These Outdoor Family Adventures Are For Every Budget

These Outdoor Family Adventures Are For Every Budget (And Some Don’t Even Need Planning)

September 1, 2020 Updated April 7, 2021

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One of the best things about exploring the Great Outdoors is that it’s so dang affordable! Sure, visiting a state park or renting a cabin means paying a small (or not-so-small) fee. But walking a trail? Free. Pond fishing at a local park? Free. Skipping stones and catching fireflies? You guessed it: free. 

This summer looks a little different for all of us. So whether you’re being frugal or you’ve decided to “treat yo’self” this summer, there’s a ticket to adventure with your name on it. We’ve got summer fun for every budget. Pick yours and this may just be the best summer ever. 

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From Camping to Glamping

If you’re not a camper by nature, you may wonder why anyone would ever want to sleep outside. But the beauty of camping is that it’s truly the ultimate escape. Camping makes you slooooow down. Way down. And without screens, camping helps you pause and reconnect with your family at a level you just can’t achieve when you’re on the go all the time. Between campfires, stargazing, fishing, swimming and just hanging by the fire, it’s a pretty incredible future memory factory. 

Free: A tent in the backyard 

This is a great option whether you’re trying to save money or just aren’t sure how ready your family is to heed to the call of the wild. If you can borrow a tent and sleeping bags, even better. Sing campfire songs and enjoy the sounds of nature – or possibly the neighbor’s barking dog. 

Enjoy: Tent camping at a nearby state park or campsite

If you’ve got a tent, check out state parks in your area and calculate the cost of reserving a site and setting up shop, er, tent. Cost will depend on where you live, but most camping fees are reasonable and range from about $15 to $40 per night. Many state parks offer military or resident discounts. 

If you don’t own gear but still want the camping experience, check out Tentrr. With everything from a no frills backwoods setup to full-on glamping, you’ll find the tent experience you’re looking for with this service that pairs adventurers with campsites. 

Splurge: Rent a cabin

If you’d rather not sleep under a flimsy piece of fabric thankyouverymuch, consider renting a cabin or a yurt at a nearby state park. In most cases, you can find one, two or three bedroom places, often situated somewhere with spectacular views. Many cabins are fully equipped with stoves, refrigerators, kitchen and dining utensils, as well as heat and air conditioning. Some even have televisions, screened porches or decks and wood burning fireplaces or stoves. Rates around the country range from around $20/night for a small rustic cabin to $250/night for an “MTV Cribs” spot. 

From Inner Tubes to Guided Day Trips

When was the last time your family floated down a river together? It’s probably been too long. There’s something about spending time out, in and on the water that’s both invigorating and relaxing at the same time. You’ll see plants and animals you won’t encounter from inside the minivan. Make it even more fun by doing a little research on the history of the river beforehand. 

Free: Your car and an inner tube

Most any river you can put kayaks, canoes and rafts in also hosts the laziest of lazy river activities: tubing. Simply grab a tube and get in. Let the water do the rest. 

Enjoy: Book a guided day trip

Booking a trip with a professional outfitter costs a bit more than tubing but is well worth the investment. A full-day trip (5+ hours) ranges from $65-$110/person and half-day (2-4 hours) rates are between $30-$65/person – again, depending on where you are. The real value of a guided trip is transportation to and from the put-in, a guide who will make it a fun-filled day and, of course, the thrill of true white water rafting.  

Splurge: Rent an RV and hit a few different spots

If you want to get serious about river adventure, consider renting an RV from Outdoorsy. You can visit different spots and their surrounding forests. You could raft one day, canoe the next, and spend the next day in a kayak. Renting an RV gives you so many options and gives a real home-away-from-home experience. Rental costs vary based on the level of classy (some of these things are nicer than our house) but, in general, a tricked-out ride runs around $175-$300/night.  

From Sprinklers to Booking Private Pools 

Spending all day in a swimsuit is just classic summer. And if you prefer your bodies of water surrounded by a little less, you know, nature, there are lots of ways to get your splash on.

Free: Splash pads or a backyard sprinkler

Many cities feature splash pads at local parks. Another great no-cost option is setting up a backyard sprinkler. Or a kiddie pool. Or both! If totally traffic-free fun times are your jam, these two options are no-brainers. 

Enjoy: Day use fee at a local pool 

In most cities, you’ll find municipal pools that are open to the public. They usually charge a nominal fee and provide lifeguards, changing rooms and sometimes even snack bars. Some private pools offer guest passes, but they can be tricky to come by if you don’t know someone who’s a member. You might also look into a guest pass at your local YMCA. 

Splurge: Swimply 

Why did no one think of this before? A website that allows you to book private pools by the hour – genius! Swimply is like Airbnb for pools. For fees ranging from $15-$300/hour – depending on location and amenities like spas and pool houses — you can enjoy the luxury of a private pool whenever you feel like it. Some owners even allow you to host a party in their pool. This is a game-changer! 

This summer, we could all use more time outside (please, no more Zoom calls ever, please). With a little imagination and a little planning, there are a million ways to do it. Find whatever works for you and your family, get out there and explore!

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