Family Fun On The Cheap

Even if your bank account isn't overflowing, don't let it discourage you from trying to plan some fun with the family this weekend. If you want to bond with the family while still watching your wallet, read on for our ideas for how to have some family fun on the cheap.

Skip the car, forget about the plane

If you want a weekend away from your city, but don't want to pay the high price of gas or can't swing the airfare, don't underestimate public transportation — specifically the train. The kids will love traveling by rail and it will give your family time to chat and play games while you ride from point A to point B. Amtrak travels to over 500 locations in the U.S. so your options are endless.

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Team up

A great way to save money on your weekend getaway is to travel with another family. Think about your couple friends with kids of similar ages. How much fun would it be for yyour family to team up with theirs? Now add in the fact that the trip will be cheaper and you've hit a home run. Sharing the expenses on things like gas and meals will not only allow you and your children to do more, but you'll add in a whole new level of fun. You'll get to have some adult time and the kids will get to hang with their friends. And you can still branch off with your own pack for some family bonding too.

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Make it a game

Come up with an amount of money that you don't want to exceed spending each day- like $50- and see if you and the family can do it. Bringing the kids in on the challenge will help them work on their money management skills by showing them how much things cost (and that it adds up fast!). Before your trip, have the kids help do the research to find out everything from admission prices to how much gas you'll need to travel to your destination. Once you're on your weekend getaway, at each stop, as the children help you figure out if you have enough money to spend, suddenly that $3.00 root beer float will have more meaning to them. They might opt for water to allow for more cash to spend on something more meaningful later like a postcard to send to a relative or a camera card to take pictures of your journey.

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Remember...keep it simple

The best part of your weekend with the family will be that you're together. Sappy, but true. A common mistake parents make is over planning. Every hour doesn't need to be scheduled. Allow for flexibility and pick just one or two things you and the kids would like to do together. Not only will this be easier on your pocketbook, but it will free you up to have time to actually talk to one another.

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More budget travel tips

How to travel on a tight budget
Staycation in style: Plan the perfect staycation in your city
How to plan a kid-friendly summer staycation


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Comments on "Summer weekends on a budget"

gridlockmanifesto August 01, 2012 | 11:38 AM

My family thought of the budget game a long time ago-before Rachael Rae had her $40 a Day show. Our rule of thumb is we spend four times our grocery budget on food each day. The more our family grows, the bigger the budget is. We actually give our kids the money each day and they pay for their own meals. We also have trouble entertaining the kids on the car ride there. My Dish coworker suggested the kids use the tablet PC’s for watching TV. We use our Sling Adapter so we can watch live and recorded TV from our DVR back home, along with the Dish Remote Access app on our iPad and Galaxy 10.1. It was nice that we didn’t have to listen to the fighting in the back seat this time, and I kept my peace of mind.

Lauren July 07, 2012 | 5:26 PM

I agree that quality time is most important and it's not so much what you're doing, it's the fact that you're together as a family. I also like the tip about taking public transportation. Bringing the kids on a train would be a whole new experience for them in itself, that they probably won't even care where we're going!

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