Summer vacation can be expensive, and as a stay-at-home mom, I notice how quickly things add up over the summer.  With two girls who like to stay busy, we have found some great ways to fill our summers without breaking the bank.


The library is a great resource.  Most libraries have summer reading programs as well as summer programs for kids.  Also check out Barnes & Noble for their summer reading program, where you can earn a free book.

If you can’t find a summer reading program, libraries still offer a nice place to hang out, especially on a hot or rainy day.  My kids love going to the library and reading, using the computers, playing in the children’s room, and more.  Plus, you can bring home lots of great materials for kids to read.

Zoobooks Magazine


We recently discovered, which offers free bowling throughout the summer at participating bowling alleys.  You do have to pay the shoe rental fee, but again, this is a great thing to do on a super hot or rainy day.  If your local bowling alleys don’t participate in Kids Bowl Free, there are often other summer promotions for kids.


Hiking is usually free to do, and it should be relatively easy to find trails in your area.  Look for family-friendly trails based on your child’s age and your comfort level with hiking.


Regal Cinemas offers $1 movies throughout the summer with their Summer Movie Express.  If you aren’t near a Regal Cinema, check to see if your local theater has summer promotions.  Some theaters show movies that have been out for a while at a deep discount, so that is another option to look into.


My kids love going to our local farm to check out the farm animals and walk around.  I also let them pick out something small from the farm shop, like a cider donut or honey stick.

Nature Center

Nature centers are a great resource and often a great way to get some educational opportunities.  Most will have exhibits to explore, free or low-cost programs, trails, and more.

State Parks / Beaches

State Parks and other natural areas are great places to explore in the summer, usually at low cost or for free.  We have used our parks for hiking, playgrounds, swimming, beaches, and so much more. Make a day of it and pack lunches and snacks, and don’t forget all your necessities, from sunscreen to beach toys. As well, be sure to have all your swim gear ready, such as girls and boys swimwear, goggles, water shoes, towels and so on. Most of all, have fun! 


Every summer, my kids and I make a goal to visit new playgrounds.  You can find playgrounds at places like town parks, state parks, schools, churches, and more.  My kids get very excited when we set a goal of visiting a new playground every week.


Once in a while, we stock up on some cheap craft supplies.  However, you can find cheap or free craft ideas from library books and the internet.  This might be with upcycled materials, things from nature, and so on.


Berry picking is obviously something that you have to pay for, and while it may cost a little extra for the price of the berries, you are still bringing home food.  (Be sure to check out my berry-picking tips!)


Sometimes just doing some new cooking projects can be lots of fun.  Make a special dessert or a summer treat.  When we go berry picking, we like to make yummy treats like this easy no-bake fruit tart.


A cheap project you can do over the summer is gardening.  I think the most we spent money on was soil for the garden beds.  My kids have a lot of fun picking out seed packets, which are just a few dollars each.  You could also plant a fairy garden.

Town Parks

Town parks often have a variety of things to offer, such as a swimming pool, playground, hiking trails, gardens, tennis courts, and more.


Camping can be fairly cheap, especially in comparison to other overnight trips in hotels.  Plus, there are lots of free activities to do once you are set up camping – hiking, nature activities, and anything else a campground has to offer.

Coolidge State Park, Plymouth, VT