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June 13, 2022 4 min read

With gas prices so high and travel costs soaring, you may be rethinking family vacation plans this year. Fear not, with a bit of ingenuity you can spend less and still score points with the family by finding inexpensive, and even free, things to do around town or closer to home. 

These tips will help lighten the load so you can make the most of this summer with family and friends. 

 Think Local. Make It a Group Thing.

theme-park-roller-coaster
Photo credit: Tim Gouw

The best way to save at the pumps is to limit the distance you travel. Put your online search and social skills to work to find the best attractions and travel tips in your area. Plan trips with neighbors or friends to economize with group discounts. There are many benefits to staying local: 

  • Save money on fuel with day or weekend trips
  • Less time in a car = fewer squabbles in the car
  • Repeat visits (save on weekend passes or memberships to theme parks, the aquarium, or zoo)
  • Give local tourist experiences and exhibits a boost
  • Many tourist destinations offer discounts to locals
  • Learn more about your hometown or state and all it has to offer
  • Check out tour services like City Unscripted and Tours By that connect you with guides to experience the local culture

Take a New Approach to Old Things

Mom-daughter-scooters-city

If you feel like you've already done all there is to do in your community, try to look at it through a different lens. Every city has a history and culture all its own. And there are surrounding towns and parks, a stone's throw away, you have yet to discover. 

  • If you live in the 'burbs, head downtown to local museums, or do a city tour, there are plenty to choose from that match your interests. 
  • If you are already living the urban life, you'll be surprised how much more there is still to discover and experience, despite the fact you live there.
  • Look up top weekend getaways closer to home, book it and 'boom'—you're there.
  • Park it—adventure awaits not too far from home. Grab an area map, some camping gear, pack a few coolers and get back to nature.
  • Not into roughing it? Consider RV-ing it instead—despite the fuel cost, you may discover it's still cheaper than hopping on a plane and staying at a hotel or motel. Nowadays, many RVs and RV parks come with all the amenities. Imagine that, more quality time together—and less whining.
     

Create a Free/Affordable Activities List 

Kids-at-the-lake-park-in-summer

Keeping a calendar of events and a list of 'always available' options makes it easy to have something going on regularly. One afternoon on the internet can easily deliver a list of events happening in your area that are free or reasonable.

  • Use apps such as Yelp, Airbnb Experiences, or Embark to find classes, workshops, food crawls, or book outdoor adventures close to home. 
  • There are places that never charge, such as local parks, and others that are inexpensive to join, such as city pools and events you don't want to miss, like festivals or streetfests. 
  • Spend a weekend at a nearby bed and breakfast or spa. Preferably one close to other activities such as parks, waterfronts, bike or horse-back trails, renaissance festivals, or flea markets.

*Tip if you have a local chamber of commerce, check with them for coupons and deals. They often have tons of passes to attractions in your area.
 

Day Trips 

Little-girl-at-aquarium
Photo credit: Andrjez Mucka

If you don't want to pay for a hotel or a campground (been there, done that), then why not plan a day trip instead. Make a day of it at your nearest theme park, botanical garden, river cruise, or zoo.

If you prefer to 'park it'—we've got you covered, literally! Under the Weather® Pods can turn your outdoor adventure into a comfortable retreat. Warm weather screen Pods give you a shady, sun-protected bug-free zone, or rainy-day Pods with clear plastic panels that zip closed for a dry, rainproof retreat. All are portable, lightweight, compact for travel, pop open and fold down in seconds, with no assembly required. Choose from one- or multi-person Pods big enough for family or friends.

Put The Kids in Charge 

Trip-to-Dinosaur-Exhibit
Photo credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi

Seeing the world through a child's eyes often leads to some of life's most memorable experiences. So, why not make them the planner and tour guide (with a little grownup help, of course). Let them research and pick the family excursion or place they want to go for the day. They'll have a fun project to work on that builds anticipation and they become invested in—squashing comments like 'I'm bored!' or 'are we the-r-re yet?'. You might even discover what they find interesting or exciting is just as much fun for you too.
 

Keep Adventure Supplies in the Car

MonsterMeshPod-Family-Day-at-the-Beach

When there isn't a big family vacation to look forward to, treat the summer break as a time to create ongoing adventure. The best way to do this is to have everything you'll need on hand. Store an Under the Weather® Pod in the car trunk for shade or protection from the elements and insects, along with nonperishable snacks and refreshments, a picnic blanket, towels, sunscreen for treks on the beach or swimming, bug spray for hikes in the woods, and a change of clothes and shoes for everyone. By planning ahead of time, you can plot days out and surprise the family with one-day adventures all summer long.

Who knows, with a little determination and a lot of creativity, this may turn out to be the best summer ever. 


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