5 Ways to Save Money on Family Activities

For a lot of families money is tight right now and even though they want to plan family activities and adventures, they feel constrained in doing so.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  In fact there are many ways to save.

Look For FREE Activities

You will be surprised at the quantity and variety of FREE family activities in Northeast Ohio.  Some are held during specific dates and times, but many are available year round, giving your family the flexibility to fit them into their busy schedules.

  • Geocaching – Take your family on an outdoor, scavenger hunt adventure, to find hidden treasure. Okay, the treasure is small but the adventure of finding the hidden containers, called geocaches, is huge.  You will need a GPS device or a GPS enabled mobile phone. Go to the Geocaching website to learn more.
  • Nature Centers –Many of the Metro Parks in Northeast Ohio have Nature Centers which regularly host free nature based educational events. While there take time to enjoy the great outdoors by exploring the hiking trails.
  • Libraries – Visit your local library for a fun and educational experience.  Participate in story times, special reading events and contests, and introduce your children to the joy of reading.

How to Save Money on Food

It’s inevitable that someone will get hungry during your outing but the high cost of fast food can be avoided. With a little planning it might even be the highlight of the day.

  • Brown Bag It – If your outing is planned over the lunch/dinner hour take a few minutes to pack a healthy meal to take along.  If you’ve traditionally purchased meals your family may resists this but change their mindset by making the meal fun and  memorable.  For example, have some portion of the meal relate to the day’s activity.  Heading to the zoo, pack some animal crackers.  On a trip to a Nature Center, bring a “dirt dessert” made with pudding, cookie crumbs and gummy worms.
  • Plan a Picnic – Bring a blanket, eat outdoors, and enjoy the fresh air.  If there is a park nearby, go there and let the kids play on the playground.
  • Pack some snack items like pretzels, fruit, or granola bars. Active children burn up energy fast, and don’t forget about drinks.  Reusable bottles are a great option because they can be easily refilled.

Save on Restaurants

There may be some occasions when it is more convenient to buy food.  If that’s the case, consider these options to reduce the cost.

  • Purchase just a portion of the meal – Pack lunches, but treat everyone to dessert or buy   sandwiches, but bring your own sides (chips, fruit and drinks).
  • Split Meals – Order one entrée and split it. This works great for young children who don’t typically eat an entire meal.

Group Savings

It may seem counter-intuitive for it to be less expensive if more people are coming, but there are a variety of cost savings opportunities for large groups.   And as a bonus you’ll get to share the experience with additional friends and family members.

  • Group Rates – The Cleveland Aquarium, Cleveland and Akron Zoo, and The Akron Civic Theatre are just a few local attractions that offer discounted group rates.
  • Car Pool – Share the cost of gas.
  • Simplify Mealtime – Ask each family to bring an item to share with the group.

Consider Membership & Reciprocal Programs

If you visit a location multiple times a year, it’s often beneficial to purchase a membership.  However, even if you don’t plan to visit multiple times, a membership can still save you money if the location participates in a reciprocal program.  Reciprocal programs are when multiple locations join together and offer FREE or discounted admittance to anyone who is a member of one of the locations.

For example, let’s say your family of four enjoys visiting museums and science centers.  Purchasing a family membership to The Cleveland Museum of Natural History would cost you approximately $25 more than paying for the one day admittance.  However, with that membership, you also get in FREE at over 200 Science Centers and Museums around the country.  This includes Ohio attractions such as COSI, The McKinley Museum & Discovery World, Imagination Station, and The Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science.  Therefore, even though it cost more initially, if you visit just one additional museum, you will see significantly savings.

Most memberships to area museums, science centers, and zoos are part of reciprocal programs.  Be sure to read the fine print carefully so you understand how the reciprocal program works and what discounts are available.

Explore Special Discounts and Price Matching

Another way to save is to take advantage of special discounts and promotions.   You’d be surprised at the variety of discounts offered.

  • Reduced Rates – Before visiting an attraction, check if they offer any special discounts.  These discounts may include: Resident Discounts, Out of Town Guest Discounts. Military Discounts, Boy & Girl Scout Discounts, Student Discounts, AAA Member Discounts, Homeschool Discounts, and many more.  Typically the discounts won’t be highly publicized, so check the attractions websites before you go.  The cost savings will be well worth your time.
  • Cleveland Plus Pass – If you plan to visit multiple Cleveland attractions within the same week (think Spring Break or Summer Vacation), purchase a Plus Pass.  The pass grants you admission into 10 different attractions including area museums, zoos, and gardens.
  • rice Matching – Ask if they’ll honor a competitor’s coupon or match a lower price offered at a similar attraction.  Worst case, they’ll tell you no.  Best case, you’ll end up saving some money.

As you can tell, there are many ways to participate in fun family activities and adventures without spending a lot of money.  Why not try out one or two during your next family outing?

Danielle is the mother of two young kids and strives to enjoy the simple things in life.  She writes about the family friendly attractions, events and activities taking place in Northeast Ohio and hopes to encourage families to Find Time for Fun!

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