3 Ways to Nail Spring Break Without Breaking the Bank

For those of us with kids in school, it happens every year.

Spring break arrives, and all of a sudden Instagram is flooded with pictures of families on beaches, at mountain resorts, or fluttering off across the world on some crazy adventure.

But what if you can’t afford that?

How do I give my kids a spring break to remember if I can’t zip off to Bali, or spend an entire year’s salary at Disney World? 

Thankfully, I’m firmly of the opinion that money doesn’t make memories. It helps, sure. But with some creativity, you can plan things that your kids will remember and talk about for years to come.

Here are 3 ways to make spring break fun without breaking your budget.

1. Get outside. I’ve written before about how awful camping is, but as every parent knows, sometimes we do the things we don’t want to do because our kids love doing those things (Minions anyone?).

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have campsites that run the gamut from extra basic (think a dirt patch and a fire pit) to something a little more suited to my tastes, like yurts (think heat, power, and an espresso machine).

Is it going to be stressful getting everything packed up? Sure. Are you going to lose some sleep? Yep. But every single January, my kids start talking about camping. They love being outside, cooking marshmallows, taking endless bike rides and beach excursions.

Don’t limit yourself to campsites, either. If the cost of gas, groceries, and campsites are prohibitive, just pitch the tent in your backyard and hold a campout there. Trust me, your kids are going to think it’s the coolest thing in the world.

2. Stay Local. If you can’t swing out of town accommodations– and these days, a lot of folks can’t–don’t be afraid to get creative in your own city. Even modest-sized cities have a seemingly endless list of fun things you can do with your kids.

Our local library has what they call “cultural passes.” There’s usually a waiting list for them, but they offer free admission to a dozen or so attractions around town, usually to places that I probably wouldn’t bite the bullet and pay admission to access, so it’s a big win for our family.

Not every town has a zoo, but in many towns that do, they’ll offer discounted admission days once a month. These days are usually crazy busy, but if you can get there right when they open, you can typically beat the crowds. By the time it starts to get to be, well, a zoo, the kids are usually tired of walking and ready to go home anyhow.

We also like to think outside the box and take a trip to places like a nearby pet store. We don’t have to spend any money, and my kids can stare at the snakes and rodents that I will never in a million years bring into my home.

3. Get Creative. Maybe it means setting up a movie projector in your backyard to transform your property into a “drive-in movie,” or maybe it means trip planning with friends to cut down on the cost of hotels or renting houses to stay in. 

Whatever the case may be, the important thing to remember is this: your kids are going to remember the fun things you did, not the money you spent. Some of the most memorable vacations my family ever took were either local outings in our own town or crashing on couches at a family member’s house to save money on hotel costs so that we could splurge on that second tier amusement park.

The quicker we can stop comparing our spring breaks to what everybody else seems to be doing on Instagram, the quicker we can start creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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