It’s time for another Summer Fun Fridays post! Summer is such a fun time of year. The weather is nice, the sun is shining, and your little ones have a break from school. For many, summer is the perfect time to get out and have some fun together.
The thing is, summer activities can get pricey, especially if you aren’t really budgeting for them. There are so many ways to have some budget friendly summer fun without having to break the bank though. All it takes is a little creativity and planning. Inexpensive summer fun ideas for families are out there.
Budget Friendly Summer Fun Ideas for the Whole Family
While stargazing is a fun activity already, there are ways to take it up a notch. Drive out to the country where there are minimal street lights or hike to the top of a hill and settle into a comfortable spot. Stargazing is a great way to spend time together as a family, but it can also be a valuable learning experience.
Borrow a telescope on your travels to optimize your stargazing experience. Does the university in your area have an observatory? Often, those will open up their telescopes on summer evenings to the public for free. But even without special equipment, simply sitting outside at night and searching the skies for stars can be a lovely way to end a day.
Here in London, Ontario, the Hume Cronyn Observatory at UWO is open every Saturday evening during the months of May, June, July, and August. Astronomers are on hand to answer any questions your family might have.
Have a Yard Sale
It is surprising how excited little ones will get when presented with the opportunity to plan a big event, like a yard sale. Give your children the chance to get their rooms tidied up and choose items they want to sell. This will also help to make sure that your little one’s room is ready for back to school.
Let the kids take charge of the process and not only will they have free fun, but they will also make a little spending money. This is a fantastic way for the whole family to also make some money to invest back into some costlier summer activities.
My daughter always liked setting up a lemonade stand at our yard sales. She made a little cash and the customers stayed longer even on hot days because they were able to purchase a drink.
Head to the library.
I don’t know about your library but ours is amazing. There are TONS of completely free activities to do there besides simply getting books. We can also check out movies, music, board games, and now they even have leisure kits (like gardening tools for example) and craft kits.
At the library, there are story times, puppet shows, movie showings, concerts, magic shows, craft workshops (occasionally with a nominal fee to cover supplies), and so much more. Check yours to see if they have similar programs.
Plan a Staycation
Much like a relaxing vacation, a staycation provides some down time for you and your family to really connect. There are many different ways to plan a staycation. You can stay at home and visit around your community and surrounding area, or you can even stay at a local bed and breakfast.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to a staycation and the activities are completely determined by your budget. Search online for “free things to do in <Insert the Name of Your City Here>” for inexpensive ideas.
Get Outside and Get Active
Bike riding, running through the sprinkler, playing games like tag, even some quieter activities like drawing sidewalk chalk pictures and painting the fence with water can be great ways to have fun without spending a dime!
Take the Kids to Vacation Bible School
If you aren’t a Christian, you might not be interested in this option but several of my non-Christian friends used to send their kids for the socialization and fun aspects of it. Vacation Bible Schools are filled with fun crafts, songs, games, stories, and other activities that kids love. I’ve never seen a VBS charge money before but if they’re going on a field trip, there might be a nominal charge to offset costs.
Volunteer your Time
Spend your summer volunteering as a family in your local community. There are many things that you can do with your children that helps others. In our city, they are looking for people to walk dogs and give some one on one time to cats in the shelter, sort groceries at the food bank, and clean up local parks.
Volunteering has many benefits to your family. Not only does it give you something positive to do with your time, but it also teaches little ones responsibility and compassion.
Visit a Park
Not only are playgrounds or local splash pads free to use, they are a lot of fun too. Bring along a picnic lunch and make a day of it. If getting back to nature interests you more than swinging on the swings, there are many provincial parks that you can visit that won’t cost an arm and a leg to get into.
In fact, in Canada you can get your own pass that allows you to frequent the parks as much as you want over a 12 month period for a lump sum. They even offer them for free periodically. So, if you are planning on visiting often, the pass is a great way to save money.
Head to a Farmer’s Market
Kids usually get a big kick out of going to a farmer’s market. Often, the booths are manned by the farmers themselves so the kids can even ask their questions about farm life. Plus, getting to help pick out some of their own food can make them more excited about eating it!
Look for farmer’s markets in your area or head out for a drive in the country and be on the lookout for roadside stands.
Go to the Beach
Okay, so not everyone has access to the beach but even if you are landlocked like we are, you might just have some lakes around. Of course, you need to take precautions for the sun (as with any outdoor activities), but even just an hour or two at the beach can make for a fun day.
No, this doesn’t require an expensive trip to your local craft store. Spend $5-10 at the dollar store if you need some of the basics like kid-friendly scissors, glue, paint, and so on. Then just grab some stuff from around the house that might have been destined for the recycling bin.
Toilet paper tubes, old tissue and pasta boxes, water bottles, and even the pages of old magazines can be made into some really fun projects.
When I was a kid, I lived in the pool. I only got out when the lifeguard kicked us all out because it was adult swim time. My parents bought us a season pass and given the amount of use it got, it was well worth it.
When my daughter was little though, there were a few times it was just too much to come up with the cash for a season pass. We had purchased one the year before and it rained all summer. We couldn’t swim and now couldn’t use that money to do something else instead.
So, the following year, we went with day passes. They were incredibly reasonable (I think $2 for me and $1 for her) and we could fit the swim times into the rest of our schedule (and the weather availability) easily.
Go on a Picnic
I feel like I say this in every summer themed post I write, but it’s true. There is something almost magical about eating outside. Go to a park or your own backyard – whichever you do, it’s a fun change from the ordinary.
If you really want to get away, camping can be a much more economical alternative to most other vacations. There are some things to consider though. First, there is the camping equipment. When I was in university, there was a place on campus where you could rent camping supplies and there used to be one here in town too. Ask around and check with campsites you’re considering to see if they have similar offers.
Here in Ontario we have a Learn to Camp program. For a very reasonable price of $149 for 3 days/2 nights for a group of up to 6 people, not only will they show you the basics of camping but they will provide most of the equipment too. This includes everything except: food, bedding, personal items, and select kitchen items. They’ll even provide one bag of ice and one bag of firewood.
Look for Bargains
Check Groupon regularly for smoking hot deals on summer activities. My son in law loves to golf and I found passes for 12 holes of golf for 4 people (including a golf cart) for $100. They often have deals on tickets to local amusement parks, recreation centers, and more.
Check the calendars on the websites of attractions you’d like to visit or for tourism boards in your area. These can often clue you into many free summer festivals and other events (pack a picnic and go!) as well as days where admission prices have been greatly reduced. Some of them offer online coupons as well.
Sign up for email newsletters for any of the attractions you’re interested in as well. I have a separate email address just for such subscriptions so that they don’t clog up my regular email but I often receive special deals just for subscribers.
Look for discounts through associations you may belong to. We are CAA (same as AAA in the US) members, my daughter is a teacher, I’m a former teacher (from a different school board), we’re alumni from local universities, and I’m over 55. All of these offer us not only discounts but sometimes special behind-the-scenes offers that aren’t available to the general public.
There are many different activities over the warm summer months that you can participate in that won’t break the bank. Summer fun doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. Just do a little advance planning and get creative!