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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cheap Outings with Kids

Emily already posted on feeding kids for cheap--- but entertaining children with limited funds is my expertise.  I have always looked at my job as a homemaker to include finding cheap or free activities in our area.  I am blessed to live in New England with access to Boston, and other relatively affluent areas around me.  In New Hampshire, every weekend is chock-full of fairs, festivals, and family-friendly events.  Here are some tips for finding stuff to do to get those kiddos out of the house!

  • Find your local paper (free ones are best)  Whether I have lived in NH, PA or Delaware, there has always been a weekly, free newspaper available in the lobby of local businesses.  I always pick this up and scour the listings of events. Usually they list the cost, timing, and details of the events.  Once a season my newspaper highlights really fun events, and I usually write them in my calendar to remind myself (i.e. Milford Pumpkin festival). 

  • Skip any event with an admission cost  Some fairs up here cost $8-10 a person to attend. Really? How can I afford the $6 fried dough? (side note: I'm from Delaware which means I refer to this delicacy as Funnel Cakes, but in New England they speak a different language and it's called Fried Dough. And it's not as good).  Just choose the state fairs, etc. that are free to get in. If the admission is less than $5 a person and kids are free--- maybe I'd go. But I doubt it. Also, check for parking availability. Is it free admission and $10 to park? Don't get suckered.

  • Check for coupons If you want to go to amusement parks, business expos, and museums, check out newspapers, local fast food restaurants, websites and even your bank (Bank of America offers its members free admissions once a month to dozens of museums). Check your husband's (or your) works for discounts at area events (human resources often gets lots of coupons and passes).  I also sign up for local Groupon (or Living Social or something....) so if any kid-friendly items that come up I buy them. I have gotten passes to bounce houses, butterfly places, and more!

  • Library Museum Passes  Most libraries have fantastic discounts and passes to area museums. I have never paid for the aquarium, science museum, or children's museum in my area as I ALWAYS reserve the library pass.  Now, you have to reserve it in advance, and pick it up before you go-- so logistically it can be challenging, but free is worth the effort and planning.  

  • Remember the age of your children.  Is it worth it to drive to the ocean beach 1+ hour from my house, pay for parking, and haul all of the beach stuff 1/2 mile from the costly parking only to stay for 2 hours as my kids still need naps? Or should I go to the local lake beach (and if I get there before 10 AM, it's free....) and pack a picnic lunch?  Some events are NOT WORTH IT!!! It's too much hassle to pack my little ones up and go somewhere in which they all can't enjoy it.

  • Check stores and factories.  If you have an AC Moore's, Michael's Craft, Lowes, Barnes & Noble's, or Ace Hardware, they all have free classes for kids and grown ups.  Some have a small fee for supplies, but holiday activities are usually free! Each name is linked to the calendars or store locators on their website.  Sometimes I sign up for the email list for reminders of events.  In my town, we are blessed to live near two fantastic factories that lead tours and have free samples! We often go to the factories, and the Stonyfield factory even hosts weekly story times! I've lived near Hershey Park, the Crayola Factory and the Herr Factory-- and all offered tours and fun.

  • Kids don't need a lot to have fun. This one time when my eldest was not quite 2 years old, we promised her a fair with animals to pet. We arrived at the fair and realized we had to pay $10 in parking (see why I mentioned this in the 2nd bullet-point?).  We hardly had any cash so we left the fair and drove straight to a pet store. My 2 year old was THRILLED to pet a bunny, and the teenager who was working there let us hold kittens, puppies, even a bird.  So think about the fun of bookstores, Wal-mart, Ikea (Free kids meals Tuesdays!), Cabella's, Bass Pro Shops,etc.  Stores really can be adventures to little ones, and mom can do a little *light* shopping then too!
**If you do go somewhere for the day--don't forget to pack lunches/coolers! In museums (especially big city museums) the prices in the cafeteria are ridiculous.  Most will allow you to bring in a cooler (I usually keep a lunch bag in my stroller for our outings), and sometimes I'll buy a cookie or two to split amongst the children as a treat. 

Hope this list helps you think outside the "children-cost-to-much" bubble and use some of the free stuff available to you in the area!!

Easy Rules for the day:
#872- Learn your town, state, and region to find ALL the best deals and events for kids!
#822- It's o.k. to stay home too. All of this talk of packing up kids makes me want to take a nap :)

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