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50+ Cheap and Free Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Just one more week until I’ll have all four of my kids home for the summer. I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep them occupied, entertained and to avoid the dreaded, “I’m BORED”. I’ve come up with a few summer staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! Sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun. It just takes a little creativity and planning.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, without any added cost to you, thanks! Updated and republished from a May 25, 2016 post

Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Sleeping in. No homework. Warm weather and a wide open calendar! Summer at home with the kids can be a lot of fun. I’m excited about being able to relax but also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these summer staycation ideas could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to.

Tons of Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

1. Arts & Crafts Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where the kids can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons. Or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a Sketch Book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or Glass Paint to decorate.
  • Make sculptures out of craft Pipe Cleaners.
  • Decorate a plain box and transform it into a keepsake box (see this post with instructions on how to make a Memento Box)

Back-To-School DIY Disney-Style Storage Box is Perfect for Storing School Supplies or Disney mementos!

  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out inexpensive Washable Watercolors and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Read these ideas for how to make two patriotic-themed crafts.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and Mod Podge the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On Friday, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

2. Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great ideas here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple Hula Hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!)
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Use Face Paint Crayons to paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors

  • Plant seeds into cardboard egg crates with soil. Water gently and watch them grow.
  • Take an early morning “sunrise walk”. This is especially great if you live where it’s very hot once the sun rises.
  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees. You could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with Flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!
Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

Enjoying the sunshine with a fishing pole

4. Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring snacks!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car. There is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight!
  • Set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water. Kids get wet & lawn gets watered…win!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind. However sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking.
  • Little ones love to play with the watering can. Fill it up and let them water the flowers (and themselves!)

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

5. A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Borrow movies from the library. If the library doesn’t have the movie you want, put in a request & they’ll contact you when it’s available.
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

6. Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

7. Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Make a delectable over-the-top recipe from Pinterest. Did you “nail it” or was it a Pinterest “fail”?
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

8. Build a Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • A quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

9. Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.

MMHasbro7


10. Host An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Have a pre-party pampering, including painted nails or mud-mask facials.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple (7-up or Sprite with cherry juice) in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime


Disneyland in the Heat – Ultimate Summer Vacation Guide

How can you prepare if you know the weather is going to be really hot at Disneyland? If you already know there will be a heatwave at Disneyland, you can prepare in advance. You’ll want to keep cool so you and your family won’t be cranky, tired and wiped out by the heat mid-day. Find out exactly what you can see, eat and do at Disneyland in the heat. With these tips you’ll have fun and stay cool at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park.

Please note that I have included affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What Can You Do When It’s Hot at Disneyland?

Sure, summer in California is usually warm and sunny. However even though summer may wind down that doesn’t mean the temperatures start to drop. At Disneyland early August heat is when things start to really warm up! In Southern California, August, September and October are usually the warmest months of the year. There might be pumpkins on Main Street USA but the thermometer is still reading 100 degrees!

Things to Do on an Off-Day at Disneyland Without Leaving the Resort

Disneyland Hotel pool

We’ve also been known to get 90 degree temperatures in February, when the rest of the country is blanketed in snow. Unlike the moist warmth in Orlando at Walt Disney World, the heat in California comes in from the desert so it’s a dry heat you might not have experienced before. After scorching under the hot sun all day you’ll be wishing for Elsa’s frosty touch! Keep reading for all the warm weather survival tips at the Disneyland resort.


Read on for my tips on how to do Disneyland in the heat!

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Princess Dot Puddle Park at Disney California Adventure park

Seek the Shade Inside at Disneyland & California Adventure

  • Get toddlers out of the heat and inside the adorable Disney Junior Dance Party!
  • Take the Bakery Tour, Hosted by Boudin Bread. That’s about ten air conditioned minutes and you’ll get a snack!
  • Watch The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. A restful theater and cool air. Some guests admit they come here to take a brief nap.
  • I love the Enchanted Tiki Room and it’s especially refreshing on a hot day. Pick up a Dole Whip before going inside (you can snack during the show).
  • Soak in a glorious Broadway-like production at the Hyperion Theater. It’s a Frozen-themed show, how appropriately cool!
  • In the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough you can enjoy the a/c and take as long as you like to admire the dioramas.
  • The Disney Animation Building hosts a variety of indoor activities that can take up the hottest part of the day.
California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Little Mermaid’s Underwater Adventure at Disney California Adventure park

Survive Disneyland Heat and Stay Cool on a Ride

  • Hop aboard The Disneyland Railroad for an 18-minute grand circle tour. You’ll be shaded in the open train cars and get a great breeze as the train takes the trip around Disneyland.
  • Haunted Mansion offers a rest for weary souls with bone-chilling a/c. All thrills viewed from the comfort of your Doombuggy.
  • Take a long, cool walk in the shady queue for Indiana Jones Adventure.
  • “it’s a small world” – The happiest cruise that ever sailed. And it’s 15-minutes of lovely air-conditioning accompanied by music!
  • What could be more refreshing than going under the sea? The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Underwater Adventure.
  • A windy spin on the Silly Symphony Swings will cool off any sweat drops!
  • Yo-ho! 15-minutes of dark caverns and the swarthy Pirates of the Caribbean will have you rested and ready to take on the sun again.


