When I was a kid, summer was the best.  We played, went to summer camp, played, went on vacation, played, went swimming… you get the idea.  Now that I’m a parent, summer is still pretty awesome.  But it’s pretty expensive, too!  Vacation spots are at a premium, camp is pricey, and activities for kids are crazy expensive.  So how can a modern family have a great summer without going broke?

Limit camps.  For many parents summer camp is a necessity because they work.  That doesn’t mean your kid has to go to the Julliard of camps.  Check with your local Parks & Rec Department for town-run camps, which are much cheaper, and probably more convenient.  If your kids are passionate about a sport or activity, limit the amount of specialty camps and extra activities they sign up for.  Even better, have older kids earn they’re own money to pay for those things!

One vacation.  Every time you go away you have to pay for transportation, car/plane food, and of course, gas.  Not to mention all the time you spend travelling to and from different places is completely unproductive time – you’re not at work and you’re not on vacation – you’re in limbo.  Simplify things by going away just once and exploring your local area with staycations.

Check out your library.  Public libraries often have free or discounted passes to local attractions that you can check out, just like a book.  We’ve been to the zoo, the aquarium, the kid’s museum, and other fun places without paying more than a few dollars each time.

Invest in your home.  A few years ago we decided that rather than taking a big vacation with a toddler, we’d invest in making our home a fun place to be.  We put up a nice play area in the yard, and got some new, better quality furniture for our living room (where we spend most of our time).

Season passes.  If there’s an activity your family loves to do, consider getting a season pass for your family.  Local parks, beaches, amusement parks, etc. typically offer season passes which pay for themselves in just a couple of visits.  It helps to have a go-to activity on those days when there seems to be nothing to do, and with a season pass you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s in the budget.  It’s already paid for!

So, while it’s easy to go on a spending spree during the summer months – some of us have waited a LONG time for the warm weather – you don’t have to go broke to have a great summer vacation.

What are your best tips for a frugal, yet fabulous, summer break?