Cheap family activity swaps for when you are on a budget

Posted in Family.

If Christmas didn’t put a dint in your bank balance, then the holidays probably have. We are now at the ‘I’ve run out of money’ end of a lovely summer break and if you are like me, you’re looking for some cheapy ideas to keep the family fun flowing.

While I could list all the freebie stuff like beaches, playgrounds and bushwalks, which are all totally great and won’t cost you a cent, I know you already know about that stuff. This post isn’t about that. Rather, these are some cheeky activity swap ideas for when you’d like to splurge on an outing, but know you really need to reel it in.

See aquarium fish for free

If you’d love to take the kids to see fish at the city aquarium but the $110+ family entry fee is out of the question, then consider doing what I did a few weeks ago. We told our boys (aged four and two) that we were going to the aquarium, and then we drove them to our amazing local fish aquarium shop instead. They’re too little to know the difference between the scaly friends they see swimming in a tank at head height or the ones they need to squeeze through a crowd to get a glimpse of.

We made a day of it, bought them a couple of $1 toy fish from the shop and then had a picnic lunch in the park after. And you know what? They keep asking to go back to the ‘aquarium’!  It was honestly one of the best days and the biggest cost was the petrol to get there.      

Aquarium shop

Aquarium shop

Sam and goldfish

Bring the movies home

The movies is an exy affair when you have to factor in an adult ticket as well as the kids. BUT, you can still enjoy a family flick by making your home the ultimate cinema. If you have a projector, you could set up a moonlight outdoor cinema with cushions and string up a sheet for a screen, but if you don’t, then have fun transforming your living room into movie magic. Pull out a mattress on the floor, toss every pillow in the house on it, pop some popcorn in the microwave and place it in little paper bags, or serve special treat choc tops out of the freezer. You could even give the kids tickets to hand to you as ‘entry’ to movie night.   

Home outdoor cinema

Ride free rides 

A trip to a theme park may not be in the budget at this late stage of the holidays, but thankfully, little kids get cheap thrills and that’s where your Opal card comes in. Kids under three ride on buses, trains and ferries for FREE and kids over four get a concession fare, so why not make a day of day tripping your local city on public transport? You could splurge on an ice cream but make it all about the journey, not about the destination. If you live in Sydney, the new yellow double decker buses are a real thrill for little ones (and yes, you may end up singing Wheels On The Bus as you sit up top and watch the world go by).   

Leon and Sam on a double decker bus

Swap the zoo for a petting zoo

The zoo is such an exciting but costly day out. My kids love it and we are Taronga Zoo Friends so we go often enough, but I’ve come to realise the stuff they are most into is actually not so much the zoo. They love the playgrounds at the zoo, the ice block I always buy them and riding the ‘Sky Safari’. On the other hand our local farmer’s market has a petting zoo, is next door to a playground and we can ride the bus there, which my boys LOVE. Oh, and there’s a little stall selling healthier juice versions of  Icy Poles.

Have a think about what places near you may have animals for your littlies to cuddle with, minus the ‘oh crap, I did not just spend that much’ ticket price. Think school holiday events, markets or even taking a drive out of town to feed some horses.

Girl with petting zoo goat

Check out local free events and ditch the museums

City museums are a fantastic day out but as well as being a costly adventure they can be painful when little children get tired or over it. Around now your local shopping centre, library, cafes and even pubs will be hosting an array of school holiday fun. While not all of it will be free, some of it will be. Over the last few weeks my boys have gotten their face painted in the bistro of our local pub, jumped on a huge inflatable flamingo at the mall, had a guest author read them a story at the library and had a surprise balloon maker rock up to our local RSL cafe.

The point is, you may not have to trek far to find fun in your area. Chat to other local mums about what’s going on and you’ll soon be in the know. 


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