How to Have a Family-Friendly and Frugal Spring Break

March 28, 2018

Planning a Fun and Frugal Spring Break for Your Family

Staying local and having a frugal spring break may not sound as exciting as a week in Europe or a few lazy days on a Caribbean beach, but, if travel is not on the agenda for your vacation this year, you can still plan a fun and eventful week for your family.

I’m not a big fan of the word “staycation.” There’s something unappealing to me about the idea of just staying. Who wants to stay? I want to go, go, go! But, that’s the term we’re using these days, so I guess I’ll roll with it. 😉

Before we get into the tips for planning your amazing but frugal spring break, let me address something…when dropping thousands of dollars on a vacation is not an option, you may feel disappointed — especially if it seems like all your neighbors or kids’ friends are jetting off to some exciting destination.

But let me assure you that you are not the only family in your circle that has to skip the pricey spring break. If this isn’t your year to travel, that’s okay.

When the alternative is to spend money you don’t have, then your best course of action is to stay put and make the best of your time off with your family. Otherwise, you will regret it. How much fun could a vacation be if you’re racking up tons of credit card debt or you’re letting some responsibilities go untaken care of? Not much.

So, determine that you will stay within the limits of what you can do. Maybe next year will be your time for a lavish vacation. For now, accept and work with what you’ve got and decide to have the funnest (yeah, I know that’s not a word) frugal spring break you can have. Here’s how…

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Frugal Spring Break Ideas

The key to making your spring break budget-friendly but fun is to be creative. You may not have tons of money to spend on outings, but that doesn’t mean your kids have to sit at home doing nothing.

So put on on your thinking cap and see what you can come up with that’s a little out of the ordinary of what you usually do, but easy on the wallet. Think of your kids’ interests and hobbies and see how you can incorporate them into your plans for the week.

Here are a few ideas.

Have a Themed Week

Pick a theme for your week and plan your activities (and even your meals) around it. Combine at-home activities with what you do on-the-go all based around the central theme.

Here are some examples along with suggested activities.

  • History Week (Take a trip to a museum, visit a local historical site, go the library, watch historical movies at home.)
  • Art Week (Spend a day taking pictures, see a play or musical, go to an art museum or gallery, find a free or inexpensive art class, go to a free concert, do an art project for the week.)
  • Adventure Week (“Get lost” in your town, create an obstacle course in your backyard, plan a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt, go to an amusement park, trampoline park, or ropes course, create a “waterpark” in your backyard.)
  • Sports Week (Play a different sport each day, go to a game or watch your local team practice, watch a sports movie, go rock climbing.)
  • Outdoors Week (Do nothing but outdoor activities, visit a zoo or botanical gardens, explore a new city or town, watch an outdoor movie.)
  • Foodie Week (Have a bake-off or cooking challenge, watch cooking shows and then make the same recipes, go in search of the “best pizza place” in town, plan a gourmet picnic, visit a supermarket that focuses on a particular culture.)
  • International Week (Pick a country you would like to visit and immerse yourself in its culture via museums, meals, books, movies, etc.)

These are just a handful of ideas. You can come up with any theme and plan your week around it.

Theme Your Days

Similarly, another approach to your frugal spring break is to theme your days within the week. Then center your activities around each day’s theme.

Tina of The Mother’s Niche suggests the following themes.

  • Make Something Monday
  • Try Something Tuesday
  • Wander Somewhere Wednesday
  • Thoughtful Thursday
  • Fantastically Fun Friday

Other ideas include:

  • Kid’s Choice (Let the kids decide the agenda for one day.)
  • Outdoors Day (No matter what you do, it must be outside.)
  • Exploration Day (The entire day’s activities and meals are new.)
  • Nothing Day (No agenda, just do as you wish.)

Use your creativity and imagination to come up with some unique and fun themes.

Team Up With Friends

You could join forces with friends or neighbors for one or more days during your spring break or even the entire week! Going out together in a big group could make things more fun.

And even if you simply take turns “hosting” each other in your homes for the day, your kids will welcome the change of scenery. (Bonus points if your friend has a pool!)

Immerse Yourself in All Things Free and Frugal

Do an extensive search of all the free and frugal things to do in your town or city as well as in neighboring areas. Naturally, you may already have some go-to activities that you already know about, but spend some time digging a little deeper. Approach this the same way you would if you were deciding what to do while traveling.

There are several places you can search for free and inexpensive things to do including:

  • Your local and regional newspapers and magazines
  • Your town or city’s website
  • Search online for free + your town or city
  • Local community center

Once you’ve done some research, record all your options to come up with a “menu” of activities for the week.

