Hello Sensible is supported by its readers. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For more info, see my Affiliate Disclosure Policy.
This site is supported by its readers. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For more info, see my Affiliate Disclosure.
Our first day full day of summer break didn’t go so well. The kids were up by 6:30 AM and whining, “I’m bored!” by 8:00 AM. That’s when we came up our game plan to fight summer boredom.
We put brainstormed this list of 24 free or budget-friendly summer field trips and another list of 80 screen-free activities the kids can do at home.
This summer break is the first time that the kids and I will be at home together. In the past, I worked full-time at an office and the kids went to a childcare program all summer.
Now that I work full-time from home and have more flexibility to be with my kids, we’re in unchartered territory. I have to find a way to get my job done and have a fun, enjoyable summer with the kids.
No summer is fun (or productive) when you feel cooped up in a house all day. So if you’re like me and need a go-to list of free or budget-friendly summer field trips you can do with the kids, this post is for you!
24 Budget-Friendly Summer Field Trips for Kids
1. Sign Up for a Vacation Bible School (VBS)
Nearly every church hosts a week-long vacation bible school (VBS) where the kids learn about Jesus, make crafts, sing songs and have a blast.
This summer I signed my kids up for three different VBS camps with various churches and it saved our sanity! It gives them an opportunity to get their wiggles out early in the morning and provides me with a few dedicated hours of working time alone.
BEAT THE HEAT INDOORS!
2. Entertainment & Game Centers
Have you checked out different entertainment venues or game centers? The options are limitless from escape rooms, bowling alleys, trampoline parks, arcades and more. Not all venues are deemed “budget-friendly”, so if you find ones a little pricey, check Groupon for discount codes or consider purchasing an attraction pass like Pogo Pass.
What is a Pogo Pass?
If you live in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio and want to purchase one or more passes for 60% off (just $49.98 each), sign up here or read my review Pogo Pass Review: Is It Worth The Money?
If the PogoPass isn’t available where you live, explore Groupon or Google attraction passes to find an affordable package to access multiple venues.
3. Go to a Mall or Fast-Food Play Area
Here in Texas, we have a short window in the morning to enjoy outdoor parks before it gets unbearably hot. So when it’s too hot or raining, take a field trip to a mall play area or fast-food playground.
Our personal favorite spot is Chick-fil-a for a few reasons: 1) They always have good food. 2) The play area is enclosed so I can watch them on the other side of the glass without listening to screaming children. 3) I can bring my laptop and get some work done!
4. Dollar Movie
Going to the regular movie theatre ain’t cheap. Often times we just wait a little longer and see our favorite movies when they go to the dollar movie theatre! You can also check with other theaters in the summertime because many will play older movies at off-peak times at discounted rates.
To avoid the overpriced theatre snacks, buy your own at a grocery or dollar store and bring them in your purse.
5. Roller Skating Rink
I had completely forgotten about roller skating until the kid’s elementary school had a spirit night at a local rink. The kids struggled with skating for the first hour or two but fell in love with it once they got the hang of it. Now, the roller skating rink is a spot we frequent and is an approved budget-friendly summer field trip. If your roller rink’s admission fees are steep, check out their calendar for discounted skate days and times.
6. Free DIY Craft Workshops
Stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot and Lowes offer free or budget-friendly craft classes and workshops tailored to specific projects and age groups. Signing up is easy, just click on one of the hyperlinked store names above, select your store and sign up! These workshops spark creativity with instructed learning at stores in your community.
7. Play at a Local Splash Pad
Since the summertime is hot, we love finding ways to get wet and stay cool to beat the heat. Here in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, local cities are building splash pads regularly. We have at least half a dozen splash pads within a 10-mile radius. The best part — they’re all FREE! No admission fee required.
To find a splash pad where you live, type “splash pads near me” into Google and see what comes up! If you don’t have a splash pad close by, create a splash park in your yard with a sprinkler, slip-n-slide or blow-up pool.
8. Swim at the City/ Community Pool
Swimming is another classic kid-favorite summer activity. If you own a home or live in an apartment with a pool, swimming won’t cost you a thing! If you don’t have access to a free pool, take a budget-friendly summer field trip to your city or community pool. Most city pools offer low admission fees usually between $3 to $10 per person.
9. Lakefront or Oceanfront Beach
If you live near a lake or an ocean, take a trip to the beachfront for a few hours or the entire day. Swimming at the beach is usually free, but there may be an expense to park. In addition to swimming, you can build a sand castle, dig for seashells, skip rocks, play frisbee or fly a kite.
EXPLORE THE CITY!
10. Go to the Farmer’s Market
When you’re on a budget and have the itch to explore, visit your local farmer’s market. You may be thinking, “grocery shopping with the kids… no thanks”. Instead of thinking about it as a chore, turn it into an educational and fun experience for the kids. For example, you could…
- Play “I Spy”
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Give the kids cash in separate envelopes with a list of the items they’re in charge of buying to teach them valuable lessons about money.
- Let the kids pick out a fruit or vegetable they’ve never tried before. Turn it into a snack when you get home.
