If you’re a single mom living on a budget a big vacation may not be in your plans. That doesn’t mean you can have fun and show your kids what it means to have adventures on little money. When all is said and done, it isn’t the big vacations your children will remember but the small outings, the time together and the Mom who made sure their summer was filled with fun activities.
Below are 43 fun and budget-friendly summertime activities you and your kids can take part in.
Whatever fits your budget, go away for several days or longer. Whether it’s a cruise, a trip to abroad, or a drive to visit the grandparents a few hours away, go! Instead of buying a lot of “stuff,” take loads of photos and make them a photo book as a keepsake. When we go on vacations, I buy my daughters a magnet for their magnet board. They are inexpensive (usually between $4-$8) and it’s a fun, simple way to track all the places they have been.
Don’t forget an umbrella and loads of sunscreen. I actually find waterparks relaxing. While the girls are playing, I’m catching up on my reading. If you can, put your phone away and take the time to yourself with few distractions.
3. Town festival
Many towns host a summer festival. Oftentimes, many of the activities are free or reasonably priced and can include concerts, carnivals, games, and many local food options.
4. Local rodeo
I’ve never actually been to a rodeo, though I grew up in a town that had many. My daughters are begging to go to one. This summer, I’m really going to try to get them there. Why not?
5. Horseback riding
A huge bonus? You’ll probably discover a trail that you never knew existed. Schedule your rides in the early morning or late evening if it’s hot where you are at.
6. Free splash pads (generally found at malls and parks)
What child doesn’t love to run in water when it is super hot outside and there are loads of kids around? Splash pads are a great way to entertain the little ones, spend no money, and keep them happy (and get them tired!).
7. Fair or carnival
I love the displays and shopping at the larger county fairs, the kids love to hit up the rides and games. Plus, there is usually interesting food to try (even if some are heart attack inducing). Fairs are perfect for the whole family, regardless of age, though they can be extremely pricey, so be prepared to spend.
8. Amusement park
The Lagoon is our big amusement park and my daughters look forward to going every summer. We also have an annual pass to Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California because we visit there so often.
9. 5k walk
Stay in shape and support a good cause. Organized races are really fun. If you have really small children, put them in a stroller. Typically, most walks or runs also have an organized 1k run for the little ones.
10. University campus
Why not explore a local university or college campus and get some lunch in the cafeteria? Your children will start getting a “feel” for what a college campus feels like when it’s not as crowded and finding parking is easier.
11. Learn a little about a new culture then go out to eat somewhere new from that culture
One of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City is Mazza, a Middle Eastern restaurant. I think we’ll start with that one. You need not spend too much time on learning about the culture. Maybe even discuss facts while in the car on your way out to eat. It’s a great way to learn something new.
12. Hot springs or other outdoor “find”
Go online and discover a new outdoor area you’ve never been to. A friend and her boyfriend just went to an outdoor hot spring. It included a 30-minute walk down a dirt trail and ended with soaking in outdoor hot springs. She said it was simply awesome. They went in the evening when it wasn’t so hot. Likely there are interesting and unique places around you, too. Go online or ask friends for suggestions.
Discover a new trail. Consider going early in the morning or late in the evening. Wear good shoes, sunscreen, bug spray and watch for snakes! Next on tap for us is Timpanogos Caves. I’ve hiked this several times but my daughters haven’t. It includes a rigorous steep hike and ends at phenomenal caves. It’s truly spectacular and the hike is a great work-out. I’ll probably treat them to lunch afterward at Sundance Ski resort. I love hiking. I think it’s great to expose children to the outdoors, discover new and beautiful places, and get them away from TVs and cell phones.
14. Day camping
Do everything you would normally do if you were camping but you get to go home at night to sleep. It requires a whole lot less prep and planning, too! Of course if it’s your “thing” and you have the equipment, stay the night at the campground.
15. Swim in a local lake
Take blow-up rafts and lunch to add to your fun.
16. Visit the mountains or beach
Take food and barbeque.
17. Visit a local museum
I’ll bet there is a museum you haven’t been to right in your own town. Stop and visit one. You’ll learn something new and so will our kids.
18. Matinee binge
Sometimes when it’s hot outside, nothing sounds better than sitting in a cool dark theatre and taking in several movies while eating popcorn. No guilt.
19. Make smores at night over a firepit
20. Have a “cold” foods cooking day
Try new recipes that require no heat to make. Ideas: salads, ice cream, lemonade, cold soups, sandwiches, and no bake cookies.
21. Host a barbeque for your children’s friends
Book an inexpensive hotel and be a tourist in your own city. Take swimsuits and go swimming at their pool.
23. Road trip!
Pick a place many hours away and drive. Make sure to build in enough time to stop and explore new places that look interesting. A few years ago, I took my daughters on a trip to Denver. On our way back, we drove past the exit for Moab, Utah. We could see the red rocks for Arches National Park and my daughter, Sydney, said: “let’s stop!” This was not on our agenda and I had like three seconds to make a decision whether to exit or not. I did and picked up the phone, called Priceline and got (I think) the last available hotel room in town. It turned out to be a spectacular overnight trip. We spent the evening exploring the beautiful town, eating at a fun local diner and hiking the Arches the next day. It was spectacular.
24. Rent paddle boats
25. Make a lemonade stand. Donate proceeds to charity
26. Visit the local zoo, aquarium, aviary or observatory
27. Go swimming at a public pool
28. Visit the library
29. Have a picnic
30. Go for a scenic drive somewhere new
31. Go school clothes shopping
32. Host a board game competition for your kids’ friends and their parents
33. Find free local concerts
34. Rent bikes and explore a new bike path
35. Throw your kids a slumber party
36. Go to a drive-in movie
37. Have your own “book club.” Read together and discuss
38. Decorate sidewalks or paths with sidewalk paint or chalk
39. Fly kites
40. Run through the sprinklers
41. Visit a flea market or local farmer’s market
42. Do a volunteer project, like play games with
43. Go water rafting, canoeing, kayaking or boating