Avoid meltdown at Disneyland when it's hot with these practical tips on what to do, see and how to stay cool at Disneyland when the temperatures soar. #Disneyland #SummerTravel


CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE A FREE DISNEYLAND VACATION PLANNING VIDEO


Places to Get Wet at Disneyland

  • If you’re really looking for a soaking, try Grizzly River Run. Rarely does anyone escape without at least one article of clothing sopping wet.
  • Princess Dot Puddle Park at bug’s land is the perfect play space for a good drenching. Bring an extra change of clothes!
  • Splash Mountain includes 3 dips and a massive waterfall…you will get wet!
  • Take a swim break back at the hotel pool mid-day. That’s definitely one of our family favorites.
California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Stay hydrated with bottled water that you bring into Disneyland park with you

What to Bring With You During the Summer at Disneyland

Park Tickets- Purchase your tickets ahead of time from my partner at Get Away Today. You’ll not only save a few dollars, you’ll avoid standing in a long line to buy tickets at the gate.

Sunscreen- Always. SPF 30 and reapply often, especially if you are sweating.

Deodorant- If you find that you need to reapply mid-day when the weather is hot, do your queue-mates a favor and bring in deodorant!

Frozen bottles of water Pour a little off the top before freezing them and pack them in your bag or soft-sided cooler.

Change of Shoes- In particular, it’s nice to have a pair of plastic flip-flops or sandals that you can change into before going on wet rides or in water-play areas.


What to Wear at Disneyland in the Heat

Chill Towel- So refreshing to rinse a chill towel in cool water and wrap around your neck. Doing this will lower your body temperature several degrees.

Hat- Wear one to block direct sun off your face and the top of your head (I always tend to get a burned scalp when I forget my hat and wow, does that hurt!)

Sunglasses- Nothing like squinting into the sun all day to give you a headache.

Warm-Weather Shoes – I’m a fan of open-toed shoes during the hot weather. For more tips click through for the best shoes to wear at Disney Parks.


Save Money at DISNEYLAND!

Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount). 

https://www.getawaytoday.com/?referrerid=7529


California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Cool off with a refreshing mint julep in New Orleans Square, Disneyland Park

What to Buy at Disneyland Park to Keep Cool 

Parasol Pop it open and you’ll be made in the shade! Sold at a cart in New Orleans Square. Price comes with handpainted name personalization and either hearts or flowers (additional designs offered for extra cost).

Mint Julep Stick around New Orleans Square and pick up a mint julep (or two) . You can get them either at the Mint Julep Bar and sit in the shaded patio of French Market Restaurant or seek the cool comfort inside the Blue Bayou Restaurant.

Misting Fan – These are sold in kiosks throughout the park. This is a squirt bottle with an attached fan and strap to hang from your neck. On a hot day, it’s priceless! I’d suggest saving a few dollars and buy one before you go on your trip (see this post for the other souvenirs you should buy before you go!)

Sundaes Eat an ice cream sundae (big enough for two) and catch a show inside The Golden Horseshoe (my favorite is the mint chocolate chip!). With 8 toppings and 8 scoops of ice cream, the Earthquake from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop will chill everyone in your group! And the classic Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is the place for people watching…and waffle cone ice creams!

Change of Clothes When the sweat is unbearable, seek shelter inside a shop and buy yourself a fresh new tee or tank. You’ll feel (and probably smell!) so much better.

California summers are fun in the sun! What can guests see, eat and do when it's hot at Disneyland.

Sunhat and sunglasses are a must when coming to Disneyland!

Things to Remember When It’s Hot

Water- Drink lots of water. You can always ask for free ice water at walk-up dining locations. I like to bring several empty bottles with me and keep them filled with water from the drinking fountains.

Stay out of the sun –As often as you can, keep in the shade. On busy days, a shady spot might be harder to come by. Seek out shady areas in out of the way spots.

Avoid High Noon Get to the Parks early, leave mid-day when the sun is hottest and return to the Parks after a swim and a rest in your room. Or simply retreat to an indoor show or shopping when the sun is blazing. Find out how to maximize the first two hours at Disneyland.

Heat Illness – If the heat has you feeling sick, stop by First Aid at any time. Symptoms include dizziness, confusion, nausea and cramping.


Avoid meltdown at Disneyland in the heat with these practical tips on what to do, see and how to stay cool at Disneyland when the temperatures soar. #Disneyland #SummerTravel #Disney #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #California #Summer #SummerVacation #SoCal

What are your favorite ways to spend the day at Disneyland in the heat? Share them in the comments!


 

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterTogether #CollectiveBias

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!

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Create Budget-Friendly “Summer Camps” for Your Kids…At Home!

