If you’re trying to save money, pay down debt, or both, then you might want to consider skipping your family’s usual summer trip and plan staycations instead. Staycations are inexpensive activities that your family can do at home, or locally, that you can all enjoy without running up an expensive vacation tab. Staycations are far from boring, in fact you may come to prefer them over the hassle of packing, traveling, etc.
If you’ve got camping equipment, why not camp out in your backyard? You can have just as much fun roasting marshmallows, telling campfire stories and playing outdoors at home as you can at a campground. If you have children, let them invite some of their friends over so that it will feel even more like a group activity. Make it a rule to break your normal routine, so no television, video games or computer time. As a word of caution though, you might have the skip the camp fire if your town has ordinances against it.
Create a Backyard Water Park
Waterparks are a great summer attraction, but by the time you add in the cost of admission, parking, and meals, you end up spending a lot of money. As an alternative, head over to Walmart, Target, or another large retailer and pick a Slip ‘n Slide, or make your own, and buy some water guns or water balloons. You can have a great time and cool off on a hot day for a fraction of what a day at a water park would cost, just be reasonable about your water usage and don’t leave the hose running too long or you’ll get a surprisingly high water bill.
Have a Potluck Party
Instead of springing for an expensive gathering, have a potluck party where everyone brings a dish or some other item. The adults can socialize while the kids are playing. Invite neighbors, family members or whoever you’d like. It’s a great way to have all the fun of a night out on the town without spending a lot of money. Have a sign-up list and keep track of who is bringing what so that you have all the necessities like paper plates, soda, etc. If you have a lot of friends the neighborhood, you might even want to turn it into a block party!
Take Day Trips
If you’re dying to get out of the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, then try some local venues. For example, you could have a nice picnic in a nearby park. Many libraries have great areas for kids where they can listen to a story, or browse through DVDs they’d like watch. State parks are also great venues for an inexpensive day out where you can go hiking, have a picnic or possibly even go paddle-boating. For more creative options, find a national park instead, because many offer low cost tours and other activities.
Be Treasure Hunters
Geocaching is the new high-tech form of treasure hunting using a GPS-enabled cell phone. You sign up at geocaching.com, download the app and find geocaching sites near your location. The website offer both free and paid memberships depending on which you choose. You can also share your finds on the website with other treasure hunters, and who knows, you might possibly even make some new friends. The website has a database of millions of geocaching locations, so you could plan a day just driving around to different sites to see what you find.
Have a Field Day
If you have active kids who need to get out of the house for a while, plan afield day either in your backyard or at a local park. Have events like three-legged races, a water balloon toss and other creative ideas to help pass the time. This idea takes a little bit of planning, but it will make for a fun day that doesn’t cost very much. You can create ribbons for the winners, or offer them inexpensive prizes. It’s a great way for them to burn off some energy and you’ll have fun watching them compete at the games you’ve come up with.
Game and Movie Day
There’s something to be said for the fun of sitting around the family table playing board games. Choose a day where everyone gets together and plays a board game. You can often find board games that are inexpensive at thrift stores, although it is a good idea to check them to make sure all the pieces are there before you buy one. After your done playing games for the day, make a huge bowel of popcorn and spend the rest of the night watching movies. The combination will make for a fun, relaxing day and your family can enjoy spending time together.
Spend Some Time around Town
Most people get so used to where they live that they forget what local attractions are available to them. Does your area have museums? Check your local newspaper for free or low-cost events that you can go to. Try to view your area like a tourist and looking for new and exciting places to go instead of your usual hangouts. If you happen to leave near a beach, that’s even better because you can swim, get a tan, or just enjoy being out in the sun. Ask your friends for ideas as well; maybe they know about local activities that you don’t.
According to debtconsolidation.com, the average family vacation costs $1,415. However, you don’t have to spend that kind of money in order to have a good time with your family. Experiment and try different ideas to see what works best for you and your family. Some might work out better than others do. Whatever ideas you come up with should be fun and allow you all to spend some quality time together away from the normal routine of your daily lives.
About the Author: Tony Standin is a personal finance writer who loves to save money, live an eco-friendly life, and enjoy time with his family. He wants you to be able to do the same!