Free Kids Activities When Traveling Full-Time
We love traveling full-time with our kids. Finnegan just turned 4 and Hazel is 2. We have only been on the road for two months and they have already seen and done more than I’m sure the majority of toddlers their age have. In fact, they’ve probably done and seen more than many adults have! Exploring new places is one of the main reasons we decided to live this lifestyle of RVing and traveling full-time, but unfortunately exploring most destinations comes with a price to pay (literally). Checking out museums, amusement parks, or national parks can get expensive when you are doing it on a consistent basis. So when not spending money on the big must-sees in a new area, I’ve found a couple of trusty go-to's that are in pretty much every town or city. Here are some great free ways to spend the day with the kids while traveling.
A library is a win-win when traveling full-time. The kids get a chance to read new books they don’t have room for in their tiny home, and homeschooling parents get some educational time in the day without the kids noticing. Score!
Besides endless rows of books for the kids to look at, libraries usually offer so much more. When we get to a new area we take a look at the library’s website for storytimes that fit our children’s age group. We will actually plan our paid excursions around those days offering storytimes, so we don’t miss out on a free activity opportunity one day of the week. Storytime gives the kids a chance to interact with other children and usually gives me a chance to interact with local parents and get even more information on fun and free things to do.
Most libraries also offer a computer area where kids can play educational games as well as an area with toys. We’ve found libraries with puppet shows, train tables, and full play kitchens.
So what’s been our favorite library so far? The Santa Barbara Central Library has a wonderful children’s area that is perfect for preschool aged kids. We attended a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activity that offered hands-on play stations for the kids. This library also had a whole educational toy area that I had to basically drag the kids away from when it was time to leave for lunch. Such a great library!
So, a library is a great place to spend the days without paying a dollar and sometimes you’ll even get free snacks!
We love a good park. And, since most areas have a number of them, you can visit multiple parks in one area and nobody gets bored. Sometimes you will find the mother of all parks and go to the same one time and time again!
While exploring parks during our travels we have experienced all kinds of playgrounds that have tested the kid's limits and have made them more adventurous and confident. So many times I’ve heard my (then) 3 year old say he can’t do something like climb a wall or reach a monkey bar, then the next thing I know, he’s swinging from and climbing on anything he can find!
Besides playgrounds, parks offer a grassy place for kids to run free. Playing tag or kicking a ball around is a great way to get some energy out before heading home to our 300 square foot RV. Many parks also have a water feature that may be home to ducks or other wildlife that can add a whole other level of excitement to the day. We’ve found parks with playgrounds that sit right on the beach, offering endless amounts of free activities. We visited a beach playground for two days in a row it was so much fun!
It’s hard to pick just one park as our favorite, but it’s probably a tie between Palm Desert Civic Center Park which had multiple playgrounds and a beautiful duck pond, and East Beach Playground in Santa Barbara which was, well, on the beach.
No matter where you are, you are likely able to find a park to play in with the kids for hours or days on end.
This might be an obvious one, but I would hate for it to get overlooked. Regardless of how urban or rural your destination is, there is hiking around you. Kid friendly hiking to be more specific!
Depending on their ages, most kids are so happy just being outside, exploring, and running around. Spending some time in the outdoors is great for their little bodies and little minds alike. Again, another homeschool win!
It might be intimidating to find hiking spots in a new place, but luckily some apps and websites make it so easy to find local hikes. You can even use filters to find hikes that match exactly what you’re looking for. We usually look for hikes that are easy, 2 miles or under, and ideally offer some sort of point of interest like a stream or an overlook. Our favorite free hike so far has been the Coachella Valley Preserve. Beautiful oasis in the desert with fun boardwalks to explore.
So get outside, take a hike, and spend a day exploring the world around you! It’s free!
It’s excellent exploring a new place by seeing the local museums or tourist attractions, but it is so refreshing to spend some time off the beaten path and see where the local families are hangout. We have learned so much about new places, met new friends, and saved some money, by participating in free kid-friendly activities found no matter where we go!