Summer is coming, and if you have kids, you can't really travel for the three months they have off. First of all, you probably have a job. Second, you don't have bottomless pockets. The one thing for sure is that no matter what happens over the summer, there will be a time when you hear those dreaded words: I'm boooooorrred. Urg! You hear it echoing in your head already, right? As an adult you think "If you don't go outside to play and keep yourself busy, there's plenty of stuff inside to keep you busy, like cleaning out the garage..." Well, if you put themselves in their shoes and remember what it's like to be a kid, then you know that they are kept busy almost 24/7 between school, homework, extracurriculars and chores, the other 9 months of the year, so doing the same things isn't fun. It's up to you to figure out ways to make their summers extraordinary. Believe it or not, it's not always difficult or expensive to do it either.
Keeping track of your ideas might sound like one of the biggest obstacles. How will you come up with enough things to keep your kids from complaining? I'll help, but make notes of things throughout the year that your children take an interest in. Flesh out your thoughts and either put them in a binder, a spreadsheet or write them out on slips of paper to put in a jar for when the "I'm bored"s are threatening to take over. Can you organize them and make them a surprise for the kids? Keeping things a secret is one way to make any activity more exciting. By springing something on them at the last moment, you've already made it twice as cool. Here are some ideas you can instantly put on your list:
Travel without leaving home
By not leaving home, I mean not leaving your hometown. In short, be a tourist in your own city. You may have lived 5, 10, 15 years in the same city and missed out on some of the coolest things there are to do there. Or maybe you did it when you first moved and have decided it's for travelers and haven't done it again. Some of those things are the best things to do again, especially with kids because they see things totally different. Is there a great attraction that you haven't ever visited? Do you see something everyday, but have never seen it up close? Is there a historical building nearby that you've never been inside? Now's the time to make that list and go do it. In fact, you can probably find a lot of free things that you've never done.
Plan a mini vacation
Maybe you're already headed on vacation in a few months or you're saving money to go at another time of the year, but that doesn't mean you can't make a fun trip out of an event. There are tons of things going on everywhere in the summer months, so pick one that everyone will find fun, make a day of it and book a hotel or airbnb for the night, just so it feels like you aren't home and you have a reason to pack a bag. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just sleeping in a different bed and not having to clean up after yourself for a night (or two) can really refresh you.
Go camping/glamping in the backyard
Ditch the digital devices, pitch a tent in the yard, make it ultra comfy with all your favorite blankets, pillows, throws, beanbags, light the firepit and get some bonding going on. Maybe you want to set up a little table with a lamp (or one of those fancy LED lanterns) and play board games. Make some fancy s'mores. Get delivery. Just being outside in nature can be enough of a change of pace and scenery. Leave the smartphones, tablets and TV inside for a bit of a digital detox. I will suggest you bring a radio (you still have one of those, right?) out to create some ambiance. Snuggle in for the night and listen to the sounds of outside. This is a fun way to spend evenings that don't revolve around texting or ignoring each other in different parts of the house. Get back to basics and enjoy one another.
Have a drive-in movie night
I don't know about you, but we used to go to the drive-in a lot I was a kid. It was so fun. I'm sad that so many drive-in theaters have gone by the wayside, so we have made out own at home. As you may remember, we have our own projector and screen to have outdoor movie nights in the spring and summer. You can do the same at home for cheap and either set it up in your driveway to watch from inside the car or put it up in the backyard where you can cuddle up in a blanket with some popcorn and snacks and pretend you're at a drive-in. Invite some friends, play a double-feature and set up a snack bar for intermission.
Make the most of the memberships you have
Do you have a membership to the zoo, aquarium, children's museum or science museum? Then find out the restrictions on them and learn what events are going on that you can use them for. Summer usually brings more special events and educational programs, so make the most of them for only a few dollars or just the price of gas. That'll stretch your budget and keep your kids entertained and learning.
Plan a travel party
So, maybe you can't afford to pack your bags and fly everyone to a cool destination, like Spain or London or France. That doesn't mean you can't still experience what it's like. Get everyone on board for a travel party and plan a meal (or potluck if you want to share your "trip" with friends) and get your family involved in decorating and learning about the country/city. Theme parties can be really fun and don't have to cost a lot. We've done Vegas parties, British parties, Italian parties and even Hogwarts' parties. Make traditional dishes, play music from the place you've chosen and find games you can play too. Make it even more exciting by giving guests a new identity of famous and past and present residents.
Pack a picnic and take a drive
We used to do this a lot when I was a kid. We didn't have a destination in mind, we just packed a cooler, maybe a change of clothes and got int he car and drove. Getting lost is the perfect way to find hidden gems around where you live. We didn't always go anywhere fun, but we were together. Often you find those random roadside attractions you've never seen or heard of. Stop at a park or rest stop and spread out your picnic on the ground or on a table and just enjoy being outside with your family.
I promise you, no matter who you are or where you live, you've never done everything there is to do in your city. Let Groupon help you try new restaurants, do fun activities, learn new skills or find out more about where you live for up to 90% off. We save so much using daily deal sites, which means you can keep your family engaged fora fraction of the price. Instead of just one activity, you can do 2-4 for the same price.
Go on a city tour
Do you know about the bridges in your city? What about the history of it? How did the food scene evolve? Who shaped and grew the city into what it is today? Every city has a backstory. What's yours? I'll be there are lots of things you don't know about where you live. A few years ago we took an amazing boat tour along the Willamette River. We've also taken a tour of the Portland underground known as the Shanghai Tunnels. We plan to take Portland walking tours and even the trolley tour we have here. I mean, we do this when we travel, why not at home? Keep your eye on the Groupon feed, too, because you'll find a lot of deals for such things.
Plan a scavenger hunt outing
I love this idea. If I had kids, I'd be planning these often, because it can make anything more fun. Come up with a list of things to find - a bridge, a phone booth, a police car - and make a copy for everyone in the family. Whether you're going to the zoo, running errands or heading to the farmers' market, anytime someone can cross off something on their list, it makes it pretty exciting.
There are lots of ways to have fun with your family on a budget. You can find more ideas on my Staycation Pinterest page. Also, don't forget to keep your camera handy to take photographic evidence of all your summer fun. What are your favorite ways to enjoy a staycation with your kids?