3 simple excursion tips to maximize fun and reduce costs

3 simple excursion tips to maximize fun and reduce costs

Summer is all about creating fun and lasting memories for our kiddos am I right? Have you read Just 18 Summers by Michelle Cox & Rene Gutteridge? If not, I highly suggest you do because it really does an incredible job of dealing with this idea that we should focus on memory buildingย  when it comes to our kiddos because quantitatively we’ve technically only got 18 summers with them. The novel uses the perspective of four families to drive home the idea that the time we’ve got with our littles is seriously fleeting. I’ve got to say that I lost my breath a few times when I realized that this is our second summer with our little girl – I’ve got only 16 left! Seriously folks, why do they grow so so fast?

Margsy is still very young and by consequence very much satisfied by splashing around in her tiny baby pool but as she ages we’re planning to make a point to spend as much time with her building memories during the hot and sticky summer months as we can. We want this kid to look back on her childhood and remember us playing with her, having fun, splashing around in the pool and not constantly devoting our time to adult responsibilities. The dishes, housework and laundry can wait because they’re only little once right?

With that in mind we took her to the zoo! Last week we decided to adventure to Parc Safari in Hemmingford which is a pretty short drive for us now that we live near the border. We arrived around 10 am and waited in line with a super fussy baby to get admitted to the park for the day. Bringing her there was probably not the best idea considering her young age but we wanted to experience it as a family and we decided to just go with it and see what would happen.

We spent most of the morning visiting with lions, tigers, cheetahs, monkeys and giraffes. Margsy totally didn’t get it which we partially expected but Mer and I were over the moon. Folks, these animals are breathtakingly beautiful. It was really a bittersweet moment watching them in their enclosures. On the one hand I was super excited to be so close to them but on the other hand my heart ached for their freedom and natural habitat in the wild.

At around noon we decided to set up a lunch buffet that we’d packed from home. On our menu for the day was sliced Italian Deli Ham, homemade crusty bread, coleslaw, raw veggies and fruit. It was delicious and we were able to avoid paying exorbitant concession costs to feed our family.

Tangent –> I overheard a disgruntled family complaining about the cost of food. A basket of fries was nearly 7$. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY FRENCH FRIES I CAN MAKE WITH 7? So many folks, so many french fries.

Once we’d finished eating and relaxed a little we headed to the water park area. The weather sucked – it was cold and windy and getting in our suits to splash around was totally out of the question. Baby girl was totally satisfied with watching those brave kiddos splash around in that frigid water. At this point she was beyond exhausted so lounging in her stroller was apparently more appealing.

She preferred to “read” her Safari magazine anyway.

By 3pm baby girl was done for the day and to avoid a complete meltdown we decided it was time to leave the park and do the Safari Adventure which is basically a 45 minute car drive through a large enclosure on the western tip of the zoo. You basically drive in your own car and you can feed the animals as they approach. Margsy fell asleep and Mer and I had quite an adventure meeting with various animals.

Ever been that close to a Zebra? Neither had I. Super cute but a little nippy ๐Ÿ˜‰ He apparently doesn’t like to wait for his food.

Are you shocked that we actually spent money to go to a zoo? Often times, our immediate entourage of family and friends are shocked when they find out that we’ve spent money on something like a family excursion. We don’t do it often- maaaaybe once per year? But, it’s something that is important to us as a family so we have zero reservations about spending a little money on something that we deem important. Visiting the zoo with our little was important to us. We wanted to expose her to that environment and memory build in the process. Sure, she’ll likely have zero recollection of the day itself but we took a million photos of our small family to add to her yearly memory book and we’re excited to tell her about her first zoo trip when she’s older.

That’s the thing about frugal living folks. Living frugally isn’t about depriving yourself of anything. It’s more a lifestyle that allows you to prioritize what is important to you. For us, building memories and savoring moments is really high on our priority list and consequently spending a little money to enjoy a day at the zoo as a small family was something we planned for and gladly invested in.

Having said that, we didn’t arrive at the zoo prepared to spend a ton of cash above and beyond the admission fees. Instead, we applied our frugal lifestyle hacks to make the day cost free beyond what it cost us to drive there and be allowed into the park – keep reading if you want some frugal family excursion tips!

3 frugal excursion tips to save you money

Time your outing and do your research. My number one piece of advice would be to do your research. Most amusement parks, zoos and other pay access parks have discounts on certain days of the week. If you can swing it, take advantage of the reduced rates by avoiding peak times which are usually on weekends. Additionally, have a look online and see if they offer family passes, coupons or discounts. If they do, plan ahead and totally take advantage. If you know it’s a place you’d enjoy visiting a few times during the seasons absolutely have a look at buying season passes since they are usually only a few dollars more than the one-time admission fee and you can visit with your kiddos an unlimited time during the summer months.

