We don’t take too many trips or vacations. There are several reasons, but at this phase in our life, it’s just not happening. So, what do you do to fill all that time with your kids? Especially in the summer? Especially if you homeschool and they are with you ALL the time! When you have several kids, even day trips or simple things can add up so we’ve learned to get creative with outings and activities for the family. Here are our top 10 fun and cheap things to do as a family.
State Parks: This may be our most favorite thing to do as a family! Even in our rural part of the state there are several state parks within a few hours driving distance and they are FREE! We got our state park passport book last year and have had fun marking each park off the list. We often pack a lunch and head out after church on Sunday for an afternoon of hiking, swimming, or exploring. For those parks a little farther away, we try and plan to visit them if we might be traveling to “the big city” or on the way to visit family on the other side of the state. It’s a good way to break up a trip and have a change of scenery while driving several hours.
2. City Parks: Chances are you have some free fun right around the corner! Even in our small rural towns, we have some pretty great city and local parks. Some include ball fields, splash pads, and sound scapes, but never underestimate the joy of a simple play ground. During nice weather, we try to visit one of our local parks for some free fun. Most often I pack a lunch and you’ve got a good 1/2 day of something different than sitting at home with the kids complaining of being bored.
3. Museums and Historical Sites: These may not necessarily be free, but are usually a pretty minimal expense. For instance, we have one museum close by that we buy season passes for. It’s over $100 at once, but if you use it frequently, like we do, it’s well worth the expense up front. We like to take advantage of these during the winter months because they are mostly indoors. And most include learning with a little fun.
4. Random Acts of Kindness: I know this is not necessarily a destination, but we use it as an outing all the time! It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or fancy. We print off little cards that say “random act of kindness” and attach it to all kinds of things. For example: hide candy bars in a store, tape quarters to candy or coke machines, hand out flowers at a nursing home, leave $1 bills in the toy section at the Dollar Tree, leave detergent at the laundry mat, put snacks in the hospital waiting room, leave gifts for the mailman or garbage man. Those are just a few of our favorites (click HERE for a full list), but the options are really unlimited and can be as cost effective as you need them to be. We often take a morning to do some random acts of kindness, but you could easily turn it into a whole day if you wanted. It is one of our favorite things to do and I love the fact that my kids are learning to serve others in the process.
5. Fun at Home: I know I said outings, but this is something we’ve had to learn to do at different times, whether for budget reasons or just practicality (like being pregnant with #7!) The key is to keep it simple, but different. For instance, we have a summer bucket list that we create to change things up and the kids really enjoy this. Its not anything extensive or fancy, and we even include simple things like wash the car or pick blackberries (click HERE for our favorite cobbler recipe!), but it helps us change things up and avoid summer boredom.
6. The Local Library: As with local parks, I sometimes forget about what a great resource the local library can be! Many times they have programs throughout the year, but they most all have a summer reading program with weekly activities. During the winter months, it’s a great way to break up the monotony of being stuck at home, by taking a weekly trip to check out books and use the children’s computers.
7. Festivals and Parades: Being from a rural area, there’s never a shortage of festivals and celebrations in each small town. These are a great way to provide some entertainment for FREE! Even in our small county, there seems to be a parade for just about every occasion, not to mention festivals that often include concerts, carnivals, and exhibits for free or little costs.
8. Picnics: One thing I’ve learned is that things do not have to necessarily be fancy, but if you approach them as an adventure or in a different way, your kids will too. We take lots of picnics, on our outings, but often, we just picnic around the farm. This small change of scenery is sometimes just what we need to readjust our attitudes or perspectives. Click HERE for our top 10 list of picnic essentials!
9. Sporting Events: Again, maybe not always free, theses can be a great family outing for pretty cheap. Plus, if you like a certain sport or team, you can usually get season passes at a discount that are worth the money up front.
10. Hunting, Fishing, and Frog Gigging: Although not a necessarily conventional outing, this can be a fun and cheap outing for the family. (This was my husband’s addition to the list. 😉) If you like or are interested in the outdoors, this can be a win-win! A child’s hunting and fishing permit can be purchased for pretty cheap and in most cases, you get to eat what you catch or kill! And in some cases (landowner) you don’t have to have a permit for certain activities. Just make sure and check regulations for your area or state.
That’s our list! Hope these ideas help you get out and enjoy some family time without breaking the bank!