Thinking of taking the kids on holiday during school term time? Michael Gove has said that parents are 'wrong' to take children out of schooland many have been fined for doing so. When money is tight, it's easy to feel that there's no other option - but if you'd rather avoid coming to blows with your school (or Mr Gove), then check out our tips on how to holiday with kids and save money - even during peak season.
%VIRTUAL-ArticleSidebar-Family holidays UK% Start thinking about next year's holiday right now! As a general rule, the earlier you book, the better deal you'll get. According to Trailfinders, booking 11 months in advance is the best way to get good deals, because flights will have just been released and the cheap seats are still available. Which is all rather annoying if you're one of those last-minute types.
Share the costs of travelling...
If you're planning a staycation this year, and are thinking of driving, sites like liftshare.com let you see within seconds (and without signing up) whether anyone else is looking to do the same journey as you, and wants to fill their car. Whether it's a journey from Portsmouth to Paris or London to Brighton, you'll be surprised to see how many people are doing that same journey.
... and the accommodation costs
Sharing your accommodation with other families, relatives or friends can ease the burden when it comes to finding accommodation. After all, a villa that sleeps ten isn't usually five times the cost of a place that sleeps two. You can share the food bills and get free babysitting services thrown in for good measure!
Think about volunteering
If you're happy to do a couple of hours work each day of your stay, you can sometimes get food and accommodation for free. Check out wwoof.net to see the list of organic farms in the UK which are offering opportunities. Many of the hosts are more than happy to have children around (and even let them join in), and once you join up online you can search specifically on these criteria to filter out all the hosts that don't. Alternatively, check out the National Trust's working holidays, where you can get very cheap accommodation, meals and activities in return for doing conservation work in a beautiful part of the countryside.
Do your research
Before you leave for your holiday, do a quick Google search for 'free things to do in X'. You'll often find plenty of things to do, from museums to walking tours (donations are often welcome for both). While there are certainly activities that are worth spending your hard-earned money on, there will also be things that aren't. Tripadvisor is one of the best places to find out what's worth doing, and what isn't.
Choose a cheap destination
Finding the country where your pound stretches furthest is an obvious way of cutting costs. These fluctuate dramatically, but for 2014, the Post Office Travel Money survey named the Algarve, the Costa Del Sol, Turkey and Prague in the Czcech republic among the best-value destinations.
Go all inclusive
All inclusive holidays include flights, accommodation, breakfast and dinner and often things like drinks and sports equipment too (always check what's included before you book as companies vary considerably.) First Choice and Thomas Cook offer some very cost-effective all inclusive holidays for families. The joy of these are that you know exactly how much you are spending before you go, (but they're not for the adventurous as you'll spend pretty much your whole holiday in your chosen resort).
Consider a home swap
Exchanging homes is becoming an increasingly popular choice for families: it's a great way of avoiding accommodation costs altogether and getting a home away from home. The idea is simple: you advertise your home for the dates you want to go away, and a fellow home swapper agrees to swap with you on the same dates. You can filter your results so that you get the destinations you want, but obviously the more flexible you are the better. Although these sites tend to have joining fees, they're minimal compared with the money you save on accommodation costs and also provide a bit of security because it means that everyone on the site is serious about swapping their home. Sites to consider include lovehomeswap and guardianhomexchange
Consider youth hostelling
Don't turn your nose up at hostels! They offer a great alternative to expensive hotels and many are extremely family-friendly. Today, youth hostels offer cheap, clean and private family rooms in some lovely areas of the UK and abroad. Check out hostelbookers.com for more.