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Girl sitting by a tree. Campsite in background.

This time of year you might be thinking of taking a break from the same old routine and booking a little holiday. This month our blog takes a look at budget-friendly ways to enjoy time ‘away’ with your family, close to home. Proving that you don’t have to fly miles away or stay in expensive hotels and resorts to enjoy quality time with family and friends.

We’ve also listed lots of activities that you can do while you’re on holiday that cost little or nothing at all but that you will all remember for many years to come.

So, read on for low-cost ideas for holidays close to home, that don’t break the bank. Whether you chose a caravan with all mod cons, or you fancy getting back to nature in a tent, we have put together some great ideas to get you started.

Kids playing football.

Camping

I talked to my friend Mel recently for this blog and she told me about her love of camping and why she loves getting away from it all, in a tent.

“Going camping with the kids allows them to experience the joys of the great outdoors but in a safe environment. It’s a chance for them to run around in the fresh air, get muddy, climb trees and play in streams. In my experience, when we go camping the kids run around from 6am until 10pm, occasionally stopping to eat something”

No need to spend a fortune

Sometimes you can get a good deal on the holiday accommodation but then it’s all the other stuff that soon adds up, like activities for the kids and eating out etc. Mel had some great advice; She explained that when you go camping there’s no need to spend a fortune on paid for activities.

“A football, badminton or rounders set and a frisbee can be your best friends. Playing these fun sports together is amazing for family bonding and making beautiful memories”

Mel talked about the other thing that can be costly on holidays; Food!

“Food doesn’t have to be pricey, you can get some basic bits for a BBQ and toast marshmallows for pudding, or make a tomato pasta. Everything tastes better when you’re eating it outside”

You might struggle to get kids to do any chores at home BUT Mel told me, when they go camping the kids enjoy helping with the washing-up in the communal sinks. She said that it gives them a sense of responsibility and teaches them good skills.

Enjoy camping with friends

Mel enjoys camping with a group of her friends and their kids.

“The kids entertain each other all day, and you can sit back and relax, chatting with your friends. If your kids are younger, they can still enjoy the great outdoors, lots of campsites have play parks and activities for all ages. You can also bring books and have a cosy corner in your tent, or a basket of their favourite toys”

Campsite in the evening

18 fun and cheap activities for the kids on or off campsite

Mel had some great ideas for fun and cheap activities kids can enjoy on or off the campsite.

  1. Sports day – set up mini races; egg and spoon, three-legged, sprinting, jumping, wheelbarrow, and whatever else you can think of. You could even hold a ‘toss the bean bag’ competition.
  2. Treasure hunts are fun and educational. Get kids to think about numbers by asking them to hunt for ‘five shells’ or ‘nine leaves’. You can also ask them to find different objects containing the letters of the alphabet or simply ‘find a pine cone, or a stick as big as your arm.’ There are sheets you can download and print from the internet with ideas, just search ‘treasure hunts for kids’
  3. Ball games – badminton, rounders, tennis, football, cricket, whatever you’re into!
  4. Crafting – why not bring some colourful yarn and let the kids make friendship bracelets?
  5. Singing – whether you have a musician in your family or not, a sing-song around the campfire is great fun, especially for a bigger group. Get some ideas for songs to sing around the camp fire from the Scouts.
  6. Reading – Help the kids wind down after all that playing and take a little break to share a story.
  7. Fishing – bring a net along and see what the kids can find in a stream. Be careful with any wildlife and put fish/creatures back into the water.
  8. Playing cards – who doesn’t love a game of cards? If you don’t know how to play, find tips for fun and easy-to-learn games.
  9. Hangman – no need to worry about batteries running out here! Just bring a pen and a plain notebook to play as many games as you like. Don’t know what Hangman is? Watch this video to find out.
  10. Dance performance – why not see if the kids can create a dance routine to your favourite song and let them put on a show.
  11. Water fight – if it’s hot when you’re camping, do not forget your water pistols! Best steer clear of water balloons though as they are annoying to clear up and are bad for the environment.
  12. Star gazing – when everyone is chilling out in the evening, see what constellations you can spot, maybe have a sheet printed for the kids. Or if you’ve got a telescope, bring it! Get some inspiration on the BBC website
  13. Ghost stories – you’re going to have to judge this one based on your kids, you don’t want them having nightmares but there’s something amazing about sitting with torches outside and making up stories into the night.
  14. Exploring – there’s something exciting about walking around your new surroundings exploring on foot, hopping over those stiles, following that path. These are the things you miss if you’re in a car or bus.
  15. Geocaching – this is a free app, and lots of rural places have some awesome geocaches you can find using your GPS, remember to bring a pen so you can write your name on the log in sheet when you find the secret treasure. Find out more about geocaching.
  16. Maps and compass reading – Show the kids how people survived before GPS and SatNav. Print off a local map and show the kids where you want to go and see if they can direct you there using their orienteering skills.
  17. Landscape artist of the year. Why not take some art supplies with you and have a landscape painting challenge? The kids will love creating in the open air and you can display their works of art on the fridge when you get home to remind you of the holiday.
  18. Creative writing – Take the kids on a forest or field walk and stimulate their appreciation for nature. When you get back to the campsite or holiday park get the kids to write about all the different things they saw, heard and smelt on the walk.
A person cooking some eggs on a camping stove