Pack food & beverages. Food, beverages and especially water is always ridiculously over priced at these places. Plan ahead and make sure you bring cold water, drinks and food to keep you and your family fed and hydrated throughout the day. We borrowed a cooler from a family friend and loaded it up with goodies for the day. Not only did we save a ton of cash on food and drink but we ate healthy food. Amusement parks and zoos are notorious for unhealthy and overpriced food options. Don’t give in and bring what you need! You can save a ton of money, trust me.

Prepare a survival kit. Survival kit is probably a little extreme as a title but I’m basically talking about anything and everything you’ll potentially need throughout a day. Ever forget your sunscreen and pay an absolute fortune at an amusement park’s gift shop to get your hands on a bottle? Yup, I’ve been there too and I’ve vowed never to fall victim to that trap again. Our “survival” kit included sunscreen, pain killers, band aids, disinfectant, blankets, umbrella, benadryl, cortisone cream and a sewing kit. We’re basically never “stuck” and forced to buy something because we absolutely have to and spend a ton because we’re in a bind. Consumerism sucks for that, it totally takes advantage of people who are stuck by overcharging you ya know? The gift shop at the zoo was selling a bottle of tylenol for over 8$! Save your cash and plan ahead!


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Talk to me about your family excursions! What do you folks have planned for the summer?



  1. Sian
    July 17, 2017 / 6:50 am

    Very good tips. Perhaps I’d better add sewing kit to my ‘survival’ items. You never know when you might need it! Looks like you had a lovely day out.

  2. July 17, 2017 / 6:54 am

    I love doing little trips instead of long vacations that get super expensive. These are great tips!

  3. July 17, 2017 / 7:08 am

    You are so smart to pack your own food. It can be so tempting to buy the food at the park or nearby, but they are so expensive AND less healthy most of the time, and it really causes a fun outing to be way more expensive than necessary!

  4. July 17, 2017 / 7:12 am

    Packing a lunch is a HUGE money saver! The food prices at places like the zoo is outrageous and the food is not even that good. Your picnic lunch looks delicious! I always struggle on what to pack in a lunch.

  5. Nicole Kauffman
    July 17, 2017 / 8:21 am

    Such great suggestions! Definitely a money saver to pack food!

  6. July 17, 2017 / 9:18 am

    Excellent post! I do all of these but the survival kit. Thank you for the suggestion!

  7. swbmama
    July 17, 2017 / 9:38 am

    I haven’t read 18 Summers, but I have had the idea strike me a few times as a mother. You are absolutely correct that the time we have with them is fleeting. You are so fortunate to realize this when your kiddos are so young…I have only 10 left with mine ๐Ÿ™ I love that this post still focuses on simplicity and frugality while creating memories. So many people think that they have to spend a ton of money to make childhood special.

  8. July 17, 2017 / 9:43 am

    We take our one year old to the zoo regularly and he doesn’t quite get it yet either but we love taking him! And we know pretty soon it’ll start to be memories he can kinda keep ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. July 17, 2017 / 10:25 am

    This place looks amazing! It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the zoo and looking at your pictures I really want to go now. I like packing my own food, it’s convenient and money saving. I don’t have a survival kit, it is another thing I have to work on.

  10. July 17, 2017 / 10:42 am

    i definitely agree with prepping in advance! you can save so much money by researching a cheaper day or keeping your eye out for a coupon. and packing a lunch and snacks will save TONS of money!

  11. July 17, 2017 / 11:01 am

    Hi Jenny! You are absolutely right when you say frugality is about prioritizing. At least I agree with you 100 %. My 4 kids are grown and out of the house now and when we get together we always have these memories to talk about and laugh about. Plus, I never thought my kids who fought so much over their space in the car would ever get along but they do now! I was very frugal but we did the vacation thing once a year and it’s totally worth it. It’s always educational, experiences, memories, and relationship building. So good for them and you! It doesn’t have to be extravagant either! Great Article!

  12. Jessica
    July 17, 2017 / 11:19 am

    We like to bring busy bags for our toddler for the car ride and for while we eat! I need to be much more vigilant about packing enough food and snacks to save money though!

  13. July 17, 2017 / 11:26 am

    Love that pic of Margs reading…she looks so interested in that magazine! Our zoo lets county residents in for free if you go on Mondays before noon. That’s the only time I usually go! I know a few people who refuse to go then because they say it’s too crowded. I’m not a big fan of crowds myself, but usually when I go, it’s not that bad, especially for free.

