Summer Holiday Survival Guide

Tips to keep the family busy without the financial stress 


The summer holidays might be a dream for kids but they can be a nightmare for parents trying to juggle work and childcare, all while keeping everyone fed and entertained.

Any parent will know how expensive summer is at the best of times, however, the cost of living crisis is pushing costs to even higher levels. Food bills and energy prices have all spiked recently, while interest rates have risen to their highest rate since 2008, pushing up the cost of mortgage or rent payments, as well as loan and credit card payment plans.

With flights to some destinations soaring by more than 70%, and the cost of a package holiday to Greece up by 30%, jetting off to sunnier climes may be more of a luxury than ever before. Holidaying closer to home isn’t necessarily cheaper either, as accommodation providers, restaurants and attractions have no choice but to pass on their own high costs to customers.

However, it’s important to recognise that for some, the current economic crisis will impact more than just their holiday plans. While many people will be tightening their belts this summer, others are experiencing serious poverty and unmanageable debt levels. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that a quarter of low-income households use credit to pay essential bills, and four-in-ten of those who have children are spending less on food for them.

Having previously been a single parent in debt myself, I can relate to those who feel like they have to put a brave face on, and end up spending more than they have to ensure everyone has a good holiday.

All the pressure to ‘make memories’ can leave you feeling anxious and isolated – but kids don’t need endless trips and treats to have fun. Most of the time they’re perfectly happy playing with their friends in the park, or enjoying a run-around on the beach.

To help you have a stress-free summer without breaking the bank, we’ve put together this handy survival guide. It’s jam-packed with ideas for budget-friendly holidays, activities and meals, as well as tips for managing childcare and signposting you to the right support services if you’re struggling to afford essentials.

We hope you enjoy it – and if you’ve got any of your own advice to share, get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram.

Layla Johnson

Regional manager, Creditfix


Head to Holidays and Trips for tips on how to plan a holiday on a budget

Things to do


Finding new, creative ways to entertain the kids at the weekend can be hard enough sometimes never mind keeping them busy for the whole of the summer break. But doing things together is an important part of family life. As well as keeping boredom at bay, activities are good for our mental and physical health, especially when normal term-time routines are disrupted.


You might be lucky enough to have flexibility in your job or be able to take annual leave during the summer – but you may also be scratching your head, wondering how you’re going to fill the days ahead. No matter what your situation, our handy tips will hopefully help you keep the little ones entertained.


On your doorstep

The summer holidays offer a great opportunity to explore what’s on your doorstep. It’s easy to forget just how much could be happening by heading out your front door and into your local area. Check your local council, newspapers, listings websites or Facebook groups to see what’s on in your town centre, parks and libraries.

  • Make the journey a big part of your day. Your kids will love a trip on your local bus or tram routes – whether it be the Glasgow Subway or an iconic London red double-decker bus. And, if you’re in England, you can take advantage of the £2 bus price cap currently running.
  • Local shopping centres have dedicated sections of their websites packed with free or low-cost events throughout the holidays.
  • Popular brands such as Odeon cinema also have special family cinema screenings where adults can pay the same price as kids.

Free days out

Planning days out doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It’s great if you’re able to save up a bit of spending money to use on a day or weekend away but if not, there are still plenty of free activities to make the most of:


Outdoor ideas

There’s no better way to spend a glorious summer’s day than heading outdoors to a local beach, nature park or attraction. However, don’t forget it’s important to keep skin protected with sun cream, and this article reviews some of the best-value brands from supermarkets.

  • Read our Feeding a Family section and pack up a picnic to take to your local park.
  • Sign up to the Geocaching app and go on a real-life treasure hunt.
  • Discover nature and local heritage by finding a walk on the National Trust or National Trust Scotland Prices will vary, but the gardens and trails are often the best value – and special family promotions often run during school holidays, so keep checking for the most recent deals.
  • Play a ball game. Or if you’re short on space, a badminton set can provide lots of fun without the risk of any accidents.
  • Collect flowers to create your own bunch or make your own mini garden. Out in your garden you may find flowers like dandelions and daisies (which many think are weeds!) to make a pretty display.

Food and fun

If you live in England, and your children are eligible for free school meals, check out a government scheme called Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) which encourages physical movement, healthy eating and socialising.

Grants have been provided so that local councils can provide these activities free of charge to eligible families. Visit your council’s website to find out more.