Create Your Own Budget-Friendly "Summer Camps" for Your Kids...At Home!Preview

I’d love be able to send my kids to camp for the summer, but wow, some of those summer camps are over-the-top expensive! I’d still like to give my kids the experiences that those camps offer, whether it be dance camp or sports camp. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s quite easy to do the research yourself and host your own budget-friendly summer camps for your kids, at your own house! Here’s how:

  1. Talk to the kids about what kind of “camp” they’d be interested in.
  2. Do your research.
  3. Plan out your days. Make each day just a little bit different and write out a schedule to avoid getting distracted.
  4. Get out of the house! It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the chores if you’re at home. Make it a true camp and get outside.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be a little wild, get a little dirty and have lots and lots of fun in the process. This will be your child’s summer to remember! And you’ll have saved hundreds of dollars as well.

NATURE CAMP

Whether it be the great outdoors or your own backyard, nature is there to be explored. If you’re living in the country, this one might be easy for you. In mid-city, you might have to get more creative. Search for local area parks that offer hiking trails, open space, fishing, overnight camping, or evening sing-a-longs or bonfires. You could even include a day at the zoo to explore the plants and botanical gardens.

             

  • Blindfold your child and have them listen to the birds in the trees or the rustling of the leaves. Place different natural items in their hands and ask them to describe them for you.
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt 
  • Grab a pair of binoculars and go bird watching. You’d be surprised how many of them can hide out in one tree!
  • Take a picnic lunch and lay outside under the clouds.
  • Plan a camping overnight, even if it’s just in your own backyard.

SPORTS CAMP

Check with your local school to see if they are open during the summer for public use on the field. Otherwise you can hit the park (go early before the crowds). Make sure to pack plenty of ice water. Focus on a different event each day. Jog to warm up and then get out your favorite equipment. Work on a particular skill (dribbling a soccer ball, catching pop flies) or just get out and play.

   

Don’t have equipment? Practice your track skills, including the long jump or 10-yard dash. A stopwatch is something that kids love and they enjoy trying to “beat the clock”. End your camp day with stair climbing and see how many you do the first day compared to your last day.


DANCE CAMP

You’ll need a big mirror and lots of music for this one! I was a dance teacher for many years and dance is great exercise for the body and mind. Memorizing routines can be a challenge but so much fun, especially if you are learning alongside your child.

  • Pick a different theme for each day of the week. Perhaps ballet on Monday, jazz on Tuesday, tap (with or without tap shoes) on Wednesday, hip-hop on Thursday and a recital on Friday.
  • Keep it moving! Choose a good mix of slow and fast music. Have your child follow along with you by watching in the mirror and mimicking your actions. Start with basic steps, like a step-together, step-kick or step-hop (skipping).
  • Focus on the body line, from head to toe. Encourage your child to keep their head up and back straight and to point their toe when the leg is lifted off the ground. When my students do a kick, they always want it to go as high as possible which often results in bent knees, curved back and flexed feet. I tell them I’d rather they had better posture than a high kick so I encourage them to keep the kick lower but to focus on a straighter back and pointed toes. This in turn helps them to straighten their legs as well.
  • Use visualization – For instance, if your arms are gracefully moving back & forth say you are a tree in the wind. If you point your toes, say that your legs are like sharpened pencils. Kids remember the visualization when recreating these moves.
  • For older kids, find an age-appropriate music video (Janet Jackson, circa 1980s is a good place to start, so fun!) and learn the routine. Practice it together until you’ve got it down pat.
  • Keep it upbeat and take a break if you child gets frustrated trying to learn a particular step. This camp should be about fun and you can always go back to try the skill again the next day.
  • On “recital day”, gift your child with something they can continue to use when practicing like ballet slippers or a helpful book for teaching dance like Dance Technique for Children. This CD, Kids in Motion was a must when I was teaching dance classes, it’s fantastic and perfect for teaching at home.

       

Also check out 12 tips for Teaching Tots on Dance Advantage.


LEGO CAMP

I’m not sure there is a kid alive who doesn’t like building with LEGOS. And more than likely you already have the supplies you need for this camp. We keep our LEGOS in a big plastic bin that gets dumped out regularly for play! If you don’t have a big collection yet, the LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box is a perfect place to start.

  • Focus on a different architectural or mechanical skill each day. This could include creating a building with columns, making a staircase or building a bridge.
  • Have a vehicle contest. Set up a ramp with a piece of cardboard on an incline and race your vehicles down to see whose is the fastest (and whose makes it to the bottom in one piece!)
  • Create an animal. See if everyone can guess what the other person’s animal is.

   

  • The LEGO Ideas Book is wonderful. We own this book and my kids have spent hours working on these fun and creative projects.
  • Replicate your own face using only LEGOS. This is bound to be a funny one!
  • Create a three-dimensional art sculpture. Using a thin layer of Mod Podge glue you can paint over the creation and keep it forever.

ARTS & CRAFTS CAMP

Crafting on a summer afternoon sounds like my kind of day! Know your audience and offer craft projects that you know are age-appropriate and that your kids would enjoy. Purchase a few supplies like sketch paper, drawing pencils and acrylic paint. Hit the 99 cent store or scrounge up scraps of what you already have from old projects.