Some farmer’s markets (and even supermarkets) offer free events, so check with your store or market.
11. Take a Trip to the Local Museum
Museums are a great way to provide a hands-on learning experience and connect the kids with their local culture and historical events. A quick search on Yelp for the “10 Best Museums in <your city>” will help you make a list to explore this summer.
Some of the larger museums may have a higher admission cost. If you’re on a tight budget, check out some of the smaller museums, search on coupon sites like Groupon for discounts or consider buying a membership if you plan to visit more than once.
12. Get wild at the Zoo, Aquarium or Farm
A summer field trip to the zoo is always a kid-friendly activity, but not necessarily “budget-friendly.” I took my 6-year-old daughter to the Dallas Zoo in March, and for the two of us, it was over $50 including parking fees! On our way out of the zoo that day, we applied our day’s visit expenses towards a year-long membership. We would only need to make two more visits to the zoo to get our money’s worth. If you live near a large zoo but notice the admission costs are a bit high, you may also want to see if they have an annual membership to help you save money in the long-run.
If you want to see wildlife up close and personal, but don’t have the cash for a zoo membership or expensive one-day trip, don’t forget about local petting zoos, aquariums, farms or even pet stores and animal shelters. A quick Google, Yelp or Trip Advisor search will you help you find one you can afford!
13. Tour Police or Firestation
For a one-of-a-kind field trip, call your local police or fire station to make a reservation for a tour. At a fire station, your kids can see a fire engine, ambulance, firefighting equipment, fire gear, emergency medical equipment and living quarters. Who doesn’t want a chance to get a real-life glimpse into the life of a fireman or policeman and learn about safety?
14. Visit Historical Landmarks
History doesn’t just live in a museum. Historical landmarks can also make a great summer outing, depending on where you live. To find a list of national parks in your state, check out this resource.
15. Create a Service Project & Give Back!
Giving back to the community is a great way to take your kids’ minds off of their summer boredom! Giving back can take many shapes. You could…
- Visit a nursing home
- Visit the hospital and give the nurses and doctors a small gift
- Help a neighbor or friend in need
- Take a meal or gift to the fire station or police station
- Serve at a local soup kitchen, CCA or other volunteer organization
While all of these are great ideas, I don’t recommend showing up unannounced; call ahead and ask about the best time you and your children could drop by. Don’t let the summer months pass by without serving others and giving back!
16. Community Theatre
Visiting your community theatre is a budget-friendly summer field trip you may not have expected. Find a showing and immerse the kids in the narrative of a story inside of a live production and play. Some local parks may even offer plays in the park or other venues in your city.
17. Picnic at the Park
This one’s pretty self-explanatory… pack a lunch, bring a blanket and spend the afternoon at the park. Sometimes taking your everyday lunch to a new location, like the park, can make a world of difference, especially for your kids.
18. Feed the Ducks, Turtles or Fish
Find a pond with ducks, turtles or fish to feed. In the olden days, we would take leftover bread to feed the ducks, but I’ve heard that’s not the most nutritious snack for our web-footed friends. If you’re going on a budget-friendly summer outing to feed the ducks, try bringing corn, chopped lettuce, peas, rolled oats or seeds instead.
19. Play Disc Golf (also called Frisbee Golf)
Many city parks have free disc golf courses you can take advantage of and is a great way to get the whole family active and outdoors. In disc golf, you throw a flying disc or Frisbee into a hole’s basket or target. Similar to traditional golf, most courses include 9 or 18 holes.
If you don’t have a course close by, you can make your own course in your own backyard.
20. Visit a Nature Reserve or Botanical Garden
Take a hike through a nature reserve or botanical garden. If hiking in itself doesn’t sound too exciting, bring along a notebook and have the kids write or sketch the interesting animals, plants and other things they find along the trail. You could also create a scavenger hunt to spice up the outing as well.
21. Go Camping
Light a fire, make some s’mores, sing songs, tell ghost stories, catch fireflies and sleep in a tent. Make memories whether you’re at a real campsite or in your own backyard.
22. Go Fishing
If you don’t have fishing equipment, it doesn’t take much to get started. A quick trip to Walmart for a $10 fishing rod and $2 bucket of nightcrawlers will do the trick. To fish, you may also need a fishing license from your state’s parks and wildlife department. Once you’re all set with equipment, find a pond, river, lake or beach and experience endless hours of fun.
23. Outdoor Concert, Movie, Fireworks Show
Visit your city’s website for free or budget-friendly outdoor events like concerts, movies, and fireworks shows. If you live in the suburbs close to other cities, check out your surrounding areas as well.
24. Go to the Dog Park
Whether you have a dog or not, take a trip to the dog park. The first time we took our dog, Eli, to the dog park my kids weren’t thrilled since it didn’t have slides and swings they could play on. Once we got there and started seeing the other animals and visiting with their owners, my kids were the ones who didn’t want to leave. The best part: it’s free!
Can you think of any other budget-friendly summer field trips? Leave a comment with your favorite adventure spots.