It’s mid September (already!) and fall officially begins this month! I’m a warm weather fan, so the brisk air that comes with fall isn’t exactly my favorite thing in the world. When I start to dislike the changing weather, I remember that several fun things happen this time of year, including fall festivals galore! Our family loves to be out and active, especially during the fall season, when we usually drag our two kiddos to almost every single festival in a 30 mile radius. We live in the Missouri Ozarks, so that equates to about 1,000,000 fall festivals between September and November. We’ve decided to narrow it down a bit this year… a good decision! In our adventures, we’ve learned some things about saving money at these events and still having fun. Here are our Tips to Save Money at Fall Festivals this year.
So you’re itching for some Fall Festival fun times? Here are some ways to have a fun adventure and not bust your “fun” budget in a single weekend.
1. Plan Ahead
Do some research and try to find a list of local festivals near you. Chances are, one of your local television news stations has already done this for you. Here’s a massive list that was put together for Southwest Missouri by one of our media outlets. Obviously you’ll check your family calendar to see if any dates fit in your schedule, but be watchful for where the festival is located. If it’s a 30 min drive, and you could catch a closer festival the next weekend, consider waiting until then. Chances are the vendors will be the same. After a few years, we discovered that the same local vendors/crafters had a booth at almost every local festival, so we were repeating ourselves after a while. By narrowing your plans to nearby festivals, you’ll also save some gas budget money.
2. Budget for Festival Fun
Don’t forget that you might need to budget a bit extra for vehicle gas, eating out, and “fun” money in September/October and the expenses that come along with festivals such as traveling, eating, and fun activities like face painting and balloon animals.
3. Look for Festivals with Free Admission & Free Parking
When you are planning which festivals to attend, do research to see if admission and parking are free or if costs are associated. This should help make your decisions much easier. We typically only attend fall events with free admission and free parking. There are plenty out there. Some businesses near the festival site may charge a fee to park close to the event. Try to resist the urge to park closer, as the weather is likely going to be nice enough to walk a bit and let’s face it, you’re going to be walking outside at the festival anyway!
4. Enjoy the Free Scenery
Just because you’re at a Festival doesn’t mean you have to buy anything! Of course you may have budgeted to buy something or let your kids experience a fun activity like a hayride or bonfire, but if you don’t have money budgeted, remember that the fall scenery at a Festival is usually gorgeous and simply fun to walk around and look at. Window shopping at the vendor/craft booths is also fun. You can also snap some beautiful family and child pictures.
5. Budget Limits on “Extra” Activities
Even at a free Festival, you’ll be charged extra cash for things like pumpkins, hayrides, face painting, pumpkin painting, tractor rides, corn mazes, pony rides, balloon animals, and food/drinks. Talk to your kids before the Festival and give them some limits. For example, you may decide to let them do 2 activities. Each child gets to pick the 2 activities they want to do, and when they are over… they are over. Perhaps you give each child a festival allowance, like $6-$10 per child. Let them make decisions about what they want to do with their money and they can practice some critical thinking as they (hopefully) try to determine the scenarios that allow them the most activities with their money.
We attended the Wickman’s Garden Village Fall Festival in Springfield, MO yesterday and before we began our adventure, we told the kids they could have/do 1 thing. Tink decided she wanted a balloon animal (which was totally not worth the 20 minute line wait), despite our attempts to educate her on how temporary those things are! Tyke decided to get an ice cream treat instead. Of course Tink’s balloon animal popped literally 10 seconds after she got it and she had to watch her brother eat ice cream. She did not throw a fit because the limits were clearly set and she knew she had made her own choice.
6. Pack Snacks or Eat Before
If you aren’t interested in paying $2-$3 for a bottled water/soda and an obscene amount of money for mediocre (at best) food from a food truck parked on site, eat before you go. You can eat lunch at home and attend the Festival after, or swing through a cheap fast food place on the way. It will still be cheaper than eating on site. You can usually bring your own bottled water and snacks to Festivals, so bring them along and your whole family can avoid the hunger & thirst money traps at the event.
Hopefully this list has some helpful ideas for you as the Fall season begins and all the fun activities that come along! We have so much fun attending Festivals in our area and if anyone is interested, our local favorites are definitely the Fair Grove Heritage Reunion Festival (September 27-28), the Rutledge Wilson Farm Fall Fest (September 21-October 27), Republic Pumpkin Daze (October 4), and Campbell’s Maze Daze Farm. If you’re looking for an awesome haunted corn maze for adults, our favorite is the Verona, Missouri maze.
Happy Fall Y’all!