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Five Budget-Friendly Ideas for COVID Conscious Summer Fun

Five budget-friendly ideas for COVID conscious summer fun

By Jean Chatzky* The great outdoors offers a variety of low-cost options for safe excursions in the age of Corona. With high school and college graduations in full swing, and COVID vaccination rates rising by the day, the urge to travel for many people is growing stronger Although summer is traditionally a time when people spend more, planning safe summer getaways doesn’t have to break the bank.

Creating a budget for your trip, and planning ahead, are great ways to make sure you and your family or other traveling companions make lasting memories. Here are some budget-friendly ideas for summer fun in the age of Corona:

Road Trips to State and National Parks

One way to stay safe this summer and satisfy your wanderlust is to take a road trip to a state or national park to soak up some scenery and sunshine for way less than theme-park admissions.

And while many national parks don’t charge entrance fees, there are four days left in 2021 when all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. Those remaining dates in 2021 are: August 4, which marks the one-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act; August 25, National Park Services birthday; September 25, National Public Lands Day; and November 11, Veterans Day.

It’s important to note that face masks are still required on National Park Service-administered lands where physical distancing can’t be maintained and in all national parks buildings and facilities. Park operations vary based on local public health conditions. Before visiting, be sure to check the park’s website to make sure it will be open when you plan your trip.

Day Trips to Beaches And Lakes

Heading to a public beach or a lake for a day trip can be another low-cost option for summer fun that won’t cost much more than the gas to get there if you plan ahead. To lower food costs, bring a blanket and pack an ice chest for a picnic lunch.

Before you go to a lake or bay, check out prices for kayak or canoe rentals for an affordable excursion. And don’t forget about sites such as Groupon where you can still find deep discounts on activities close to home or anywhere in the U.S. you plan to travel this summer.

Hiking Close to Home

Bored with making the block in your own neighborhood? Grab your sunscreen and water bottle and head to nearby parks and trails for a new hiking adventure. Not sure where to go? The American Hiking Society, at, offers maps of nearby hikes and rates the skill-level needed to enjoy each nature trail. The site also offers a variety of resources for beginners and seasoned hikers to get the most out of your next walkabout.

Zoos and Public Gardens

You can become a tourist in your own town, or another destination within driving distance to save on hotel stays. Zoos and public botanical gardens are great outdoor destinations that can keep you and your family occupied for hours while still keeping a safe distance from other groups. Before you go, check out a company’s website to look for deals or days when park admissions are lower for locals.

Movies, Music and Art in a Park

Many cities are sponsoring outdoor socially distanced (and often free of charge) movie nights and art walks to help families beat back the stuck-at-home blues. Same goes for concerts and plays. Community theatre groups also are getting creative, planning performances in public gardens and other outdoor spaces where it’s more practical to observe social distancing precautions.

*This guest article is from the “Your Money Blog” in ‘Mid Oregon’s Digital Banking Credit Savvy resource’. It is made possible by Savvy Money. “Five budget-friendly ideas for COVID conscious summer fun” by Jean Chatzky with Casandra Andrews was published in May 2021.

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