School-aged children around the country are eagerly anticipating the long awaited Spring Break or Spring Vacation. Most districts put school on pause for a week or even two some time in March or April giving students (and their teachers!) some much needed R&R. This time of year can also be a cause for concern among families on a budget – you know…those of us who can’t hop on a jet bound for the Maldives for a week of fun in the sun!
But don’t worry! It is entirely possible to create a fun-filled vacation without breaking the bank. Here are some tips and tricks to help, whether your plans involve being home with the little ones, some low cost travel or mom and dad working over the break.
Spring Break At Home
Make this time off from school special without spending a fortune. Take advantage of the break in the routine to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and a little extra activity. Organize a neighbourhood game of capture the flag, touch football or ultimate Frisbee. Create a scavenger hunt for your kids in the backyard or at a nearby park. Try a new sport such as tennis, volleyball or basketball (ask around to see if someone has equipment you can borrow rather than investing in new gear in case it’s not for you.)
When it’s time to head indoors (or if your outside plans get rained out) there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Camp out in the living room, in an actual tent if you have one (that will fit inside) or a fort built from sheets and couch cushions. Make s’mores in the microwave, tell spooky stories and use flashlights.
A movie marathon is a fun way to pass another day. Watch all the films in a series or let each family member choose a feature. Not down with so much screen time? Split it up throughout the week.
Vacation on the Road
Want to take a little getaway on a budget? Spend a night or two at a nearby hotel even if it’s not located in a touristy hot spot. Search online for a great deal and spend a couple of days enjoying the indoor pool and other amenities. Take the time to visit friends or family who live too far for a day trip, or invite them to come spend a few days of the break with you.
Seek out free or low-cost things to do while travelling. Do an online search for “Atlanta coupons” (replace the “Atlanta” with the name of the town or city you’re visiting, of course) and check out the sites that come up for special deals on attractions, restaurants and other activities. Research parks and natural areas to find nice places to get outside and go for a walk, enjoy a bike ride or kick a soccer ball around. If there’s a college or university in the area check their sports teams’ schedules to see what games or matches are being played while you’re in town. With the exception of the highest profile sports (generally men’s football and basketball) tickets are often very inexpensive or even free.
Save on food by swinging by the grocery store for snacks, drinks and breakfast items to avoid eating out every meal. This is generally healthier as well as less costly.
Kids on Break, Mom and Dad at Work
When you can’t take the time away from work to spend the whole break with your kids it can be stressful to make arrangements that they’ll enjoy and won’t cost an arm and a leg. If you can take a day or two off, talk to a couple of other families about sharing child care for the week. The kids from two or three families can spend the week together with each parent taking on one or two days. Since each parent is only responsible for a day or two they can put a little extra time and energy into making it special for the kids by arranging games outside, fun snacks or craft projects, depending on the interests of the little ones. Of course it’s important to select a group of children that get along well so you and the other parents don’t spend the entire time refereeing, which can get particularly exhausting.
What do you have planned for Spring Break? However you spend it I hope it’s a great one!
Anna Platz writes for the popular personal finance blog, Good Cents Savings, which helps you save money, stick to a budget, and live well on less. She is also the mother of a five year old daughter who is worth every penny!