Last week got off to an unexpected start, when we decided to dash off on a camping trip.
Originally, we weren’t intending to go away during the Easter holidays, but just do day trips plus a couple of sleepovers for the kids at their grandparents.
But then on Thursday night, the friends who were due to come for lunch on Sunday had to cancel. Suddenly, we had a clear weekend, the weather forecast was fabulous, and we decided to spend a couple of nights under canvas.
I’m planning a whole post on camping for less, but in the mean time here are the five frugal things during the second week of the school holidays.
Headed off on a low-cost camping trip
If you’re planning a weekend away, then camping really is a frugal option. Once you have invested in the equipment, it costs much less than staying in a hotel or holiday cottage. Aside from frugal considerations, it’s also a fabulous way to get closer to nature, when you wake up to the birds singing and spend the whole day outside rather than sitting in front of screens.
For our last minute trip, we didn’t go far afield, just the hour or so to the campsite in Rendlesham Forest. It was an off season weekend, so the pitch fees cost a grand total of £48 for a couple of nights for the four of us.
Normally you have to leave before midday on the last day, but we knew we wanted to stick around for longer to have lunch and enjoy the forest. When my husband rang to book, it turned out that instead of paying £22 for another night, we could extend our stay until 5pm for just £4. Perfect.
My top tip if you’re brave enough to consider camping this early in the year – take lots of layers of clothes and bedding, plus hats/hoodies/onesies to sleep in. During the day, the sun shone and the weather was gorgeous, but we had to wrap up warm to stay cosy at night.
Toasted marshmallows and made s’mores
According to my children, an essential part of any camping trip is making s’mores. If you’ve never tried them before, this involves toasting marshmallows until they go all caramelised and melty, and then sandwiching them between a couple of biscuits.
I duly packed some metal skewers alongside the camping stove, and included marshmallows and biscuits when we nipped into the supermarket on the way to the campsite. We made s’mores as pudding on Saturday and Sunday, experimenting with both chocolate digestives and rich tea biscuits, purely for research purposes of course. Great fun for only a couple of quid.
Investigated the alien trail
As we were staying in Rendlesham Forest, we were keen to try the UFO trail. Back in 1980 there were reports of several sightings of a UFO, a bit like the British version of Roswell.
We picked up a leaflet at the Forestry Commission hut and took a walk round the three-mile route. There are also signs to several other routes if you want to walk further or take bikes. My daughter was less convinced about a lengthy walk, but my son really got into reading about potential aliens, and they both enjoyed the adventure playgrounds.
One advantage of staying right in the forest was that we could try out the equipment about 5ish, just as most families headed home. This meant we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. I can highly recommend the zip wire, and I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try it with a wider audience!
Created a trampoline tent
Even after we returned from our trip, we weren’t quite ready to leave camping behind. I saw on the Instagram feed of another Suffolk blogger’s daughter (waves to Sadie at The Sadie Diaries!) that they had created a tent on their trampoline.
This sounded like a fun – and entirely free – idea for the school holidays. The kids and I dragged out assorted duvets, cushions and blankets. I used bulldog clips to attach a couple of flowery bedspreads over the top of the trampoline net. It proved a great place to read and bounce, and easy enough to set up and take down on a couple of different days.
Took advantage of discount codes and vouchers at Pizza Express
I had a child-free evening out this week, when a friend was back from Africa for work, and I dashed to London to meet her for dinner. We were looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful near her office, so before I left I checked the offers at a local Pizza Express, and requested the code for 20% off food. If you’re intending to eat at Pizza Express, especially during the week, it’s always worth checking its website for offers.
I also used a £15 gift voucher for Pizza Express, bought for 11% less than the face value from the discount gift voucher website Zeek. I’ve banged on about Zeek before (here’s my review) as I’ve used it several times to buy vouchers and cut the cost of everything from wine to saucepans, supermarket shopping and cinema tickets.
Now over to you – any frugal tips for surviving school holidays? Do share any ideas in the comments, I’d love to hear.