7 Ideas for Spring Break on a Budget

Every year at Spring Break* hordes of children stream out of schools across the country, ready to be entertained for a whole week. So what do you do with them?

Of course the classic Spring Break plan is to take the whole family on a trip someplace fantastic. I don’t know about you, but a big expensive vacation isn’t in the financial cards this year. Never fear-there are plenty of great ideas for having fun without busting your budget.

Here are my top 7 ideas for a great Spring Break on a Budget:


1. Do nothing.

Yes, you read that right. In today’s time of overscheduled kids who you run from school to sports to activities. . . then home just in time to bolt down some dinner (if you didn’t eat it in the car), scramble to do some homework and then hit the hay. . . well a week of totally unscheduled, unplanned time where your kids can sleep late, play creatively (or for older kids just spend some time reading, hanging out or working on a hobby) and generally relax may be just what the doctor ordered.

Photo by Gaetan Lee

2. Play Tourist

I grew up playing tourist during school breaks and the summers in Maine. My mom would load all FIVE of us kids in the car and we’d hit all the tourist spots. You know, the ones that folks come from out of state to visit but locals never actually think to bring their kids to. In Maine we’d go to Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park, head to Camden to see Andre the seal (he was still alive then) and any local fairs and festivals that were occuring. Here in Upstate NY I could head to Cooperstown, or up to Ithaca for all sorts of touristy goodness. If you cut down on costs by packing a lunch and snacks, many of these trips can be inexpensive or even free.

Not sure what sort of touristy goodness there is in your area? For shame! Just contact your local chamber of commerce, search online, or stop at one of those “tourist centers” on the highway near you and pick up all the shiny little fliers.

3. Hit the Museums

Every metro area has your big museums, usually at least an art museum & a science museum. But there are usually lots of little, less well known museums scattered about. Within a 30 minute drive of our house (and we live in a tiny village in the sticks) there is a model train museum (open only 1 day a week) an antique car museum & a small art museum. If you extend that to an hour radius you get a 3 additional art museums, 2 science museums and a plethora of smaller, more specific museums (Ithaca, Syracuse & Scranton are all within an hour). Call ahead (or search the internet) to see if the museums run any “free” days. If not check into museum member ship costs (if you go frequently enough it can be a bargain) or reciprocal museum memberships (ie you can use another membership there as well)


road trip

4. Road Trip to Family

Some of us are lucky enough to live within a day drive of family. If you do, consider planning a trip. Go to grandmas and do all the same local tourist and museum stuff there-it will be totally new and different! We are lucky to have one Nana right down the street-a sleepover at her house is still considered a great treat. The other Nana lives 4 hours away on Long Island-and a trip there means the opportunity to head into the city and see all KINDS of fabulous things. Pick and choose carefully and this can be a very frugal visit.


5. Look for Local Programs

Many libraries run special programs during school breaks for the younger school age kids. Stop by yours and see what’s up! There are also churches who hold vacation bible school. If your paper has an “events” section keep your eye out for low cost or free classes that may be offered during your break.



6. Volunteer

Why not help others while keeping the kids occupied? I’m sure there are tons of opportunities to volunteer in your local area-ask around and see what you find. You could visit a nursing home, help with a habitat house, or serve food at the soup kitchen. Older kids could even take the week and head out on a missionary or volunteering trip.


Kid Hiking

7. Get Outside

Spring break still has the possibility of being pretty cold here in Upstate NY, but that isn’t the case in much of the country. Consider using your spring break for some outside bonding time with the family. Go hiking or biking at the closest state park, have a picnic, or find your local nature center and see what types of outdoor activities they have going on. Again, many of these events are inexpensive or free.

What great frugal spring break ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them.

And don’t forget, this Monday’s Frugal Coast2Coast show is all about Spring Break On the Cheap. Tune in Monday Night at 8:30 EST for more great ideas! It’s a call in show, so we’d love to hear from you live on the air. And if you tend to forget, you can just click on the “remind me” button on the player and set an automatic email reminder.

*I know, I know, Spring Break is still a ways away. Planning however can start now!

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  1. Mom says

    Great post! In these uncertain economic times it is very timely as well as informative for all times. And these are fun for the parents and children and help to build memories.
    And thank you for letting me know that as a Mom I created good memories and contributed to the ‘foundation of fugality’. I love you and am very proud of you.
    Your Mom

  2. Amanda says

    Growing up our various school vacations were spent at home, almost always. I remember one vacation to Washington DC over the summer, but that was it. Other school breaks were spent at home, chores, working (after age 16–got more hours over breaks!), visiting/babysitting for my aunt an hour’s drive away, visiting local museums and short day-trips to various educations sites. I remember going to a model train museum–maybe it was yours!

    I love the staycation idea for adults, too–playing tourist in your own town is great!

    I sometimes babysit for friends when they need to go out of town for a few days and their son needs to stay in school. During those times I like to make it seem special for the kid, too–like it’s sort of his vacation away from his parents. So I take him to the movies (something he doesn’t get to do a lot because the family prefers to rent), or set up a game night with other folks (another thing his family doesn’t do) and a build-your-own-pizza night with halved english muffins and DIY toppings. Kids love that.

    The point is, do something that’s out of your normal routine to make it special for the kiddos.

  3. Sharon says

    If you come to Cooperstown you can be tourist and see Museums!! We’ve got both. :-) The Farmers’ Museum is doing sugaring off on Sundays so you can make maple syrup candy in the snow and eat pancakes.

    I enjoy reading your posts – nice to have another voice in UNY.


  4. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    Mom-Of course I remember those trips! You always took us to do such fun stuff.

    Amanda-Your point exactly right-Something out of the ordinary is special for kids-it might not be a trip to Disney, but rather a trip to Aunties!

    Sharon-I do want to take the kids to Cooperstown. I also think I should take the kids to Niagra this break or summer. . .

  5. Angel says

    Great ideas. A strict budget is actually required to be followed in this spring break. In the current financial scenario it has become important to make use of this leisure time with a sense of control over finances. With a little planning and forethought, one can fully enjoy the break without losing all his money.

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