Marjorie JamesI am in the air flying home from Orlando, a favorite vacation spot for families. They go to Disney World and Epcot to have fun and, in the meantime, spend lots of money. It is a dream vacation, especially for the children.

However, not every family can afford a vacation at one of the Disney parks. Single parents, especially single moms, are struggling to make ends meet while keeping a roof over the family’s head and food on the table, much less have the funds for an expensive vacation. This conundrum is even more acute when the children (and their parents) have been able to have exotic vacations while an intact family.

This leads me to try to think about alternative activities that are fun for the young ones and affordable for the parent. It may seem early to be thinking about this, but some activities require planning and budgeting. There simply must be incredible, and reasonably inexpensive, days of fun available. Let’s explore options.

Most cities have zoos; the Seattle area has quite a few. Look for the out-of-the-way, smaller zoos to meander through. The cost may be less than the big zoos. Do some research about the animals you will encounter at the zoo, and challenge your children to have two or three facts ready ahead of time to dazzle you. While there, read all the signs and plan to say, “I didn’t know that!” at least six times.

Take a picnic lunch for eating “on the grounds.” Thoroughly enjoy yourselves exploring, then go home and eat a light dinner. The children will be tired, so put them to bed, put your feet up and relax!

Every town has a high school, and high schools have athletics. Tickets are usually very inexpensive, and the games are great fun. When we lived in a small Eastern Washington town, virtually everyone went to the games. Such fun!

If your children are a bit older, middle school or older, an hour or two wandering around the mall is considered great fun, especially for girls. Your young person could invite a reliable and trustworthy friend. Go over safety rules carefully and make sure cell phones are charged and you are on speed dial. They won’t want you to walk with them, obviously, but most malls have comfortable chairs in strategic places, such as near a Starbucks.

On a hot day, the beach is always one of my favorite places, and the only costs you may incur are a parking fee and ice cream.

Hopefully, you have come up with some ideas of your own to help create memories that your family can enjoy without spending money you don’t have. Make them happen and enjoy!

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.