Thursday, March 31, 2011

Family Closeness- Part 2: FREE days.

Getting out of the house as a family is important. Most of us would agree, you can be taken aback by the price tag on a day with your family. While family time is "Priceless" most of us have price tags on what we are willing or can afford. It's important to cut the cost of your outings and to budget them. When you factor in time, cost of the attraction, food while out, gas and the unfortunate gift shop encounters (How fun can toddlers be nearing nap time in a gift shop?)... You might be afraid to leave the house!

The next three parts in the Family Closeness Series will deal with cost cutting solutions. Today, I will focus on the importance of a FREE Day or Community Day.

What is a FREE day?

A FREE day, in short, is a community appreciation day. Most of your local attractions are funded partially by city, state and possibly federal dollars. The free days, in my opinion, are a great way to get back some of your tax dollars.

How do I know when they take place?

Most places list them on their website. We often Google, "Place name + Free Day." I write the days down on the calendar so I don't forget who offers what and when. I plan our outings around the FREE days.

Who offers FREE days?

*National Parks
*Some State Parks
*Zoo's (The Denver Zoo costs a family of three $26- $34 dollars!)
*Botanic Gardens (This saved us $34 for a family of three a few weeks ago!)
*Art Museums
*Natural History or Science Museums
*Children's Museum
*Target FREE days- look into the community sponsored days in your area. They sponsor a wide variety of museums one day a month!

Facts about FREE days:

*Admission is FREE.
*You may have to pay entry to a specific exhibit. Know the cost before you go and decide if the exhibit is worth the cost.
*Some places charge for parking or discount the normal rate on a FREE day, while some places never charge parking. Look into roadside parking or lots nearby which are free or are offered at a lower cost.

Tips for FREE days:

*Get there early! Parking and lines can become crazy in less than an hour after opening.
*Pack a lunch! It's often healthier and it keeps the costs down.
*Try to avoid the gift shops. I know, I know, they are located so conveniently near the entrances and exits. If you have a walking toddler, I suggest picking them up:)

Why are FREE days important?

* A FREE day can get you out of a rut. Recently, our family was in a rut running our daughter to gymnastics, the zoo, aquarium and children's museum. The FREE days have let us get a few days out of the house with only the cost of gas.
*Testing: 1,2,3! We use a FREE Day to test a location. You never know if your family will enjoy a particular place or if a young child will have a melt down (Most of us with imperfect children have been there!) They allow you to go home knowing you didn't waste money because of a temper or if you didn't enjoy the day.
*Pilot Programs for memberships! As a one child family, it's easy to know what our daughter will enjoy. A loves animals (all shapes, sizes, sliminess and smelliness, if you've ever been in a reptile or pachyderm house you know what I'm talking about.) If you have more than one child, can't afford or don't have time for multiple memberships, the FREE days allow you to take advantage of the places at no cost.

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