  • Learn a new technique. Attempt tie-dying, make soap or wax candles, paper quilling, build a bird house, try jewelry making or clay. My daughter received Sculpy Clay for Christmas and has been delighting us with her whimsical creations for months.
  • Grab the drawing paper and pens. Set up a still-life scene and have everyone draw it in their own style.
  • Using only recycled products from your house, make an “upcycled” item or creation. Supply tape and glue and see what they make from “junk”.
  • Wooden boxes are great for crafting because they are so versatile. Paint or stain them, cover them in jewels with hot glue, cut out magazine photos and decoupage with Mod Podge…unlimited possibilities and you can use the box for whatever you like afterwards.

    


I’m usually working full time during the summer and my kids spend their days at Grandma’s house. At least once during the summer I plan on taking time off and implementing a “camp day” for my kids, I know they’ll love it. Even if you have to work and don’t have a full week for your own summer camp, try some of these activities over a weekend.

Create Budget-Friendly "Summer Camps" for Your Kids...At Home!

Me, and my three.

If you do decide to sign up the kids for a camp outside the house, don’t feel like you have to take the price at “face value”. Request with management if there are any discounts, whether for early pick-up, multiple children or scholarship (if you qualify). Groupon even offers camps in local areas. Many camps are willing to work with you on price if you ask.


Have fun playing with your kids! 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

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Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

The fun-packed resort pools are a great reason to choose to stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel on your vacation. All three of the unique pools at the Disneyland Resort offer a little something different, along with something special for each person in your family.

Our vacation isn’t complete without a day spent at a Disneyland Resort pool! We usually hit the whirlpool spas the night before we visit the Parks, where we sit in the warm bubbles and discuss our upcoming adventures. During our stay we often take a break back at the hotel in the afternoon to cool off with a swim. And we always reserve the last day of our trip to enjoy pool-side.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

Here is a brief overview of the three Disneyland Resort Hotel swimming pools –


Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

    

We recently stayed at this hotel for the first time and truly enjoyed our visit poolside. It’s beautifully tree-lined and has a very “woodsy” feel. The quiet Fountain Pool features a turtle fountain. The Redwood Pool has a 90-foot-long waterslide that curves around the giant stump of a Redwood tree…how fun is that?!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

A Mickey Mouse-shaped Children’s Pool and a whirlpool hot tub are also in this area. The Mariposa Pool features decorative butterflies and lights in the pool deck area, with a whirlpool spa nearby. It’s a beautiful and relaxing looking space.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools - What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!


 Paradise Pier Hotel

    

This third-floor pool area offers pretty views and more! We’ve stayed here many times and have visited the pool area at night as well. You can view the Disneyland fireworks show from the pool area and the music is piped in over the loudspeakers. My big kids enjoy going back and forth between the Paradise Pool and California Streamin’, the classic waterslide!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

My littest one liked dipping his toes in the shallow Children’s Pool. And of course if you just need to relax, the Paradise Spa whirlpool hot tub is available here. The Sand Bar offers outdoor dining, though they’ve never been open on the times/days we’ve visited. That’s something to keep in mind if you like to nibble poolside, so ask first at Guest Services.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!


Disneyland Hotel

    

Spending time at the Disneyland Hotel pool area is one of the highlights of our vacation memories! My husband enjoys relaxing in either the Mickey or Minnie Whirlpool Spas. My big kids like to swim laps in the D-Ticket pool.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!

And well, you’d be hard pressed to pull my preschooler away from the Monorail Pool!  Two large water slides (180-foot-long and 80-foot-long) make a big splash and are replicas of the original Mark 1 Monorail trains. The 2-lane mini slide is where you’ll find my little one. He loves to splash around in the zero entry pool area with pop jets, fountains and a waterfall to walk under.

pool pool1

We have spent many afternoons here swimming under the sun or relaxing in the warm whirlpool. We’ll often pick up food from Tangaroa Terrace and lounge on a chaise, eating our lunch. They also offer poolside service and drinks from the bar during certain times.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Swimming Pools – What to Expect of Your Fun in the Sun!


Extra Fun in the Sun

  • Luxurious and private Poolside Cabanas are offered to guests staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa or the Disneyland Hotel. Rent them for either a half or full day and enjoy a respite in the shade that includes cable television, mini fridge with bottled water, complimentary fruit platter and ample lounging space. A cabana server will be available to take your food and beverage order. To learn about pricing options or to make a reservation, please call (714) 635-2300, option 5, or visit the Guest Services desk inside the hotel.
  • Pool Parties are offered seasonally at different times (depending upon the resort) and include an hour of games, music and dancing. Check with the Resort hotel for more information.

What to expect 

  • There are bathrooms at each resort, with showers outside for rinsing off.
  • Towels are supplied poolside, so no need to bring one from your hotel room.
  • For babies and toddlers, there are swim diapers provided as well as life jackets.

