Holidays are a test for patience - and pockets

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There was a time when a day out with mum, dad and the two kids would cost no more than the petrol money and the price of half a milk loaf and a tin of luncheon meat.

‘Treats’ consisted of trips to country parks which were free to enter and seaweed strewn beaches close to the homes of relatives who were putting us up without any charge. Although not skint by any stretch, the idea of theme parks was an alien concept.

How times have changed. It has now been suggested that a day out at theme parks such Alton Towers could set back a family of four (well, dad in any case) a ridiculous £570.

While this figure needs to be taken with a ladle of salt as it works on the basis that these particular daytrippers are not using the ubiquitous two-for-one entry vouchers and have eschewed homemade lunches, it is beyond debate that a day’s worth of fun is more than a bit dear nowadays.

Having recently visited Alton Towers at no initial cost – hours of entering online competitions finally paid off – the sense of privilege soon evaporated when I realised that I should carry my wallet in my hand rather than stuffing it back into the pocket of my M&S jeans.

It is pretty much compulsory to spend money in theme parks - if it is not £5 for a foil balloon, which floats away if not properly tied to the hand of a four-year-old then you are looking at the best part of a tenner for a picture of you and your loved ones screaming in terror on the Runaway Train as it is a tall order taking a selfie at 80 miles per hour.

Last year we took our daughter to Blackpool to see the lights for the first time and despite turning up shortly before 4pm on a Sunday and leaving no more than four hours later we still managed to relieve ourselves of the best part of £100.

It came as no surprise to also read that parents spend an average of £1,000 on each child during the painfully long six week long summer holidays, a figure which excludes the cost of family breaks.

While nearly £400 of this is spent on childcare, the rest accounts for days out and treats designed to stop siblings from murdering one another. The summer break is a test of endurance for parents and anyone who tells you it isn’t is either a rotten liar or clinically insane.

It is also damned expensive unless you follow the lead of your and my parents and pack an old ice cream box full of butties and head for the countryside.