Think ‘summer holidays’ and you may think beach, a swim, ice creams – maybe a trip to a water park or zoo.
But for millions of families this year, the soaring costs of family attractions, accommodation and eating out mean there will be no summer breaks at all.
In fact, a revealing new report shows 54 per cent of parents are having to cut back on plans for day trips this summer, saying their income has dropped and many family tourist spots are now too expensive.
A week’s holiday is now out of reach for the majority of children in the so-called “squeezed middle” as well as the poorest households.
And the lowest income families cannot afford even to leave their town or city at all.
The study, conducted by Family Action, shows the cost of an average day trip is £80 – that’s equivalent to a week’s disposable income for some of the UK’s poorest families.
The charity, which is now calling for an end to “rip-off” pricing by family attractions and holiday firms, quotes one parent, from Hackney, east London, as saying: “I’ve never been on holiday with my children. I can’t afford it.”
Yet the ability of children to access at least one week’s holiday away from home with their families is one of the indicators used by the Government to estimate material deprivation in childhood.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which campaigns against poverty, also highlights a week away from home as an essential part of life.
And Family Action’s study shows the “vast majority” of families believe they and their children benefit from days spent out together.
Family Action chief executive Helen Dent said: “Families are facing summer on a shoestring with parents and children cooped up at home as a result of falling incomes and raising prices.
“We know that children get a boost from days out – including to their educational development. However, this year many parents are so worried that summer day trips will break the bank that they’re cutting back.”
She added: “We’re calling for rip off holiday firms and attractions to stop unfair pricing and improve family offers all year round and for Government to recognise the plight families are facing and protect their incomes.”
Family Action’s Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring report cites a combination of escalating prices – including inflation during school holidays, high entry fees and the prohibitive cost of eating out - and cuts to welfare support for those in and out of work as key to the problem.
The study also reveals concerns among low-income parents that budget cuts have meant reductions in many summer play schemes and community activities.
The charity says its findings “highlight the stark contrast in the quality of life experience between rich and poor children.”