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Where to take the kids in the car this summer

There’s only a few weeks left until school’s out for the Summer. Yay! But what are you going to do with the kids once the summer holiday is here? Fear not – we some have ideas.

The great outdoors

There’s nothing like burning off energy in the open air so consider visiting one of the UK’s 15 National Parks. These protected areas of stunning beauty are great for bike rides, picnics, hikes, orienteering, nature trails or just enjoying the view.

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The Lake District, covering 2292km², is the largest UK national park. Head for the visitor centre in Brockhole,  where there are free exhibitions, a wildlife centre and many great activities including an indoor soft play area, an aerial adventure playground and a traversing wall.

Worried showers may spoil your day? If there’s a chance of rain, you could go to the Eden Project in St Austell, Cornwall. There are more than a million plants housed there and best of all, you can remain dry and warm in the world’s largest captive rainforest.

Thrills and spills

Do the kids need excitement? Then whisk them to a theme park. Alton Towers, in Staffordshire, is the UK’s most popular, attracting 2.6m visitors in 2011.

For fearless older children there are five major roller coasters, including the Nemesis, the first inverted one in Europe and Th13teen, the world’s first vertical freefall drop roller coaster.

There’s plenty for younger kids, too, including inflatable heaven, Wobble World, and Squirrel Nutty, where you travel in acorn carriages through the treetops.

Animal magic

Visiting a zoo, wildlife park, nature reserve, animal sanctuary or aquarium is a great way to introduce children to the wonders of nature. But if you’ve got a car, go to a safari park where a drive-through adventure can take you unbelievably close to the animals.

 Longleat Safari Park in Warminster, Wiltshire, was thought to be among the nearest thing to the wilds of Africa when it opened in 1966. Today, you can cruise by elephants, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, pelicans, wolves and zebras. But perhaps the most memorable attraction is The Monkey ‘Drive-Thru’. Watch out, though – those little monkeys can cause mayhem!

Other highlights include giraffe, deer and lorikeet feeding, and at the Ranger animal shows, with expert supervision, you can touch a tarantula, stroke a snake or cuddle a guinea pig.

Historical hangouts

For children who enjoy playing princes and princesses there are hundreds of castles, palaces, forts and ruins to explore, but the ultimate venue has to be Buckingham Palace, London.

There you can wander the 19 State Rooms, which feature sparkling chandeliers, dramatic candelabras, priceless works of art, exquisite porcelain and the finest furniture. But no visit to Buckingham Palace would be complete without seeing the ceremony of Changing the Guard. It lasts about 45 minutes and usually takes place daily in the summer at 11.30am and on alternate days the rest of the year.

Take it easy on a beach

The UK boasts many brilliant beaches so, if there’s a rare day of sunshine, make the most of it by taking the kids to the coast. The Good Beach Guide has rated 754 beaches, and among those recommended is Watergate Bay on the north coast of Cornwall.

With a two-mile strip of glistening golden sand surrounded by cliffs, picturesque Watergate Bay is idyllic – plus it’s rarely overcrowded, offers safe swimming and there are rock pools galore. In addition, a watersports centre is right on the beach, offering everything from surfing to wave skiing.

What’s more, there are two great restaurants: Fifteen Cornwall has unbeatable views over the bay and serves a traditional British breakfast, followed by delicious Italian dishes for lunch. Then there’s a lower-cost alternative, the Beach Hut café, which has simple dishes and an all-day kids’ menu. For more information, visit www.watergatebay.co.uk.

Once you’ve decided where to go, try and buy tickets in advance and have a look around for deals online, as you can often secure a sizeable discount.

A final tip before you go: preparation is everything. Whether it’s checking your car insurance policy is up to date, you’ve left a contact phone number with the neighbours or booked accommodation, the holiday could seem a little sweeter if you’ve put in a little planning.

Disclaimer: This guest post was written on behalf of Sainsbury’s Bank’s Money Matters blog. The views are of the author, not Sainsbury’s Bank. It does not constitute professional advice and should not be used to make any financial decisions. Sainsbury’s Bank accepts no responsibility for the views of outside contributors and what’s written on external websites mentioned within this post. All information was correct at date of publication.

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