5 Cheap Activities to Enjoy This Summer

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on May 29, 2021

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A family of four walks along a forest path, smiling and holding hands.

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Here's how to make the most of summer without spending a fortune.

The summer of 2020 was a dark one for a lot of us. The pandemic was raging. Unemployment was high, and there was a lot of general uncertainty.

This summer, however, is shaping up to be better. The jobless rate has come down, and coronavirus vaccines are available. Many states are loosening social distancing restrictions.

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to summer. But what if you're a parent on a limited budget, and you have kids to entertain? Suddenly, summertime becomes much more challenging. Here are a few activities to add to your list that won't break the bank or cause you to rack up a whopping credit card balance.

1. Beach outings

If you live within driving distance of a beach, you have a prime opportunity to stay busy for hours. Just pack a blanket, food, drinks, and toys for your kids, and sit back as they run and splash around in a new environment. Many beaches are free to access. Others charge a parking fee or an entrance fee, but often, entrance fees are waived for very young children. Either way, it's an affordable activity that can take up most of your day.

2. Hiking

Hiking may be basically the same thing as walking, but you're doing it in the woods or on a scenic trail that's far more interesting than the usual neighborhood. Hiking is generally free, though some state parks charge a modest admission or parking fee. But be careful with ticks. During the warm weather months, they come out in full force, so stock up on repellent and check yourself and your kids afterward.

3. County fairs

Though many fairs were canceled last year, they're likely to be back on this year. County fair admission is often free for young kids, and that gives you access to shows and entertainment that could make for a fun outing. Just resist the urge to pay for overpriced corn dogs and funnel cakes if you're trying to conserve cash.

4. Library programs

Many libraries offer free summer programming for little ones. It pays to find out about options at your local library.

5. Camping

Can't swing a big vacation this summer? Go camping. It can give your family a nice change of scenery and a new experience to enjoy. While camping is relatively affordable, there are some costs involved. You need a tent that's large enough to house your family, sleeping bags for everyone, and a portable stove. The good news, though, is that if you invest in the right equipment, it could last for years.

Whether you're trying to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic or just being frugal, it is possible to enjoy summer for cheap. Give these activities a try if you're looking for a way to stay busy without spending a fortune.

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