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Guest Post from An Apple Per Day – Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Thank you to Kaitlin from An Apple Per Day for this guest post about teaching kids to swim. Summer will be here before you know it so if you are able to start teaching kids now (search locally for indoor pools), the kids will be ready for the resort swimming pool when summer rolls around!
My littlest just learned to swim this past summer… at only two years old! Not all children are as fearless as he is, so Kaitlin’s post is timely and helpful in gearing up for the swim months.


Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Julie’s son Dillon at the Disneyland Hotel pool

There are a lot of things to take care of when you’re raising kids, but one thing that was high on my list was to make sure my kids knew how to swim. It was a skill that would ensure their safety, and allow them to enjoy the fun of being in the water.A lifetime skill. We want to take family vacations to the beach, and it is important that the kids know how to swim for those kinds of trips. But looking down the road, the kids will be around the water as they get invited to pool parties, when they want to go to the community pool with their friends, and many other occasions. After they grow up, they will go on vacations of their own where swimming will be involved. It just made good sense to get the kids involved with the water early. Here are some resources with great ideas about kids and swimming:

The safety factor. The Center For Disease Control reports that drowning is a serious issue for children, and formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. That statistic reinforces that it is imperative for my children to know how to swim. It doesn’t take long for a child to fall in a pool and get in serious trouble, so the swimming skill could easily save their life.

The fun of the water. When I was growing up, the pool was the source of so many of my fond memories, and I want my kids to enjoy the water as much as I did, and still do. I started early with getting them accustomed to the water. I introduced them to the pool with Mommy and Me classes when they were about 6 months old, and they all quickly learned the fun of splashing. They learned basic skills like kicking, while I held them and let them float on my arms. I would show them how to dip their head under water and blow bubbles, to start on proper breathing techniques.

Formal lessons. The accepted rule is that by age 3 or 4, a child will have developed sufficiently for formal swimming lessons. By that age, they can hold their head up, and follow what they are being taught. I considered teaching them myself, but though I’m a great mom and I love to swim – I’m not a swim instructor. I felt it was very important that the kids learn swimming skills correctly. Also, the kids sometimes tune out Mommy, and I didn’t want that happening for something this important. So I signed the kids up for basic lessons as soon as they were the proper age. Their lessons were in the fall, because they were back in school mode, and they would pay more attention than in the summer, when they just want to run and play.

Watch the kids learning. It is a joy to see my children when they are learning something new. With a well trained swim instructor, they quickly progressed with their swimming skills, and their confidence grew so fast I was amazed. Before I knew it the instructor had them going up and down the pool with all the basic swim strokes. He was also excellent about reinforcing safety in the pool area – and when he said “no running,” boy, did they pay attention.

I sit by the pool and watch my kids romp and play with their friends. They are comfortable in the water, and that makes me smile, knowing I have provided them a way to safely enjoy hours of fun in the pool.

kaitlin

Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.


Thanks again Kaitlin! Even though the weather may be less than ideal to swim outside, look around your area to see if any gyms or indoor pools offer swimming lessons now. That way your kids will be in good practice before summertime. And with these great tips, they’ll be splish-splashin’ in no time!

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After Rides, What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

When you think about Disneyland, the most iconic rides come to mind. And of course there are all those delicious foods and snacks! But once you’ve been on Pirates of the Caribbean and eaten a Little Red Wagon corn dog, what else is there to do at Disneyland? There are so many other memorable things to do at Disneyland besides the popular rides and food. In addition to the basic stuff that is considered an “attraction” on the park map there are also so many other little things that make Disneyland a magical vacation spot.

What’s Not to Miss at Disneyland?

Before your trip, you should make a rough schedule of your day. This way you’ll be certain to get to all of the rides, shows and attractions that are most important to you. If this is your first time at Disneyland, read Must-Do Disneyland- Perfect Itinerary for First Timers. These ideas will give you the best overview of the Park.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

If you have more than one day, you’ll be able to pad out your days with some of these additional Disneyland activities. These are the perfect in-between activities that can really add joy to your Disneyland trip. I’ve included suggestions for both the Disneyland Park as well as Disney’s California Adventure park.

The Often-Overlooked Attractions

  • Start off your morning riding one of the Main Street Vehicles down the center of the street. So many people walk right past these! There is a fire engine, a car or the horse-drawn trolley. The drivers are so friendly and often offer vacation tips and Disneyland trivia.
  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Walkthrough is a hidden gem…everyone rushes across the drawbridge to Fantasyland, forgetting to walk through the Castle itself! There are miniature scenes brought to life with special effects as you walk through the stairways, I love it.
  • Yes, you can ride on the Rivers of America! Both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia take guests for a gentle spin across the waters.
Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

The Castle walk-through entrance is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.

