This is a conversation DH and I have all the time! We don't go on holiday because we have pets but this time of year rolls around and we always ask ourselves how can people afford to have holidays? We were at a wedding do at the weekend and the guy we were sat with was saying the same thing. He pays £700 a month to have his daughter at nursery and there's just no cash left to save up for a holiday as well.
Like any other bit of life I think doing things on the cheap is really difficult without planning, and really difficult without the internet. I think having to be careful with money reduces spontaneity more than anything else - you can't just get everyone together and go, there's the flasks to fill, sandwiches to make, having a look for free or inexpensive parking, researching free activities or book-ahead discounts. There are lots of inexpensive things to do but you have to go on that one day, not just decide on the spur of the moment and take off.
This year it could be really difficult with the bad weather. There was a piece on the local news last night that the Merlin attractions nearby are doing really well because they're indoors so the rain won't spoil it, which is great for them but they're not cheap, although they are great quality. Whereas a trip to the park or the beach which could be cheap other than a game of crazy golf and an icecream are out of the window because it's too wet. We're having a two week "staycation" next month and the planning has been like a military operation! Checking parking and picnic sites, picking our days to venues when there's an added extra - free tour, fun day or whatever, wet weather alternative etc. DH finds all that kind of thing fun but it sucks a bit of the joy out of it for me.
The Heritage Open Days weekend for England has been launched this week, there's a load of good stuff to choose from there. I really recommend them, there are some things that are usually pay attractions available free and other things are behind the scenes or places you can't usually visit. There's also Do Free Stuff which has family/child friendly stuff to do.
The weather has done nothing for cash strapped families that's for sure; but I think we might start to see a change over the next couple of weeks. A day at the beach/ river bank or local park with a packet of sandwiches, a bottle of squash, a bat and ball plus jumpers for goals is a great way to cheer everyone up, if only the weather will stay fine long enough.
If it doesn't sound very exiting then go along to the next beach or to someone else's park. It makes you feel as though you're away from home even if you're only ten minutes up the road. Most importantly, leave your watch at home and only go back when everyone's completely worn out. Let the kids buy themselves a bag a chips or an ice cream from their pocket money and they'll have had a day to remember.
For folks with children libraries can be good for activities, ours has a lot of different stuff going on and it's all free.
It is a luxury but I have to confess I do go on holiday abroad and it is the thing that I spend most money on but having said that, with careful planning it doesn't cost any more than a holiday in the UK for the same length of time and the health and general well-being make up for it . Of course, it depends what you want to do. We rent accommodation, eat in and do supermarket shopping the same as we would at home and don't spend much on entertainment. The sea and a pool are sufficient .