One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced when planning a family day is how to not spend money and yet still have a great time.

You, too? Phew, I’m not alone.

Spending money is a TON of fun, especially when it makes for a super enjoyable family activity. But sometimes we can’t pay $70+ even once a month to spend a fun family day together.

I like free. Free is good.

Did you know that you can have an amazing and memorable family day without spending a dime?! Totally! It just takes a little bit of creativity and some planning.

In this post I’ll go into all you need to do to brainstorm, Here’s how to how to plan a no-spend family day trip!

*Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase through our links then we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!*

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Brainstorm Ideas

What does your family like to do? Some people love bike riding while others greatly prefer leisurely strolls. Perhaps you love flying kites or maybe roller blading.

Each family has different likes and dislikes, so write down your family’s favorite activities in a list. I’ll have you reference it in a little bit.

Local parks are a great source of free family fun. Want a list of all the parks in Boise handcrafted by us?? We got you covered. I didn’t even count them all, there’s so many.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you have the proper equipment for safety! We’d hate for anyone to get hurt during a no-spend family day.

Once you’ve compiled a list of a few activities your family enjoys, you can move on to the next stage: planning the time line.

Brainstorm activities for your free family day

Figure Out Your Time Line

If you’ve got little kids, then your life runs according to their tiny schedules. Nap time, lunch time, bed time, it all drastically affects what you can do and when you can do it.

Families with older kids, though, or couples have a bit more freedom with how to plan your family day. Yay for you! This part will be easier.

But if you march to the strict beat of nap time and bed time, don’t worry. It’ll be easy for you, too.

Determine Your Start Time

When do you want to start your no-spend family day? At the crack of dawn? After a leisurely morning? It’s really all up to you and your family.

No time is the “right” time to leave. Unless you want to catch a sunrise, of course. Then there’s a little bit more pressure to leave on time.

Another fun way to start off your family day is making a fun family breakfast. It takes a little bit more time in the morning, but it is a great way to start the day. Waffles, pancakes, French toast, those fancy-looking quiches. The sky’s the limit!

What time does your family normally get rolling in the morning? Or maybe a better question to as is, what time can you family be ready to go in the morning? I always end up adding an extra half hour to our start time leaving room for extra prep and any eventualities (which honestly, with a toddler, there always are).

One helpful tip to leave at the pre-appointed time is setting aside time the night before to gather everything that will help your morning go smoother. For instance, grab all the swim suits, bike helmets, water bottles (we love using these water bottles from Amazon!), fishing poles, load all the bikes, gear, whatever you need. Nothing says it’s all needs to happen in the morning.

Find your start time for your no-spend family day

Find Your End Time (or Be-Back-at-the-House Time)

When do you need to be home? Do you plan on making dinner? Will your kids help? (I’d suggest scheduling a little extra time to make dinner. Just in case.)

Unless you bring a picnic for dinner (which sounds like a totally fun and unique idea, by the way), then in keeping with the theme of a no-spend family day, you’ll probably have to do something at home.

But just like there’s a ton of room for creativity in choosing free family activities, there’s wiggle room for dinner options, too.

Free* and Fun Dinner Time Ideas

*After buying groceries, that is. I assume you plan on eating that day anyhow. Just a hunch.

To help keep it an interactive family day, you can grab your kids, your significant other (maybe not the dog) into the kitchen and make a memory out of it. Sometimes kids’ fondest memories are the simple little things we do as a family that we don’t even plan.

A few of these ideas tend more towards kid activities, but nothing is stopping you and your significant other from making personalized pizzas and having a picnic under your work of art called a fort in the living room.

Wow, that actually sounds like a great date idea… I’ll store that little nugget away and maybe you’ll see it in another post. Keep your eye out!

On to my dinner activity ideas:

  • Picnic in the backyard or living room
  • Grill out burgers and hot dogs
  • Make personalized personal pizzas
  • Try a new recipe
  • Reverse dinner and eat dessert first
  • Finger food meal (summer sausages, crackers, cheese, cut fruit, fresh veggies)
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Explore a new culture with a traditional dish
  • Have dessert for dinner (This is one of my fondest memories. My mom would sometimes make us dessert for dinner while my dad was out of town. We kids felt so blissfully scandalous.)
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Label Any Intermission Times

Otherwise known as “lunch” and “naptime.”

Whatcha’ going to do for lunch? Picnic? Dagwood sandwiches at home? Fresh, healthy smoothies (probably at home)? You could even come home, make the picnic, then go out again.

And when do you want to eat? This is a very important question which requires the highest level of concentration and consideration. At least I think so.

Do any of your babes require nap time at home? Sometimes kids can take naps on the go. I envy those parents… Other times kids need to be home for a nap. We, for instance, need to be home by a very particular time for any napping to happen.

If you need to be home by a certain time, factor in drive (or bike or walk) time as well as the usual length of the nap. While waiting for the (hopefully) sleeping angel(s), you can busy yourselves with a snack, lunch, nap (no judgements here!), and prepare leg two of your family day journey.

Okay. Now you’ve got a start time, a be-back-at-the-house time, and any other specific times. Here comes the fun part: filling it all in.

Know when nap time happens and when you need to be home

Plan Out Your Family Day

Look back at the list you created earlier of all the activities your family enjoys doing, and make sure to check it twice. (I’m never not in Christmastime mode.)

Choose your top 4-6 activities and top 2-3 ideas for breakfast/lunch/dinner time, each. I probably don’t need to mention this but I will just in case. Don’t forget to check the weather. Nothing is worse than psyching yourself and your family up for a super fun family day only to postpone due to rain, snow, hurricanes, or freak tornados. You never know what’s next with this Idaho weather.

Keeping this smaller list in mind, compare how much time each of the activities will take. Will any idea not fit in the schedule you just made?

It’s okay if it doesn’t all fit. All that means is that it goes back onto the master list for next time.

You can combine a couple activities, too. For instance, bike to a fishing hole, explore a downtown while you window shop, roller blade to the park, or play games while you eat lunch or dinner.

Need a new game for your game closet? Some of our favorite games you can find on Amazon are Dutch Blitz, Exploding Kittens, Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders.

Get creative and have fun with it.

But also avoid the temptation to overpack the schedule. The stress that comes from needing to get to the next activity in time is not a welcome guest on your no-spend family day. Or on any family day, for that matter.

Mix and match your favorite activities until you’ve pieced together a great family day itinerary!

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Enjoy Your No-Spend Family Day

After brainstorming all the potential free activities your family enjoys, setting your time parameters for the day, and scheduling everything in, you’ve successfully planned a no-spend family day!

Congrats! You’re all set and ready to enjoy your day!

That “enjoying” part, though, is key here. Remember that this beautiful itinerary you’ve masterfully pieced together is not the end all be all for the day. You’ve done all the work setting it up and probably most of the work prepping and getting ready for the day. But don’t get hung up on following the plan exactly.

Think of it more as guidelines or a structure for the day instead of an exact schedule.

Like I mentioned earlier, stress is not welcome to your special family day. And I don’t know about you but needing to follow a timeline exactly never results in a fun or relaxing time for me.

As counterintuitive as it may seem for some type-A personalities, going with the flow and spontaneity can result in a just as memorable and fun family day. But at the same time, planning ahead will help decrease stress the day-of by having ideas already prepared.

Finding the balance in anything is the real trick.

So enjoy your day. Enjoy the activities you get to do. And enjoy the blessed time you get to spend with your precious family.

Have you ever tried a no-spend family day? What are your favorite free family day activities?

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