Are you dreading the vacation ahead because you're low on cash? No worries: I have some ideas that will keep your kids entertained -- and you in the black!
Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: Here are 20 fun (and inexpensive) ideas:
Spring Break on a Budget
Get Out of Town!
Check TravelZoo.com for last-minute vacation getaways, flights or hotels. I have booked so many great, cheap getaways through TravelZoo. That's even how I found my family's great rate on airfare to Japan last spring break.
Visit friends in another part of the country (or city) and bunk with them. It's great to reconnect with old friends ... and you save money on hotel rooms, too. Plus, not eating out every meal will save you a bundle!
Vacation Rentals By Owner
Use Vacation Rentals By Owner to rent a place within driving distance.If it's not rented by now, the owner may be flexible on the rental price. (What a fun staycation that would be. Bonus if your rental house has a pool!)
Take a Vacation in Your Own City
Buy a guidebook (or check one out of the library) and be a tourist in your own town -- you can just drive around and see the sights.If you are a AAA member, go to a local office and get a tour book of the area for free.Don't forget to use your card for discounts to attractions.
Go online or call to find out their admission-free days.If it's a favorite, consider buying a membership.Sometimes just a couple of visits a year pays for it. Going to a museum is fun AND educational -- so everybody wins!
6) Discover a new playground.If you feel ambitious, email local friends to organize a soccer, baseball or basketball game and/or picnic, if weather permits. This is free entertainment that's fun for the whole family.
Check out nearby beaches, lakes or mountains. This is not only bonding, it gives you a great workout! Bring lots of water, snacks, and sunscreen, and you're good to go!
Go Bowling or Miniature Golfing
Most miniature golf courses and bowling alleys offer discounted "happy hours" or coupons, so call ahead and ask if discounts are available. Right now, Tony's Pizza products offer a coupon for a free game of bowling.
Lots of stocked lakes have children's lake areas that don't require permits. The dollar store or discount stores like Big Lots often sell cheap children's poles. Whether you catch and release, or catch tonight's dinner, fishing is a great (inexpensive) way to create family memories.
Go Hiking or Biking
Check out fun trails near you at TrailLink.com, a free service from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization that converts unused railroad corridors into community trails. If you're biking, make sure to wear helmets!
Spend a Day Cooking Together as a Family
Kids love to pitch in!Deliver goodies to a nearby senior center.Reward your efforts by cooking yourself a gourmet dinner. Your children will be so proud that they helped "make" dinner!
Host a Potluck
Host a potluck for friends and neighbors -- especially those with kids. This is a fun, cheap way to throw a dinner party. You don't have to spend a fortune on food and drinks, and there is usually minimal cleanup. Friends will appreciate your recession-friendly approach to entertaining!
Have the kids perform a play in your living room or backyard.Here are some with positive messages for kids: StoriesToGrowBy.com.For shorter attention spans, some funny skits can be found here: ScoutSkits.com. Make sure to videotape the fun and take pictures for memories that will last a lifetime.
Have a Cozy Day
One of the worst parts of school days is having to get up and get ready so darn early. So why not stay in PJs all day, watch movies, play video games and board games and read?
Build, Build, Build!
Bring out the blocks, Legos, Tinkertoys, Lincoln logs, Dominos and don't forget the houses of cards...If you have older kids, visit a lumberyard for some scraps and see what you can create.
Make a Movie
Make a movie with a video camera.We still have ones that we made with my cousins and an 8mm camera 30 years ago -- and they are hilarious! Your kids will love creating their own cinema -- and, who knows, you might even have a budding Tarantino on your hands!
Grab a Needle
Make some easy sewing projects out of scraps or remnants.Anyone can make a pillow, or get everyone involved for a simple quilt.This site had some fun unisex projects: Kids Sewing Projects Blog.If you don't have any scraps around, visit Joann Fabrics -- don't forget they have printable coupons online and they also take Michael's coupons.
Be a Craft Mama
Try some fun crafts that make great gifts -- soap and candle-making supplies are easy to find at craft stores.We've made these ice candles before and they turn out great: ExcitingScoutCrafts.com.
Go Fly a Kite!
The best (and easiest) instructions I found to make a kite using stuff you probably have around the house was here: AllFreeCrafts.com.
Give Yourself a Day Off
One day during the break, host a friend's kids for your day-long activities, then allow your friend to return the favor later in the week.You're going to need it!
Play on the Swings!
Discover a new playground.If you feel ambitious, email local friends to organize a soccer, baseball or basketball game and/or picnic, if weather permits. This is free entertainment that's fun for the whole family.
A former state deputy attorney general and current stay-at-home mom, Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla has three kids and ten years of experience stretching one salary to cover the necessities -- and more. She's all about saving money whenever you can, so you have it to spend on whatever you want!