Play with Your Favorite Characters

  • Collecting autographs from characters into an Autograph Book is a great way to pass time. It’s also something that kids who are shy enjoy because it gives them a task during the meet n’ greet.
  • If you arrive at the park first thing in the morning there are always lots of characters there for photo ops. You’ll find a variety just inside the gate and then the “Fab 5” meet in the hub of Main Street U.S.A. Some of my favorite photos are of the kids meeting their favorite characters for the first time.
  • Mickey’s House is tucked way in the back of the Park, inside Toontown. The walk-through Mickey’s House is so cute and you get to meet your favorite mouse at the end!
  • Pixie Hollow is located among the tall “leaves” to the right of the Castle. This is where you can meet Tinkerbell and other fairy characters from the series.
  • Meet your favorite Princesses inside the Royal Hall in Fantasy Faire, just to the left of the Castle.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland


Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation!

Purchase discount Disneyland and Walt Disney World tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).


Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Places Where Kids Can Play

  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is always a hit with the kids! And so many people see the island but don’t realize you can actually go on it! The Island is a wonderful place to burn off mid-day energy. However stay with your kids because if they go into one of the narrow cave tunnels they may come out on the other side of the island without you!
  • Climb up high into Tarzan’s Treehouse. Sometimes Jane & Tarzan are at the bottom, greeting guests.
  • Donald’s BoatChip & Dale’s Treehouse and Goofy’s Playhouse in Toontown are nice places for kids to run around. There’s also plenty of sitting space for grown-ups in the shade!
  • My kids always love running around in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail inside Disney’s California Adventure park. Do a little rock climbing, tire swinging and rope bridge walking. Stay with your kids because it’s an easy place to lose them!
  • If it’s a warm day, a splash through the sprinklers at Princess Dot Puddle Park inside “a bug’s land” is a refreshing way for kids to cool off.

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Free Fun in the Disneyland Parks

  • Walk into the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and receive a free chocolate sample.
  • Across the walkway you’ll receive a free sample of sourdough bread at the Bakery Tour.
  • From the moment you walk in the room of the Animation Academy and witness the floor to ceiling movie scenes being shown on the gigantic screens, you will be immersed in all-things animation. Every 30 minutes, guests can take a complimentary drawing class from a Disney artist. You can take home your souvenir drawing.
  • Also inside the Animation Academy you can draw a cartoon in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. It’s really a cool lesson to show kids how basic animation works in this oft-missed location. And you can take the scroll of your cartoon home with you.

More Ways to See Disney Art

  • Watch some of the original Mickey cartoons inside the Main Street Cinema. It’s standing room only but gives a glimpse back at the beginning era of animation.
  • Disney Gallery features original artwork and models that were created as a precursor to many of the attractions in the parks.
  • Pose for your own unique silhouette inside the Silhouette Studio on Main Street U.S.A. My parents purchased one of me when I was three years old and it’s one of my most treasured mementos.
  • There are often featured artists inside the shop Off the Page (California Adventure) or WonderGround Gallery (Downtown Disney)

Where Magical Transformation is Made!

  • Little princesses can get the head-to-toe treatment inside Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There’s even a package for young knights. You must book an advance reservation for these special packages.
  • There are face painting locations all over inside the Parks. Check out the themed designs, including this Marvel version found at Hollywood Land inside California Adventure park.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Catch a Show

Some of these shows are just luck. They aren’t featured on the park schedule so you’ll never know when they’ll pop up where you are.

  • Mary Poppins dances with the band in front of the Castle.
  • Enjoy a fairy tale story at the Royal Theater in Fantasy Faire
  • Clap along with the Dapper Dans on Main Street.
  •  Alice and the Mad Hatter conduct a game of musical chairs near the ice cream parlor.
  • My stepson participated in a “beauty” contest in front of the Golden Horseshoe.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Souvenir Hunting

Why just go into a shop and buy just anything? These fun activities encourage shy kids and result in some pretty cool souvenir keepsakes as well!

Pin Trading

This is a great activity that also serves as a souvenir. Start off with a Lanyard and a few pins, then start trading with any Cast Member who has pins or with other guests.

Pressed Coin Machines

This is my son’s favorite souvenir (which I love because they are cheap!) I’m not telling him that there are over 150 different commemorative images all over the Resort because I just know he’ll want to collect them all!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Pose for Pictures

  • There is always something new coming in the Disneyland Parks. And with great backdrops to pose with, take the opportunity for a great shot! I took this photo of my family in front of the Cars Land signage before it opened.
  • There are so many gorgeous details in the buildings and in the designs of the gardens. Capture them on camera.
  • Some of the attractions have ride vehicles outside. These are great places to pose for snapshots.
  • Take photos with the statues that encircle the Partners statue in front of the Castle. As you can see my son was having a fun time pretending Pinocchio was biting his finger!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Take a Tour

If you have the time in your vacation schedule and want to learn more about the Disneyland Resort, consider signing up for a tour.

  • There are guided tours for purchase, like “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Guided Tour.
  • Both the Disneyland Hotel and Disney ‘s Grand Californian Resort offer complimentary tours

Watch the Candy Making

This is seriously one of my favorite things to do inside the Disneyland Parks! There’s always someone making something delicious in the candy shops. See how fudge is poured or how taffy is pulled. View the bakers decorating the treats. And my favorite, you can watch step-by-step how each elaborate candied apple is created.

