7 Ways to Save on Summer Activities for Kids

Ways to Save on Summer Activities for Kids - picture of young kids peeking out of a tent

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“I’m borrrrrrrrred.” 


I don’t think there is any phrase that drove me more nuts as a nanny than that one. Seriously? You have every gaming system on the market, a smartphone, an iPad, not to mention a gazillion toys and you’re bored? Cry me a river, child.

Now, unlike my former nanny kiddos, most of us don’t have thousands to throw at our kids to keep them entertained. Luckily, there are tons of great ways to save on kids summer activities without breaking the bank (and, more importantly, without spoiling them rotten). The following are 7 of my favorite!

7 Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

Check Groupon and LivingSocial

Groupon and LivingSocial, the king and queen of daily deal sites, offer significant savings on local deals, goods, and even getaways. I have had great success using them to find deals on tickets to our local arboretum, water park, children’s museum, and even golf for my hubby. While deals vary by location, right now I see reduced prices on a boat tour, painting classes, a baseball game, a city pool pass, and even a robotics class. Not to mention, there are tons of awesome options for mom and dad, likes massages, yoga classes, wine and brewery tours, and restaurants galore.

Purchase an Entertainment Book

Entertainment Books (formerly known as Happenings Books) are gigantic coupon books you can purchase for your location that are chock full of amazing deals. And when I say amazing, I mean Ah-Maz-Ing. Most offer savings of 50% or more and you will find everything from water parks to restaurants; from museums to apple orchards. To see what kind of deals are available in your local Entertainment Book, go here and select your nearest city.

Swap Child Care

Want to spend a night on the town with your spouse but don’t want to pony up $30 for a sitter? Consider swapping child care with a friend or a neighbor. Sure, this does mean that you will have to watch their little gremlins on occasion, but at least you will be saving on a sitter when it is their turn to watch your kids.

In addition, you can also use this same concept when your kiddos want to go to the park or the pool. Take your friend’s kids along, therefore giving them a likely much needed break, and then they can do the same for you.

Free Museum Days

Minnesota, my beloved home state, is known for having just about a million museums. Yep, believe it or not, us Minnesotans are pretty artsy-fartsy. The cool thing is the majority of our local museums offer periodic free admission days, making art and science accessible to everyone. Do keep in mind, though, that these days are usually crazy busy, so have a back-up plan if your museum ends up being too crowded to be enjoyable.

Movies in the Park

During the summer months here in Minnesota, there are at least one or two free movies in the park going every weekend and, generally, they are very family friendly. You just show up with a blanket, lawn chairs, and popcorn and you get to lay back and watch a free film outdoors. Just don’t forget to bring the bug spray, especially if your are in MN. Those ‘effing mosquitoes aren’t called the unofficial state bird for nothing.

On that same note, one can often find free outdoor musical performances, art festivals, and parades. But these cheap summer activities can be a spending trap in surprise. Be sure to bring your own chow so your kids aren’t screaming for mini-donuts or hot dogs, otherwise the money you will be saving by attending a free event will go right out the window.

Splash Pads and Beaches

Looking for more cheap summer activities for kids? How about a splash pad or a beach? I don’t know any kids who hate the water,  so you pretty much always know that bringing them to either of these places will be a hit. While not all splash pads and beaches offer free admission, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a few. Plus, even if you do have to pay, entrance fees are generally cheap, especially if you make a day out of it. Just be sure to bring your own refreshments and don’t forget the sunscreen.


Some of my fondest childhood memories are centered around the many times we went camping with my extended family. Something about “making house” in the middle of the woods really sparked my imagination. Not to mention, I loved being able to spend 24/7 with my cousins. And the great thing about camping is that primitive campsites are generally super cheap; often as little as $15-20 per night. Plus, go with family or friends and you will cut that amount down even more. Alternatively, pop up a tent in the backyard. Your kids will love the novelty of it but you won’t have to worry about taking a deuce in the woods.

Also, don’t worry if you don’t have any camping equipment. I guarantee that someone on your Facebook friends list will loan you theirs if you put the word out.

No Money, No Problem

So, as you can see, you really don’t need to have much for money in order to give your kiddos a fun and memorable summer. There are plenty of summer activities that can keep your kids busy and your wallet full. Even my spoiled nanny kiddos much preferred these activities than sitting at home with their $500 tablet. It is absolutely all about the experience for kids, not the monetary value. So get out there and enjoy the weather, your local culture, and your littles.

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  1. The swap child care is a great option and we finally have a neighbor nearby that is very suitable for this option. We hope to do this soon!

  2. Swapping babysittying responsibilities is a great idea. My parents used to be part of a \”babysitting club\”. They way they described it you would earn credits when you watched other peoples kids. These could then be used when you wanted to go out. There were like 5-10 families in the \”club\” so there was always someone who could watch us.

  3. I agree that camping is a great activity for families–and it’s even been correlated with healthy families.

    The library also offers lots of great summer activities. This year ours is having a storytime at a local private pool–and the kids can swim for free afterward.

  4. Great tips!

    Our kids grew up camping and we’re still able to get them to go a few times as year, even though they’re now teens. To keep the kids entertained on hikes, we would have them do a nature scavenger hunt, or a night hike with flashlights. Also, if you are near any county, state or national parks, the visitor center is a great place to stop to inquire about free ranger programs for kids.

  5. Yeah Minnesota! I love all the free and cheap options for entertainment here. There are also a fair share of expensive ones, too, haha.

  6. Amanda@OurCentsibleLife.com says:

    Libraries and picnics in the park are big hits for my 3 year old!

  7. Great ideas! We also check out the free museums and festivals along with movies in the park. I also want to try out camping this summer since I found out it’s only $15 per night where I want to go. It just might cost a bit to get gear because we basically have nothing so I’m hoping to host a garage sale to raise some money for those expenses.

  8. Swapping babysitting is a great idea if you can find someone you trust! Love camping!

    We have $1 bowling days at our local bowling lanes. It includes shoe rental and one game per child. Just go to bowling website and sign up for email offers.

  9. USE GROUPON! I can’t believe more people don’t use it. You can find some great deals on their (and it also makes me want to take allll those tropical getaways I see, haha). I utilized free museum days when I visited some places across the US. Great thing to do!

  10. Thank you for sharing these awesome tips. My neighbour and I always swap child care as a result; my husband and I are able to go out and catch some fun with paying for childcare and the children love it.

  11. I love your list! Growing an older couple in my neighborhood with a fabulous underground pool would invite the neighborhood kids, my siblings, and I to swiml. They devised a system with a garden flag that when it was flying we were all welcome to come and when the flag was not flying it was not open. My parents always gave them a load of baled hay for their horses in exchange. SO many happy memories there with my friends. Now they invite our kids to come too and still use the flag system. 🙂

  12. Last weekend, I and my kids enjoyed the free entrance museum and went to park to have some quality time. We’re considering to go camping in the 2nd week of June.

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