Free and Almost Free Activities to Incorporate into Your Week

In addition to what you come up with that’s specific to your area, there are a TON of things you can do that are budget-friendly. These activities can be woven into any week regardless of the theme or agenda.

  • Scavenger hunt around town
  • Visit a Farmer’s Market
  • Visit your local library (for events, movies, and of course, books)
  • Events at your local bookstore
  • $5 Day at the movies (Find a participating theater: Cinemark, AMC, Regal)
  • Go to a drive-in theater
  • Visit a local nature center
  • Go to the beach or lake
  • Take a fitness or dance class
  • Take an art or other community class
  • Go to a flea market
  • Fly a kite
  • Do a “Best _____” competition in your area (best pizza, ice cream, food truck, park, library, etc.)
  • Create a treasure hunt
  • Do an art or small construction project
  • Go camping in your backyard
  • Go camping indoors
  • Visit a museum, zoo, or aquarium with a free day, free hours, or pay-as-you-wish pricing
  • Have a picnic
  • “Pick Your Own” at an orchard or farm
  • Volunteer as a family
  • Pyjama Day
  • Go on a hike
  • Explore a new bike trail
  • Go fishing
  • Go to the park
  • Explore a new town
  • “Get lost”
  • Visit a farm
  • Have a board game or video game tournament
  • Have a school-yard game tournament
  • Organize a neighborhood pick-up game
  • Create your own “Field Day” in your backyard
  • Create your own waterpark (complete with water guns, water slide, water balloons, etc.)
  • Take a day trip to a nearby city
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Go on a short road trip

Related Reading
•   60+ Ways to Have a Fun and Frugal Summer

Tips For Planning Your Frugal Spring Break

No matter what you decide to do for your frugal spring break, here are some tips to keep in mind to make the week a successful one.

Set a Budget

Even though you’re not traveling (far), you should still take the time to establish a budget for your week off. If your goal is not to spend any money other than what you would normally shell out for groceries and gas, then that’s fine. Just decide that upfront.

If you have a little room to spend on eating out and activities, then decide how much. You could determine a daily budget or a weekly budget that allows you some flexibility should you choose to splurge on a particular day or activity. Estimate what you would like to spend and do your best to stay within those limits.)

Include the following categories in your vacation budget:

  • Food (additional groceries and eating out)
  • Gas / Local Transportation (include tolls)
  • Activities
  • Spending Money
  • Miscellaneous

Related Video
•   How to Budget When It Feels Like You Have No Money

Designate One Day as a Spend Day

In trying to keep your costs low, you could designate one day in the week to be your “spend day” and keep all the other days free.

Look for Discounts on Your Activities and Entertainment

Take advantage of local deals from EbatesTravelzoo, RetailMeNot, LivingSocial, or Groupon.

Involve the Kids

Your kids may not be that thrilled about a spring break at home, but they will feel more excited about it if they are involved in the planning. Have your kids suggest what activities they would like to do and together come up with your plan.

Brainstorm Your Ideas

An excellent way to generate some ideas for your frugal spring break is to start your planning with a “brain dump.” Grab a sheet a paper and something to write with (or your computer) and for fifteen minutes or so, write down as many ideas for activities and outings as you can come up with.

Plan Your Itinerary

If you were traveling for your vacation, you would likely have an itinerary or plan for your time away. Do the same for your staycation.

Even if you’re on the spontaneous side and don’t like the idea of having things planned out, having at least a loose itinerary will ensure that your days don’t result in doing nothing.

Go as far as writing your itinerary down and “posting” it in a central location for all to see. This will generate and maintain a little excitement over the week’s events.

Of course, plan on being flexible with your itinerary. Weather may derail the plans for a particular activity, so be prepared and willing to swap your days or implement Plan B if necessary.

Food, Food, Food

One way to make the week fun is to make sure your fridge, pantry, and freezer are well-stocked. Go shopping together for your kids’ favorite snacks, drinks, treats, etc. Plan to make everyone’s favorite meals as well as try some new ones.

Related Reading
•   21 Tips to Save on Eating Out

Embrace Your Staycation!

Again, if this isn’t the year for you to travel, hopefully, next year will be. Make that a part of your plan and begin saving now so you can make that happen.

In the meantime, embrace your staycation! I hope these suggestions give you some ideas for planning and enjoying your frugal spring break.

What are some of your favorite frugal spring break ideas?


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