My kids and I went away for a few days to a remote seaside village. I’d never been there before, so although all it contained was one shop and a chip van, there was still an element of adventure to our trip. I asked one of its inhabitants if there was anything to do there and their answer was “use your imagination.” That was precisely why I chose the village for a holiday: I wanted to go somewhere where my kids were forced to use their imaginations and where I was forced to limit my internet usage due to the lack of wifi. Sometimes you have to remove the easy entertainment to come up with your own ideas. Here are a few ways to make a simple holiday interesting for kids:
- Pick a town you’ve never been to before; even if it is local you will still get to explore it and uncover what’s there. My kids were surprised to find a playground a few feet from where we were staying, which caused a great deal of excitement. Most kids would rather find a playground with a new lay-out than visit a famous tourist attraction. At that age, it just feels like being trailed around boring places for adults and they won’t remember it anyway.
- Instead of eating out in expensive restaurants, get cheap takeaways, make picnics, have barbeques and buy things that your kids don’t usually get for breakfast. My kids only get the miniature boxes of cereal as a treat, but that makes it something worth getting excited about. Reserve certain items as treats so that receiving them seems like a noteworthy occasion. While we were on holiday, we had chips every day, which we never do. They are the perfect cheap holiday food because you can eat them in paper by the sea or indoors in a kid-friendly environment and each experience feels entirely different, without costing a lot.
- Allow more ice-cream than usual, even if it means walking to the shop to get a one pound tub instead of sitting in somewhere with a expensive sundae.
- Bring notebooks for your kids to keep a holiday journal. If they are older, they can write about the places they have been to and what they have done. If they are younger, they can draw pictures. My kids were drawing in their “sketchbooks” on a wall at the beach, which they enjoyed and it meant I got to sit in one place for a while, which is always appreciated.
- Get them a “treasure box” (an empty tin or box) and they can collect items on nature walks or at the beach. My kids really loved beachcombing. They could spend hours doing it: collecting shells and driftwood, washing them in rock pools and bringing them home to look at.
- Go to simple places where you can let your kids just be kids. They don’t have to be expensive or impressive. We went to an abbey, which sounds like it wouldn’t interest kids, but they loved it because they could climb on walls, run across the green expanse and spot colourful flowers.
- Look for unusual shops that your kids would enjoy looking in. My kids are always happy to look in a second-hand shop or a book shop. They like looking at the toys or looking for used books. We found a vintage shop and I was surprised how much my kids loved looking around and finding unusual things. If you can stop your kids grabbing everything within reach they really enjoy looking in antique shops and “helping” you find things. My kids were happy to find some vintage dolls for £2.50 each.
- Go for cream tea together. This is another activity that doesn’t need to be expensive. Instead of getting afternoon tea, you can pick a café, get some tea for yourself and milk for your kids and share a scone while they colour in or read a book at the table.
- Go on a form of transport your kids don’t usually get to use. We drove to another seaside town and went on a ferry. It cost £2 for a return ticket on foot and it was one of the activities from the trip that made the greatest impression on them.
- Bring a craft activity, magazine or new book for when you are indoors. My kids got a kids’ art magazine each, which kept them entertained for hours and distracted them from their toys’ absence in our accommodation.
- Don’t let the weather dictate what you do. We spent most of our time on beaches, and with the aid of a pair of wellies, my kids enjoyed jumping in rock pools as much as they like building sandcastles in the summer. They pretended that rocks were trains, drew in the sand and “stirred cookies” in the water. You can still go for rainy day walks: eat a picnic under a tree and let your kids pretend its a playhouse. You could also seek out accommodation with an open fire and return there for warm drinks afterwards.
- Pick a less popular holiday location in the general area you would like to visit and use it as a point from which you travel to surrounding towns. Pick a time of the year when there is less demand for bookings (or plan well in advance to get cheaper prices.)
Holidays for kids don’t have to be a financial worry or so complex that they require months of pre-planning. Simple things mean more to kids and you’ll still return home feeling as rested as if you’d done something more extravagant (or as rested as its possible to feel with kids in tow.)