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Even though the school holidays are fast approaching, some parents (read: me) may not have been organised enough to come up with a complete school holiday program.

Just how are you going to entertain the kids when school is shut and all their normal extracurricular activities are on break? There’s probably only so many Lego challenges you can set them before they believe they’ve run out of fun things to do.

Have no fear, with almost 10,000 mums in our trusty community, I had no lack of helpful advice when I sent up a flare.

Read on to find out what school holiday activities our mums suggested. If you’re looking to do some travelling this holidays, we also have some cost-saving tips and of course, we have a very exciting giveaway that will guarantee some great family fun.

Spend time in nature

Our mums are obviously an outdoorsy bunch as there were plenty of activities suggested that involved being out in nature and parklands. Fair enough, since the kids get the run free and being outside has been scientifically proven to improve our moods. You could make a day trip out of it by visiting the botanic gardens or just stay local and hang out at your local park.

  • I used to spend a lot of holiday times in parks. We did nature walks in the local bush and around the local streets. —Sue
  • Bush walks, bike or scooter riding, picnics, explore new parks. —Aimee
  • Random walks. —Kirsten
  • We just did really simple things such as meeting at a park for a picnic or the kids would go to a friend’s house or come to my house to play. —Julie
  • I remember my mum used to take us to plant nurseries in spring to see all the flowers. My sisters and I would push each other in the plant trolleys (and only sometimes got in trouble). —Maryellen
  • Head up the mountains for a fire and marshmallows in winter or a day at the lake in summer. —Rachel

During hot days—possible during the autumn school holidays—you could visit water parks or playgrounds with water play features, or you could look for an adventure park to develop your child’s gross motor skills.

Visiting wildlife parks, going on treetop walks or even enjoying a mini golf session are good excuses to be out in nature as well.

Call in favours

Grandparents babysitting during school holidays

If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby, it’s time to cash in on any favours owed or even to owe one or two. This could also be the time when it pays off to be friends with the parents of your children’s friends. And in a surprise twist, you can often benefit from offering to babysit (especially older kids).

  • Sleepover at grandparents. —Aimee
  • My mum used to save as much of her leave as possible and take it over holidays where she could. The rest of the time I was sent to my grandparents house. —Demi
  • I work with a group of other mums and we take turns. —Adine
  • Before we had kids we were normally the holiday babysitting service and even with kids and living two hours away, not much has changed, the [other] kids still ask to come. I end up working from home with all the kids. . . . my babies are easy, they love their big cousins and are happy following them around trying to do what they are doing. —Anna
  • They do activities with my family. —Del
  • Activities included going to the local swimming pool, movies with cousins if we were really good, running errands, plenty of sleepovers at cousins’ homes and vice versa, and sometimes spent at my parents’ places of work. —Fiona

School holiday workshops

These are generally run by organisations such as your local council or school, or even private businesses offering “school holiday intensives” where your child could pick up a new skill. Some school holiday programs even run longer hours, so you don’t even need to worry about picking them up at 3pm.

  • Some areas have out of school care which also covers holidays. —Dorothy
  • If you search you local area, they usually have events coming up for the kids. . . . We have signed up to do Wildlife Rangers at the museum. —Ange

Museums and galleries

Art galleries, discovery centres, maritime museums, planetariums and local history museums are not just for a rainy day. From personal experience, I can attest to the fact children actually do enjoy looking at the displays. Warning, some may get overexcited and bound from one exhibit to the next and back again—like my four-year-old did—giving you your workout for the day.

Some museums will also do behind-the-scenes or free guided tours that you can take advantage of.

Don’t overlook staying at home

Staying at home may sound boring, but children can actually be duly entertained.

  • I remember watching classic TV and making forts with the couch and blankets, and diving, running, jumping and tumbling around the house with my brother. —Rachel
  • Cooking together. —Aimee
  • Both my husband and I work full-time from home. To keep our little one entertained we rotate using the office. Might be a bit harder but I usually sit in the play area and work. She’ll happily play with her toys, watch TV and won’t really interrupt unless she wants something. I give her snacks and water and she’s happy to have me around even if we aren’t playing together all the time. —Sophie
  • Last round of holidays I did a chart and printed it to put on the fridge and they got to pick from the list what they were going to do on what day. If it was something I had to help with I could plan for it and they couldn’t complain since they chose. —Anna

How to save money during the school holidays

As any parent who’s tried to book a holiday knows, anything that’s travel-related becomes a lot more expensive during the school holidays. Whether it’s car rentals, accommodation or airfare, service providers use the break as an excuse to jack up their prices considerably, making it difficult for the average family to afford a getaway.

Demand also ratchets up the closer it get to the break, so if you’ve left it to the last minute, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on the popular destinations.

Add to it the uncertainty of COVID-19 restrictions and border closures, and family holidays start to look highly unappealing.

So here are five money-saving hacks from Jenneth Orantia you can use that will keep more money in your bank account while still ensuring the family has a fantastic holiday.

1. Enjoy a staycation

Road trip during school holidays

Whether you’re in Australia or New Zealand, we have some of the most beautiful locations in the world right in our own backyard.

If you’re in Sydney, consider Collins Beach (30-minute drive), Kangaroo Valley (two-hour drive) and Jervis Bay (three-hour drive). From Melbourne, there’s the Yarra Valley (one-hour drive), the Dandenong Ranges (one-hour drive) and Philip Island (two-hour drive).

2. No car? No problem

COVID-19 has hit the car rental company hard, which means cars are either hard to come by or prohibitively expensive to rent. New companies such as DriveMyCar rents cars out from private owners or direct from the manufacturers, which is why it can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than traditional car rental companies, but you still get insurance cover in case of an accident, along with roadside assistance.

3. Combine transport and accommodation

If you want to journey a little further afield, travelling by caravan can be lot of fun for the youngsters and a great way to cut costs. Consider the Sydney to Brisbane trail if you’re coming from Sydney, which stretches 900 kilometres along the Pacific Coast corridor, passing through the Hunter Valley, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. From Melbourne, you can take a leisurely trip over to Adelaide, checking out the beautiful beaches along the Great Ocean Road, the spectacular coast along Apollo Bay and the abundant birdlife in Coorong National Park.

You can save even more money—about 20 per cent off the rental cost—by hiring a caravan through MyCaravan. MyCaravan even gives customers the option of getting the caravan towed to and from the camping site, making it a great option for busy families and first-timers.

4. Sleep under the stars

The warmer climate at this time of the year mean it’s never been a better time to dust off your camping equipment. FindACamp is a website that shows you the nearest bush camping and caravan parks within a certain kilometre radius of your location, with details on the location, fees and on-site facilities (toilets, shower, BBQ, etc).

5. Try something new

Great holidays often revolve around having new and fun experiences, but there’s no reason why you can only have those when you’re away from home. Websites like Groupon, Spreets and Cudo offer fun activities for the kids that are deeply discounted off the regular price, including a two-hour trampoline park and ninja warrior course, a snorkelling tour along the coastline, a deep sea fishing experience, and whale watching.

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