Written by Spotloan

One of the best things about the summer is all that extra family time it affords. But it’s also true that activities and trips can quickly add up to more than we’re prepared to pay. The average cost of day camp has more than doubled to $178 per day in 2022, compared to just $76 last year

And the cost of sleepaway camps has nearly tripled to $449 per day. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap summer trip options for families. From affordable day trips and local explorations to free activities and backyard parties, here are some of our favorite family-friendly summer ideas that work well when you’re on a budget

Day Trip Ideas

When you’re looking for cheap summer trips for families, focus on local first. Local beaches, parks, and even state parks are often some of the cheapest vacation locations out there since they are usually free or low cost. Even the ones that require payment for parking usually offer a significantly discounted rate for state residents. 

Bring snacks to avoid unexpected food stops, cards or games everyone will enjoy, and enjoy some time outdoors. And don’t forget the sunblock and bug spray! If you’re running low on supplies, stop at a dollar store to stock up before you head out. 

Last-minute purchases at gas stations or other convenience stores can be costly. Our desperation or lack of better options when we’re on the road allows gas stations to charge up to four times more than you’d spend on the same items in a grocery store. 

Weekends Away 

After beaches and various levels of parks, campsites rank among some of the cheapest vacation locations, especially if you’ve already got the supplies at home. Round up your tent, sleeping bags, and lanterns, put those mobile devices away, and get ready to reconnect. 

If you’ve got young kids to entertain, look for campsites that have a pool, lake, or a wide selection of activities. Some even offer different activities for different age groups, like game shows, sack races, and sand castle competitions. 

All it takes to find a list of options is to search for campsites in your state. Working your way out from the closest one, visit their websites for rates, openings, and available activities. If possible, try to plan ahead. Popular campsites may fill up quickly.  

Affordable Explorations 

Looking to venture out of your town without camping for the weekend? There are a few budget-friendly methods of exploration. Two favorites are train travel and affordable boat tours or rentals. These travel modes are often so exciting that they act as activities, as well. 

Find a scenic train route or a local lake you can explore, and then get ready for an exciting day out. As a bonus, these activities can be repeated in the fall when the foliage turns the surrounding landscape into a natural kaleidoscope, and you’ll already have scoped out your favorite spots to return to. 

Free Activities to Explore During the Summer of 2022

Sometimes, wandering around your town and participating in free activities is enough to satisfy the itch. Play disc golf on your green, pack a picnic to enjoy at the park, or browse your local library. Chances are, your library has way more than books to offer. 

Most of them also have tons of DVDs, board games, and jigsaw puzzles you can borrow. Plus, many host free reading groups, arts and crafts classes, and other fun activities. Pick out a few books or movies, and then ask about upcoming summer 2022 activities you can put on your calendar.  

Party in Your Own Backyard 

When all else fails, find the fun right outside your back door. Grab snacks, drinks, and a blanket to have a picnic on the grass. Break out all your yard games and a set of speakers to turn things up. Or print a free scavenger hunt and race to the finish line. 

You could also bring out your laptop and popcorn for a movie night in the grass, use pillowcases to challenge your young ones to a makeshift sack race, roast marshmallows around the fire pit, or play board games while enjoying the fresh air. 

If you want to make it feel like more of an escape, break out the tent and sleeping bags and go camping in your backyard. Bring out flashlights and books to get the full effect. Just be warned that it might be hard to get your kids back inside once the weekend’s over!

Still looking for more great ideas of things to do this summer with breaking the bank? Check out some more ways to save money on summer vacation, tips for planning a low budget getaway, or summer projects for kids that you can do on a budget.