A Summer of Savings
NEW YORK (MainStreet)Ah, summer vacation. For kids, it's a time of pure freedom and fun, but for cost-conscious parents, it can mean scrambling to find creative ways to entertain your kids without going broke.
Luckily, whether your kids enjoy crafts, sports, reading, or all of the above, there are a variety of great deals offered for youngsters in the coming months that can help you save big. "Keeping your kids busy this summer doesn't have to cost a lot or anything at all," says Erin Huffstetler, who writes the Frugal Living Guide for About.com. "Fill your days with free or cheap fun and save your money for something else."
Read on for our favorite freebies and discounts for kids during summer 2013.
Your kids can enjoy two free games of bowling a day all summer long at select bowling alleys around the country thanks to the Kids Bowl Free program. To find a participating bowling center near you, simply click your state on the map on the program's website. Next, click the name of the bowling center you're interested in to see the times and terms and conditions, such as age requirements and whether shoe rentals are included, as well as an online form that you must complete to register your child at that bowling center. If you'd like to register your child at multiple bowling centers, just keep in mind that you must fill out a form for each location with a unique email address.
Many movie theaters are offering deeply discounted and even free tickets for kidsand sometimes the whole familythis summer. For instance, Regal Entertainment Group's summer movie program sells movie tickets for $1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. for nine weeks (start dates vary depending on location) at theaters across the country. Movies that will be shown include Ice Age: Continental Drift, Mr. Popper's Penguins and Happy Feet Two.
Carmike Cinemas' "2013 Summer Kids Series" is offering $4 tickets for all ages at its theaters on select dates through August. The admission fee also includes a kid's tray with popcorn, drink and snack, and showings include Rio on July 1-5 and Yogi Bear on July 29-August 2.
What better way to encourage your children to keep their minds sharp this summer than to reward them with a fun incentive to read? Barnes & Noble's summer reading program will give kids a free book if they read any eight books this summer and record them in a journal. Free books include Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Olivia London's My Little Pony: Meet the Ponies of Ponyville, and Dav Pilkey's The Adventures of Captain Underpants.
Taking the whole family on vacation doesn't have to mean breaking the bank--many popular hotels and resorts let kids stay free under certain terms and conditions.
For instance, Club Med is letting kids under 4 stay free this summer at certain locations, including Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Sandpiper Bay in Florida and Columbus Isle in the Bahamas. Children who are eligible to stay for free must be lodged in the same room as the adults or in a connecting room. If you're more of a history buff than a beach bum, you can take your brood on an affordable trip to Colonial Williamsburg. When accompanied by an adult, kids can stay free at the Williamsburg Woodlands or Williamsburg Lodge (minimum three-night stay required). As part of this promotion, kids can also enjoy free breakfast at their hotel and dinner from the children's menu at select restaurants, plus free games of golf at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club and tennis at the Williamsburg Inn Tennis Club.
If you've got crafty kids, why not let them hone their talent at a craft seminar this summer? Lakeshore Learning Center is offering free crafts for kids every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through July 27. Highlights include a Fourth of July noisemaker on June 29 and a big-mouth whale puppet on July 6.
Another great option is the "Passport to Imagination" series at Michaels craft store this summer, in which kids ages 5 and up can explore the seven continents during two-hour crafting sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. The sessions, which are offered from June 17 to August 2, cost $2 each (including supplies). See a store associate for more details and to reserve a spot.
If you can't afford to send your kids away to a fancy sleep-away camp (or just can't bear the thought of separation), they can still learn valuable outdoors skills thanks to Bass Pro Shops' free family summer camp workshops Offered every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from June 8 through July 14, workshops include archery, shooting and hunting, bird watching and more.
Tickets to sporting events can be expensive, but kids' discounts can help cut costs. Check your favorite team's website to see if they're offering any special promotions for kids this summer. The Milwaukee Brewers, for instance, are selling tickets for kids ages 14 and younger for up to 50% off on weekday afternoon home games, while the New York Mets will offer a family four pack, in which kids ages 12 and under will get free admission to Mets games in September with the purchase of two regularly priced tickets.
If you're looking for a summer getaway that doesn't involve pricey plane tickets or endless highway driving, how about taking a scenic journey onboard a train? Amtrak offers a children's discount that allows up to two kids ages 2 to 15 to receive 50% off on the lowest available adult rail fare on most Amtrak trains with each fare-paying adult. Amtrak also allows one child under the age of two to ride free with each fare-paying adult, though they're not entitled to a seat.
Be aware, though, that certain restrictions apply. For instance, passengers age 15 and younger must travel with an adult passenger who is at least 18 years old, and children traveling alone are not entitled to a children's discount.
You can also snag some great deals for kids this summer in your own community, so be sure to find out what's going on around town.
"Your local media, including the newspaper and bloggers, are great sources to find free and low-cost summer activities for kids [such as] a free summer concert series and live performances in your community," says Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com.
Other ways to stay in the loop include checking community bulletin boards and contacting your local library and town hall.