Look for Hidden Mickeys

There are some wonderful books about finding Hidden Mickeys (try Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best Kept Secrets). Or just see for your how many you can spot while walking through the park. My son randomly found this Hidden Mickey in a vent just under the stage inside The Golden Horseshoe!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Do YOU see the hidden Mickey?

Plan Visits During Special Events

Disneyland schedules some fantastic special events year-round. The events mentioned here are included in your regular Park ticket. There are often special entertainment option, interesting dining options and bonus Disney fun! And many of the events offer free kid’s activities.

Outside the Park Entertainment

  • There is free live music every day throughout the Downtown Disney District
  • You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar. Grab a drink inside or sit on the patio with your cocktails. There is live, acoustic music nightly under the tiki torches. Or just sit and chat around the outdoor fireplace nearby.

Read this post for more ideas on what to do without a Park ticket (many of them free!)

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Wander and Explore

  • Instead of walking straight across the drawbridge and into Fantasyland through the Castle, try taking the path on the side. This path on the right will take you to Snow White’s Grotto with statues of the characters and her magical wishing well (where donations are given to children’s charities).
  • Put your change in the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition and use an infrared rifle to shoot at the interactive targets. My dad always made it a point to spend a few quarters here on every trip!
  • Look at the character “turning” the popcorn maker on each cart. Every Land has a different one!
  • Walk by Rancho Del Zocalo’s restaurant at night and admire the gorgeous hanging glass lamps.
  • Jump on the dance floor in Tomorrowland when the live bands play at night (I have so many fun memories of my eldest son at 4 years old, doing “the robot”).
  • Find the “secret” entrance to Club 33 in New Orleans Square.
  • Touch the apple in front of the Snow White ride and hear the witch cackle. You can also see the evil Queen peek out and close the curtains above the ride from one of the windows.
  • Try to pull the “sword from the stone” in front of the carrousel.
Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

This family station wagon in Grizzly Peak is a great place for a photo op!

Sit Down and People-Watch!

There are so many great people-watching locations throughout the park. Sit on a bench or in the ice cream parlor along Main Street and watch the families rush by. Aladdin’s Oasis (a patio area in between the Tiki Room & the Jungle Cruise) is where we’ve stopped to eat a snack in the shade. Sit in the shade of trees in front of the New Orleans train station or sip a mint julep in New Orlean’s Square. I have more quiet restful spots in my post about avoiding the Disneyland meltdown.

There are a wild amount of little details that set Disneyland apart from all other amusement parks. It’s what makes Disneyland so special to so many people around the world!


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What Are the Things to Do in Anaheim (Other Than Disneyland)?

For other ideas of things to do in the Anaheim, Orange County and Buena Park area near Disneyland, see my post with ideas for Southern California. Lots of fun vacation planning tips for families!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland


Saving Money at the County Fair

 

A day at the fair could easily cost you hundreds of dollars! From the admission, parking, rides, exhibition halls and all that amazing fair food, you could slip up on the budget quickly. If you plan ahead and do a little research, your day at the fair could be a lot of fun for cheap! There are definitely some practical ways to stay on budget at the fair.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Budgeting for the County Fair

I’ve only been to one County Fair but I’ve been nearly every single year – the San Diego County Fair (aka: Del Mar Fair). I’m going to venture that most county fairs are the same if not very similar to our large fair so I think these tips could be applied most anywhere. Here are my tips on how we save money at the county fair.

 

 


Save Money on County Fair Admission Tickets

Potential Cost of Fair Admission: $19 per adult, $12 per child, Free for kids 5 and under.

Ways to Save on Admission at the Fair:

  • Pre-purchasing tickets is almost always cheaper than buying them at the gate. A quick search online will let you know where you can purchase tickets for the fair. Avoid any site that charges a “transaction fee”.
  • Some grocery stores, military bases or employers sell discounted tickets.
  • Kids can often get free entry from their school for reading books.
  • Some of the competitive one-day contests allow for free entry.
  • Look at the fair website for special days where you might receive discounted entry.
  • If you plan on attending the fair more than once, consider the price of the season pass.

Parking On-Site

Potential Cost of Fair Parking: $10 per car

My cost: Free. We park off-site and take a free shuttle. Savings $10. Check your county fair website and see if off-site parking is available.


Food

Full Cost: Dependent upon what you eat, but of course fair food is pricey and over sized. One family’s meal could easily cost $50+. The cost of those weird specialty snacks could cost you upwards of $10 each.

My cost: $30. Packing lunch and snacks in was allowed (no glass bottles or containers). I brought in snacks for us so we wouldn’t be tempted to buy $8 chocolate covered bacon! We had a big bag of kettle corn from Sprouts for $1.99, half-pound of trail mix with M&Ms and nuts for $2.00, and a bag of Twizzlers for $1.00. I did splurge and buy us lunch (because we very rarely eat out, this was a treat). A half-lb burger with waffle fries, two large hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and three drinks set us back $25. I knew that some of the vendors were offering a kids meal for $5.25 so that’s what I bought them. Some other vendors were selling kid’s meals for $9.00 so just shopping around saved me $7.50 on the two meals. We were so full from our big lunch that we only had a light snack at home for dinner.


