It's summertime, and the livin' is pricey! So we've uncovered super-fun-and often free-ideas for movies, vacations, camp and much more to help your family have a blast on a budget. Click through to see our favorite picks. Photo credit: Getty
See movies for less.
A bit of planning can get you into the latest flicks (and an air-conditioned theater) without breaking the bank. Buy discounted tickets through your local credit union, AAA or warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and Costco. Go to BulkTix.com for four-packs of tickets from 16 national theater chains at up to 40% off. Also, many cinemas run summer promotions with deep discounts. For example, Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse (Cinemark.com), Regal's Summer Movie Express (RegMovies.com) and Marquee Cinemas' Summer Series (MarqueeCinemas.com) offer tickets for as little as $1 for select showtimes. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Check out these surprising things you can get for free.
Hit the lanes.
If your family likes to bowl, here are some savings opportunities that will be right up your alley. The Kids Bowl Free program lets 15-and-unders play two gratis games a day in summer at participating centers (KidsBowlFree.com) and the $25 annual family pass allows up to four adults to get in on the deal. National chains like AMF Bowling Centers (FreeBowling.AMF.com) and Brunswick Zone (BowlBrunswick.com/ballpass) offer similar promotions.
Search for treasure.
Keep your little one busy with a free scavenger hunt. First, get her a journal, a rubber stamp and a stamp pad. Then, sign her up at LetterBoxing.org/kids and follow the clues to find one of 20,000 hidden boxes (each one contains its own stamp and journal). She can use her stamp to mark the box's journal and imprint her own journal with the other stamp, creating a record of all the letterboxes she's found.
Take it outside.
Visit one of the 397 national parks (NPS.gov). With free or cheap (as low as $3) entrance fees and plenty of activities, they're Mother Nature's answer to high-priced theme parks. Bonus: Admission is free at all parks on June 9!
Tip: Going to a museum or zoo? Check CouponsForFun.com first. The site offers discounts on attractions in 19 states and counting.
Travel on a Shoestring
Try cushy camping.
Modern campgrounds provide great amenities for less. Kampgrounds of America (KoA.com; under $200 a week) have boat rentals, hot tubs and mini golf. Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts (CampJellystone.com; under $300) boast waterslides, wagon rides and live shows. Photo credit: Corbis
Vacation close to home.
Some chain hotels offer state residents "staycation rates"-up to 25% off-plus free meals and discounted admission to attractions. Ask hotels you plan to visit if they participate.
Spend less on RV trips.
Pay a $35 annual fee to stay overnight at one of the 351 scenic wineries and farms listed on HarvestHosts.com. The next day, tour the farms, pick your own or do a wine tasting. For other spots where you can park cost-free, go to FreeCampgrounds.com.
Sleuth out special deals.
Sign up online for alerts from hotels, attractions, restaurants and tourist offices where you plan to travel. "Like" these places on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to learn about discounts that may not be posted anywhere else.
Save on gas.
Planning a road trip or renting a car while on vacation? Ask your hotel if it offers a gas rebate to guests. You could get a $25 to $50 gas card at check-in or have fuel expenses deducted from your bill.
Save more on summer travel with these helpful tips.
Free Boredom Busters for Kids
For your master-carpenter-in-the-making.
Bring your crafty kid to Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics (LowesBuildandGrow.com). She'll be proud of the woodworking project she creates (for example, a truck or a birdhouse) and will take homeher own goggles and apron too, allat no cost. Clinics are held every other Saturday morning at Lowe's stores nationwide. Photo credit: iStock
For your budding Hollywood director.
Children ages 8 to 12 learn to film and edit a featurette using iMovie software at the free three-day Apple Camp (Apple.com/Retail/Camp), available at 246 Apple stores. After putting the finishing touches on their music using the brand's GarageBand application, they can debut their masterpieces at the Apple Camp Film Festival (also held in stores) for all to see.
For your wilderness lover.
At national parks with a Junior Ranger Program (NPS.gov/Learn/JuniorRanger.cfm), kids earn a badge by completing tasks in an activity booklet, like identifying park wildlife or completing word puzzles based on park signage.
For your aspiring tennis star.
The United States Tennis Association offers free (or cheap) clinics and workshops with pros for 10-and-unders at public parks, community centers and schools (10andUnderTennis.com).
For your LEGO fan.
At free Monthly Mini Model Builds (held at LEGO stores nationwide; Stores.Lego.com), youngsters 6-14 can make and keep a small project like an animal or an action figure.
For your happy camper.
OK, this one's not free-just a really great deal. Private summer day camps can cost $500 to $600 per week, but the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA.org) and the YMCA (YMCA.net) run similar programs at a much lower cost (try $100 to $200 weekly).
See 4 activities to keep the kids entertained this summer.
Need some brain candy while you're sunning? Here's how to snag a good read for next to nothing. Photo credit: iStock
Join a book-sharing network.
BookCrossing.com encourages you to drop off the books you've finished reading at local restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and parks so other members can pick them up. Or register the titles you want to share at BookMooch.com, then mail them (for $2 to $3) to people who want them and get credits to use on picks for yourself.
If your library is one of 18,000 branches linked up with OverDrive (Search.OverDrive.com), you can check out titles virtually using your library card number. (There may be a wait for bestsellers.)
See author Jennifer Weiner's favorite reads.
Summer's a good time to catch up on the classics you've somehow never gotten around to. Access Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg.org) on your home computer or laptop to immerse yourself in works like Frankenstein and The Age of Innocence, gratis.
BooksShouldBeFree.com offers computer or MP3 downloads of kid-friendly fare like The Secret Garden or Pollyanna (godsends on long car trips!), along with time-honored tales like Around the World in 80 Days or The Man in the Iron Mask.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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