When the teacher asks in the autumn for the notorious — and sometimes dreaded — “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay, give your kids something to brag about. It doesn’t need to cost a lot to make a summer to remember—or cost anything at all.
For example? Plan a road trip, but not just any road trip. Let the kids decide on the stops and what snacks they want to bring. Also, it’s fun to spend a few days working together to research what’s on the road. From roadside diners to off the highway attractions, it’s an entirely different world when you let little ones do the planning.
Ready to give them some serious inspiration for that summer vacation essay even if it’s just a staycation? Here are a few ways to make this a summer vacation to remember, and all on the cheap:
Go ice blocking. Grab a block of ice from the supermarket and head to the grassiest knoll in town. It’s a cheap way to stay cool and is a total blast for all ages. Keep the icy fun going afterward by heading to a shaved ice food truck in town. The best part? There’s virtually no cleanup. The ice will melt, and all you have is a baggie to dispose of.
Go on a tour of local playgrounds. How many local playgrounds have you checked out with your little ones? There are probably more in town than you think, and you can rate them all by ticking them off your list one at a time. Creating a ranking system with your kids based on quality of the equipment, fun had, and picnic areas. One by one, you’ll discover new parts of your home town while ensuring every playground outing is unique.
Check out the free museum days. Most museums have freebie days, and it’s a great chance for a free outing. When’s the last time you explored one of the museums near you? Another option are kid-friendly days when museums go out of the way to make exhibits fun for all ages. It’s a fantastic opportunity to introduce your kids to the joys of museums and help instill this appreciation in them as they grow.
Make a thrifting or dollar store bet. What the wackiest or coolest thing you can find at a thrift store or the dollar store with a tight budget? Whether it’s putting together a funky costume to play dress up or letting them go on a mini shopping binge at the dollar store, everyone loves a shopping expedition. Plus, it teaches them the importance of frugality in the process.
Go berry picking. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have berries growing wild near you, or maybe you’ll take a little trip to a nearby farm. Knowing where your food comes from and doing a little labor to enjoy it is critical for all ages. Plus, it’s fun, free, and lets you enjoy the sunshine. As an added challenge, see if you can only eat seasonal, local food for a meal or two.
Make some chalk art. Chalk is easy to clean up, cheap, and has the potential to become a veritable masterpiece. Open your driveway up to a chalk art session and help your wee ones create something of pure magic. The best part? You can always cool down afterward by hosing down your creation—and yourself—so you can start all over again the next day.
Explore your backyard. Whether it’s your yard or the playground, get to know the winged and multi-legged creatures who share the world with us. Go on a bug-identifying quest. You can challenge yourself by going tech-free and picking up an identification book at the library. Speaking of the library …
When’s the last time you visited the library? Libraries have oodles of free activities for kids of all ages in the summer, from story time to arts and crafts. It’s also a great way to get to know new friends. Studies have shown that millennials are most likely to use the library, which is great news for the up and coming generation. However, learning to love the library should start at a young age. Check out what yours has going on this summer.
Choose a volunteer option. Learning to give back also starts young, and summer gives your kids plenty of time to find a volunteer position. It might be for one day at a homeless kitchen, or it might be recurring (such as a young docent program at an arboretum). Take some time to discover volunteer opportunities in your area and model by example. Is there a volunteer project you can do together? What about adopting a stretch of the highway?
How much fun can you squeeze into one summer vacation? Surprise yourself!
Guest post: Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic”. He enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing his experiences with the world. In his free time, you can find him planning his next trip or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
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