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How to Give Your Kids a Great Summer Vacation Without Breaking the Budget

By Royal Bank of Canada

Published June 14, 2024 • 6 Min Read

Schools out, now what?

Summer’s here, school’s out, and the kids are home. If you’re wondering how you’ll keep your kids busy and amused for over the next two months when you’re crunched for cash, here’s help.

Summer activities can be costly

Summers can be expensive, especially if you want to travel as a family or send your kids to camp. Even a simple weekend road trip by car may set you back financially with the increased costs of restaurants, hotels and gas. As for summer camps, you can expect to spend up to $1,000 a week for a traditional overnight camp and up to $500 a week for a day camp.

Budget-friendly ideas for summer fun

While your budget may rule out a family trip overseas, a pricey summer camp stay, or a few weeks by the lake at a rented cottage, your kids don’t have to go without a fun-filled and memorable summer vacation. With some creativity, research and planning, you can find many budget-friendly (often free) summer activities for kids aged zero to 15.

A great place to start is with your local library. In addition to lending out books, most libraries offer free or low-cost programs and activities for kids of different age groups to enjoy all year round. Check your local library’s website or notice board for this year’s summer schedule.

Another option is your local Boys and Girls Club (BGC). In addition to running lower-cost day camps compared to traditional day camps, BGC offers an array of other summer programs, such as creative arts, gaming, and sports for children ages 4 to 15.

As for what kind of summer activities may appeal to your kids, here are some cost-effective summer activity ideas by age group:

Ages zero to 5  

  • Story time or playgroup for infants and toddlers

  • Art or music appreciation classes (for children 2 and up)

  • Create a list of things to find and then take your kids for a walking scavenger hunt

  • Visits to the local playground or community splash pad

  • Blowing bubbles  

Ages 6-10  

  • Swimming lessons at the local community pool

  • Craft classes

  • Making a bird feeder

  • Doing a science experiment

  • Creating homemade slime  

Ages 11-15  

  • Sewing or cooking classes

  • Chess club

  • Organizing a yard or garage sale

  • Learning to make friendship bracelets

  • Volunteering in the community  

Summer activities you can do with your kids

You may also want to weave some family activities into your summer vacation plans. Start by looking at what’s happening close to home. Perhaps an exhibit at a local museum or art gallery would interest your child — or maybe even a children’s museum if you live in a larger city. Check out what’s playing at the drive-in or movie theatre, or set up your own outdoor movie night. Also, check to see if any free concerts or community events are taking place.

Consider organizing a family afternoon of bowling or mini-golfing (some venues offer discounts or coupons on certain days of the week). If you have a child who’s interested in policing or firefighting, check to see if your local police or fire station offers tours. 

Chances are there are some awesome attractions near you that you’ve vowed to visit one day. Now is the time to make good on that promise. Organize a family day trip to some of the hidden gems you’ve been ignoring in your home or a town nearby.

If you live near a beach or park, plan a picnic with fun activities, like a game of ball, hide and seek, or some frisbee toss. If that’s not an option, have a picnic at home. Visits to local farmers’ markets, country fairs, or berry farms can also be excellent sources of entertainment and education for kids. And it’s a way to support your local community.

If you want to venture further afield, consider a family camping trip. Campgrounds are generally cheaper to rent than hotels or motels, and kids get to experience nature, roasting marshmallows and sitting around a campfire. If campsite fees are outside your budget, set up a tent in your backyard.

If you live near a river or conservation area, your kids might enjoy a day (or even a half-day) learning to fish and, who knows, contribute to a family meal.

Consider season passes 

If you’re planning multiple visits to a theme park, fair, or exhibition, a season pass may be more economical than a day pass. Similarly, if your child plans to use a community pool or tennis court regularly, a season pass may be worth the spend. Otherwise, the daily admission fee is likely your better option. And if you’re planning to visit one of Canada’s national parks or historical sites, remember children under 17 get free admission.

Getting a summer job

Kids may wish to get a summer job as they mature and gain independence. This can be an empowering opportunity for them. Not only are they earning their own income, but they are also gaining valuable job skills and work experience for their resumes.  

In Canada, teen labour laws vary by province and territory. In some areas, youth as young as 12 can get a job with the consent of a parent or guardian.

What type of summer jobs can youths take on? 

  • Lifeguard: In Ontario, for example, teens as young as 15 can work as lifeguards, provided they have the necessary training and qualifications.

  • Retail: Some restaurants and retail establishments, like garden centres, employ teens as young as 14 or 15 (parent or guardian consent may be needed).

  • Tutoring: A child who’s a math whiz, a budding scientist, or fluent in another language may enjoy working as a virtual tutor. These jobs tend to pay more than minimum wage and offer an opportunity for children to develop their teaching skills. Teens can find these positions (and other jobs for kids 15 and under) on LinkedIn and

  • Entrepreneur: Another option is starting an online business. A teen who likes to make jewelry or crafts might enjoy selling their creations online. Kids can get into other online businesses, such as making YouTube videos, selling digital products, or even selling old toys. 

Younger children may still be able to earn money during the summer by babysitting, dog walking, or providing garden services, like lawn mowing, to neighbours and friends.  

Summer vacation is a favourite time of year for many kids. With an arsenal of fun-filled activity ideas to keep them entertained, you can give them a summer to remember — without breaking the budget.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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