Whether planning a short getaway or a simple staycation, the cost can add up! Here are some amazing summer fun ideas to enjoy great adventures anywhere, on a budget.
1. Camp in your own backyard.
“To make staying at home more fun, set up a tent and camp out in your backyard! Don’t have a tent or camping equipment? You can rent it all from a local outfitter (like REI) for a small fee. No backyard? Simply set up a blanket fort in the living room! Then make s’mores — you can buy all the fixings at the dollar store for under $5 — and identify stars, planets, and satellites in the sky! Gaze sans a pricey telescope by simply downloading the Night Sky app!” — Emily Bass, founder of Savvy Frugal Mom
2. Create a local scavenger hunt.
“Staying home? Turn a day off for the family into a race around your neighborhood! Have everyone do challenges like taking photos in specific places or finding facts about local landmarks. It turns a familiar area into something new and exciting, for free!” — Jordan Page, mom and money-saving blogger at Fun Cheap or Free
3. Entertain kids in the car at no cost.
“Keep kids busy on a long drive with audiobooks. Simply visit OverDrive, find your local library, and download the free books. More than one kid? Buy a headphone splitter, like Reiko Wireless 6-port Multi Headphone Splitter ($8.20, Walmart.com), so they can listen to the book while the adults can chat.” — Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe ($21.28, Amazon)
4. Bunk up nearby.
“The best staycation we ever had was spending the night in a hotel 25 minutes away from our home. We ate out, walked the city and swam in the hotel pool. To save big, plan your stay at an off-peak time, avoiding weekends, holidays, and breaks. Booking last-minute? Check travel sites like Travelocity and Kayak, where you may find deals like 50 percent off your stay or a suite for the price of a standard room. Also smart: Consider renting a house or condo via Airbnb — you can search the site for ‘kid-friendly’ places, which may include a trampoline or a pool!” — Jordan Page
5. Hit the road — and sleep on it — for less.
“One of our favorite things to do is to rent an RV for a long weekend. You get to take a trip without paying for hotels or meals out—a huge savings. Sometimes a rental company will deliver the RV to the campsite you’ll be staying at, so you just arrive and enjoy it. To find one, visit RVShare or search the web for ones available near you.” — Beth Blair, money-saving travel expert at The Vacation Gals
6. Turn your yard into a vacation spot.
“Yard ‘toys’ like hammocks, swings, or above-ground pools can make a staycation feel like a getaway, but they can be pricey. Ensure you get the lowest price by downloading a free browser extension like RetailMeNot Deal Finder to your computer. How it works: You place an item in your online cart and check out as usual. The deal finder will automatically input any discount codes so you get the best deal available on whatever you buy.” — Kathy Thompson, grandmother of 6, Grand Rapids, MI
7. Find ‘prizewinners’ close to home.
“Is the family obsessed with strawberry rhubarb pie or specialty donuts? Find out where your state’s prizewinning pastries or craziest donut flavors are made and take road trips to find them. Just make sure to call ahead to order in advance (to avoid disappointment) before making the trek. Then use an app like iExit to find a good hiking trail or scenic spot to stop off at along the way. You’d be surprised what fun things you’ll discover very close to home. You’ll set off on a fun adventure that won’t break the bank.” — Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert for True Trae
8. Get free entrance to national parks.
“As a flight attendant-turned-travel writer, family travel is right up my alley. One thing my family loves to do wherever we go is hit a national park. While there is a per-person or percar fee to enter, if you have a fourth grader in your family, you can take advantage of perks like the National Parks Foundation’s Every Kid Outdoors events, where fourth graders and their families get into the parks for free. The parks also have a program where five days a year (including August 25, National Park Service Birthday) entrance is free for all! And once you’re in, there are usually fun, free Ranger programs with activities, hikes, talks, and more.” — Beth Blair
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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