Between seasonal discounts and neighborhood promotions, my kids are staying busy this summer -- and we're saving money. Here's how:
• Theme parks: Seasonal promotions are available to Florida residents at Busch Gardens, Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and others. At Busch Gardens, we purchased two-day passes for the price of a single day -- and tapped into additional savings by taking advantage of an online-purchase offer from AAA. Our cost worked out to $30 per person per day compared with the full price of $70 a day for adults and older children. Other parks have comparable deals.
• Local passes: Through Sept. 30, Miami Metrozoo, Miami Seaquarium and Wannado City offer a combined Summer Savings Pass that offers unlimited admission to all three for $20 per person with the purchase of a general admission ticket at any one.
• Summer reading: With school just weeks away, a visit to the library is a frugal way to get going on required reading for school-age children. In my house, we're counting pages and creating a reading log to avoid a last-minute literary crunch.
• Indoor malls: Through August, Dolphin Mall is hosting a Summer Fun Celebration with a changing calendar of activities for families. Summer events at Aventura Mall include storytelling, character days and an indoor playground. Check for similar activities at the shopping center nearest you.
• Public parks and recreation centers: From free movie nights to low-cost eco-tours, local parks and recreation centers offer no-cost or low-cost family entertainment. Our youth center, for example, has ice skating, swimming and bowling at budget-friendly rates.
• Friends and family: During a recent five-day trip to Tampa, we saved $500-$1,000 in lodging and meal expenses by staying with friends. We're lucky to have accommodating family in the Orlando area, too. We give our hosts gifts, consideration and reciprocity. In fact, our Tampa friends plan to stay with us when they visit South Florida.