*or what's left of it
As kids, summer holidays meant three months of total liberation: 12 hour games of Kick-The-Can, sleeping in until lunchtime and waiting with baited breath for the ice cream man to call.
But in parenthood, three months of anything short of a week off is out of the question. Instead, you're forced to fork over hundreds of euros for summer camps, arrange and pay for sitters, plan a family holiday and cram last-minute trips to the park around your 40+-hour workweeks - and that doesn't exactly scream #vacay, now does it?
It's time that changes. It's to make sure summer is stress-free and costs the bare minimum.
Below are 11 ways to make both your and your kids' summer fun without breaking the bank.
For every expensive zoo, there’s a city farm you can visit for free or for a small cost, and – depending on the age and size of your child – meeting a cow in the flesh can be almost as exciting as the best that Dublin Zoo has to offer. With prices starting at just €5, Airfield Estate has everything you could want from walking trails, educational workshops and plenty of exciting animals.
Known as Dublin Children’s Museum, this a child-centred space where kids and their parents can engage in creative play.The exhibits are educationally designed to inspire learning through play, and it’s a massive hit with kids up to about 10 years old. We recommend booking in advance, and sessions last two hours so make sure you get your full money’s worth.
WALK THE DUN LAOIGHRE PIER
If you’re hoping to get the kids to bed early, this is a great way to tire out them out – a lengthy walk in the fresh sea air, with the reward of some chips or an ice-cream from Teddy’s if they’re good. If you feel like an even longer walk, head past Teddy’s down towards the 40 Foot and play around on the exercise machines dotted along the coast. Top tip: head to Dun Laoghaire on a Sunday as the People’s Park is open for a delicious food market from 11 am until 4 pm.
Not only do they have a seriously cool playground complete with zipline and diggers, but there’s also a lot of space for the kids to run around. You can pay in to take a tour of the castle or just go exploring around the grounds. The added bonus here is that there’s an Avoca Café serving up coffee and treats for any weary parents in need of a caffeine or kids in need of a sugar fix.
VISIT ONE OF THE MANY FREE IRISH museums
National museums are free. That’s an amazing thing, but it’s very easy to take it for granted. They’re big, in-depth and can be a little daunting. But they cost absolutely nothing except the price of getting there - and a small donation. Our favourites? The National History Museum. Dusty, weird and utterly Victorian, the ‘dead zoo’ is one of the Dublin's oddest attractions and a sure hit amongst children.
your local playground
Playgrounds have seriously improved over the past few years, and there are some top quality ones dotted across Dublin.You might have one right on your doorstep or maybe you want to take a drive to one a little bit further away. Tymon Park and Fairview Park are both really great, as is the one in Ardgillan Demesne.
Go Bird Watching ON Bull Island
Just a short bus ride away from the city centre lies the Unesco reserve of North Bull Island. One of Ireland’s most important natural conservation areas, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers and curious children with at least 180 different species. You can also take a 5km walk along the pristine beach and sand dunes of Dollymount Strand.
TAKE A PONY RIDE
Just off the M7 motorway and only 30 minutes by car from Dublin and the M50, the Irish National Stud & Gardens includes complimentary pony rides and face painting with regular entry ticket every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday in July & August for all younger visitors. An unforgettable experience in 800 acres of beautiful Kildare countryside that can be enjoyed by all the family. Tour the Horse Museum, explore the magical ‘fairy trail’ in the woodland area, and let the kids run off some steam at the playground.
You could easily spend an entire day exploring Europe’s largest inner-city park. You don’t need to pay to see animals either – Phoenix Park is home to an enormous collection of deer, just wander off into the woodlands to find them.
Go on a "Free" holiday
Going abroad costs a lot, especially as airlines increase the prices during school holidays. If you’ve got friends in a similar situation but in another town or city, can you swap houses for a week? You might need to do a bit of tidying beforehand and you might have to do hide your key in some random location, but other than that, it's smooth-sailing and free. If you don’t have friends who’d like to exchange their homes, there are web services that can help. Love Home Swap can put you in touch with other people who fancy a change of scenery, generally for a token nightly fee. Staying in a stranger’s house in Cork isn’t the trip to Hawaii you want, but at least it won’t financially ruin you either.
If all else fails, the cinema
Some may argue that it’s a bit of a cop out, but if there’s something good to go see, the cinema always comes up trumps. You’re guaranteed two hours of entertainment, there’s minimal effort required from parents, and if the film is Pixar or Disney there’ll always be a second layer of jokes that fly right over the kids heads but ones you can secretly enjoy.