Life Mothers & Babies

Friday 29 August 2014

Mum, I'm bored! How to keep kids happy without hurting your pockets

The long holidays can be costly, but there some good value excursions to enjoy

Grainne Cunningham

Published 19/07/2013 | 05:00

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Fota Wildlife Park will please just about every age group

The summer holidays, so longed for all year, can quickly deteriorate into repetitive complaints of "I'm bored" or arguments about screen time. While this year so far the great weather has made entertaining the younger folk considerably easier, many excursions can put a serious hole in your pocket. Smart Consumer looked at a number of 'days out' around the country to see if they were good value for money.

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Clara Lara in Co Wicklow is a water and activity park that offers surprisingly good value for money for the repeat visitor.

The entrance fee is €10 a head but a family season ticket is €75 so a family of four will already have made a saving if they visit just twice.

The park, which is only open during the summer months, is the kind of place you can go back to again and again, especially if a number of families agree to meet up there.

A gold bracelet at €9 allows unlimited access to all the rides, such as the aqua shuttle and the amphicats – little water boats. But a lot of the amenities, such as the rope swings over water and the floating raft, are free of charge and that is where bunches of teenagers tend to gather, getting each other thoroughly soaked.

Pack a wetsuit, or a change of clothes and a towel, because getting wet is inevitable.

And the setting is perfect for portable barbecues and picnics.

Fota Wildlife park in Co Cork is one of those attractions likely to please just about every age group in the family.

Because the humans are corralled and the animals roam free, the place has the feel of a safari and there is plenty of opportunity to view giraffes, primates and other animals at close range.

One of the park's showstoppers is the cheetah run, where a piece of meat on a zip wire offers spectators a glimpse of the power of the fastest land animal on earth.

Entrance to the park is €44 for a family of four and €56 for a family of six, which is good value for one of the country's top visitor attractions.

Those with deeper pockets might like to try the VIP family experience where, for €150, they will prepare food for the primates, as well as enjoy a two-hour tour, a coffee break and a gift pack.

For the hundreds who holiday in the Kingdom of Kerry every year, the Skellig Experience on Valentia Island is a good choice on a wet day.

Inside the custom-built, grass-roofed building, visitors are offered a glimpse of life for the community of monks who made their home on the unforgiving, element-lashed Skellig rock.

A 14-minute film describes how this small group of men carved a series of steps from the bare rock, living a life of harsh isolation and surviving on the birds, seals and fish the tiny island provided.

Family admission is €14 and it was just €24 for four adults and five children when Smart Consumer visited. There was a great quiz which kept the younger ones interested in the exhibits and those who completed it were rewarded with a novelty pencil and rubber.

For €71.50, a family can combine the exhibition tour with a cruise around the Skellig rock, but that does not include landing. Local boatmen, unattached to the interpretative centre, will take you there for €50 a head.

For more information on the above attractions go www.fotawildlife.com; www.skelligexperience.com; www.claralara.com.

Irish Independent

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