If your kids are already dreading the end of summer, don’t worry. There’s still time to make some memories, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are some free and inexpensive ways to squeeze a little more fun out of this summer.
“Check out” all that’s free
Your local library is funded with your tax dollars, so why not make full use of its many benefits. A lot of libraries around the country offer special summer deals, like free admission to local museums, theaters, botanical gardens, and more. For example, in Louisville (where my family lives), the public library offers a free Culture Pass each summer, which provides free access to the city’s history museum, science center, zoo, nature center, several theaters, and more.
Other libraries, such as the Chicago Public Library, offer year-round museum “passports.” The passports can be checked out for a week at a time and provide access to 19 of the city’s museums, zoos, and other attractions. See what your library has to offer.
And here’s a little known idea. If you live in a suburb but work in a large city, you may be able to get a library card in the city where you work, potentially giving you access to many more museums, zoos, and other attractions than you may have available in your suburb.
If your library doesn’t offer anything similar to a culture pass or passport, see if a museum you’d like to visit offers free days. Many do. And, if you belong to a museum, make sure you know about any reciprocal agreements tied to your membership that give you free access to other museums.
Our family has a dual membership in the Kentucky Science Center and Louisville Zoo, which gives us free access to some great museums around the country and discounted admission to many zoos. For example, we’ve been able to get our family into Chicago’s world-class Museum of Science and Industry and Field Museum. We’ve also used that benefit to tour the USS Enterprise, a Vietnam War-era aircraft carrier docked in Manhattan. And we’ve enjoyed discounted admission to the Toledo Zoo and the incredible Brookfield Zoo (near Chicago).
To find other free things to do near you, do an internet search on, “free things to do in…” and then enter the name of your town or the biggest nearby city. You’re likely to find many attractions or festivals.
Or simply make it your mission to discover some of the free things to do near you. How well do you know all of your area’s parks? What about scenic hiking paths or bike trails?
Last-minute summer travel
If you’re thinking about squeezing in a trip before the summer is over, one way to keep costs manageable is be flexible about where you’re going and where you’ll stay when you get there. Several web sites specialize in helping flexibility-minded travelers.
With Skyscanner, you can enter your city/airport, choose specific travel dates or an entire month, and see a list of cities you could travel to ranked by price. It even ranks the countries you could visit sorted by price.
Google Flights is another good option. After entering where you’re traveling from, you can enter the length of your trip and a date range, such as “weekend trip in August.” When I set Los Angeles (LAX) as my departure city, I found that a family of four could fly to San Francisco for a weekend in August for $427.
As for where to stay once you get to your destination, Hotels.com and the appropriately named Hotel Tonight are good options for hotel rooms that are available on short notice.
Remember, summer isn’t over until the first bell of the new school year rings. There’s still time to make some memories without spending a lot of money.
Matt Bell is the author of Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.