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Free (or low-cost) passes to have a fun, family getaway

School is out, summer is in full swing, and millions of families across the country are asking: What do we do now? Maybe you had the foresight to pack up the camper and drive across the tri-state area until you arrive at your parents’ cabin, where you’ll watch Independence Day fireworks over the lake.

Or maybe you haven’t made any plans at all. In the flurry of regular activity, you’re not even sure where to find a decent playground, much less a fulfilling family experience. What if you’ve got a tight budget? What fun excursions can you even afford?

Don’t worry: There are dozens of websites that can help you figure out a game-plan. You can look locally, or you can scour the world for trips to take and venues to explore.

You’ll find all sorts of free and low-cost diversions. But a little extra money can go a long way, including admission to mega-concerts and theme parks if you’re hoping to book something unforgettable.

Here are some favorite resources for family-friendly fun.

Finding Events and Deals


Many people sign up for Nextdoor for security reasons. They use the app to keep tabs on break-ins and suspicious persons in their neighborhood.

But Nextdoor is a multifaceted app, and many people use it to publicize block parties, talent shows and community cookouts. You’ll find all kinds of cool events, and you’ll get to meet some of your neighbors at the same time. Many of these get-togethers are free, although you might have to whip up a casserole.


Craigslist is a hit-or-miss experience, especially if you’re looking for a job or want to buy a used motorcycle. But Craigslist also lists local activities and events, under the “Community” category. (Never seen it? No problem. It’s in the upper left-hand corner.)

You can find everything from flag football teams to fine art exhibits. You can even track down a ride-share to get there.


Meetup was essentially designed to find stuff to do, as well as people to do them with. Divided by interest, Meetup makes it easy to sign up for a club or activity, then receive regular updates from organizers. Whether you love crocheting or hiking in national parks, Meetup almost certainly has a group tailor-made for you.

Click here to learn more about the Meetup app.

Living Social

Like Meetup, Living Social was founded to help you find things to do in your community. But this website is more focused on services and small businesses. It may not be free, but you’ll find incredible bargains on brunches, clothing, yoga classes, and any number of other good activities.

Why the name? Because most of these listings encourage you to leave your den and try something new and different – so here’s your chance to nab that facial session for 50 percent off.


Groupon is still the reigning champion of bargain-booking for active and adventure seekers. No matter what your interest or location is, you’re bound to find a cheap-as-dirt activity to try on a whim. You might want to try white-water rafting, but you almost might want to order cheap movie tickets; either way, Groupon has got you covered, and for incredible prices.

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb redefined travel when its users started transforming their houses and condos into makeshift guesthouses. But Airbnb is expanding its reach: The company recently started publishing a glossy magazine about travel, and it also created Airbnb Experiences, which enables regular residents to become tour guides.

You can sign up for cooking classes, parasailing excursions and art tours with the same ease as any Airbnb booking, and you’ll probably find an event that’s fun, personal and one-of-a-kind.

Click here to learn more about Airbnb Experiences.

Classic Destinations

You could go anywhere this summer, depending on your budget and schedule. But some locales are age-old summer traditions, and if you’re thinking of finally flying down to Orlando (for example), these spots are overflowing with deals.

Disney World

Disney World is probably the most famous amusement park in the world, attracting millions of visitors every year. But the mega-resort also has become pricey, especially for big families hoping to spend a week with Mickey and Donald.

Luckily, Disney World runs a lot of promotions, making the experience affordable for all kinds of folks. Once you find these bargains, you might call it “A Whole New World.”

Visit the Disney World website to find a range of special offers.

Las Vegas

Nothing says “adult fun” like Las Vegas. Most visitors like to hit the casinos, but one thing you won’t have to gamble on is the deals: Vegas is packed with cheap hotel rooms, affordable fine dining and reasonable tickets for some of the most impressive stage productions in the world.

Summers are sweltering in Nevada, but you probably won’t even notice while galavanting through the massive air-conditioned resorts on the Strip. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority maintains an ongoing list of deals.

Click here to review a litany of Sin City bargains.

More tips you can’t miss:

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