No fuss fun: Slummy Single Mummy blogger, author and podcaster Jo Middleton shares her tips for getting crafty in the kitchen at home

Cooking up a quirky recipe is a great way to while away the hours with the family and enjoy a delicious treat. I’m always trying out new things – usually cakes and snacks – that don’t involve too many fussy ingredients.

On my website you can find recipes such as party rings, tear and share chocolate star bread, marshmallow clouds and focaccia flower bread. And on Feeding Your Family you can discover ways to source ingredients for less.

Here’s my recipe for a well-known jammie biscuit:

To make 15 biscuits, you will need: 100g salted butter, 60g caster sugar, 150g plain flour, a splash of vanilla essence, 1 egg yolk, 3 tablespoons of jam (cost: £1.44 in total, or around 10p per biscuit*).

Start by creaming together the sugar and butter. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla, and then finally the flour to form a dough. Wrap this up in some cling film and chill for a while in the fridge – my dough was in the fridge for about an hour.

  • When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and get a couple of baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper.
  • Roll out your dough fairly thin and cut into biscuit shapes. I used a 5cm diameter fluted cutter. Cut heart shapes out of half the biscuits and lay them all out on the trays.
  • Pop your biscuits into the oven for about 10 minutes. You want them to be turning very slightly golden, but not quite cooked.
  • At this point, take them out of the oven and put about half a teaspoon of jam onto each of the whole biscuits.
  • Place a heart biscuit on top and squish down gently so that the jam fills the heart. Do this bit carefully and press from the middle as the biscuits break easily.
  • Return them to the oven for another five minutes and take them out when they look very gently golden. You really only need a tinge of colour around the edges.

*Based on costs sourced from in June 2023. Ingredients may vary in price depending on store and date.


While the summer holidays are a time for adventure, they can also be a childcare struggle.

The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world for childcare – and some parents barely earn enough to cover the costs. Our Nursery Fees Report, published last year, shows that parents can expect to spend on average £54.76 per child per day.

Many families are eligible for 30 hours’ free childcare (15 hours in some cases) when their child turns three, and there’s set to be more support for those on Universal Credit too. However, even three and four-year-olds are normally only eligible for free childcare during term time, which can make the school holidays an expensive juggling act.

Last year, the charity Pregnant then Screwed found that one-in-eight parents using formal childcare expected to spend more than £2,000 on it during the summer – if they are lucky enough to get it. Another study, published at the same time, found that just 27% of local authorities had childcare places available for parents working full-time.

You may have to rely on annual or even unpaid parental leave, which is particularly tricky (or impossible) for single parents. Not everyone can fall back on grandparents for childcare either, especially if they have health problems, other commitments or live far away.


What options do I have?

Put in a flexible working request

Anyone can put in a flexible working request – which could help to reduce the amount of childcare you need, and your boss will need a good reason for turning it down (i.e. it’ll have a negative impact on the business). Some jobs require you to be on-site at specific times but you may be able to agree compressed hours or an earlier start/finish. While you’re still likely to need some childcare, it can cut costs if you work your hours in four days instead of five, for example.


Holiday clubs and play schemes

Depending on where you live, a holiday club or play scheme can be cheaper than a childminder, especially ones run by local schools or councils. It’s also a chance for children to try new activities and spend time with their friends so boredom doesn’t set in. Look out for clubs dedicated to your children’s interests, whether it be football or drama – some even offer free or cheaper places to those on means-tested benefits or a low income.


Tax-free childcare

You may be eligible for tax-free childcare during the summer holidays for childminders, holiday clubs and other providers. It’s worth up to £2,000 per child (or £4,000 if your child has a disability), so well worth looking into. For more details, visit the government’s childcare website.


Costs are rising everywhere and, like many families, you’ll have seen the price of your weekly shop rocket in recent months. The 2023 Youth Opportunities Tracker: Fairer Futures report found that a third of families in the UK had used food support in the last six months, and a quarter had started the day without a meal.

For low income families, the summer holidays can be particularly challenging. During term-time, free school meals could make a dramatic impact on food shop budgets, but with six weeks of food to account for, how can you make your money stretch further? 

If you’re eligible for free school meals, our Activities section has details of a government scheme that can provide fun and food during the holidays.

Supermarket schemes

If you can, stocking up in bulk at your local supermarket is a great way to save money, rather than popping to your expensive convenience store at the last minute. But there are also lots of other handy ways to be a savvy spender at your next grocery shop.


