The two May bank holidays are reminders to parents across the land that summer holidays are on the horizon… and it’s about to get expensive!

A bit of family time is a good thing, but many of the parents I speak to are positively seething about the endless ways businesses try to separate them from ever-increasing amounts of cash. From prices quadrupling for family vacations in August to theme parks that confiscate your sandwiches and charge you £15 for a hotdog – everyone has a rip-off story.

So here’s my guide on how to save a bit of cash, from holidays to days out.

The road less travelled

If you fancy getting away, then there are bargains aplenty for families. Some countries, like Egypt, have struggled to tempt back tourists in recent years after security concerns, but the package deals and all-inclusive hotels in particular can save you a fortune – and are considered safe. Other countries have experienced volatile currency problems, so you may find your money goes further in destinations like Turkey.

Travel light

I often mention the various ways airlines attempt to extort extra cash out of us – and it’s certainly got a lot worse in the last year. But you can cut down on a few costs by just taking a cabin bag, rather than a hold suitcase. This could cost you £20 per person rather than £40 or more. You can pick up toiletries cheaply abroad too, though not at the airport where prices can be outrageous. Take your own food and drink (no booze) on board. We all know the best stuff always sells out before they get to your seat anyway! Don’t forget to book the cheapest seats together though. Low-cost airlines charge you for this, but standard airlines may not, so look at all the costs before buying your flights. A pricier flight might be cheaper when you factor in the extras.

Trains and railcards

If you’re having a day out in the UK, or a weekend away, then take advantage of railcard discounts. It’s ludicrously expensive to drive any significant distance in a car (only to lose half the day in traffic). Train tickets can also be outrageous. But a Friends and Family railcard can save you a third off rail fares for up to four adults and 60% for up to four kids between 5 to 15 years old.

If you’re a single parent and are planning a day out with a friend and their kids, you could get a ‘Two Together’railcard just £30 a year, getting a third off in the process. You can get multiple Two Together cards – and even one trip will make the ticket reductions worth it.

Free things for kids

There are loads of free things you can do as a family with the kids all around the UK. But the catch is these events are often over-subscribed so you might have to book a (free) ticket.  Do a little research now and sign up to a few events to introduce a bit of variety in to the holidays. Look on the websites for national parks, country houses and local councils if you don’t know how to get started.

If you fancy visiting one of the UK’s magnificent cities, then consider purchasing a city discount card if you are planning on seeing a number of attractions. Check out how far apart the various attractions are on a map if you’re a bit ambitious!

Sign up for offers and vouchers

From restaurant discounts to free offers and special events, there are loads of amazing deals available in return for you subscribing to a website or social media page.

If you set up a unique email address for this, you can easily filter the results using key words and the ‘search email’ option. Many chain restaurants have regular discount days, though manage the expectations of the kids in advance by telling them precisely what they can (and can’t) order!

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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