7 Frugal Summer Activities for Your Family

A guide to having fun this summer—for free.

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School is almost out in my neck of the woods, and my three kids are drooling at the mouth. They can’t wait to sleep-in and play outside from sunrise to sunset. This leads me to think of our summer family vacations and activities we have planned. Not expensive camps and opulent resorts, but rather frugal trips and frugal family oriented activities. Here are some of our favorites. I hope they can provide some inspiration for your summer plans.

[In Pictures: 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]


This has become a frugal buzzword recently. The idea is to stay home and enjoy your local tourist attractions that you might otherwise take for granted. My wife and I did this last summer and it worked out great. We took the kids to local museums, historical sites, and local hiking trails. Over a series of three weekends, we visited local sites and had a great time in the process. No hotel costs and no eating-out costs.

State Parks

I guarantee that every one reading this is within an hour of a beautiful state park. Which means for a $10 day pass, there are countless hiking, junior ranger, and exploring opportunities for your kids.

Summer Movie Time

Check your local movie theaters for $1 matinees on certain days during the summer. Most theaters offer some type of summer promotions that will save you a lot of money.

Plan Travel Frugally

If you are itching to get out of Dodge, plan trips to destinations where you have friends or family that you can stay with. Then reciprocate the offer when they come to your hometown. Not only will you have free lodging, but also a local tour guide.

Bike Rides

The key to happy parents is exhausted children! Exhausted kids sleep well and don’t drive you crazy with their hyper-activity. This summer enjoy free activities like family bike rides, open gyms, public pools, public playgrounds, free zoo days, or just stay home and run through the sprinklers. Keep them cool and keep them exercising.

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Public Library

Check at your local library. You will be amazed at what most of them offer for free during the summer months. Things like daily story time, arts and crafts, and other fun and free kid’s activities. 


Some of my best childhood memories, as well as memories since I have been a father, have come at a campground. At approximately $20 a night you cannot go wrong. Once you have invested in some basic camping equipment, you are ‘good-to-go’ for years to come.

Do you have any frugal summer activities that your family has enjoyed over the years. Please leave a comment and add it to my list? I look forward to new ideas for my family.

Kyle James owns and operate a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in online coupon codes for over 700 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories. He also has a blog, where he writes about frugal living tips, creative ways to save money, and other musings about the adventures and mis-adventures of raising three active kids.