Enjoy free or discounted meals at in-store cafes

Last summer, supermarkets such as Morrisons and Asda operated schemes to feed your little ones for £1 – £4, with other chains such as Dunelm and Hungry Horse also offering free meals when dining with an adult or meeting a low minimum spend.


Plan your trip and shop around

A shopping list is one of the best ways to stick to your budget. If you tend to buy the same things every week, use a price comparison website such as Trolley to find out which stores have the best deals on everything from fish fingers to yoghurt pouches.


Sign up to a loyalty card

Most supermarkets now have loyalty schemes which allow you to buy products at a cheaper price or access special offers including bonus points via the app. Find out which supermarket loyalty card is best for you in this article.


Join your Local Pantry

An alternative to commercial supermarkets, community schemes such as Your Local Pantry require a small weekly membership (a few pounds a week), but can help you to access a wide range of top-quality fresh food without a referral. There may be other similar initiatives in your local area.


Get inspired online

There are plenty of free-to-access websites from parents and chefs who love to share their budget friendly meals – and best of all, they suit all tastes and dietary requirements.

After finding the best deals and cooking economical meals, reducing your food waste is another simple way to save cash. Apps such as SuperCook can help you to make the most of what’s in your cupboard already, and you’ll find plenty more recipe ideas on Instagram and in Facebook groups.


Tap into extra support

Our nominated charity of the year, the Trussell Trust reports that almost three million emergency food parcels were provided to people in hardship over the last year. Support like this can help families when they need it most – if you need support, visit the Trussell Trust website for guidance and information about food bank referrals in your local area. You can also get a referral to a food bank from Citizens’ Advice, your GP, social worker or housing association.


Dig into more tips about how to make your money go further this summer with Jo Middleton:

Everyone says it I know, but planning is so important for food shopping. Plan your meals, make a list and stick to it. Visit more than one supermarket if you need to – and check out greengrocers and markets if you can because they sometimes have great deals on fruit and veg.

The same could be true for your pets too, especially if they’re fussy eaters. I started making my own dog food because Mako kept turning up her nose at her regular food. I loved the idea of a fresh, natural subscription box but it was too expensive so instead I looked up recipes online and started making my own. I cook in bulk and then freeze in individual portions, and mix it half and half with basic biscuits, so it works out pretty good value and she’s never turned her nose up at a meal since!

If you shop in-store at Tesco and tend to do a couple of big shops a month, the Clubcard extra deal is good. At the time of writing, you can get 10% off two shops a month so it’s easy to make your money back, especially if you have a big family or have things you can buy monthly in bulk. (I wrote about it a while ago and have been using it since).

Also, don’t forget to check out the days out offers on Tesco Clubcard and other supermarket schemes. I just cashed in my Tesco points for enough vouchers to take me and my daughter (and the dog!) to Bicton Park and Abbotsbury Tropical Gardens.

We’re all dreaming of a summer holiday. Regardless of whether you’re lucky enough to jet off to warmer climes or are staying closer to home, we’ve got cost saving tips for you.

Trips and holidays


Going abroad

Let’s be honest, the British summertime weather can be unpredictable at best, so it’s no wonder so many of us want to jet off to a sun-drenched, preferably all-inclusive, resort.

Despite the cost of living crisis, nearly two-thirds of people in the UK are planning a holiday abroad, and well over a third have already booked. Some, of course, will have taken drastic steps to get there – such as taking the kids out of school during term-time to keep costs down, or getting into debt to pay for the holiday.

Destinations like Turkey and Bulgaria can sometimes be more affordable than others, and you may be able to pick up a last-minute deal if you are flexible.

Still, a family of four can expect to pay at least £1,000 for some of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts, which may be a stretch this year especially when you factor in transport to and from the airport and activities. Our own research shows that costs for other holiday essentials are soaring. The price of airport parking, for example, has risen by an average of 88% compared to the same time last year.

Another good-value option, especially if you’re craving sunshine, is a holiday park in Europe. Eurocamp is probably the best-known and has sites across the continent, such as France, Spain and Italy. You’ll find a range of facilities, including swimming pools, with the option to rent a mobile home, cabin or tent, or a pitch for your own tent or caravan.



UK staycations

The jury’s still out on whether a UK holiday is any cheaper than going abroad. While prices might have dropped since the staycation boom that followed Covid, the cost remains high for families on a budget.

