Spring break is quickly approaching, and for many of us that means figuring out a way to entertain our children without breaking the bank. Spring break is strange in that not everyone has the time off together, and even though it happens smack dab in the quiet season for vacationing, prices for trips can become quickly inflated, making travel out of reach for many families. Thankfully, there are a ton of options for spring break that don't rely on fancy trips. These spring break ideas for families on a budget I've found are more than enough fun and adventure without the hefty price tag.
The first thing is that you need to be honest about your budget. You don't want to go into a ton of debt just trying to have a good time, because in the long run, that will stop you from having any fun. You also need to know just how much time you'll have together. It might be only a long weekend, or a few days midweek. Between work schedules, extracurriculars, lessons, and life, spring break isn't always the seven-day bonanza it was in undergrad. Plan in time for traveling, and add several hours — if not an entire day — to deal with the inanities that accompany traveling with children. You won't regret it.
I know, you're tired of hearing about staycations. I am, too. But they can be really fun if you put some thought into it. Go on Yelp, Zagat, or TripAdvisor and find what people in your city (or the nearest city to you) love to do. Write a bunch of ideas on strips of paper and fold them up. Put those in a jar, and on each day, have your kids pull one out, and that's what you'll do. It doesn't have to be all museums or amusement parks, either. Activities like "have a picnic at a new-to-us park" or "build a mini golf course in the backyard," can be on there as well.
It took me a long, long time to warm up to the idea of camping. My husband is an outdoorsy dude — loves camping and bonfires and other things that put you in close proximity to wildlife and insects. I like reading on patios, drinking beer in front of bonfires on the beach, and my idea of "roughing it" has long been a hotel without a mini bar. But then my husband introduced me to cabin camping and "glamping" at resorts like KOA, and my life is changed. It's got all the outdoorsy stuff he likes, and all the electricity I expect. Also, it's reasonable on the cost side. There are camping resorts all over the country, so it's not hard to find one nearby.
3. Day Trips
I love looking at the map, finding somewhere within three hours of travel, and whisking off for the day. Sometimes I get a hotel room for the night, sometimes my husband and I make the drive. But three hours is just far enough away that it's special, and close enough to home that it's doable. From where I live in New York City, that could mean a trip to Baltimore, Maryland, Mystic, Connecticut, or Allentown, Pennsylvania. Someplace new and exciting for just a short while.
4. Spring Break Camps
Stuck working while your kids are at home? Yeah, me too. This year our spring breaks just don't align. I've got dissertation prep and they've got a big hole in their schedule. Thank goodness that there museums and youth organizations all over the country that offer spring break camps at reasonable prices. Space is usually limited, so you might be looking for next year already, but it's worth it. My kids always have a ton of fun and I don't have to worry about where they're going to spend their hours. They're educational and recreational.
5. When In Doubt, Go To The Library
Libraries are one of our finest institutions, and not just for the books. They have program after program for kids and adults alike. Most libraries do something awesome for spring break, and missing it would be a very sad thing indeed. Book clubs, STEM camps, and art lessons are just a few of the spring break activities available at libraries across the United States.
6. Paint The Kids' Rooms
It sounds silly but hear me out. For under $100 per room, if your kids are elementary or older, you can keep them excited and occupied all week long. They'll be camping out in the living room until it's over, they get to choose all new colors for their walls, and they get to help decorate it. Plus, you get to cover up that artwork they made with sharpies on the wall from when they were 2. My mom did this with me and my sister once, and it's still one of my favorite memories. She chose rainbow wallpaper, I chose what is now referred to as "millennial pink." (Before it was cool.) Throw in some spring cleaning for the rest of the house, and you've had a really great week.