IF YOU'RE a member of any parent or family Facebook groups you'll have seen this question at this time of the summer every year - what are your top tips for days out and things to do with the kids during the six-week school holidays? 

But with budgets tight this year, many have been specifically looking for the best free things to do and one activity kept appearing in the comments - geocaching. 

I had never heard of it before apart from a vague memory of a TikTok that had popped up in my feed earlier this year of a woman being giddy with excitement after finding a geocache tucked behind a road sign.

But with so many parents recommending it, I couldn't resist finding out more and giving it a go myself to see if it really was the gamechanger free family activity that everybody was claiming. 

What is geocaching?

Geocaching is described as the 'world's biggest treasure hunt'. 

But it's nothing new. 

The first geocache was hidden in America in May 2000 and there are now thought to be three million worldwide in 191 countries. 

After downloading the free Geocaching app, geocachers use GPS (ie. your phone) to find their nearest cache.

The National Trust describes a geocache as 'a small waterproof treasure box hidden outdoors'. 

Once you find one, you can sign the logbook inside and leave a message for the next person to find.

@_zoelp_ first time geocaching on our holiday to devon 👍🏼 #geocaching #hiking #LiveForTheChallenge #ukholidays #geocache #treasurehunt #fyp #foryoupage ♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show


If you’re lucky, you might also find trinkets in the cache which you're allowed to take as long as you replace them with something else. 

If your children loved Pokemon Go, this is the closest thing to a real-life version seeking caches rather than Pikachu and co. 

My experience of geocaching

Now I understood what it was, it was time to give it a go. 

I downloaded the geocache app and tapped the first one I could spot near me. 

It was around 1.3km away on the edge of a park with a difficulty rating of 1.5 - sounded like as good a place as any to start. 

But just as I was about to set off, I checked the recent activity for the cache to see how easily others had found it. 

"Worth the nettle sting" said one comment while another added: "It's way too overgrown and thorny - it really hurt."

I wasn't ready for this level of commitment to geocaching so opted for the next nearest one instead. 

I'll keep the location vague so as not to spoil the find for anybody else but it was in a green area close to a shopping centre. 

As somebody who generally spends five minutes looking at Google Maps and walking in the wrong direction two or three times when trying to find anywhere new, I also enlisted the help of my much less directionally-challenged husband for the adventure and we set off.

I didn't need to worry however as the 'Navigate' option in the Geocaching app was incredibly easy to follow and counted down the metres as we neared the cache. 

15m to go....10m to go....5, 4, 3, 2...it was around this point the app struggled a bit so we decided it was near enough and time to start searching. 


The hint gave the clue 'Ivy - fork' and there was a tree covered in ivy next to a fork in the path. 

The cache's name also included the word 'you' with the 'ou' missing and the nearest tree was a 'Y' shape. 

Feeling like I was ready to sign up for the 1% Club after cracking those clues, I paced around the tree about four or five times. 

Losing hope that my logic was correct and noticing a security guard circling to see what we were doing, I was starting to think my first experience of geocaching was going to be a failure. 

But then I remembered the activity log for the cache mentioned a 'camo bag'. 

Looking closely again, I spotted some camouflage material behind the ivy leaves, gave it a pull and out fell the geocache. Result!

South Wales Argus: The cache included a logbook, pencil, keyrings and a drawing from a childThe cache included a logbook, pencil, keyrings and a drawing from a child (Image: Hannah Bysouth)


The verdict on whether geocaching is an ideal free school holiday activity

It's easy to see why geocaching has proved so popular this year as it adds a lot of purpose and satisfaction to any walk where there's a chance of finding a cache. 

And with around 70,000 caches estimated in the UK, if you're visiting relatives during the summer break or going on holiday then it would be a great excuse to get outdoors and explore new areas. 

I would guess any age above seven years old would enjoy this the most but easy finds could also keep little ones entertained. 

I scrolled through some of the other nearby caches and found in descriptions some had been left in memory of lost loved ones while others gave information about the history of nearby buildings. 

And there's extra fun to be had encouraging youngsters to make something to leave at the cache for the next person to find. 

Just don't forget to check the descriptions before you set off to avoid any nettles!