Savings Mom: Having Summer Fun with the Kids on a Budget

Summer vacation is around the corner and that means finding creative ways to entertain the kids without breaking the bank. There are tons of great deals on summer vacation activities -- you just have to know where to find the coupons!

Where to find coupons for activities, restaurants and attractions:

Entertainment books. You can find many "buy one, get one free" and discount coupons for local activities like bowling, miniature golf, movie theaters, playhouses, professional sports tickets, fast food restaurants, ice cream stores and far more in your city's Entertainment book. You can buy these coupon books online for $9.99 plus shipping, on sale from their full price of $25 to $45 per book. Preview the coupons in your area before you buy at www.entertainment.com.

Look for free local coupon books and free children's magazines with coupons in stores, the library and in the mail.

Go to restaurant Web sites to see if printable coupons are available. For example, you can sign up for coupons at the Web sites of Pizza Hut, Chuck E. Cheese, Champs, Quizno's, Boston Market, Popeye's and A&W, to name a few. Join Dairy Queen's Blizzard Fan Club to get "buy one, get one free" coupons.

Look on grocery store Web sites for discounts and coupons for local attractions. For example, anyone can get coupons for the Denver Zoo and the Denver Children's Museum at www.kingsoopers.com. Ralphs shoppers in California can get a free child's ticket when they buy a deeply discounted adult ticket at Six Flags Magic Mountain (through June 21). Many grocery stores offer discounted tickets for local attractions and theme parks.

Visit your city's sports teams' Web sites and look for special ticket promotions. For example, the Chicago White Sox offer $1 tickets for children on specific dates in the summer. The Atlanta Braves have special "buy one, get one free" tickets available (for any age) on specific dates.

Take advantage of special discounts on museum and attraction tickets available to AAA and AARP members. Check their Web sites for specific discounts.

Take advantage of freebies at local museums, attractions and restaurants:

There are many interesting museums and attractions that are free every day. Find some at www.free-attractions.com. This national site is also a good one to check when you are traveling to another city.

Some museums offer free admission or special free activities on specific days. Visit museum Web sites or call your city's museums to find out if and when they offer free admission.

Be a tourist in your own city. Visit the Web site or call your city's visitors' bureau and order the free visitor's kit, which may have money-saving coupons and information about free activities in your city.

Many restaurants offer free kids' meals with the purchase of an adult meal every day or on specific days of the week. The best way to find out about free kids' meals is to ask your favorite restaurants about their kids' meal policy. You can also find some listed at www.kidseatfree.com.

Some movie theaters offer a free weekly children's film during the summer. Ask your local theater if it offers one, or check these theater Web sites: • Regal Cinemas: www.regalcinemas.com/family_film/

• Lowes Theaters: www.enjoytheshow.com/promotions/kidsfilmseries/

Local libraries and bookstores may provide free storytelling and movie hours for preschoolers.

Save money with annual passes for favorite museums and attractions:

Attractions such as zoos, museums, nature centers, water parks and theme parks frequently offer annual passes that cost the same or only slightly more than one day's admission. When investigating this money-saving option, be sure to:

Check to see if discounts are available when passes are purchased online at the attractions' Web sites.

Call the membership office to ask about additional benefits provided to members. For example, some theme parks provide a coupon book with free guest passes (for selected dates) for each annual pass. It may be possible to have one family member use the free guest passes rather than buying a full pass for everyone if you plan ahead.

Ask about member benefits available in other cities. For example, Six Flags' annual pass holders can use any Six Flags park in the world (with a few exceptions). See www.sixflags.com for details.

The Savings Mom, who is also known as Stephanie Nelson, is based in Atlanta. For more information, you can visit www.thecouponmom.com.