Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

I am always looking for cheap summer activities for kids and there are so many ways to be a money-saving mom! With summer right around the corner, I am SO excited to spend most of our days outside, getting in as much sunshine as my super fair skin can handle, and making memories with my family!

In the summer I find that we spend way more money than needed because of all the fun events and things we want to do. This year, I vow to stick on my budget! We are coming out of a season of financial hardship and for the past few months, haven’t really had any space in the budget for luxuries and events.

Related Post: An Open Letter to the Mom Struggling with Her Finances

Due to that, I’ve had to get super creative in finding and creating fun that our whole family can enjoy. Once we get past the money roadblock, our second challenge is our kids’ age ranges. We currently have an 11-year-old, 2.5 years old and 8-month old which can make activities a little tricky.

I sat down and said that no matter what we will have a fun summer, not break the bank, and find things that they all enjoy! I came up with a simple summer activity planning system that will keep the kids busy, you from going crazy, and your wallet happy!

Budget Friendly Summer Activities

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Use time blocking template

Depending on your household, your kids may or may not have a schedule for the summer. Some families send their kids to camps, some prefer to keep their schedule more open and some take a lot of trips or homeschool events.

For us, none of our kids will be attending camp regularly (though my stepson has the occasional basketball drill on the calendar) so we’ve decided to keep a more open schedule. This helps a lot because currently, baby naps rule our life! I am a HUGE proponent of good sleep practices and try my best to make sure that the baby and the toddler get their sleep!

Related Post: 7 Tools to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better

Their nap schedule also helps identify when we will be doing things and what days we have more freedom. There are days when we will want to do a fun day trip and naps will happen in the car but, for the most part (and my sanity) we’ll try to be home for a nap. Since I also work from home, that nap time is crucial for working so I plan to keep it as much as I can.

Identify for yourself what your typical day will look like this summer. How structured is your time? Do you have to do a lot of driving to activities? Will kids have time at camp or be home all day? How many activities do you want to plan each week?

Once you have that time picked out, you can look at a typical day and see where you might want to add in an activity.

For us, we have about a 2-hour window right now in the morning where all of the kids are up and we’re ready to be out and about. That is when I will plan something fun or an errand. Otherwise, we keep the day open.

During this time the kids are encouraged to play with their toys, read and do other crafts, and play outside. We’re also fortunate because we have a pool so that keeps the 11-year-old pretty happy! I’m hoping this year goes better with the toddler in the pool because last summer she hated it!

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Determine your summer bucket list

If you’re looking for cheap activities for the summer, it helps to start with a list. Once you see your week at a glance, you’ll be able to see how many day trips, overnight trips, or just fun activities you can fit in.

I’m not huge on planning every little bit of the day out but I do like routine and I like a plan in advance. I’ll encourage the kids to just do their things most days but I will plan out a few fun things or playdates just so we can get out of the house and have fun together.

Related Post: Using Time Blocking for a Simple Weekly Schedule

If you’re trying to stay on a budget, you won’t be able to always do every single thing on your and your kids’ lists. There may be a limit to how many trips you take and places you go to. So many of the fun places out there cost a fortune and when you add parking and food you’ve spent almost $100 for a few hours, and in my mind, that is not worth it!

Sit down with your family and come up with a list of things that they’d love to do this summer. Is there a place they really want to go? Can you determine one big weekend (or longer) trip you want to take? What do they want the day to look like?

This is much easier if you have older kids because my toddler really has no idea what we’re planning but, if you can invest the older kids in the summer plans they may be more excited to do things or less bummed out if you can’t visit all of the places that they heard their friends talking about.

Looking for more budgeting help? Snag this budgeting e-course!

Plan Ways to Enjoy Summer Activities on a Budget

There are actually a lot of fun summer activities you can do with your family that doesn’t cost a ton. You just have to do a little research, some planning and be creative and you can all have an excellent summer.

I know sometimes we look at other moms and see their pictures and get envious because we’d love to take our kids to a lot of the same places but maybe it’s just not in the budget. We need to get rid of that mindset and realize that you can all have an amazing summer without always doing things that cost a lot.

Related Post: How to Change a Negative Money Mindset

Join local groups and community pages

You can go to Facebook to search local groups and community pages and will be able to see a bunch of events going on. (By the way, are you a member of our community page on Facebook? Come join!) The other day in my area I randomly found a post about a free carnival for the kids. It wasn’t huge at all and we only stayed an hour but it was a free, fun activity and got us out of the house.

You can save these events as you see them on Facebook or, I like to write them directly into my planner so that I didn’t forget about them or have to look somewhere else to plan activities for the week.

Local colleges are also a great place to look for activities and events because they are always posting things that might be open to the public. The library is another great stop. Ours has movies outside for free, fun day time activities for the little kids, and it’s always a great place to just go spend a few hours.

You can also check out the newspaper to see community events or things happening in the area. I just saw an ad the other day that some Regal Cinemas offer $1 movies on Wednesdays and it’s the perfect time to try out taking the toddler to the movies!

Check out a place’s website before you go and see all of their policies. You might be able to bring in your own lunch, find a special place to park for cheaper, or a cool special free event one day.

We live super close to Sesame Place and last summer went a few times a week. I knew from their website that I could bring in all my own food so when we were there we never even went into the food places so the kids wouldn’t even know to ask and we’d just have our snacks that we brought in. Most places will let you do so and it never hurts to ask or check. It just takes a little extra planning to do it.

Look for discounts to save money on summer activities

I am a HUGE couponer so obviously before we go anywhere I scour the internet for coupons. (if you want to see how I save money with coupons, go snag this free webinar!) They often aren’t too hard to find if you just search google! You can also find discount codes on apps, in other Facebook groups, and in some stores just sitting right on the counter! Our local library also has free tickets for local zoos and parks and all you have to do is call and pick them up!

If you know you might be going to a place a lot as we did with Sesame Place, it may not hurt to get a season pass. Ours paid for itself on 3 trips and like I said we went 2x a week! You could also maybe get passes to split with another family or meet up at someone’s house before going and split the cost of parking.

Also, make sure you check out local YMCAS for what activities you can get with a membership or kid’s gyms that have discounts for open play! And before you get tickets to anything, check out discount sites like Groupon to see what events they have going on!

Budget Friendly Summer Family Activities

Activities at Home for Kids

There are also a ton of activities that you can do right in your backyard without spending any money at all (or maybe a few bucks at the Dollar Store!) So on those days when you don’t want to leave the house, spend money at all, or have a ‘home summer camp’, just have the kids go outside or do something fun together!

Check out this list of activities that you could do that are free and cheap and super fun!


Family Walks & Bike Rides

Water Play


Find Community Events


Make a Time Capsule

Take a park tour

Go local

Nature Walk

Find cheap museums

Baking Day (bring to a neighbor)

Game Nights

Make a summer scrapbook


Parks and Splash Pads

Farmer’s Markets

Find free classes (college campuses)

Utilize the library

Outdoor games

Busy Bags

Sensory Boxes

Pick a Summer Read Aloud

When you’re planning out your summer activities, don’t let the stress of spending money get in the way of making fun memories! Use this system and ideas to get the ball rolling and just enjoy the memories!

And don’t feel like you have to plan out every minute. I know we want our kids to have a fun time but there is something magical that happens when we let them get bored and use their imaginations!

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