Want to Plan Your Summer on a Budget…with Kids? Here’s How to Do It

It’s June, and unless your school district goes year-round, summer vacation is upon us. Whether you’re a parent who looks forward to a break from school activities and the hustle and bustle of a set schedule or you’re one who cringes at the prospect of being your children’s “activity director” for three months, we all know that our kids can’t sit around and play on their iPads for 90 days straight. It’s a fact that comes with a lot of emotions, ranging from fear of how you’re going to fill your days to anxiety about how you’re going to pay for it. Consider the following four tips to help make this summer less stressful and more fun:

Keep It Low-Key

Kids don’t have to go on a big, grand adventure every year. (Forget Disney World and call Step Zero to get out of that timeshare deal.) In fact, scheduling too much can often make kids over-tired, irritable and downright unpleasant to be around. Add in the expense of plane tickets, lodging, meals and entertainment, and the cost of a family vacation can make you overtired, irritable and downright unpleasant to be around. Instead, make magic happen in your backyard. Have a campout. Make a picnic. Set up the sprinkler. Catch fireflies. Kids don’t always need a “Wow” factor as long as they have a “Now” one. Just being with you can make their summers memorable.

Give Them a Say

Sometimes all kids need to be happy is to be heard. Allow yours to choose a few activities to do this summer. After nine months of teachers telling them when to sit and play and learn and eat, picking out something to do themselves can be an exciting change of pace and enough to satisfy their need for something to fill their time. You might be surprised by how little it takes to entertain them and make them happy.

Make Use of Local Events

Now’s the time to check out that Strawberry Festival or a fair. Visit an auto show or carnival. Many towns have movies and music series in their parks each week throughout the summer. A lot are free and great opportunities to spend time together as a family without breaking the bank. You can also visit your local library. Most will have summer programs at little or no cost, designed to educate and interest kids of all ages.

Don’t Be Afraid of Boredom

Let’s face it. All parents are going to hear “I’m bored” at some point (and probably more!) this summer. Don’t let it get to you. And don’t capitulate by offering suggestions or worse, providing an activity yourself. Kids can and should learn to amuse themselves. It’s a lesson that will serve them in the present, as well as the future. Kids who can develop the reasoning and skills to overcome boredom increase their creativity, determination and confidence, all skills which will serve them later in life.

So, put up the electronic devices and start exploring the world right outside your door. Who says a great vacation has to cost a lot of money or even be away from home?!