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Top Ways to Entertain Kids on a Budget While Camping in Summer

Taking the kids camping this summer? You’re going to have an absolute blast! Summer is a favorite time of year for our family because it’s when the entire country comes alive with things to do and see. 

Of course, we do still have to stick to our budget even when enjoying all of the summertime fun. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to have entertain kids on a budget while RVing. Here are some of the best options I’ve found. 

Enjoy Camping Fun

A family eating at a table in front of their RV at an RV site. Photo: Shutterstock.

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time for traditional camping fun. We love the usual camping activities because they are inexpensive, relaxing, and entertaining for the whole family. It’s also nice that we usually don’t even have to leave the campground to enjoy these types of activities, making them the perfect way to entertain kids on a budget.

Some of our favorite camping activities to do with the kids include:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Stargazing
  • Paddling
  • Campfires

Of course, you can add any activities your family loves to this list as well. Maybe you’re a crew of cyclists or a family of rock climbers. Make a point of doing those things together this summer as a way of reconnecting and having fun.

Find Summer Freebies

If you want to leave the campground, you may want to take advantage of the many free summer activities many communities have to offer. There are tons of options out there, making is easy to entertain kids on a budget.

Free (or Cheap) Summer Movies

Movie theaters all over the country offer free (or super cheap) family movie screenings throughout the summer months. On top of that, many cities will put on “Movie in the Park”-type events. Look for these free and cheap movie screenings in the communities you visit. 

Kids Skate Free

Kids Skate Free is a super cool program that allows kids to use skating rinks for free. You do have to pay $4.99 for a pass to each of the rinks you plan to visit, but this is super cheap as long as you visit more than once. Generally you will still be required to pay for rental skates, but if you have your own skates, you may be allowed to use those.

Kids Bowl Free

We also love the Kids Bowl Free program! This one is totally free and there are participating bowling centers all across the country. You will similarly have to pay for rental shoes, but I still think this one is a good deal, especially if you’ll be in one area for a few weeks and will use the pass several times. 

Summer Reading Programs

Most libraries host summer reading programs. Some include special in-person events throughout the summer, and all offer rewards to kids who read a certain amount. Check out the summer reading program options near you to see if there’s a special event you’d like to attend or a prize your kid may have earned just for reading their favorite books!

Free Museum Days

Museums tend to offer free days from time to time. This happens in the summer as well as throughout the rest of the year, and if you can catch a museum on a free (or discounted) day, you can see an awesome attraction while saving a small fortune. 

Concerts and Festivals

Summer is the outdoor festival season. It’s also the time of year when many outdoor concerts tend to happen. Check to see if any concerts or festivals happen to be going on in the places you’ll be visiting. These are often totally free to attend and are a great way to really get a feel for the community you’re visiting. 

Invest in Reciprocal Memberships

One of the ways we save the most money while traveling full time and entertain kids on a budget? Reciprocal memberships! If you’ll be RVing with the kids regularly this summer, you may want to look into buying a reciprocal membership (or two) of your own. 

We have the Kern County Museum Travelers Membership, which gives us free or discounted access to ASTC, NARM, ACM, and Time Travelers affiliated reciprocal museums. We also have an America the Beautiful pass, which gives us free admission to national parks across the US. Reciprocal theme park passes are also available for Six Flags Parks, Merlin Attractions, and Cedar Point Parks.

Note: To get access to a museum or zoo reciprocal program, simply join one of their member museums. Joining your local museum or zoo is usually the best way to go unless you’re traveling full-time. 

Head to Budget-Friendly Spots

Of course, where you go also makes a difference. Choosing a budget-friendly spot might just save you hundreds on attractions and entertainment. 

St. Louis, Missouri

We love St. Louis for all the freebies it has to offer. The St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the St. Louis Art Museum are all fantastic and free. You can also visit Gateway Arch National Park for free; just know you’ll have to pay to ride to the top of the arch itself.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison was another city where we enjoyed lots of free fun. We especially loved the Henry Vilas Zoo and the attached park. The National Mustard Museum and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens also offered free fun that our whole family enjoyed. 

San Antonio, Texas

Yet another budget-friendly city, San Antonio was a lot of fun for our crew. The Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and the Riverwalk are all must-sees and are all totally free to visit. We also loved the DoSeum children’s museum, which we visited with a reciprocal membership (although free nights are offered once a month). 

Cape May, New Jersey

Our visit to Cape May was another trip that was surprisingly affordable. The Cape May Zoo was the highlight of our trip, and admission to the zoo was totally free. We also enjoyed Wildwood Beach, Cape May Point State Park, and looking for “Cape May diamonds” at Sunset Beach, all without spending a dime. 

National Parks

If you get an America the Beautiful pass—or if you qualify for a senior pass or access pass—national parks always make good picks for fun and affordable RV getaways. If you can, camp within the parks themselves for an extra special experience!

Clearly, there are plenty of ways to have fun with kids while RVing in summer without breaking the bank. Which options will you incorporate into your next RV getaway?

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