gas stove and supplies and spend the whole day outside, then go home in the comfort of our family and save money in the deal,” she says. “What do you not like?”

Mary Fane on a boat on vacation in the United States

The house exchange meant that Mary Fine was able to attend a friend’s wedding in the United States

Recruitment professional Mary Fine, from Glasgow, also came up with a Plan B this year.

When around £4,000 was quoted, only for flights and hotel for a friend’s US wedding in May, I was shocked. Car rental could have added another £1,500 on top.

The wedding flight seemed impossible until Mary had a luminous moment – the house exchange.

Mary and her husband spent several years renovating a large Victorian home in Glasgow. Renting it out on Airbnb during the COP26 climate summit made them believe all the “hard work and effort can work in our favour.”

She joined Love Home Swap, where traders pay an annual fee, starting at £96, to list their properties. They upload photos as well as a detailed description of their home and are waiting for matches.

The couple found a property near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia in the United States and connected them with the owners who, fortunately, were also interested in their home in Glasgow.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “It saved us a lot of money. We were able to use their car as well as their house which really helped us. They also had a boat on the lake which we definitely made the most of!”

beach in uk

The UK saw record temperatures in July

It may also be worth checking out what the local authority or public library service offers to families for free during the summer.

At this time of year, Alex and his young family were usually preparing to head to Spain for a well-deserved vacation. But when he lost his job as a chef at the start of the pandemic, their financial situation changed.

“I went from getting paid well, to having to claim benefits overnight,” he says. “I’ve always been quite frugal, but it was a huge shock to have to tighten our belts so much and so quickly.”

Although the family is constantly concerned about money, they are determined to make the most of the Kent initiative which provides free bus travel anywhere in the county for families during the summer holidays.

This program is part of Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People, which launched in March and will run through August.

Separately, in similar schemes, people under the age of 22 in Scotland qualify for free bus travel this summer, and Northumberland runs a scheme where children under 11 can travel free on buses, with a paying adult.

“If it wasn’t for the free bus pass, we’d be stuck in the apartment, or we’d only be able to stay close to where we live,” Alex says.

The local school also sent home a fact sheet with each pupil detailing the free vacation days for families during the summer which he says have proven beneficial.

“We can plan our days knowing it won’t break the bank,” Alex adds.

“It’s going to make a real difference in our summer vacation. It’s not quite Spain, but it’s not far away.”

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