IT'S not easy to keep the kids entertained without busting the budget, especially in February half term when the weather's often not great.
Days out, trips to soft play and activities like bowling and swimming all quickly add up – so here are my top tips to keeping it cheap.
Check your school holiday dates
My top tip for bagging a bargain is to check whether your half term week is the same as neighbouring areas.
One year, we stayed at Butlins for off-peak prices because our half term holiday dates were out of sync with the rest of the country.
In the Midlands, most of us will be off school from February 20th, but in London and the South, the half term holiday is mainly the week before.
That means you'll get better availability and deals if you head out of your own area, even if it's only to the next door county.
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I've bagged three midweek matinee tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Milton Keynes Theatre for just £35 using this hack.
Because our half term is a week later than MK's, the date I wanted had good availability on tickets with a range of prices, unlike the midweek matinee the week before, when most local parents would be taking their children
Mobile phone contract deals
As I have a mobile phone contract with O2, I used a deal with O2 Priority to get Theatre Tokens half-price.
An £80 token cost £40 and covered three £22 seats for me and my two older boys plus a £3 booking fee.
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Even better, I have £10 left to go towards another theatre visit with my littlest, probably somewhere a bit closer to home.
Theatre Tokens are widely accepted in venues both in London and across the UK, but it's worth checking that your venue takes them before buying.
You usually need to call to book, rather than doing it online, but you can use the theatre website to find the seats you want for the date you want and then just phone up with all the information and your token number.
Supermarket loyalty card deals
Another tip is to make the most of supermarket loyalty points like Tesco Clubcard or Nectar to pay for outings to the cinema or to eat out.
I have £6 of Clubcard vouchers, which are worth £18 at its partners like Cineworld.
The best value showings are kids' clubs like Cineworld's Movies for Juniors, with tickets costing £2.50 each for adults and children.
Often cinemas will run two or three older releases mid-morning all through the half term week.
But if you want to see the latest releases, you can get tickets for a family of four for £24 at Cineworld as adults pay children's prices.
Check your local amenities
It's also great to check what local councils and libraries might be offering free or at low cost.
I've signed my 10-year-old up for a free singing day being offered as part of a local music festival.
And there's a free multisports session at the community centre in my village for children living nearby.
Remember old memberships and vouchers
Now's the time to check if you have any annual memberships or passes – some attractions like the Space Centre in Leicester allow year-long entry after you've paid once, so it's worth looking into whether anywhere you visited last summer does that.
Or you might have some vouchers that you've put away in a drawer and forgotten about. I found vouchers for a round of adventure golf that we won as a raffle prize last summer.
Get a Blue Peter badge
Another great way to cut costs is to get your kids to work towards a Blue Peter badge.
It might be a bit late to apply for one for half term now, but you could use the time off to write a letter or do an activity that would earn a badge ready for the Easter holidays.
Lots of visitor attractions allow free entry to Blue Peter badge holders if they are with a paying adult.
Some places will even let two children with Blue Peter badges in with one paying adult, so you could end up saving a fair amount.
Find kids eat free
My final tip is to look out for kids eat free deals if you fancy treating your little ones to a meal out.
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Lots of big chains have run these offers during school holidays over the last year or so, including pizza places and supermarket cafes.
Keep your eyes peeled for announcements this week about which brands might be running deals in the next couple of weeks.
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