FEBRUARY half term is looming – and I managed to find an overnight city break for less than £50 with my family.
This time last year, I took my boys to Chester for a night for just £30.
We stayed in a room at the YHA and used the park and ride bus to get around.
But if you’re thinking that visiting a youth hostel is all about roughing it in rundown buildings while being put on a rota to do the washing up, think again.
Trafford Hall YHA, just outside Chester, is a gorgeous Grade II listed Georgian mansion surrounded by a blanket of snowdrops at this time of year.
It only became a youth hostel in 2021 after years of being a training and conference centre.
The main house, which still boasts a ballroom, has been adapted to include the hostel’s communal areas such as a self-catering kitchen and dining room.
The terraced eco-friendly chalets set around a walled garden provide accommodation for visitors, with covered walkways between each room.
The chalets are fairly basic and you need to bring your own towels, but bedding is included.
An ensuite room for a family of five, including a double bed and bunk beds, is £46.55 per night in February, while a family of four in bunk beds would pay £37.05.
Youth hostels are great for budget breaks as they have a kitchen where you can cook and keep your own food, a restaurant that serves cheap but filling meals (and wine for frazzled mums!) and often a games room with table football, pool and board games to keep kids entertained.
They have a relaxed vibe and you can meet loads of interesting people or just chill in your own space if you prefer.
The days of bringing your own bedding and mucking in with the chores are long gone.
It’s worth a look if you fancy getting away on a shoestring budget.
If you’re travelling with children, you get a five per cent discount when booking direct on the YHA website, while buying an annual membership will save you 10 per cent per booking.
Under-10s can enjoy a free kid’s meal at some hostels when you buy an unlimited breakfast or main meal costing £6 or more.
Trafford Hall is set in the countryside five miles outside Chester, so we headed for the park and ride at Chester Zoo, a 10-minute drive away, to get into the city.
All-day tickets for the park and ride bus are £2 and up to three under-16s can travel free with an adult. Travel is free after 2pm on a Wednesday.
The city centre has lots to see and do to keep both adults and children entertained.
There are loads of Roman ruins that are free to explore and we had a blast while spending next to nothing.
We also popped into the excellent Grosvenor Museum, which has exhibitions covering different eras of the city.
Our favourite was the room full of Roman tombstones which had been reused to build the walls around the city.
This half term, the museum has an exhibition looking at the city’s famous 700-year-old covered walkways, known as Rows.
Visitors can pick up a family trail sheet from the museum reception to explore the Rows.
We also enjoyed a visit to Sick to Death, a gruesome museum looking at illness and disease over the ages, set in an atmospheric converted church.
Billed as the gory story of medicine through time, this place will appeal to any Horrible Histories fans like my boys and was suitably stomach-turning in places.
Tickets cost £6 for adults and £3.50 for children aged 5-15.
So if you’re heading towards half term and feel like you’d like to take a break without breaking the