A family trip to an amusement park, zoo, or any other major attraction can end up costing hundreds of dollars by the time you’ve paid for the traveling, entrance fees, food and drink, gifts, and additional charges for extra activities. A few days out through the year could turn into thousands of dollars altogether, which for many families is a lot of cash that could have been better spent on other things; and in some cases, it’s simply unaffordable. If you’re looking for ways to cut down on the expense of a family day out, there are plenty of other ways to have a great time without making too much of a dent in your finances.
Get back to nature
Kids are fascinated by wildlife in all its forms, and there are plenty of ways to use this fascination to plan a special day. Not only is it a cheap and easy way to keep kids entertained, but they will also be learning about nature, how ecological systems work, and how important all these natural wonders are:
• A trip to the great outdoors: If you’re lucky enough to have countryside or forests near where you live, you’ll have the perfect places to spend a day exploring. Arm yourselves with nature guides, binoculars, and a picnic, and see what you can find in the woods and fields. Pond dipping is a popular pursuit, finding the weird and wonderful creatures that live in the water like dragonfly nymphs and diving beetles. Take plenty of photos, and create a scrapbook of the day recording what you found, who found it and where it was.
• A trip to the seashore: Sea creatures are even more wondrous than land animals in many ways, and most kids will be more than happy to spend the day exploring rock pools, fishing for crabs, and hunting for beach treasure. If you have a suitable location, you could try snorkeling, with some proper snorkeling gear which will open up another dimension of wildlife watching. You can also play games, build sand castles, and splash about in the water, all for free. Don’t forget to take any beach essentials with you though to guarantee a great day out with your family and friends.
• Bug hunts: You can easily capture all sorts of insects and minibeasts with harmless traps and then observe them under the magnifying glass. This is an activity you can do anywhere, even your own backyard. At night you could do the same thing with moths, laying out honey and egg boxes to encourage them to roost, and then examining your finds in the morning.
• Fossil hunting: Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been a source of wonder to kids for generations now, and there are numerous sites both inland and at the shore where you can sift through the debris looking for fossil remains. You’ll nearly always find something of interest, and you may even find some perfectly preserved specimens, which will delight your children no end.
Go on a treasure hunt
Geocaching is like a modern version of a treasure hunt, where you use a GPS (an app on your smartphone, for example) to locate hidden artifacts. Once you’ve found a cache, you can take a picture and add your own contribution. You won’t find trunks filled with pirate booty, but if you hire a couple of metal detectors, you could carry out your own real treasure hunt; just make sure you follow the guidelines on how to use the metal detector and what to do if you find anything. In some places, you’ll be able to go orienteering, which is like a guided exploration of an area. Or you’ll find national parks and wildlife reserves often have waymarked routes with activities built into them such as treetop boardwalks, play equipment, and trails where you have to spot fictional characters or collect clues.
There are all sorts of ways in which you can help out with good causes and community projects, and though they may sound like work, many of them are great fun and a real adventure for kids. Going on a beach clean is like a kind of treasure hunt, and clearing undergrowth can be made into a jungle game. Have a look at the opportunities that are available in your area. There could be anything from these nature-focused examples to gardening, archaeology, painting (messy, but kids love it!), and animal care.
Making your day special
There are two key factors that kids love about days out, and the first is that feeling of being part of something special. At visitor attractions, they’ll pick up balloons, stickers, badges, bookmarks; any number of trinkets and mementos they can take home with them. If you want to give your savvy day out the same kind of feel, it’s easy enough to order your own badges, T-shirts and so on. You could design a family explorer emblem that everyone can wear on their clothes or bags, so you all feel part of a team. Websites like Patches4Less will create embroidered patches to your exact design that you can iron or sew onto your kid’s caps or bags, showing that you are all a part of the expeditionary team.
The competitive factor
Another way to make your day special is by having a competition. It adds an extra sparkle to the day if you introduce a competitive element, for instance giving points for finding particular species of plants or animals, or who collects the most beach rubbish, which then gets added up at the end of the day to find a winner. You could print out your own certificates to make the experience feel more exciting too. Have some extra awards for additional accomplishments, for example, who made the best sandcastle, who spotted the most unusual creature, or who was the first to finish an activity. If you like competition but also want to work as a team, going to an escape room might be a great idea for you and the kids. Visit https://www.foxinaboxchicago.com to learn more about what’s involved in an escape room and ask the kids if they’d like to go. You’ll be using teamwork skills whilst also competing with the time limit! You want it to be fair, and make all your kids feel like winners.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a great family day out. Sure, a trip now and then to one of the big attractions is a lot of fun, but there are many free or low-cost alternatives which will entertain everyone without giving you a financial headache.