Counting the cost of school holidays

Bessie Hassan 28 September 2017

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School breaks can prove expensive, but they don't have to break the bank.

For many families the start of school holidays signals a long-awaited break from routine. No lunchboxes to pack or school drop-offs to rush out the door for. But if there's one thing I've learned about school holidays, it's that they don't come cheap.

Travel is notoriously expensive – seeing the world is a whole lot more costly when you have to do so during school holidays. Flights and accommodation can almost double during the school break. Research by finder.com.au shows holiday prices are up to 41% more expensive during school holidays.

But even if you are planning a "staycation", cost can be a big source of stress. It's a never-ending juggling act of making sure the kids have enough holiday fun without the costs spiralling out of control. Whether it's the price of childcare, days out, new toys, entertainment or food, most parents will feel some impact on their hip pocket. With requests for expensive activities like coding camp, swimming intensives and cinema outings weighing on parental minds, mums and dads are putting themselves under enormous financial strain to ensure their kids are having an action packed holiday. In fact research shows 40% of parents feel burdened by holiday costs.

As a working mother-of-two there are a few lessons I've learned about how to survive the holidays without breaking the bank. We try and focus on the simple pleasures of holidays such as "togetherness" and catching up with friends and family. Shifting the focus away from costly activities can also lead to more rest and relaxation. Remember, kids can have as much fun building a cubby with their cousins as they would at a theme park.

Check out your local council's newsletter and online noticeboards for fun things to do with your children that don't involve a credit card. The best way I've found to ensure an affordable holiday is to make a weekly activity plan before the holidays and stick with it. If you don't have a plan, you'll go for the last-minute options and they cost the most.

Take your own food where you can on outings and check whether any of your providers offer discounted entry to movies or theme parks. Track your spending when you are out and about.
For those working families, try and find a friend or family member to help with holiday childcare, this can keep costs down considerably.

With 12 weeks of school holidays every year, that represents more than 20% of the year that families have to keep children entertained. It's worth setting a budget so you don't run into debt or have to dip into savings.

Bessie Hassan's Money Expert column provides advice to help you make the most of your money. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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