We only get 18 brief summers with our children before they head off on their own. While family vacations and summer fun are great for bonding, they can be tough on the wallet.

A study in 2019 showed that over half of parents with kids at home blew their summer budget and accrued debt. The biggest culprit? Summer vacation. Don’t worry; you don’t have to stay home. There are ways to still have a blast without breaking the bank.

Plan ahead. We’ve all heard that experiences are better than material gifts. A big reason is that anticipation makes the experience last longer. Getting the entire family involved in planning your summer fits the bill, and also gives kids buy-in, which provides authority and autonomy that kids crave. It also lets you look for good deals, whether that’s on lodging, tickets, or dining.

Go fewer places, more often. A great way to have fun all summer? Look for places that offer a season pass and frequent there, rather than going multiple places. Many offer a season pass for less money than you’d spend going there twice, so you can easily make it worth your while. As a bonus, some come with additional perks like food and guest pass discounts as well. 

Pack lunch. Eating out when you’re away from home can add up quickly. Even if you’re staying somewhere for a weekend, hit the local grocery store for supplies to make sandwiches or to pack snacks. That way, you can save your cash for entertainment and not food. Controlling your family’s meals also means you can eat healthier, which ultimately keeps everyone happier since they’re well-nourished.

Plan a staycation. We may get to live here all year, but that doesn’t mean we have to leave in the summer; the Black Hills is a popular tourist destination for a reason. Between our awe-inspiring scenery, higher-than-average number of national and state parks, and incredible variety of museums, attractions, and restaurants, there’s something here for everyone: including your family. Staying here also means you have more flexibility to take advantage of last-minute sales, locals-only deals, or visit places in the middle of the week when they’re less busy. 

Find free fun. There are amazing opportunities in the Black Hills that won’t cost you a cent. From dinosaurs and fairy tales to fishing and hiking, there are tons of places to discover. Looking for ideas? Check out our events page for the latest and greatest around the hills!