  14. July 17, 2017 / 11:34 am

    I agree that most foods sold at places like this are way over priced! I recently saw a video of this couple who hid food in a baby carseat and carried it into the movies and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that genius idea before lol!

  15. Sue
    July 17, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    Very good tips. I agree with the packing food part

  16. Be You and Thrive
    July 17, 2017 / 1:41 pm

    I haven’t read the book, but I can attest to how much travel & Summer activities allowed me to have happy childhood memories to bring forward into adulthood! It certainly is important to me to travel now and create lasting memories!

  17. July 17, 2017 / 2:15 pm

    These are absolutely fantastic ideas! I love the “survival kit” idea as I’m always having to buy band-aids or bug spray. Found your through FB Grow Your Blog and following you now ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. July 17, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    You have great tips here. When we went to Disney, we packed a few snacks and bottled waters for the parks. Also, you were really smart to take some entertainment in for your little one. That definitely saves money!

  19. Ashley
    July 17, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    All great tips!!! Bringing our own food and snacks is the BEST money saver and you’re right, it’s so much healthier!

  20. July 17, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    Looks like a super fun trip! I always liked to pack food on excursions like that, too. I can’t bring myself to pay those crazy prices for food!

  21. certifiedpastryaficionado
    July 18, 2017 / 6:29 am

    Loving these tips! Bringing snacks is KEY! I know how people get when hangry so I gotta be prepared!

  22. July 18, 2017 / 6:41 am

    I grew up in Houston and the zoo and most of the museums used to be free on Thursdays – I have great memories of going with my family on Thursdays in the summer! We would pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in a big park outside the zoo, which I’m sure was more enjoyable than eating $8 french fries in a crowded food court ๐Ÿ™‚ Great tips!

  23. July 18, 2017 / 7:32 am

    Wow beautiful picture. Thank you for the tips! I love going on little trips

  24. July 18, 2017 / 8:05 am

    $7 for french fries?! That’s insane. It sounds like you had a wonderful outing with your family, and you got some wonderful shots of the animals! I never thought about the fluctuating prices for amusement parks, zoos, etc. depending on the different days the week. That’s a great tip! My husband and I are on vacation this week, so I will definitely keep that in mind as I plan our activities ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. July 18, 2017 / 8:42 am

    These are great tips! I hardly ever pack a lunch when going somewhere and it can be quite pricey (especially here in Switzerland!). But ever since we moved here I vowed to be more frugal..let’s see how that will go ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. twoboysonepup
    July 18, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Packing food always saves sooooo much time and money. I’ve stood in lines before with hungry todders, NOT fun!

  27. July 18, 2017 / 10:26 am

    the cost for admission into zoos and parks has gotten so ridiculous! And don’t even get me started on the food..you are right…so many people so many fries, lol! Looks you all had a good time even that baby girl. Great tips for keeping your cost under control for family outings!

  28. July 18, 2017 / 12:08 pm

    Great tips. I always pack our own lunch. It’s crazy how expensive things can be! Looks like you had a great time ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. July 18, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    This looks like so much fun! When we visit amusement parks, we always pack lunches or snacks to bring along; it helps cut down on the cost so much! Usually we pick up ice water from a vendor because they do not charge for a cup of water, and something cool always hits the spot!

  30. Glitter On A Dime
    July 18, 2017 / 3:28 pm

    Love this! We also try to be as frugal as possible but think it is important to do fun things as a family. We made the mistake on our last zoo trip of not bringing our own lunch and we definitely regretted it.

  31. Erin
    July 18, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    These are great tips! We are always looking for ways to have fun, but not break the bank. Thank you so much for sharing!

  32. July 18, 2017 / 3:38 pm

    Great ideas and enjoyed you sharing this especially since I have a little one as well!

  33. July 18, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    Such a great post- so true that you don’t need to spend a lot to create great memories! And I can’t wait to take my son to the zoo since he actually knows his animals!

  34. July 19, 2017 / 8:06 am

    We often pack our own food, but I love the idea of a survival kid. I really agree with you on the 18 summers. Every summer my house is a disaster, but we have the best time ever.

  35. July 19, 2017 / 8:48 am

    Packing food is a must for us. Definitely don’t want to get stuck eating the park food.

  36. Coral Finley
    July 20, 2017 / 3:30 am

    Such good advice! I’ll be following these tips!

  37. July 20, 2017 / 7:46 am

    Great tips-needed those. Looks like a really fun place too!

  38. July 24, 2017 / 11:18 am

    There’s a 3 park pass during the summer here in Miami (but hey it’s super hot outside). Packing drinks for the most part saves you money. Restaurants and parks up charge drinks by a large margin. Water is the best drink out there and its free!

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