I was talking to a friend this weekend about summer holidays. “Are you going on holiday this year?” I asked her.

“God no,” she said, looking appalled, “I just couldn’t bear to part with hundreds of pounds just to spend a week shivering in a caravan with the kids complaining and wishing they were at home watching Cbeebies in the warm.”

She has a point. I’ve never taken my whole family abroad, as I just can’t afford it, and even my supposed money-saving holidays end up costing a fortune – £950 for seven days in a caravan in Poole? It’s hard to justify as ‘fun’ isn’t it?

One alternative is to take the risk and book something cheap last-minute, but ‘spontaneity’ and ‘small children’ don’t really go hand in hand do they? It takes hours of planning and preparation just to leave the house with young kids, so how on earth could you feel confident taking the chance with a range of last-minute cottages?

I’ve always imagined that last-minute holidays were a bit hit and miss, but I’ve recently come across Late Lettings, a really well-designed site aimed at bringing you high quality last-minute holidays deals, with families in mind. See, they have a picture with children in, so it must be true:

"late lettings"

Sausage anyone?

I’ve always tended to think of last-minute holiday deals as being mainly in cheap hotels in Tenerife, but Late Lettings focuses mainly on the UK, particularly Devon and Cornwall, so it’s ideal for families looking for a bargain break. (They do have some properties in Cyprus too if you’re feeling adventurous).

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Pasties and clotted cream. What more could you want from a holiday?

If you’re not sure where to start, click on ‘inspiration’ in the top left hand corner, and you can browse by theme rather than by location or dates. If you’re desperate to take your dog away with you, browse the dog friendly holidays. Looking for a sea view? Check out the late availability cottages to let near the coast.

"last-minute holidays"

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

Whatever you fancy, Late Lettings could well be just what you need to enjoy a holiday away this year that doesn’t break the bank.


This weekend, inspired by the budget, and a significant amount of time spent listening to all things financial on Radio 4, I’m having a money theme. Yesterday we talked savings and investments for families, and today I’ve written a little Slummy single mummy guide to saving money on family holidays – some top tips from the woman who, for about ten years, was too cheap to even own a passport.

Don’t do itAccording to one survey, nearly 40% of us stayed home last summer, so the ultimate money saving holiday tip? Simply don’t go. You’ll save hundreds if not thousands of pounds in travel, accommodation and family travel insurance, have far less washing to do at the end of it, and probably feel a lot more relaxed than if you attempt to introduce small children to the delights of European architecture in sweltering heat. Believe me, I have tried, all they care about is when they can have a lolly.

They say a change is as good as a rest. They lie.

Stay in the UK – I was perhaps being a tad hyper-cynical with my last suggestion, as I do actually like going on holiday, I just don’t see the point of dragging small kids thousands of miles, knowing they’ll complain the whole way there about ‘feeling sick’ or being bored, when we have such a wealth of beautiful countryside and interesting cities in the UK. Staying in the UK means you cut out the hassle of foreign travel, save money on flights, and have a bit extra to spend on treating the family.

If you’re worried about looking cheap, tell the other parents at school you’re doing it on environmental grounds.

Camping for wimps – Hotels cost a bomb, and even caravans can set you back a fair bit, but seriously, who wants to spend a week with kids in a tent? Not me. I do like the idea of camping though, so for a low-cost, self-catering, back-to-nature option, we’ve spent several of our summer holidays in yurts. As a single parent, you can bring the cost down even further by bunking up with another single parent friend and splitting the bill. This year we’ll be spending a whole week yurting on the Cornish coast for just £300. Bargainorama.

Shop around – given that there are about 27 million price comparison websites nowadays, you really have no excuse for paying full price for anything, whether it be flights or flip-flops. It may feel like a bit of a faff, but shopping around really can save you loads. Just think of it as every few pounds you save meaning one extra gin and tonic in the hotel bar.

Don’t risk it – I have a very simple approach to insurance. If I could afford the consequences should anything go wrong, I don’t bother. With foreign travel though, you really don’t want to risk it. Think about how often you intend to travel during the year to work out whether a single trip or annual travel insurance gives you the best value for money, and if you’re travelling in Europe, don’t forget to apply for your European Health Insurance Card.

And there you go, that’s my indispensable family travel guide. Do let me know if you have any destination recommendations or holiday money saving tips.

This is also my entry for the BritMums Piggy Bank Tales competition, sponsored by Virgin Money