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Surviving the Summer Festival
By Brenda Hyde

Summer days are filled with festivals, fairs and shows of all types. I love this kind of summer fun for families but it can be expensive and even frustrating, if you aren't prepared. I have some tips that can make your festival experience fun and frugal if you are careful!

-Decide ahead where you are going and watch the local newspapers for guides and schedules. This is SO important. You will find tips on free or cheaper parking, locations of activities and events that you want to attend, and you can discuss it as a family AHEAD of time, so you aren't flying by the seat of your pants once you get there!

-Bring water or juice with you in a compact cooler with refillable cups if possible. Drinks are often a huge expense and while it's SO important to stay hydrated in the summer, you don't want to spend a chunk of your budget on this, so bring your own! When it's gone, look for drinking fountains and refill your cups.

-What else to bring? Wet wipes, sunscreen, a thin blanket that can be rolled up easily (for sitting on the grass or using as a cover in case of rain), hats, sunglasses, camera, extra change of clothes and some type of activity or toy if you have a toddler or baby (see below).

-Many activities are geared towards four and up, so if you do have kids younger than this be prepared to occupy them if necessary while their siblings are busy. Toddlers love face painting, story telling and music of any kind, so look for events that include these first, but they love sitting on a blanket playing with mom or dad too when the other kids are busy with the older activities.

-Eating is actually the biggest expense and can be the most aggravating.  Talk ahead of time with the kids about your plans.  When we were on a shoestring budget we would go after lunch or supper and sometimes we didn't even buy food, but opted for free activities. Those were some of the best outings we had, and I don't regret not spending money on food.  4-H/county fairs are great fun for the whole family and are very inexpensive if not free, so look for these in your area too.

If you do eat, consider buying inexpensive food like popcorn or splitting a treat and later stopping at the store for ice cream, toppings plus bananas and whipped cream! It's FAR cheaper than buying meals or ice cream during your outing AND it's a smooth way to head home and gives the kids something to look forward to after a long day.

Lastly, consider the age of your kids or grandkids when planning outings. Take breaks often, be firm with them on the rules of being on a "field trip", and only do as much as their age group can handle.  Each year you'll be able to do a little bit more, and you'll figure out which events are a nice fit with your family.

Brenda Hyde is a wife, mom to three, and editor of  Visit her for more frugal tips and summer fun!



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