Even though your kids are about to have more free time then they’ve had the entire year, planning a family outing doesn’t need to be expensive–or a hassle. “It’s important to take some time out to spend together as family to stay connected and to have fun,” says Farah Silver editor of MomFinds.com when it comes to summer vacations. But spending time with the entire fam doesn’t always have to cost hundreds.
Here are ten ideas under $50:
Aiding the local community as a family teaches your kids values while helping to build a strong bond. For ideas consult websites like Idealist.org; the site has a large database that can help you search by specific parameters like age, skills and dates in order to help make last-minute plans.
In a different way than museums do, science centers provide a hands-on environment to educate children. (Remember those fourth grade field trips?) Take advantage of the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) Passport Program–after becoming a member of your local center, you can visit science museums in different locales for free.
Keeping your kids cool and out of trouble in the summer is tough but the country has dozens of water attractions and local newspapers have great deals for off-peak times. Jan Kostner, the deputy director of Illinois Bureau of Tourism, suggests checking state websites to find detailed info. (Illinois alone has seven water destinations.)
Watching movies can make for a budget-friendly evening when paired with subscribing to Kids Off the Couch an online newsletter that “pairs family-friendly movies with often inexpensive ideas for outings and activities to support the theme or further a child's understanding of the film,” explains Liz Gumbinner editor of CoolMomPicks.com.
During the summer, catching up with the animals can turn into a relaxing day out. At the Los Angeles Zoo, prices are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. With dozens of zoos throughout the country, it’s simple to find one nearby. “Go first thing in the morning or on weekdays and take advantage of smaller crowds,” suggests Gumbinner.
Driving out to a local orchard where admission is often free can be a good way to get some exercise and spend some quality time outside. And, saving on transportation is possible too, says Silver, “travel with other families.”
Packing your (and the kids’) favorite foods and heading to a picnic in the park “makes kids go nuts,” according to Gumbinner. “Plus, there isn't a restaurant in the world that will let your kids run around after lunch in the same way,” she adds.
Going for a hike and leaving your Blackberry (RIMM) behind is another great way to spend a few hours. Find a trail at AmericanHiking.org and then pack your bag, says Silver, who adds that admission is often free. “Enjoying the outdoors will help teach your kids to appreciate nature and the environment, and they’ll also get some good exercise.”
The summer is a perfect time to check out new bands—especially because lawn seats are usually affordable. Another benefit of local summertime gatherings is “you get to meet other families from your area,” says Silver.
While there’s tons of music and food festivals throughout the U.S. during the summer, chances are you haven’t been to them all. So, checking for new listings and planning ahead is important. “Summer memories for children are in huge part the fabric of their lives,” says Gumbinner.