Last updated on January 1st, 2020 at 12:10 pm
The kids are out for summer break, and you have weeks of family time ahead of you–why not use it to create some family summer traditions out of inexpensive summer activities? When done summer after summer, these summer vacation activities will become cherished family memories.
27 Inexpensive Summer Traditions To Enjoy Year After Year With Your Family
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1. Toss A Frisbee Or Play Frisbee Golf
A good quality Frisbee doesn’t cost much and can be used for years. It can easily be stored underneath the seat of your vehicle so that you can take advantage of the “go to the park and toss a Frisbee” type of mood whenever.
Another way to take advantage of this inexpensive sport is to look for disc golf courses in your area. Usually they are free and you don’t need a whole disc golf set per person to play. Our family plays with just one decent quality long range disc each.
2. Water Fight
Make sure to set a few rules before you start, and every year, review the rules. These can be as simple as “don’t aim for the eyes”, although wearing goggles isn’t a bad idea if you are using high powered water guns. You can also set a safe zone for those that are done with getting wet or need to refill their water weapon of choice.
3. Attend A Free Baseball Game
There is something about baseball that screams summer, but watching a baseball game as a family every summer doesn’t have to make your wallet scream. Chances are your town has a local baseball league and watching their games is probably either free or just a few dollars per person.
Local leagues will usually allow you to bring in snacks or they may offer reasonably priced snack options when compared to watching minor league games. Warning though, the seating is not going to be comfy so mom and dad might want to bring along a simple stadium cushion or take along a pillow from home. If you need back support and you plan on attending a game as a family every summer, then you might want to splurge on a fancier stadium seat that will last you for years of game watching.
4. Backyard Hotdog Roast Followed up With S’mores
I grew up calling these wiener roasts, but I have been told that term has taken on a new meaning in some circles so now I call them a backyard hotdog roast (got to go and change the article I wrote a few years back before friends explained to me that the term had changed meaning in North America since I was a child over 25 years ago…).
Whatever you call them, all you need is an open fire and a pack of hot dogs, condiments and buns. Oh, and the makings of s’mores for dessert, OF COURSE! (psst–make your s’ mores even tastier with this twist on the classic campfire treat)
You can make this backyard dinner a weekly event each summer on a specific day of the week or start and end summer vacation with it. Or you could make it a once a season summer activity. And if you are looking for some good roasting sticks to use year after year, our family likes this style.
5. 4th of July Fireworks Or 1st Of July
I grew up in Canada and now live in the United States so I know that you can find free fireworks every summer in both Canada on the 1st for Canada Day and in the USA on the 4th for Independence Day in most communities.
These free firework events can be summer traditions on so many levels, from sitting in the same spot to watch them every year, to watching them with the same people, to the foods you bring along to eat while you watch.
6. Go Camping
Camping can be free if you borrow a tent and camp in your backyard. However, it isn’t that expensive to rent a spot at a state or provincial park for a night or two of camping and the added activities in a park such as hiking and swimming make it well worth the price you spend.
Here are a few articles I wrote about camping to help you get started with creating your own family camping summer tradition:
- 10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Camping
- What To Bring When Camping With Kids
- 10 Ways To Keep Children Busy When Camping In The Rain
7. Host A Yard Sale
You might be looking at some things on this list and saying, “But our budget is too tight to even do that.” If that is your budget, why not make hosting a yard sale an annual start of summer vacation event and earmark the earnings for summer activities.
Here are a few articles I wrote that will help you maximize your yard sale earnings:
- 3o Things To Gather For Your Next Yard Sale
- How To Have Your Most Successful Yard Sale
- How To Prepare Your Resell Items So You Get Top Dollar
8. Take A Slurpees/Slushies Walk
Our family lives less than a mile from the nearest gas station that sells slushies. When my kids were little, one of their favorite summer traditions was walking up to the gas station as a family on the first hot day of summer to buy their first slushy of the season.
Sometimes simple moments like a family walk for a cold, icy drink make the best traditions.
9. Family Reading Session On The Porch Swing
If your family enjoys family read aloud sessions, why not move summer readings outside on a porch swing big enough to hold all of you or a special blanket laid out in the shade?
10. Sprinkler Fun For Everyone
Most families own a lawn sprinkler and if you don’t, here is a tip–the ones that are geared for sprinkler play for small children don’t last as long or work as well as the type made to water the lawn and they often cost more. So don’t fall for the cute octopus-shaped sprinkler. Go with the plain Jane one, and you will avoid buyer’s remorse.
11. Participate In Summer Reading Programs
Most local libraries offer a summer reading program for children, and some offer one for teens and adults –ours does. These reading programs are not just a good way of making sure some reading goes on during summer vacation but are also fun. For instance, our local library brings in live family-oriented performances such as puppet theatre, magic shows and other special guests. They also give out prizes when readers reach certain levels such as chocolate, candy, coupons for free items and local restaurants, and sometimes even a free ticket to the local waterpark.