What if you haven't got any camping gear?

Of course, you could stay in a caravan or chalet with all mod cons but if you are thinking of trying out camping but you’re worried that the equipment is going to cost a fortune – think again!

You can pick up some great bargains at car boot sales (Portsmouth and Southsea Car Boot Sale is every Sunday until the end of May) or Facebook Marketplace. You may even know someone who would be happy to lend you some stuff. There’s also the Library of Things; A community library where you can borrow items that you don’t use that often, saving you storage space and the expense of buying. You might be able to borrow a family tent, sleeping bags or a camping stove. Find out how it works.

Once you’ve sorted your tent out, you will need some bits and pieces to eat and drink from. Cooking equipment for camping can be expensive. Things like pots and pans, plates, cups and cutlery can all be brought from home. Just make sure you can transport them safely – a cardboard box packed out with scrunched up newspaper will do and you can recycle it when you get home.

So, what's stopping you?

Here’s a list of the common things people don’t like about camping and what you can do about them.

  • Toilets – yeah ok – nobody likes a Portaloo! Just pick a site with flushable toilets if this bothers you. You’ll find they are probably cleaned everyday, maybe even more than once.
  • Showers – bring flip flops and you can shower wearing those if you don’t want to stand bare foot on the floor. The showers are generally lovely and hot, and big enough for you to shower and dry (as well as having an area to keep your clothes dry).
  • Keeping things cool – when it’s hot, it is hard to keep things cool, but you don’t need an electric hook up to run a fridge. Bring a cool box and a couple of hot water bottles…no I’m not mad. You can fill the hot water bottles with cold water and freeze them – if you bring two, you can alternate them. Most sites will have a freezer available for you to refreeze these.
  • Bugs – Hmmm chances are there will be some bugs but try to remember that they don’t want to hurt you. Keep pesky mozzies away by wearing mosquito bands – which also look pretty cool. Top tip from Mel: If you are nipping to the loo in the dark, hold a torch in your hand instead of wearing a head torch. Why? Bugs can be attracted to the light and you’ll have the fright of your life if, all of a sudden, lots of bugs come flying towards your torch when it’s on your head!

Holiday Parks

Holiday parks usually provide a range of options to suit different budgets and requirements.

From basic camp sites where you can pitch up a tent to cosy caravans or chalets with all mod cons. Compared to hotels or resorts, staying at a holiday park has a lot going for it.

  • It can be a lot cheaper.
  • You can usually take dogs, so no worrying about getting someone to dog-sit.
  • Holiday parks are usually geared up with great facilities to keep all the family entertained; playgrounds, swimming pools, bars and restaurants.
  • Some places offer special deals on short breaks for families with young children, including free activities and deals on meals etc. so it’s worth shopping around.

 

A caravan
Three deckchairs on the beach

Holidaying at home

There are loads of great holiday parks and campsites to suit all budgets and needs all across Hampshire and the South-East Region, but to keep travel costs down, why not holiday at home, in Portsmouth? OK, it may sound like a silly idea but hear me out….. when you’re on holiday the world can seem like a different place; No school-runs, no housework, none of the daily chores that can make life seem a bit humdrum. You can explore the great things that our city and seafront have to offer. A friend recently visited from the USA and I gave her a tour of Portsmouth, she loved it and I got to see my hometown through her eyes. When you live somewhere it’s easy to forget all the good things about it.

Take a look at these websites to find holiday parks and campsites in Portsmouth, Hampshire and the surrounding areas: