A family holiday needn’t feel like you’re doing it, well, on the cheap. With low prices, bargain accommodation, and free attractions, such as our seven national museums and 870 miles of coast path, even a budget family holiday in Wales can feel like a luxury getaway.
Come to Wales
Ah, you knew we’d say that, didn’t you? But it’s about simple economics. The cost of living is lower here than in the rest of the UK, and it’s reflected in the cost of holidays. And because it’s easy to reach – an hour’s drive from Manchester and Birmingham, two from London – it’s cheaper to get here, too. If you're travelling by train booking in advance and travelling outside of peak times can be much cheaper. Don't forget you can also travel by coach and that can be very cost effect.
Avoid peak times
This isn’t always possible with children, so make the most of pre-school years to avoid the busiest holiday periods. The best bargains are found in what the travel industry calls the ‘shoulder season’ – the bits either side of peak summer holidays. The cheapest deals of all are in winter. Wrap up against the weather, and you’ll be rewarded with deserted beaches, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls in full flow – and rock-bottom prices.
Book early to get the best deals. Simple as that. If you have a strong nerve, last-minute cancellations can yield bargains. But more often, late bookers find that the cheapest deals have long gone, and they may have to trade up to something more expensive.
Reap the rewards
Banks, credit cards, airlines, supermarkets – they all offer some kind of reward scheme. One of the smartest ways to use up loyalty points is by converting them to holiday experiences that can double (or treble, or quadruple) their face value. Last summer, for instance, Tesco Clubcard vouchers were worth three times their value at attractions like Folly Farm, the National Showcaves of Wales and hundreds of Welsh cottages.
There are lots of attractions competing for your custom, so admission charges are generally low (and even lower if you look for discount coupons in flyers and press adverts). National Trust family membership costs around £127 a year for a family, but gives access to around 40 great Welsh sites, and free parking at superb beaches. Cadw membership is another great way to save money if you want to explore several castles and historical sites. You’ll also get 10% off in Cadw gift shops, a car sticker and map. There are concessions for some people, including free entry for people with disabilities and their carers.
Then there are all our other free family attractions, including our seven National Museums, in particular, offer world-class exhibits for free.
The views, the walks, the beaches, the wildlife, the sunsets – they all cost nothing. If you want to combine all five, walk along the cliff tops overlooking somewhere like Mwnt one late afternoon, and watch the dolphins frolicking in the waters below. Priceless. We’ve also got the highest mountains in southern Britain, and the 870-mile Wales Coast Path to explore: we’re the only country in the world to have a continuous path around its entire coastline.
Bring the bikes
Wales has 1,200 miles of cycle paths on the National Cycle Network. They form long-distance National Cycle Trails which can be cycled in one go, or you can cherry-pick day and weekend sections. We’ve also got 331 miles of traffic-free rides which are perfect for families. If you don't want to bring your bikes you can hire them from a number of companies.
Then there are the world-class mountain bike centres, most of which have easy trails for beginners.
The most important meal of the day can also be the most memorable, when it’s a proper Welsh farmhouse breakfast, served up in a proper Welsh farm. There are more than 50 members of Farm Stay Wales, who open their homes to provide top quality B&B, often on real working farms. They also have lots of self-catering options in barn conversions, bunkhouses, and camping and caravan sites. And of course, home-cooked breakfasts. Nothing like the full Welsh to set you up for the day.
Camping and caravanning are still the cheapest way to stay (and arguably the most fun for camping with kids). We’ve got hundreds of sites, ranging from farmers’ fields in remote beauty spots, to holiday centres with their own pools, restaurants and nightly cabaret. Campervan holidays are a great way to have the freedom to explore Wales. There are classic campers and modern motorhomes available to hire.
Self-catering cottages also offer superb value, particularly if you travel with other families: a converted barn can easily sleep a dozen or more, working out at just a few quid per person, per night. Bargain.
We don't like to say 'cheap breaks in Wales' but with memorable experiences like these why would you need to spend more?