12. Attend Free Movie Days Or $1 Movie Days At Your Local Theatre
Various theatre chains offer either a free movie showing or a very low-cost matinee showing once a week during the summer for children and their parents. These movies are older and sometimes already out on DVD, but the experience of going to a big screen movie is fun for little ones, especially if they get to meet up with their friends to watch it.
13. Have A Start Of Summer Or An End of Summer Picnic–Or Both
Host your beginning of summer picnic in the same spot year after year to create a memorable summer tradition. If you love picnics, you might also want to have an end of summer family picnic in another location to place picnic bookends around summer break.
14. Go Hiking Somewhere New
Download the app All Trails and sign up for a free account. Use this app to find a hiking trail in your area that is suited to your family’s abilities.
15. Watch The Sunrise Or Sunset–Or Both
If you are lucky, you might be able to do your sunrise or sunset gazing from your front or back porch. If not, Google “best place to see the sunrise/sunset in…” and go there with your family to watch God paint the sky in beautiful shades of yellow and orange.
16. Create A Sidewalk Chalk Mural
This huge set of sidewalk chalk with 16 different colors should have all the chalk your family needs to make a few seasons worth of chalk murals. Hold a family meeting first to talk over what type of mural to draw and who is going to draw what. Make sure to take a picture of your mural each year before the next rain storm washes it away.
17. Mark The Last Day Of School With A Celebration Of Some Sort
For years now on the last day of school I pick my children up, (down to one child now) and we head directly for a locally owned ice cream parlor and let them order one of the 101 different ice cream sundae varieties the store offers. We only go to this ice cream parlor perhaps two more times in a summer season so it is a special treat for us all.
18. Attend A Free Summer Festival
Your local tourist website probably has a listing of free summer festivals in your area. Pick one that is family friendly and wallet-friendly and attend it every summer with your kids.
19. Hold A Weekly Outdoors Game Night
You have probably heard of hosting a family game night where you play board games. In summer, why not take that idea outside. Play an outdoor game with the kids like soccer, frisbee or corn hole.
20. Have A Weekly Sleep In Day
This one is for those of you with older children. Pick one day a week where they can sleep in as late as they want–and you can too! You could make this morning even more special by preparing pancake batter the night before and letting everyone make themselves fresh pancakes when they wake up. Or go hotel breakfast style on them with waffle batter and a rotating Belgian waffle maker.
21. Go Stargazing
There are a few free constellation apps out there that can help your family figure out just what you are looking at during your night of stargazing, but it is okay to make up what you think they look like too. The important thing is that you are spending time together as a family.
22. Visit A Local Farm or A Farmer’s Market
I have great memories of picking strawberries with my mom and sister at a pick your own farm near our home almost every summer. If you don’t have one, you can get a similar fun family bonding time over farm fresh produce and fruit by visiting your local farmer’s market.
23. Grow Something
You don’t have to plant a huge garden to reap the benefit of family time that growing something together creates. You can grow a few vegetables in planters, like tomatoes or lettuce. Or do a square foot garden–if you do, this book is super helpful in helping you set one up.
24. Go Bargain Hunting At A Community-Wide Yard Sale
My daughter and I do attend at least one community-wide yard sale every year, and sometimes one of my sons also joins us. We usually come home with several treasures each and often end the morning of bargain shopping with ice cream or a slushy.
25. Have A Bubble Filled Afternoon
Bubble solution is very inexpensive and you can make it yourself for even less. Google “homemade bubble solution recipe” and several will pop up. Make up a big batch and try experimenting with different items as bubble wands. Here is a pre-made GIANT bubble wand that I am pretty sure most people could recreate on their own with a bit of out of the box thinking and some items you already have around the house.
If you have little ones, I highly suggest investing in a no-spill bubble container. When I ran a family daycare out of my home, I had several for the kids, and it meant a lot less clean up for me and a lot less frustration for them. It will last for years if it is well cared for.
26. Go Swimming In The Same Spot Every Year
You might not be able to afford a backyard pool, but having a family swimming hole doesn’t cost a thing–you just have to find one. If you don’t have a lake or a river nearby, then you could have a favorite family beach or community pool that you visit year after year together.
27. Host A DIY Sundae Potluck
You could make this an immediate family only tradition or invite the same group of friends year after year. If you choose the second option, you will get more topping options. Provide a tub of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream and have everyone bring enough of their favorite sundae topping to share with the entire group. Here is a simple chocolate syrup recipe that you could make for the occasion (just don’t add the peppermint extract).
I hope that at least one idea on this list can become a summer tradition for your family. I am a huge fan of family traditions; they bond families together and provide the perfect environment for memories that will be cherished for years to come.
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.
3 More Posts To Help You Plan A Summer Full Of Fun Memories On A Budget
- All You Need To Plan A Summer Full Of Family Fun On A Tight Budget
- 10 Summer Dates That Cost Zero
- 25 Free Low-Cost Ways To Keep Kids Busy This Summer
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