With the majority of families in the UK having a single working parent or two working parents and no additional family members on hand, parents are finding it even more difficult to juggle annual leave, find affordable childcare and to find childcare which their children will genuinely enjoy and benefit from. The worry of ‘what will we do with the kids?’ is a question posed year after year but with a little New Year planning, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get the year’s school holidays planned, putting both a smile on your face and beaming smiles on your children’s faces, happy in the knowledge they’ve got some amazing new experiences to look forward to in the new year.

It might sound obvious, but a diary goes a long way in planning ahead for the New Year so it’s worth getting your hands on one. For the more tech savvy, your online calendar will be your new favourite friend – trust us!

Take some time early January, grab a cuppa, sit down and look over your work schedules and school holiday dates. Although a laborious task at the time, it’ll pay off in the long run. Work out which holidays you’ll be taking annual leave for so you can get this booked in as early as possible (remember you won’t be the only one in the office who wants a week at Easter)! This will leave you with the dates you can’t cover and it’s these which many parents panic over with thoughts of ‘What will we do with the kids?’ and ‘What’s this going to cost us?’

Planning what your childcare costs will be and budgeting early will give you peace of mind throughout the year. Many working parents will aim to find activities which can be paid via childcare vouchers. If your workplace provides a childcare voucher scheme its worth speaking to HR and getting this set up. According to voucher sites (childcarevouchers.co.uk and computersharevoucherservices.com) you can benefit from yearly savings of up to £1,000 through the salary sacrifice schemes due to not getting taxed on the funds you pay in. Using the schemes means you’ll have a pot of money to cover most or even all of your childcare costs throughout the year.

It’s always worth checking your payment options with your chosen childcare provider as many may allow you to spread your payments if booking early enough, or will just ask for a small deposit to secure the booking. For example, holiday camps such as Kings Camps allow parents to book with a £1 deposit to secure the booking, allowing plenty of time to build up funds in your voucher account with the balance not due until 4 weeks prior to the start of camp. Alternatively, for those without childcare vouchers they also offer a monthly payment option for those who wish to pay by direct debit.

Starting your childcare search early in the year means you can make the most of New Year sales and early booking discounts. For example, Kings Camps offer a 10% early bird discount which lasts until the end of February. Even if you’re not 100% sure on your holiday dates, you can book in using the discount and change full weeks or individual days later in the year at no extra cost – we all know having children means plans are subject to change (more often than not) so this flexibility can be a huge help when plans change last minute.

A review from 9,000 families on the Good Care Website found parents were scoring the quality of childcare lower in 2016 than they did in 2012. Reasons included, high staff turnover, lack of learning, and use of small rooms and limited stimulation. These results show there is a need for quality childcare, delivered by qualified and engaging staff, within a stimulating environment which encourages learning and development. Activity camps like Kings Camps can offer all of these things, with qualified and experienced coaches, amazing venues (many independent school and university sports facilities) and a huge variety of sports and active games.

Giving the kids something to look forward to and beating the post-Christmas blues is a great way to start the New Year. It might be they want to learn an instrument, get involved with scouts or learn a new sport. It’s best to speak to your kids and find out what they want to get involved in. Holiday camps like Kings Camps can be a great choice as they offer children the chance to have a taster of many different activities, allowing them to try new things and find something they enjoy.

Planning ahead is a challenging task for all families, whether its juggling childcare between family members, booking family holidays or (for the majority) spending the time to search for school holiday activities and deciding on something which both the kids (and your bank account) will love. However, once you begin your search you’ll find there are plenty of options available, allowing you to choose childcare which provides peace of mind for you as well as an amazing experience for your kids.