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3 Kids' tips for cheap summer fun

Summer is such an exciting time. The days are long and the nights are warm, which is perfect for star gazing.


Camping at Milford Lake

Swimming pools are open and the air is full of the possibilities for fun adventures. Your kids might already be counting down the days until school ends (I know mine are). They might even be asking what exciting plans you’ve made for their summer vacation.

Maybe you’ve been planning, scrimping and saving for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World or Hawaii. Or maybe, just maybe, you didn’t give it any thought until the first time they asked, and you’re not quite sure how you’ll fit fun into the budget. If the latter is you, I've got suggestions for cheap fun close to home.


Vacation or staycation?

painted toto

Painted Toto in front of the
Wamego Public Library

Last summer we had a family visit planned that didn’t pan out, but I still had the time off from work and the kids were out of school. To help ease their disappointment, we let each kid plan their own special day including some of their favorite things. They picked what meals we’d have and two activities, one of which needed to include physical activity. It was more fun than I could have guessed. We also discovered some fun sites like the Wamego Aquatic Center, which has a lazy river, exciting slides and was just the right size and challenge for my kids.

What do the kids want to do?

I asked each of my kids what their ideal summer vacation would be if they didn’t have much money. Here are their responses

  • 12 year old: “I think you could research good local places and see what they have there.” Some personal favorites include:
  • 8 year old: “I would go on a camping trip! We could toast marshmallows, wake up in the morning and smell the eggs and bacon, and watch the sunrise and the sunset.” Her other advice was that if you’re not used to camping, you can do backyard camping, with all the amenities of home but the fun of sleeping under the stars. We recently began offering free Kansas State Parks passes, so you can stop in the library and pick up a free single day vehicle permit.
  • 10 year old: “You could go on a road trip to visit friends and family. If you pack snacks, you don’t have to buy stuff at a gas station. Then you can stay with the friends instead of at a hotel, or you could do car camping.” Another idea is to road trip with friends so you can split food and lodging costs.

Supplementary ideas from an adult


Visiting murals in Topeka

My husband also shared a fun idea of going on a Topeka playground tour. Choose a number of parks at random from the Shawnee County Parks & Rec website or open an online map of the area and choose them that way. Wherever you go you have to spend at least 20 minutes exploring. He also mentioned a few of his favorites including a visit to the Statehouse, mural tour or, if you have the time and gas money, a hike through the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

Wherever you go and whatever you do this summer, make sure you take some time to relax and enjoy the people you’re with. That’s what vacation is really all about.


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