While train fares across the UK rose by 5.9% earlier this year, the £2 bus fare cap will continue on many routes until the end of October. And, if you’re visiting Scotland, Scotrail is running a Kids for a Quid offer for up to four children during the school holidays and off peak at weekends during the year. Another small bonus is that the price of unleaded petrol has dropped since its peak in July last year, although it’s still higher than it was in 2021.

Keep your eye out for special offers, such as The Sun’s ongoing holiday flash sales, for more ways to book a cheaper break.


More money saving tips for your holiday

Whatever your budget, here are just a few ways to help you save on your summer holiday.

Avoid tourist traps

Whether you’re planning to go abroad or stay in the UK, you could save a fortune by shunning the most popular destinations. Some of the Balkan countries, like North Macedonia and Montenegro, can be cheaper than other parts of Europe, including nearby Greece yet still offer plenty of sun, sea and stunning scenery.

And, if you’re staying in the UK, why not opt for a traditional seaside holiday in Skegness, Morecambe or Blackpool? They’re cheaper than places like Cornwall and the Lake District – and the kids will love it!

Cheaper accommodation

Although the cost of camping and caravanning has gone, it’s still cheaper than other types of accommodation. You may be able to borrow a tent from someone you know, pick up a free or cheap one on Facebook or Freecycle, or rent one from Tentshare. You could even try wild camping if you’re in Scotland, but do so responsibly, and remember it is illegal in the rest of the UK. Hostels are another budget-friendly option – check out the YHA website for inspiration and pricing.

Keep spending on track

Decide how much you can afford to spend each day, including any extras like electricity, and stick to your budget.

Self-catering can keep food costs down considerably while on holiday. Take the kids’ favourite cereal, make sandwiches for lunch and keep a stash of treats on hand to avoid temptation when out and about. You don’t have to spend every evening stuck in the kitchen – a pizza or ‘picky tea’ will keep everyone happy. Check out our Feeding a Family section for budget recipe ideas.

Think about the distance. . . or explore from home

Save on petrol or transport costs – and keep tantrums at bay – by picking a destination close to your home. Take a look at a map and see where you could get to easily and make a list of things to do in and around the area. Or why not pretend to be a tourist in your own town or city, and avoid accommodation costs completely? Visit your local tourist information centre, or look online, to find the family-friendly and preferably free attractions. See our Activities section for more ideas.

Help for low-income families

Even the cheapest holiday can be out of the question for households who are in poverty, or living with a serious health condition. But there are a number of national and local charities who could help with all or some of your holiday costs if you’re on a low-income or qualify due to illness or disability. Look for organisations like England for Everyone, Family Holiday Charity, or Family Fund to find out more.


We’ve offered plenty of tips but we know that the reality of the cost of living crisis means that some parents will struggle and get into debt. There’s no shame in asking for help. Feeling overwhelmed impacts the health and happiness of you and your family – but there are support services who can help you to get through the summer holidays.

Family support

Operating across the UK, Homestart helps parents to regain their confidence and avoid isolation. It can support you in a number of key areas including money problems, parental and perinatal mental illness, relationship breakdowns and living with an illness or disability.



Housing charity Shelter offers free advice on a wide range of issues – such as private rental, council housing, repairs, eviction and more. If you’re worried about rent arrears. It has plenty of resources on its website, or you can call the helpline if your situation is urgent.



As well as the Trussell Trust, there are a number of national and local food banks. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral if you’re struggling – it can really help you get back on your feet and avoid falling into debt. See our Feeding the Family section for details on how to do this. You could also treat the family to a low-cost or free community meal cooked by volunteers. Visit Foodcycle to find one near you, or take a look at local Facebook pages.


Energy bills

While your energy bills should come down over the warm summer months, you may still be struggling to pay your bills or have fallen into arrears. The energy regulator Ofgem has advice for households who are struggling to pay their bills, and you can also contact Citizens’ Advice for money advice, including universal credit.


How can Creditfix support you?

Summer holidays can feel overwhelming when you are living with substantial debts. You want the kids to enjoy themselves but you worry about every penny spent. Even if the last thing you want to do over the summer is get on top of your finances, just one call to Creditfix can help you on your journey to becoming debt free. Our expert team can explain the options available to you, and choose a plan that works for you. Get in touch to find out more.