10 Summer Kids Activities That Won’t Break Your Budget This Summer


Being a parent means you spend a lot of additional money doing things that you might once have only spent a little to do. Nowadays, however, you have to pay more than the standard fare to get into any place. You might have thought to yourself before you have kids, “I can’t wait to take our little family to Hawaii on summer vacation,” before you realized that your little family is now a family of six and that buying 6 airline tickets to take four kids to Hawaii and then figuring out how to work around a six hour time difference and a 9-hour flight with that many kids so that everyone is happy is not quite as much fun as it used to sound. I mean, we still take our kids places, but we like to keep them close and nearby and a little bit more affordable – at least until they are old enough to appreciate things like that and not lose it on the flight or with the time difference.

My husband and I have four kids, and we are always looking for fun ways to keep them entertained in Florida all summer long. We’re fortunate that we live where other people vacation, so our summers are filled with days on the boat, at the beach, at amusement parks and in the pool. But even our kids get tired of those things and we have to find things to do that won’t deplete our bank accounts and their college funds.

The Beach

It’s fun, it’s free and it keeps the kids busy for hours. You get to work on your tan, you get to have a good time and you get to bond with your kids. You also get to pack a picnic if you want, and that really makes it free. Of course, this only works if you live near the beach.

The Dollar Movies

Our big girls love the dollar movies. Our theater does this on Wednesday mornings. The movies are $1, they’re kid-friendly and we sneak in their other fun foods. It’s cheap, fun and it saves a bundle when you consider how much it costs to go to a regular movie. My husband took our big girls on a date night last week to see “Inside Out,” and for the three of them it was a $70 night.

Free Movies in the Park

Many local communities have this as an option throughout the summer. They might play a movie on a weekend evening so that you and your family can head to the park with a picnic, a blanket and some chairs and enjoy what the offerings happen to be. Our kids love this. Of course, we leave the babies home on these evenings, but the big girls think it’s really cool.

The Splash Pad

Your neighborhood has to have a splash pad; all of them do. They are everywhere, and they are fantastic. You’ll love this concept because it means that you’re going to get to take the kids to a park with a big concrete pad with water shooting out of it. They get to play in the water without you worrying that they’ll end up falling into a pool. Everyone is cool and relaxed, and it is a great way to spend a day when you have a small budget and a hot summer ahead of you.

Annual Passes to Local Places

Not all annual passes are as pricey as passes to places such as Disney (though these are the best investment we’ve ever made). You can get annual passes for very little to places such as your local zoo or aquarium or water park. This means that you might put up a little bit more money upfront, but you’ll get in free the rest of the summer so you can go as often as you like. The good news is that not only can you go often, you can go for an hour, 10 hours or however long you want without feeling as if you are wasting money.

Groupon Deals

Groupon and other sites like it make it so much easier for people to do their shopping for local deals. You can download apps and keep an eye out for things that are on sale that might entertain you. Last summer my husband and I took our kids to the Tampa Aquarium for the first time  – we have SeaWorld passes and everyone always says that the aquarium is really small and not worth the price. We never wanted to pay full price to go somewhere that everyone says takes less than a half hour to walk through, but when we saw that it was buy one ticket get one free, we took the kids. We still felt like we spent too much money, but we are glad we went.

The Local Pool

Do you have a local pool that anyone can use? If you don’t have a pool, this might be a good idea for your family to enjoy when the days are hot and the summer feels as if it is dragging on without too much to do. The kids should love this, and chances are good that there will be other kids there for your kids to play with.

Consider a Social Membership

My husband and I have considered a social membership to our community and we think we are going to invest. The price varies from community to community, and some do not offer it. Ours is a hefty upfront price, but for a solid year we get to enjoy the pool, the gym, the exercise classes, the wine club, exclusive restaurants, kids’ activities and golf. Our kids can enjoy several of these things with us, and that makes it worth it to us to join. It might not be something that you have ever thought about, but it might be worth looking into.

Find Local Festivals

There are always local festivals where we live, and we live in a small community. Bigger cities probably have far more. For example, our local community is situated on the Gulf of Mexico so we have a number of festivals along the water; seafood festivals, parades, festivals at the park – so much to do and so much that our kids enjoy. There are always bounce castles and games, food and fun and friends for the kids to enjoy.

Plan a Grandparents Weekend

When you’re really ready to do something fun for the kids, ask the grandparents to plan a sleepover night or a getaway with the kids. Ours love to sleepover at their grandparents house more than going to Disney – for some reason, it’s more fun. This is something that also gives you a bit of a break, and there’s nothing parents need more during summer vacation than a break.

Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


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