Best Ways to Amuse Children on a Frugal Budget While Outdoor Camping in the Summer

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By Car Brand Experts

Planning a summer camping trip with the kids? It’s going to be a fantastic time! Summer is our family’s preferred season as it brings about numerous engaging experiences to partake in and sights to behold.

While indulging in all the summertime joy, it’s crucial to adhere to our financial plan. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to captivate kids on a tight budget while RVing. Here are some top choices I’ve discovered. 

Delight in Outdoor Fun

A family enjoying a meal at a table in front of their RV at an RV site. Photo: Shutterstock.
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Foremost, allocate ample time for traditional outdoor enjoyment. We cherish routine outdoor activities as they are cost-effective, calming, and enjoyable for the entire family. Moreover, these activities can often be relished right at the campground, presenting an ideal way to amuse kids on a budget.

Some preferred outdoor activities to engage in with the kids include:

  • Trekking
  • Swimming
  • Observing the Stars
  • Canoeing
  • Bonding around the Campfire

Feel free to include any activities your family adores to this roster. Whether you’re a group of cyclists or a clan of rock climbers, make it a point to engage in these pursuits together this summer to reconnect and enjoy yourselves.

Discover Summer Free Activities

If you’re keen on exploring beyond the campground, seize the opportunities provided by the myriad free summer activities in various communities. With a plethora of choices available, entertaining kids on a budget becomes a breeze.

Free (or Bargain) Summer Flicks

A multitude of movie theaters nationwide present complimentary (or exceedingly affordable) family movie screenings during the summer season. Additionally, many cities host events akin to “Movies in the Park”. Keep an eye out for these complimentary and budget-friendly movie showings in the areas you visit. 

Kids Skate for Free

Kids Skate Free is an exceptional initiative that grants kids free access to skating rinks. While a nominal fee of $4.99 is charged for a pass to each rink you wish to visit, this remains incredibly economical if you plan on multiple visits. Rental skates may require payment, although owning your skates may allow their use.

Kids Bowl for Free

We’re particularly fond of the Kids Bowl Free program! This program is entirely complimentary, with participating bowling alleys scattered across the nation. While shoe rentals may be necessary, we consider this a great deal, especially if you aim to use the pass multiple times during an extended stay in one area.

Summer Literary Programs

Most libraries host summer literacy programs. Some encompass specialized in-person events throughout summer, with rewards granted to kids achieving a designated reading quota. Discover the summer literary program offerings nearby to ascertain any appealing events to attend or rewards merited by your child for delving into their beloved books!

Complimentary Museum Days

Museums periodically extend free admission days. This practice occurs in summer as well as throughout the rest of the year, affording the chance to explore captivating attractions while making substantial savings. 

Live Music Shows and Festivities

Summer marks the onset of outdoor festival season. It’s also the period when numerous outdoor concerts are scheduled. Check if any concerts or festivals coincide with your travel destinations. Often, attendance is free, offering an excellent opportunity to immerse in the local community vibes. 

Opt for Mutual Memberships

To optimize savings while embarking on full-time travel and amusing kids on a budget, consider Mutual Memberships! If you intend to RV with the kids frequently this summer, explore procuring one or more reciprocal memberships. 

We hold the Kern County Museum Travelers Membership which grants us complimentary or discounted entry to ASTC, NARM, ACM, and Time Travelers affiliated reciprocal museums. Furthermore, we possess an America the Beautiful pass, facilitating complimentary access to national parks nationwide. Reciprocal theme park passes for Six Flags Parks, Merlin Attractions, and Cedar Point Parks are also on offer.

Note: To access a museum or zoo reciprocal program, simply enlist in one of their member museums. Typically, joining your local museum or zoo proves most beneficial unlessyou are journeying all the time. 

Explore Economical Locations

Certainly, your destination also matters. Opting for a thrifty spot might potentially result in saving hundreds on sightseeing and amusements. 

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis fascinates us with its array of complimentary attractions. The St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the St. Louis Art Museum are all top-notch and at no cost. You can also tour Gateway Arch National Park for free; though bear in mind that there’s a fee to ascend to the pinnacle of the arch itself.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison was another urban center where we relished abundant cost-free entertainment. We particularly savored the Henry Vilas Zoo and the adjoining park. The National Mustard Museum and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens also provided complimentary enjoyment that resonated with our entire family. 

San Antonio, Texas

Another city that’s friendly on the wallet, San Antonio was hugely enjoyable for our group. The Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and the Riverwalk are all must-see attractions that require no admission fee. We were also enamored by the DoSeum children’s museum, which we accessed with a reciprocal membership (though free entry nights are available once per month). 

Cape May, New Jersey

Our visit to Cape May was another pleasantly affordable escapade. The Cape May Zoo was the highlight of our trip, and entry to the zoo was entirely complimentary. We also took pleasure in Wildwood Beach, Cape May Point State Park, and the hunt for “Cape May diamonds” at Sunset Beach, all without any expenditure. 

National Parks

If you secure an America the Beautiful pass—or if you qualify for a senior pass or access pass—national parks always serve as fantastic options for enjoyable and inexpensive RV retreats. If feasible, set up camp within the parks themselves for a unique experience!

Clearly, there are numerous ways to enjoy quality time with children while RVing in the summer without overspending. Which strategies will you include in your upcoming RV adventure?

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