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Banishing boredom on a budget

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:34 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The cost of an average family day out can be expensive - especially if you have to pay entrance fees to get into a visitor attraction.

During the last half-term holiday Rachel challenged two families to see if it was possible to entertain their children for the week without having to spend a fortune.

Our two families were the Howards from Llanfaethlu on Anglesey and the Parkers from Hensol in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Howards - Dad Paul, Mum Catherine and boys John, Adam and Ian - describe themselves as 'outdoorsy' types.

They thought that they would try and choose activities that would involve some of their sons' interests. These included outdoor pursuits like kayaking and canoeing as well as bugs and wildlife.

The Parkers - Dad Giles, Mum Lorraine, Jessica, Charlie and baby Felix - would normally try and go on several days out during a half-term week. At least one of these would involve a trip to the beach.

As Rachel left them they were about to embark upon a mammoth 'planning session' on the internet to find out just what was on offer for children in South Wales during half-term.

Rachel also left each family £35 in cash - the average cost of a family ticket into a medium to large-sized visitor attraction around Wales.

The cash was there if required to pay for entry to attractions or car-parking but the real challenge would be to see how little it was possible to spend.

The activities

The Howards got off to a flying start with a free taster session at the Conwy Centre in the North Wales. The boys got free canoeing and water sports as well as abseiling, which occupied them for the entire day.

In south Wales the Parkers had a day out at the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan's. Entrance to the museum (and all other national museums and galleries in Wales) is free and the only money they were obliged to spend was £3 to cover car parking.

During the week both families got up to a host of activities. The Howards took part in a wildlife treasure hunt organised by the Countryside Council for Wales. Catherine was impressed with the range of free events that the CCW had running during half-term week.

She says it's very easy to book your family onto any of the events you fancy taking part in and she would certainly make them one of her first ports of call during the next holiday.

The Parkers went to a free Dr Seuss exhibition in Barry Town Hall. There were paintings on show from the famous Dr Seuss books and the children were also able to take part in a free workshop where they got to make a hat as worn by the famous Seuss creation the 'Cat in the Hat'. They also checked out the beach at Barry Island whilst they were there.

Later in the week the Howards took their boys to Beaumaris where they fished for crabs off the pier, with some success! They rounded off the day with a free trip to the beach for some pebble skimming and the release of the crabs back into the wild.

In south Wales the Parkers travelled from Cardiff Bay to Bute Park using the river taxi - their largest spend of the week at over £15.

However, once they were in the centre of Cardiff they were able to visit the National Museum for free, although they did make a small donation on the way out, towards the upkeep of the exhibits.

The Results

After a busy week Rachel visited the families again to find out how they'd got on and, more importantly, to reveal how much they'd spent.

The Parkers came within budget, spending just under £30. Giles and Lorraine say that it's often possible to make travel an entertaining part of your day out.

On the day they caught the riverboat the return trip was cancelled and they had to catch a bus to get them back to Cardiff Bay.

The children thought the bus trip through the streets of Cardiff was really interesting and thoroughly enjoyed travelling on the bus.

They also say it's possible to choose a different thing to do each day without having to spend money on entrance fees. It really comes down to doing your homework and planning.

Amazingly, the Howards' only spend all week was the £2 they had to 'shell out' on crab bait!

Paul and Catherine both agreed that they'd been greatly helped by the good weather during the week but a good place to start when planning a week would be larger organisations like the Countryside Council for Wales who often plan free events to run throughout holiday periods.

The general consensus from both families was that it is possible to entertain your family for very little cost but don't leave it until the last minute. A little bit of planning will go a long way!

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