Try these 18 cheap summer activities for military families
(Photo: US Marines, Lance Cpl. Donato Maffin)

By Julie Provost

Summer is here–a time for relaxing, going on vacation, and enjoying life without the kids being in school. While some summer activities will cost you some money, a lot of them don’t. Here are 18 cheap summer activities for military families.

1. Spend time at the park

Grab your sunscreen, pack a picnic lunch, and head to the park. Smaller children love the playgrounds and older kids enjoy exploring. Moms and Dads can chill with a book or put together the perfect picnic.

2. Go to the pool

Some on-base pools are free, others have a small fee, and you can even get a summer pass. If you have small children, they probably have a kiddie pool to use, too.

3. Sprinklers

Turn on the sprinklers, grab the slip and slide, and set up the kiddie pool for an afternoon of free fun. Make sure to check on the regulations for your military installation.

4. Host a potluck BBQ

Invite friends and neighbors for a BBQ. Make it BYOM (bring your own meat) and BYOB and provide some sides and the grill. This can be an excellent way to get to know new people and have a fun time together over the summer.

5. Go for a walk

Walk around your neighborhood, walk around your town, or go for a hike. Remember to bring water and be aware of your surroundings. Check out trails on your base and look into popular hiking areas near where you are stationed.

6. $1 movies

A few of the big movie theater chains offer $1 kid movies during the summer. They are movies from the last few years, but if your kid hasn’t seen them or they are a favorite, going can make for a fun day… especially if it’s too hot to be outside. You can also check out your movie theater on base as the prices are usually lower than off.

7. Free festivals

Check out your local area for free festivals. There should be a few over the summer. If you are overseas, these can be a way to get to know your local culture.

8. Free concerts

Check for free concerts on base, especially around the Fourth of July. Just make sure you get there early as these types of shows tend to get crowded.

9. Day trip to a neighboring city

You are only going to be at your base for a few years. Get out and explore nearby cities and towns. Spend the day in a small town or, if you’re close enough, head to the big city.

10. MWR

Your MWR will have free events going on throughoutthe summer. See what is going on and make some plans. They also offer cheap options for classes and events.

11. Community centers

Don’t ignore your off-base community centers. They have things going on during the summer, too. This might be more of a drive. . . but it can be worth your time.

12. Fly a kite

On a windy day, get out your kites and head out. Kites are pretty affordable and can give your kids a fun afternoon. (Watch your surroundings and stay far away from power and telephone lines.)

13. Camping

Camping is the cheapest option for going on vacation. You can even rent camping gear on some military installations. Look into local campsites, drive a few hours away, or consider on-base options.

14. Go Pokemon hunting

The Pokemon craze from last year is still going strong. Take the family out and find some new Pokemon. Make sure to be aware of where you are going and don’t go anywhere you are not allowed to be.

15. Library

The library is always free and a lot of them having summer reading programs that provide prizes or activities. Check out what events they have going on, too. Some have magic shows for the kids and book clubs for the adults.

16. Make plans with friends

Make plans to meet friends for lunch. If you have kids, Chick-Fil-A is a perfect play date: The kids can play, and the parents can chat.

17. Declutter

Have a decluttering day. This is even more important if you are going to be PCSing sometime soon. Get the kids to go through their toys. Then plan a garage sale. Take the money you earned from the sale and plan a family day.

18. Board game day

For a rainy summer day or just a break from the heat, have a board game day. Play Monopoly, Life, or whatever else your family enjoys. Even little kids can get out a game of Candyland.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at