- Written by Stephanie Arsenault; Photo: PhotoXpress.com
Summer is here, the kids are out of school and the sun is shining. What’s next? Beat summer boredom without breaking the bank with these 10 budget-friendly, family-fun tips:
1. House swap. Everyone wants to go on a summer vacation, but going out of town can be pricey. Hotels, dining out, entertainment - it all adds up! The answer: Get in touch with a friend in another town (or another province) and swap houses for a week! It will give both families an inexpensive vacation, and you’ll have all the comforts of home at your fingertips - including a kitchen where you can prepare cheap, healthy meals. Don’t have anyone to swap with? Check out home exchange websites like www.intervac.ca, www.homelink.ca and www.homeexchange.com to find like-minded, vacation-savvy folks.
2. Go on an art walk. Children love art; they just might not know it yet! After all, every child loves to draw, paint and play with play dough or clay. Get your kids inspired by taking them to various local galleries, noting the different styles, colors and themes. Have them pick out a favorite and when you get home, get them to try to recreate it using the medium of their choice. Lastly, frame and display their creations for the whole family to admire.
3. Bike through Glenbow Ranch. One of the newest provincial parks in Alberta, Glenbow Ranch boasts more than 25 kilometres of pathway along the Bow River (much of which is paved) making it the perfect destination for a family bike or walk. Take a picnic, bring lots of water and lather on the sunscreen for a day the whole family will enjoy! Just remember to leave nothing behind and pack up your garbage before you leave. For more information on the park, visit www.grpf.ca.
4. Go on a treasure hunt. Geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt and is fun for the whole family! All you need to do is sign up for a membership at www.geocaching.com (it’s free!), follow a few simple steps and go find your treasure using your smartphone or GPS device. After you find the cache, leave something for the next treasure hunters and keep the fun going. The coolest part about this activity is that it is truly engaging for people of all ages, and you can do it virtually anywhere in the world. It could be the answer to a case of the mid-summer blahs, or it could be a really exciting adventure while on vacation; it’s up to you!
5. Rainy-day crafting. There are bound to be more than a few not-so-nice days this summer. You know the ones: chilly, rainy, “mom, I’m bored!” days. Get the kids out of the house and using their creative minds (and fingers!) on some crafts! For about $15 per child (prices vary greatly depending on the program), your little ones can spend the day making wonderful creations at your local Michaels store. Visit www.michaels.com and click on ‘classes’ for more information.
6. Frozen fruit pops. Hot days require popsicles! They keep you cool and are a delicious, sweet treat at the end of a busy day. They’re also loaded with sugar and dyes, and can be pretty pricey. Rather than picking up a box of frozen pops next time you’re at the store, grab some bamboo skewers and assorted fruit (bananas, berries, mangoes and peaches work extremely well). When you get home, chop up the fruit, if necessary, and thread them onto the skewers. Place the skewers on a wax or parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to large freezer bags, or wrap individually in wax paper (twisting at the ends to close) or plastic wrap; this way, you’ll always have a yummy frozen treat on hand without the expense or unhealthy ingredients of the store-bought variety.
7. Ice cream sundae Sundays. It’s tough to keep a routine during the summer, so when you have the opportunity to do something on a regular basis, do it! What better way than to create a family routine than to make it a tasty one? So every Sunday evening, fill bowls with a variety of chopped fruits, nuts, grated dark chocolate and whatever else your family likes on ice cream and create a DIY sundae bar! Make a healthy berry sauce to top it all off with by bringing a couple cups of berries, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 Tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon cornstarch to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until berries have broken down and the sauce has thickened. To make this a nutritious, high-protein treat, substitute the ice cream with Greek yogurt.
8. Cook outside. When it’s 25 degrees outside and the sun is blaring in your windows, the last thing you want to do is cook over a hot stove after a long day, isn’t it? Keep cool by grilling outdoors on hot days or even use the side burner on a BBQ if your meal requires the use of a pot or pan. Prepare green salads, pasta dishes (toss cooked cold pasta with a few veggies, salad dressing and some grilled meat or canned fish), or sandwiches ahead of time for an extra-simple mealtime.
9. Discounted adventures. There’s a reason people are so loyal to discount websites and deal apps (think www.Groupon.ca, www.rdeals.ca, and www.travelzoo.ca), and it’s because they really do save you money. Sign up for one or two, if only for the summer, and you could save big bucks on events like the Stampede, or at local attractions such as Calaway Park. Also, when typically expensive activities are cheaper than usual, you may be more likely to do cool things like whitewater rafting, zip-lining or paintballing with your family. Make the most out of summer, and save money while doing it!
10. Ditch the TV. Are your kids addicted to television? Cut their time in front of the tube and your cable bill by switching off for the summer. It’ll encourage them to get outside, get active and entertain themselves with reading and other activities. It’ll also give you a bit of cash stashed away for a rainy day, or to help out with all of the back-to-school purchases at the end of the summer.
Stephanie is a freelance writer specializing in travel and food writing. For more information, visit www.stephaniearsenault.ca.