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Don’t Forget to Have some Emergency “Fun” This Summer

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t headed out of state or out of the country over the next month for a vacation. Depending on your finances, vacation days, or kids’ sports commitments, a 10-day vacation just might not be in the cards this year. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having a fun time this summer.


Haven’t planned a vacation yet this year? You can still squeeze in some last-minute fun this summer before school starts again.

Emergency “Fun”

We’ve talked before about the necessity of having an emergency fund, which is money that you set aside to pay for life’s unpredictable events; things like a job loss, car accident, or natural disaster. That safety buffer is an important tool to keep you and your family from going into debt to pay for those emergencies.

But what about emergency “fun?” Think of it as a spontaneous, unpredictable way for you and your family to squeeze some enjoyment into what might be a ho-hum summer schedule. And it doesn’t have to stress your budget.

These activities could be free, almost free, or have minimal costs. Something with a low financial spend is perfect because it won’t throw your budget off-kilter.

In addition to low costs is low time commitment. There’s a reason you aren’t on a 12-day river cruise in Europe. Vacations require blocks of time. Emergency fun activities should be something that can be enjoyed in a day and accomplished with minimal planning.

Summer Activity Ideas

So, what kinds of things are low cost and low time commitment but also bring enjoyment to the whole family? We’ve rounded up a few fun ideas.

Go to a drive-in movie. Believe it or not, there are some remaining drive-in movie theaters that continue to show films! The state of California alone has 15 still in operation. For folks who did not grow up going to drive-in movies, this can be a unique way to watch a new-release film. And for those of us that did get to enjoy the drive-in experience as youths, it is a fun trip down memory lane. Bring your own snacks or hit the on-site snack bar.

Plan a beach day. If you are fortunate enough to live within two hours’ driving distance from a beach, plan on making a day of it. Pack a cooler with your favorite food and drinks, plus plenty of sunscreen and beach towels. If you enjoy water sports like surfing or boogie boarding, bring those, too. At the risk of sounding like a character in a Victorian-era novel, a day of fresh air at the seaside does all of us some good. For something different, bring firewood to build a fire pit at the beach and watch the sun go down. If you are in Southern California, plan to hang out late and catch the grunion run.

Tour a presidential library. Have you ever been to a library and museum devoted to one president? There are 15 official presidential libraries from coast to coast. These unique spaces are a collection of the artifacts and documents related to a particular president and offer a snapshot of our country’s history. There are two in California, with the others spread across the nation. Visitors have a chance to see a life-size replica of the Oval Office, walk through a decommissioned Air Force One or presidential helicopter, and visit special exhibitions.

Visit a county fair. While most state fairs are held in early autumn, county fairs take place in the summer. These local fairs feature baking, livestock, and produce competitions, carnival rides, and ridiculously fun foods like deep-fried Snickers bars. Most fairs also feature nighttime concerts with a wide variety of musical artists and bands.

Not into driving anywhere? You can still have emergency fun with these stay-at-home ideas:

Backyard movie under the stars. You’ll need a portable projector for this one, but it is something that you might use more often than you think. A movie screen can be made by hanging a sheet or setting up a projector screen. Invite a few friends over and be sure to have plenty of snack options like popcorn, drinks, and a s’mores assembly station. Choose a classic and highly quotable movie such as Princess Bride, Napoleon Dynamite, or Shrek so that everyone can shout out their favorite lines at the right time.

Bonfire and storytelling night. Great for extended family time or a big group of friends. Enjoying appetizers or desserts together around a bonfire is a great way to just chat and catch up with each other. It can also be a chance to share family stories or funny happenings. Consider it the at-home version of sitting around a campfire and telling each other scary stories. If you want things to be more planned, you could have a few handpicked topics that people can talk about.

Outdoor dinner by candlelight. Food always seems to taste better when eaten outside, doesn’t it? With some extra details, dining outdoors can be a fun experience with a few candles, cushions, and curiosities. While it doesn’t have to be fancy, it is fun to plan a themed dinner, like Hawaiian or Middle Eastern food, and place it on low tables. Diners sit on cushions or blankets and enjoy a leisurely meal together. Be sure to include dessert to go along with your themed dinner. Not into cooking? It’s perfectly acceptable for all the food to be take-out from a local restaurant!

In Summary

Just because you aren’t hopping on a plane doesn’t mean you are going to miss out on creating great summer memories and experiences. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy some emergency “fun” that will add to your summer without breaking your budget.

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