If you’re off on a coronavirus staycation this summer, here’s how to have fun on a budget.
We’re just back from a week in Yorkshire as our family holiday. We’ve enjoyed loads of summer breaks in England before, whether on the Suffolk or Norfolk coasts, in Dorset, up in the Lake District or over on the Isle of Wight.
But this year many things are different due to Covid-19.
More tips in an article I wrote for price comparison website Pricerunner here
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So whether you’re an old hand at UK holidays, or normally nip off abroad, here are some tips for great break despite Covid-19.
Search for accommodation with extras
With so much shut during lockdown, I looked for holiday accommodation with extras that we wouldn’t normally require.
My kids have really missed going swimming. So I chose our holiday cottage partly because it had shared access to a swimming pool, games room and playground, and we ended up with sole access to the pool for an hour each day.
I used the website Snaptrip.com to search more than 60,000 options up and down the UK, and filter the results to find a dog-friendly property with a swimming pool and wifi. I also scooped up £45 in cashback when I booked, by clicking through from TopCashback* first.
Similarly, when we went for a brief glamping break earlier this summer, one of the big attractions was the wood-fired hot tub with each tent.
Check what’s open
Normally, I look out for adventure activities nearby that the kids might like. So for example when we were in the Lake District, we headed for a high ropes centre and they did a sailing session at Wray Castle.
I’d seen watersports lessons near our holiday cottage, and an outdoor activity centre – but when I checked online, both were shut for 2020. So don’t rock up without checking first, or get the kids excited about stuff that might not be available.
Visit beaches off peak
We’ve all seen photos of packed beaches from Bournemouth and Brighton to Durdle Door, with the police appealing for people to stay away from Broadstairs.
But beaches can still be huge fun for kids, with all the sun, sea and sand. Plus if you take a picnic, a beach trip needn’t cost much more than parking and petrol. This year we invested in a body board for my daughter, which she loved trying in the waves. Some beaches even accept dogs, rather than banning them during the summer months.
During our coronavirus staycation we looked for less popular beaches, and visited mid week when there are fewer crowds, making social distancing easier. Showing up earlier in the morning also works well – if you can lever the kids out of bed.
Think outdoors during a coronavirus staycation
Loads of indoor stuff we’d normally rely on is out of action, from swimming pools, leisure centres and libraries, to museums, theatres and visitor centres. So this summer, we focused on fun stuff outdoors instead.
Apart from beaches, think country walks, birdwatching, bike rides, visiting wildlife reserves, geocaching, den building, paddling in streams, wild swimming, football and model boating lakes. Pack a frisbee. Take a kite. It was a huge relief that park playgrounds had re-opened, as my kids really missed those.
Highlights of our holiday in Yorkshire included:
- lugging a picnic along to the medieval abandoned village at Wharram Percy, with spooky crumbling ruined church and peaceful lake beyond
- swirling sea birds nesting at the Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve, including spotting a few super cute puffins
- hot chocolate while exploring Scarborough Castle, with views for miles around
- visiting Sledmere House, which managed to combine an adventure playground and farm park for the kids, beautiful gardens for me, and ice cream for all
Watch out for timed tickets
Normally, we just rock up at National Trust or English Heritage properties to have a look around.
Think again during Covid-19.
Not all locations have re-opened, some may only offer outside access to gardens but not houses or visitor centres and most now want you to book timed tickets.
Driving towards Scarborough Castle, with me trying to book tickets on my mobile while internet access dropped, was not the most fun ever. But we’d have been gutted if we hadn’t booked tickets, turned up and been turned away.
On the drive home, we also had to swerve a couple of potential stop offs because they had sold out of the allocation of timed tickets – so do book ahead if there’s anywhere you’ve set your heart on.
Save on membership
If you are likely to visit several English Heritage or National Trust properties, on holiday, on the journey or at home, see if you could save with membership. (Info here on English Heritage* and for the National Trust*)
Our English Heritage membership had expired. While we were on holiday, I rejoined online, rather than waiting until we arrived at a site. This meant I could search for voucher codes and save 20% off family membership for a year, cutting the cost from £109 to £87.20.
A family ticket to Scarborough Castle would have cost at least £20.50 if we weren’t already members, so it won’t take many more visits elsewhere before the membership pays for itself. Nearer to home, a single family visit to Audley End would cost from £39.50.
If you find a discount code, do check if you might save more with any combo of code and cashback offered by TopCashback or Quidco, if you click through from the cashback site before joining.
If you’re already a member, remember to take your membership cards and parking stickers!
Take activities in case it rains
Often when we stay in self-catering cottages, the owners provide books, board games and DVDs that are a great help, especially if it rains.
No so much during a coronavirus staycation. Many of these things have been removed, as they’re difficult to clean between guests. So make sure to pack extra games, download movies and so on, if you might need them.
Save by self-catering
As ever, self-catering will cut costs compared to eating out for every single meal, and can be less hassle with young kids or picky eaters.
Previous post: What to pack to cut the cost of a staycation
I made and froze a vat of bolognese sauce beforehand, so we could have a warm meal with pasta the first night, then add chilli, kidney beans and rice for another night. Booking a supermarket delivery late on first evening meant we had essentials for our stay without schlepping round a shop.
We also took along a picnic rug, refillable water bottles and mini cool bags so we could take picnics when heading out. By saving on some meals, we could splash out on ice cream plus our traditional holiday fish and chips (albeit purchased online beforehand and collected wearing a mask).
Cut costs when eating out
If you do fancy a meal out during lockdown, see if anywhere nearby is taking part in the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme which saves up to a tenner a head.
Under the scheme, if you have a sit down meal at participating places on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays during August, you can knock 50% off the bill for food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per person. Just remember you won’t save on the service charge or any booze. Pop in a postcode here to see what’s available in the area.
Stack it up with other discounts and you could save even more, such as the American Express Shop Small campaign (£5 cashback when spending over £10 on an AmEx card at participating shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes) or Meerkat Meals and Movies (2 for 1 on starters, main courses and desserts).
Now – over to you. What are your top tips for a coronavirus staycation, for a fab time without blowing the budget?
Previous post: 50+ ways to entertain the kids over the summer for less
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