Jul 28, 2015

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The top 10 free and cheap days out with the kids this summer...

The top 10 free and cheap days out with the kids this summer

It can be difficult to keep the kids entertained over the long summer holidays – not to mention expensive if you’re not careful. But there are plenty of very cheap and even free events happening all over the UK throughout July and August. Catherine Cooper rounds up some of the best. 1. Play in the park If the sun’s out, take a ball, kite or a frisbee and head for your nearest outdoor space. If you’re near South West London, outdoor toy manufacturer Wicked are running a “Swap Screen Time for Play Time” campaign this summer – hand in your phone or tablet at their head office and they’ll lend you a box of toys suitable for ages four and up, free of charge and for as long as you like (and give you your tech back afterwards, of course). 2. Get busy with JCB This summer the construction company has opened a 10-acre maize maze with three miles of paths at the National Forest Adventure Farm Park in the Midlands, where people can also try their hand at brick laying using real bricks and mortar – entry costs £9.67 for adults and children over two. Other JCB attractions include the JCB young drivers’ zone in County Antrim with 50 ride-on JCB vehicles for two to eight-year-olds (just £1 for all-day use) and the newly-opened  Scoop attraction at the Ice Cream Farm  in Cheshire where visitors can use adapted JCB mini excavators to  dig up giant scoops of ice cream-coloured sand (free entry). 3. Step back in time at a museum Many museums are free to visit, and over the summer, many have special events running. In Scotland, the Highland Folk Museum (where some of TV series Outlander was filmed) offers free entry. It allows your family to step back to the 18th century and includes a fully kitted-out schoolhouse and an old-fashioned sweet shop selling sweets by the quarter (remember that?). In the Midlands, there’s free entry to three usually-paid-entry museums around Ironbridge, near Telford (Enquity, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Darby Houses) on Saturday August 22 with storytellers, artists and performers transforming the sites into a giant festival venue. Find more museum ideas here. 4. Go to a festival There are many free and cheap festivals with varied themes throughout the...

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Jul 27, 2015

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7 car hire rip-offs and how to avoid them

7 car hire rip-offs and how to avoid them

Exploration and discovery are yours for the taking when you hire a car on holiday. But without a little planning, you can end up paying way over the odds. Protect yourself by getting to grips with the seven worst car hire rip-offs. Rip-off #1: Sky-high excess costs When you hire a car, insurance is included. But you may well find it comes with incredibly high excess charges – the amount you have to pay to cover the cost of an accident before the policy kicks in. This amount can be up to £2,000, in some cases – potentially leaving you well out of pocket if something goes wrong. One way to get around the charge is to buy an excess waiver policy, which reduces the charge to zero or a small sum. But don’t wait until you get to the desk! Buy your waiver at home before you travel and you could pay around a mere £3 a day, compared with up to £20 if you don’t plan ahead. Rip-off #2: The ‘full-empty’ fuel policy Being hit with a petrol bill before you’ve even got in the driving seat isn’t the best start to a holiday. But many car hire companies employ a so-called “full-empty policy”, which means you pay upfront for a tank of petrol and can return it empty. But there are two drawbacks to such a policy. First, you’re likely to be charged an inflated price for the petrol. And, second, you may not use all the fuel you’ve paid for if you’re on a short trip or don’t end up driving much. In some cases, you’ll be offered the right to a refund on unused fuel, but there’s still usually a service charge attached. Look for car hire firms that allow you simply to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel it had when you picked it up. Rip-off #3: The ‘upgrade’ option When you arrive at the rental desk to pick up your pre-booked car, you may be told the company has run out of vehicles in the category you chose and be offered an upgrade – at a price. Don’t fall for it. You should either be offered a higher-category car for no extra charge or a lesser one with the appropriate refund. Make sure this is the case before you sign...

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Jul 23, 2015

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Is it safe to go to Turkey?

Is it safe to go to Turkey?

Those who have read the reports about the recent bomb attack in Turkey may be feeling apprehensive about the safety of the country, especially if you are preparing for a holiday there this summer. Despite Monday’s (June 20, 2015) terrible incident and the trouble in the wider region, the majority of Turkey remains a safe place for holidaymakers. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not changed its stance on Turkey and the vast majority of the country remains in...

Jul 21, 2015

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How to do Marbella on a budget

How to do Marbella on a budget

As one of Europe’s best known holiday spots, Marbella needs no introduction. Since the European aristocracy discovered the resort back in the 1960s, its appeal as a luxury destination and celebrity hotspot has drawn millions of tourists every year. But Marbella isn’t just about the high life. Against the backdrop of luxury hotels, mega mansions and glamourous visitors, this is a destination with plenty to offer everyone. Take the climate – it’s pleasant almost always, with a guaranteed...

Jul 21, 2015

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Sunburn and teabags: Do you holiday like a Brit?...

Sunburn and teabags: Do you holiday like a Brit?

Getting away from it all – it’s a phrase we Brits can’t seem to fully apply when on holiday. “Try a cup of authentic Argentine, mate?” “No thanks, I’ve brought a supply of Yorkshire Tea from home.” “Breakfast like the locals for the ultimate dining experience?” “Actually, that cafe on the corner does an amazing full English.” “What about this weather; 30C and not a cloud in the sky!” “But have you heard, it’s raining back home?” According to...

Jul 21, 2015

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Nine ways to make the most of the August bank holiday...

Nine ways to make the most of the August bank holiday

Not got plans for the August bank holiday yet (August 31)? This year, you’re spoilt for choice, thanks to recently launched flight routes, some fantastic new restaurants and a rather unusual music festival. Which means the only problem will be working out how to cram everything in, writes Tamara Hinson. 1. World Bog Snorkelling Championship, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales Marathons and triathlons are overrated! The World Bog Snorkelling Championship, which takes place on August 30, is ideal for fitness...

Jul 20, 2015

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12 clichéd holiday snaps we could all do without...

12 clichéd holiday snaps we could all do without

Social media has made would-be photographers out of all of us. It’s almost like if we don’t upload our holiday snaps on Facebook the second they are taken, we’ve never even been away. We’re all a bit vindictive too; we want others to see the fun we’re having. We thrive off the thought of their green-eyed jealousy as they sit at their desks while we sun ourselves shamelessly, selfie stick in one hand, cocktail in the other. The only...

Jul 15, 2015

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5 ways to cut the cost of car hire

5 ways to cut the cost of car hire

For many, taking a holiday and hiring a car go hand in hand. Not only does it give you much more freedom to get around, but it can also add a sense of adventure to your trip. However, while renting a car should be fun, it’s important to make the right car hire choices to ensure your break away doesn’t end in financial disaster. Here, we show you five ways to slash the cost of your car rental...

Jul 14, 2015

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How to make the most of a family theme park visit...

How to make the most of a family theme park visit

One of my absolute favourite places to take the kids it to a theme park – especially since they’ve got a little bit older and are now more than happy to join me on the rollercoasters, writes Catherine Cooper. Sure, you can simply turn up at the gate, buy your tickets and still have a fabulous time – but you’ll usually get a lot more out of your trip if you plan ahead a little (not to mention...

Jul 14, 2015

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We’re all going on a summer holiday! The top last-minute deals...

We’re all going on a summer holiday! The top last-minute deals

With summer in full swing and schools starting to break up, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all holidays are booked up already. But fear not! We’ve rounded up some late summer deals for families and couples who want to get away before the August bank holiday. Get your sunglasses and sun-cream at the ready! 1. Majorca from £376pp This firm favourite with holidaymakers is just over two hours from the UK. Choose between cute little sandy coves or...