Planning a Fun Summer on a Budget

Sometimes I miss homeschooling my kids. We weren't bound to a school year schedule and could take trips whenever suited us. However, now with all my children in school we only have off around the holidays and summer break, so any trip we do is then, with all the crowds and packed buses and it is really stressful. However, my kids still want to go on trips and do fun things.

In order to do that and provide an enjoyable summer for my kids, I have to balance a lot of things together. For example, unlike last year, I can't rent a car (hopefully temporarily, waiting for some bureaucracy stuff to go through) so whatever we do needs to be accessible by public transportation.

Then there's the fact that my back has been so terrible lately that I can't do anything that is labor intensive and that takes out hiking, which otherwise would be a great frugal activity for the family.

Add to that the fact that my children have gotten to the point where I have little kids and big kids and they aren't generally interested in the same things. My oldest two are almost 14 and almost 12, going into seventh grade and tenth grade and are teenagers in every sense of the word. Then my younger two are 9 and 7, going into first and fourth grade, and are quite children. They like 'playing' with their friends while my older boys are at the 'hanging out' stage with their friends. In short, they don't generally like the same thing so finding something that suits them all is tough.

And last but absolutely not least is cost. I have a lot of expenses now and to be honest, if I were homeschooling I'd wait with the trips until things were less tight. However, this is the only chance I get so it's now or never, so doing it now and trying to keep down costs.

So as you know we have a pool in our backyard and it has provided an absolutely tremendous amount of fun. My girls go in it nearly every day, often with friends. My boys do go in but not nearly as much. We also have a trampoline in our yard which also is entertaining.

But my son, Lee, asked me if we can please do fun things out of the house because he feels cooped up in the house all summer. (Doesn't help that one of his close friends is abroad and his group of friends usually does things all together so they feel bad socializing without the friend who isn't there.) And a big request was for me to take him to an amusement park because 'he'd never been to one'. (He was at one years ago but just doesn't remember.)

Amusement parks... Yes... They were a big part of my childhood and we had a Six Flags right near my home and we went usually once a year. However, locally they are ridiculously expensive, especially compared to the standard income locally, so it isn't something I could do regularly. Add to that the fact that we don't have a car and it is a pain in the rear to go to amusement parks. So we don't. 

I looked up pricing of the amusement parks in the area. $40 per person. That is steep when many people only earn $8.50 an hour or so. And since we are 5 people and there is no kids price, that would be $200 for the trip. My second son, Ike, actually doesn't want to go on roller coasters, he finds it scary. He told me he doesn't need to go, wouldn't actually appreciate that because it isn't something he'd enjoy. I looked to see if I could find discounts for the amusement park but found that you can do buy one get one free with a certain credit card, but it isn't one I have. My friend offered to buy them for me but I looked at the rules and they require that the credit card used to buy it be used at the park and they check the id of the credit card owner. So it wouldn't work. But I did look to see if my credit card did offer some discounts for the kids and there's another amusement park that is meant for younger children- up to age 14- that they provided discounts for, so they only are only 10 dollars for adults and 16 dollars for kids. With my kids' go ahead (they've been there before on school trips) I decided to take the younger three to the kiddy amusement park and just go myself with my oldest to the more expensive and expansive older kid and adult oriented amusement park. Win-win for everyone and much cheaper than taking everyone to the expensive larger amusement park that the younger three wouldn't even enjoy.

So that will be the big trip of the summer. The kids are excited and they know the rest of the things this summer will be low key.

There's a museum near us with antiquities that is free for children on Tuesdays, so I took my kids there and only paid for myself. That was fun but my youngest kids were bored after a certain length of time (they saw jewelry and gold things and then ran on to the next, while the older ones wanted to actually read and look at things) so the younger ones ended up playing on a playground with me while the older two spent more time looking at the things in the museum that their sisters didn't have patience for.

I offered to take the kids to the beach but since we camped on the beach in the past my sons felt it was pointless to go to the beach just for one day, because there isn't enough time to do everything they'd want to do, which they usually did over the course of a couple of days. Maybe I can convince them later this summer to go, but for now they've nixed it. One kid did go with a grandparent to the beach one time.

There's also a kids' science museum near us (that all my kids love) that is giving a limited amount of free tickets for each Friday, but you have to grab them early on in the week, so I am hoping I will be able to snag some for a fun free trip there as well.

There's a nice park with a splash pad and playground in a nearby city that I plan on going to with my children. My older ones probably think they are too old for splash pads, but just watch- if they come, I'm sure they'll be tempted by the water and go in as well.

I may (keyword may) take the kids for a movie in the theater but not sure.

Oh, and one last thing, I taught a really fun foraging and cooking class in the wild in early July, including making a bonfire to cook the food on. My kids came along. They did help me, but as this is something other pay me for, for their summer fun, I also count it as something fun my kids did in the summer.

Beyond that, I have nothing planned. Maybe I'll find something else to do, but those do seem like enough fun trips with the kids for a summer, especially when trying to keep the budget down.

What have you done or are you planning to do that is fun this summer and on a budget?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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