The school holidays are upon once again and that means you’ll need to fill the kids’ time for a couple of weeks. If cash is tight, then you don’t need to take them on a holiday but rather look for the fun and FREE things to do in your own backyard. You can still make the holidays an excellent time without spending the money on going away.
Here are some ideas for you that should still make the kids happy and your wallet even happier.
1. Go for a walk
This is a simple one, but you can easily increase the fun level by making it a scavenger hunt or giving the kids a list ahead of time of items they need to find such as animals, plants, etc. If you are lucky enough to live near the Hinterland, then head out on a real hike and try to incorporate a waterfall or other fun natural element.
2. Enjoy the parks and playgrounds
There are tons of parks and playgrounds in most areas of Australia that will thrill your kids. For example, there’s St. Kilda Adventure Playground in Melbourne where kids can enjoy a flying fox, trampolines, a wooden maze, giant ship and a castle. In Sydney, check out the playground at Darling Quarter where you’ll find a 21-metre flying fox as well as water features, climbing ropes, slides and swings.
3. Wander through the markets
Hitting up local community markets is always a good way to spend a morning with the kids. Often there’s live music (burn off some energy dancing!) and then check out all the stalls (you might even be able to sample some free food!).
4. Watch the sunrise or sunset
Drag the kids out of bed early one morning for a memorable sunrise. Do some research ahead of time to find a cool lookout where you’ll get the best view. Take a few selfies and remember to pack up some coffee and pastries to munch on while you watch nature’s beauty. Or rather if you have teens who couldn’t be bothered to get up, head to that same lookout and watch the sunset together.
5. Marvel at the view of the Opera House
If you’re in Sydney, you probably don’t think about it as much but it really is amazing and iconic piece of architecture. Sometimes the things that are right there in front of us just become part of the landscape rather than seeing just how they are cool. Walk with the kids across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then wander around the Opera House. Remind yourself just how awesome Sydney is!
6. Hit the beach
Those who happen to live near the shore will know this is an easy one — hit the beach. While you might not want to take a swim at this time of year, it can still be fun to enjoy some time on the beach, watching the waves roll in and building a sandcastle. You might even be able to view some hardy surfers out there.
7. Have a picnic
Easily incorporated with some of the above activities, a picnic is a great way to extend an activity and do something a little different. Bring food from home and either have it ready to eat or do your homework and find a BBQ near your location so you can enjoy a warm meal.
8. Take a stroll around the zoo
On the weekends or school holidays, Melbourne Zoo is free for kids (so yes, you’ll have to pay for yourself, so it’s almost free!). And what kids don’t love a good zoo visit? Easily a whole day’s worth of fun, the zoo features a large Wild Sea exhibit where penguins and seals can be seen from land and water; plus the Orang-utans Sanctuary, the Trail of Elephants and much more are there for kids to see.
9. Ride your bicycles
Break out the bikes! The whole family can enjoy the view from two wheels while getting some exercise and hopefully seeing a different part of town. Check out various bike paths before you head out so you might be able to add in a stop at a playground or cool lookout.
10. Go fishing
Grab a couple of fishing rods, and the kids, and head to your nearest fishing area and see what you can catch. Be sure to check fishing laws and whether or not you need a license, plus where you can and can’t throw out a line, and other rules so you can be sure you won’t end the fun before it even gets started.
11. Visit the Birds Australia Discovery Centre
The Birds Australia Discovery Centre in Sydney is free every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. There kids can learn about regional birds as well as ones who migrate to Australia during different seasons. Check out the live EagleCam to watch the white-bellied sea eaglet, and if you happen to be there on the last Sunday of the month, join the free guided Bird Walk.
12. Get cultured by looking at art
Check your local art galleries and museums. There are often free days (or some that are free all the time) where you can take the kids to soak up a little culture. For example, the National Art Gallery in Sydney is free, and on Sundays shows films geared towards kids and teens that include animation and music. Also there is a Children’s Audio Tour that is for kids 7-12 to help enhance the viewing of the art.
13. Go whale watching
If you’re in the eastern part of Australia near the ocean, then you’re likely familiar with the fact that whales migrate this time of year. But perhaps you’ve never actually gone to take a look. Use the school holidays as a reason to take the time to watch for whales migrating; it’s a sight worth seeing. Google your area for the best places to catch views of the magnificent creatures.
14. Head to the library
Most libraries host school holiday activities, and most, if not all, are free. Everything from storytime, to crafts to puppets and music are events that can be found at your local libraries during school holidays. So check out the libraries’ websites and plan which ones you and the kids will attend.
15. Check for free days at museums
Many museums offer either free days, free exhibitions or free workshops during school holidays so it’s worth digging around a bit to see what you can find. If you happen to live near or in Sydney, for instance, the Australian Museum offers certain exhibitions for free, so pop on the website and see what is going on during the holidays before you go.
16. Get the brain working
Scienceworks in Melbourne is free for kids (cost is $14 per adult) and wants kids to engage with science and technology. This interactive museum is part of the Museums Victoria and is open daily.
17. Use your listening ears
Throughout the year and especially during school holidays, places around town will offer up free concerts. Whether you’re looking for a silly kids’ band that cater to the littles or something a bit more “grown up” for your teens, you should be able to find something to fit the bill.
18. Look for local farms
Another research project might yield a great outing for the kids that also happens to be free or at least costs very little. For example, Collingwood Children’s Farm in Melbourne is $5 per person or $20 for the whole family (two adults and up to four kids). For that small amount of money, you can spend the whole day on the farm feeding chickens, milking the cows, riding ponies and more.
19. Smell the roses … at a garden
Almost every botanical garden is free for visitors. While kids may not immediately be drawn to a garden, most gardens offer up kids activities to do while there from simply identifying plants and flowers throughout the garden, to full Children’s Gardens such as the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in Melbourne. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are home to lots of wildlife, making it a great place to view them for free.
20. Pretend to be a tourist in your own city
Yes, that’s what all of these activities mean — be a tourist in your own area and hunt down the fun, free (or at least mostly free) things to do. Maybe it’s a hike, or a particular monument or some building that is famous in your town, but there must be at least a few things to explore that perhaps you’ve never done because you live there. Use the school holidays as an excuse to check that off the bucket list!
And while you’re busy not spending any of your money during these holidays, think about how you much you could be put toward paying off debt. If you’re tired of not knowing when you’re going to pay off that debt, consider taking out a debt consolidation loan so you can pay it all off, make one monthly payment and know when you’ll be out of debt. Learn more about these loans and see if it might make the difference you need to get your budget going in the right direction.