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Family travel: Summer survival guide

Free — or almost free — ideas for the summer, without resorting to the dreaded 'devices'.

Published 19 Jun 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 15:35 BST
A family day out

A family day out.

Photograph by Getty

Learn to play
Revisit childhood games such as hide-and-seek, or make a den or climb a tree. Check out the National Trust's list of activities for kids.

Water games
Whether a splash park — there's a free one in St Albans; just bring a change of clothes — water gun fights, paddling pools, swimming, or just getting wet. A sure-fire hit, as long as you've got a towel handy.

On the move
Go for a walk or ride — bikes, scooters, roller blades, Heelys — and discover something new wherever you are.

You choose
Not unlike the book of the same name, give them a budget and parameters and let the kids pick a full day of activities.

Pick your own
Fruit and vegetables are there for the picking! Seek, assist and enjoy the fruits of your labour. 

Let them be bored
A day of nothing, setting the scene for them to get up to mischief indoors (at home) and outdoors (gardens or parks) — semi-supervised of course.

A regular pack of cards
Portable and versatile, it can keep you amused for hours. Re-learn all the games you knew and more. Rummy, 21 or even poker (we use dried beans instead of money!).

Create your own gingerbread men and invest in some sprinkles and icing. How about making bread, scones, pizza or pasta? Pick a local recipe from wherever you're heading to this summer and ease them into the gastronomy of the destination.

Every city has its share of free museums: London's best include the British MuseumNatural History Museum and Science Museum.

Something new
Camp under the stars, head to a farm, try gardening, learn how to paint, or test them out on a new skill or sport. Why not see if they could be budding photographers?

Young people can help out and learn skills, too, with Vinspired, a charity that inspires 14-25-year-olds.

Local tourist
Find out what's going on in your region and learn about the history of your local area. There's a world of discovery on your doorstep!

Activity books
Crosswords, word searches, colouring-in books, stickers, noughts and crosses, hangman... These classic games require no battery life — just pen, paper and your patience! We've migrated from sticker books (Usborne are great) to origami.

Tips and tricks for the long haul

Uno — This card game has never failed us, even as my daughter reaches her teens. A unifying activity for tots, parents and grandparents (bad losers aside).

Dumb ways to die — This goofy smartphone/tablet game teaches your kids some basic safety. It's utterly addictive. 

Headphone splitter — A small investment means you can watch movies with your kids while in transit, or kids can watch together. Avoids iPad isolation.

Published in the July/August 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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