A lot of parents try to take as much time off as they can over the summer holidays. Done right, those six weeks without school can be a fantastic opportunity to enjoy quality family time together.
However, the summer can also be very frustrating, very tiring, rather boring and incredibly expensive. It's hardly surprising - there's only so many 'I wants' you can manage before you either cave in and buy it or lock yourself in a dark room.
But before you set off on a day trip to one of the more expensive theme parks and attractions, remember that there are plenty of cheap - and often free - places, events and activities on your doorstep.
Here are a selection of our personal favourites:
If you aren't aware of the many children's activities available at Cassiobury Park in Watford, you must be living under a rock! Most cost absolutely nothing and include Paddling Pools Playground, which caters for children up to 14 and features such attractions as swings, climbing frames, trampoline and zip wire! For smaller children there is the Cha Cha Cha Playground for toddlers and children up to 6 years old. In the warmer weather, the three Paddling Pools are open between 10am and 6pm until mid-September. Paddling and fishing by the Rustic Bridge are also free.
There is also a Miniature Railway, Bouncy Castle and Bungee Trampolines, although a small charge does apply. So why not take a picnic and spend the day?
Watford Museum has long been a 'go to' place for parents during the school holidays, and this summer is no different.
In addition to an exhibition showcasing Watford during the Great War (running from August 6th to September 26th), Sensational Summer Crafts takes place from 10:30am until 12:30pm every Thursday throughout August. Just £1 per child with all ages welcome, take part in making Harry the Hornet football mascots, Scammells lorry pop-ups, Earl of Essex coronets and Chinese printing dragons!
No booking necessary.
Whippendell Woods will appeal to the all the mini explorers - the chance to discover bramble, bracken and open, grassy glades, badger setts, birds, deer and much more. You can reach Whippendell Woods via footpaths from West Herts Golf Course and Cassiobury Park.
Croxley Common Moor
Enjoy a little slice of untouched nature - visit Croxley Common Moor and you will find all sorts of wildlife in its 100 acres of historic grassland. There are cows that graze on the moor, as well as birds, insects and a diverse range of plants.
Cheslyn House and Gardens
Green Flag winner for the past six years in a row, Cheslyn House and Gardens is commonly regarded at Watford's best kept secret. You can visit any time of the year - at the moment it is open from 9am until 8pm. The gardens are open free of charge and include a formal, open area, as well as a semi-natural woodland area. Much work has been done over the years, with a fountain added, refurbishment of the pond and the introduction of guided walks around the gardens.
There is also an aviary that houses quail, budgerigars, finches and other small birds. The pond is home to frogs, fish, water insects and dragonflies.
Rickmansworth Aquadrome Nature Reserve
Rickmansworth Aquadrome Nature Reserve has two lakes and if you are a member of one of the clubs, you can fish, windsurf, canoe, sail, waterski or model yacht.
However, even if you are not a member, the Aquadrome has plenty to keep families amused, including a large children's play area, adult outdoor gym, cafe and dog-free picnic area.
Aldenham Country Park
Kids of all ages will love the 100 acre wood at Aldenham Country Park, which has been recreated to evoke the wonderful tales of Winnie the Pooh! In fact, if you love walking, you can explore the woods - you have 175 acres of woodland walks to choose from! Aldenham Country Park is also home to a reservoir, sailing, fishing, picnic area and more.
There is also a playground and a custom-built indoor area for children and young people with disabilities and special needs. This includes a sensory room, quiet room, kitchen and toilet and washing area.
Certain charges do apply; please visit the website for more information.
Bhaktivedanta Manor in Aldenham near Watford is the UK home of the Hare Krishna movement. It sits in five acres of ornamental gardens, lawns and woodland, which are all open to the general public.
In addition to guided tours, there are a number of activities, exhibitions and workshops throughout the year, as well as yoga, meditation, food, theatre, seminars and even a dairy farm! It really is an amazing way to learn more about the Hare Krishna movement.
The Ruislip Lido Railway
The Ruislip Lido Railway is the longest 12 inch gauge railway in the UK, running from the main station at Woody Bay, through Ruislip Woods and ending at Willow Lawn Station.
Manned entirely by voluteers, visitors can watch the loco being turned on the turntable, and take the 2.5 mile round trip, which takes approximately 35 minutes.
All locomotives are wheelchair, buggy and pushchair friendly.
And if the weather is rubbish…
It's time to take the kids to Vue Watford! Kids AM makes a trip to the cinema affordable for the whole family - on Saturday and Sunday mornings and every day in the school holidays, everyone pays kids prices! Keep the kids - and yourself - amused from just £1.99 per person.