Rides

Full Cost: Depending upon how many you purchase upfront, the cost per ticket for our fair is between 50 cents and 75 cents; Each ride takes between 3-10 tickets.

My cost: Free. My husband’s grandmother gave us a sheet of 40 ride tickets. That sheet (which allowed 5 total rides) would have cost us $20.

Plan upfront how much you want to spend on tickets and stick with it. Prepare kids ahead of time by letting them know how many rides they can go on. Kids can then choose to be more selective with the tickets they have and decide which rides are most important to them (as in, is that House of Mirrors really worth my $3.00?) Some fairs offer a Ride-for-One-Price wristband which offers unlimited rides on certain days of the fair.

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair

Yes, my daredevils are on this ride!


Carnival Games

Set a budget on how much you’ll ultimately spend playing the carnival games. You don’t want to regret throwing $40 into a game trying to win a stuffed animal that’s only worth $3.

Shows Pig Races, Demolition Derby, Buggy Races, Magic Shows, Hypnotist, Live Bands & Concerts.

Print out the daily schedule before your visit and highlight the top attractions you’d like to hit. You won’t be able to see it all in one day. Get input from the rest of the family (take a vote) on which shows are a “must”.

We arrived just in time for my daughter to be the volunteer in a magic show. She was inside this box stuffed with umbrellas (what the illusionist was calling the Mary Poppin’s Box of Doom!).

Cheap fun at the Fair - www.savingupfordisney.com


Attractions, Exhibits & Demonstrations Petting Zoo, Wood Carving Demo, Gem exhibits, Home & Garden area, Butterflies, Arts & Crafts.

We saw big cows, had butterflies land on our shoulders, made a craft and watched a pottery show (and got a free vase from the potter). The toddler rode a little tractor and the big kids watched the wood carvers (who gave them each a free puzzle). All free stuff!

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair


Souvenirs

I had no intention of shopping but my son had a $5 bill burning a hole in his pocket. He found a booth selling cheap jewelry, three pieces for $4.99 and that satisfied the souvenir itch. If you know your kids are going to want to leave the fair with something have them bring a small amount of their own money and plan what they would like to buy in advance.


Free Concerts at the Fair

 

Competitions

A few years back I entered my Summer Pasta Salad recipe in a contest and won a second prize ribbon. Another year my son brought art painted in a specific theme and won a first place ribbon.

This year my kids were looking forward to trying one of the one-day competitions. My son was all about the Pie Eating Contest. He loved it and received a participant ribbon!

My daughter is the champion ice cream speed eater in our house so she was excited to enter the Ice Cream Eating Contest. She would have won too, if she’d not been picking around the pineapple in her banana split!

Budgeting for a Day at the County Fair

They both had fun and it was a free treat for them both!


Other Budgeting Tips for the Fair

Use cash only and leave the credit and debit cards at home.

Plan out your day ahead of time.

Eat before you go so you aren’t tempted to indulge in fair food. Conversely you could also pack a cooler with snacks and head out to the car when you want to eat.

Price out the bundle packages to figure out if they are worth it to your family. If the bundle includes features you won’t use, the cost might not be worth it to you.

Bottom Line: Do your research and plan ahead how much you intend to spend. This day could have easily cost us $150 or more. Instead I paid a total of $30 for our meals (and that could have been reduced as well, if we’d decided to pack in our lunch). Enjoy all the unique and free things that the fair has to offer!

 

DIY Recipe – Make your own Yummy Ice Pops for Cheap

There are hundreds of really fun and delicious looking ice pop recipes on Pinterest. I’ve pinned dozens. How many have I actually tried? Zero!

Watermelon Lime Popsicles

Even though I haven’t attempted to make the fancy gourmet pops we actually do still make ice pops at home. In fact my husband makes a batch every summer evening. We have a Zoku Quick Pop Maker but you can get less pricey ice pop mold sets at local stores. We like the Zoku because it takes less than 15 minutes to freeze six pops rather than overnight.

Cherry Limeade Pops

We use simple ingredients like 100% fruit juice from the store (sometimes we combine two flavors for variety) or freshly squeezed orange juice. Just pour it into the mold, freeze and done. Sometimes we drop in fresh fruit like strawberry slices or whole blueberries. Our kids love ice pops and we like that these are quick and cheap and we know exactly what ingredients we are putting in them.

Cranberry Lemonade Pops...yum!

Why spend $3.00 or more on a box of 8 ice pops from the store when you can buy a jug of juice and make 30 of them at home for the same price? I’m inspired by these yummy summery flavors here, I might have to try something more “gourmet” next time! Come over to my Pinterest page, where I have a pinboard dedicated to fun and easy money savers.

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