Families on a budget can look to zoos and local museums for great fun and overnight programs, plus yard sales, and other local learning adventures.
Family vacations and saving money may seem contradictory, but summer does offer many top-value vacation ideas that need little advance planning. Consider the many opportunities for educational and environmentally-friendly travel, some of which are described below. All can be researched in full on FamilyTravelForum.com — this is just to get you started.
Art & Animal Museum Sleepovers
At $50/night per child including meals, an enlightening overnight at an educational institution sure beats the price of a downtown hotel room. On many summer nights, you can sleep with the fishes at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, or at the New England Aquarium in Boston among many others.
Young women 18 years+ can participate in astronomical seminars at London’s Science Museum. Families may sleep over at the San Francisco Zoo , New York’s Bronx Zoo, the Denver Museum of Natural History, the San Diego Zoo, and other establishments.
Don’t be shy about checking out the top museums or animal centers in your intended destination. Even small establishments like the The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia go all-out to involve children with a “Pirate’s Camp-In.” The overnight program explores the life of a pirate at sea, with games, food, music, and a visit from a real pirate! Campers will learn who famous pirates were, what they did, and what happened after they were caught. Parents are welcome to attend as well.
Sea Turtle Nesting Season
Summer evenings are the time to observe sea turtles nesting along the 72-mile-stretch of Florida coast around Cocoa Beach (about 45 minutes from Orlando.) Each year, over the course of 14 weeks, about 8,000 sea turtles — loggerheads, green sea turtles and leatherbacks — lumber from the sea to the sand dunes to deposit hundreds of eggs. After their 50-day incubation, scientists estimate only 1 in about 10,000 eggs survive from infancy to maturity. Due to the fragile temperament of these endangered creatures, self-guided beach visits are discouraged.
However, tours are conducted nightly at dusk by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society; contact the Space Coast Office of Tourism (800/USA-1969 or 321/433-4470) for schedule and lodging information. From late May through late July, the Florida Power & Light Company also offers free Turtle Walk tours (9pm Friday, Saturday nights) at their St. Lucie Power Plant on Hutchinson Island. Groups are limited to 50 and reservations are required; call 800/334-5483 for information. Reservations open on May 1 at 8am, for that seasons tours; be sure to call early, because, in 2009, over 2,000 people called for reservations on the first day alone.
Local Summer Fun Discoveries
Search this site for other budget travel ideas that predominate in summer: the discounted short breaks available online, nearby festivals, and regional cultural events provide ripe opportunities to see and try something new. Consider:
- Dinosaur digs in South Dakota
- The Route 127 Yard Sale though Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama
- America’s grand state fairs
All are some examples of wallet-friendly, unexpected fun. Best yet, these unique experiences are mostly attended by locals who don’t need a hotel room. That gives your family plenty of planning leeway.
When you get back, send us your family’s favorite local discoveries to share with others!
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