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INSIDE: Roam the Gnome’s Epic & Helpful Guide on How to Save Money for Travel!

I wish I had a Genie’s lamp, or a trust fund, or a pile of money stashed beneath my mattress.

Truth is, I don’t.

But I do have a MONSTER-SIZED desire to travel.

The only way to solve that problem was to learn how to save money for travel.

I’ve spent my whole life saving, then travelling, then saving, then travelling.

Now I travel with two kids and a Gnome, so I need to save more. 

(and I enter as many competitions as I can to boost our chances of adventure!)

Here’s a round up of our best tips for saving money for travel so you can visit all your bucket list destinations (like the German Christmas markets pictured above!)  

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we may receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you.

>types of contests to win stuff - mud spa rotorua 800

Hells Gate Geothermal Park Mud Spa, Rotorua NZ

How to Save Money for Travel

Correct at time of publication on Roam the Gnome. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of. All prices in US dollars, unless otherwise stated

I’ve come to realise there are two equal parts to this equation.

1. Cut my expenses

2. Earn MORE income for travel

You can do one, or the other, but to boost that bank account exponentially, I suggest doing a bit of both.

Want to know more?

These are my savings tips and tricks to build your travel fund every single day!

(Don’t say ‘one day’. Say ‘today’ and start traveling sooner.)

australia map with pushpins by catarina sousa via pexels 800

Image credit: Catherina Sousa via Pexels BY CC0


I’m a minimalist by nature, and I HATE to waste money that could have been better spent on travel.

I rarely shop, but when I do, I’ve finally learned it’s much better value to pay a bit extra upfront to buy quality things that last.

That is true for clothes, furniture, white goods, technology…

(Want to know the quickest way to drain your travel savings? Head to the shopping mall. These places cast a magic spell on even the most determined saver.  AVOID THEM at all costs.)

When I do spend cash, it’s on experiences:

  • good food
  • adventures with friends and family
  • fun days out, and
  • trips to places I’ve never been before.

But I also love FREE stuff.

Swimming in our local river is my favourite thing to do, and it costs nothing.

I’ve also learned to distinguish between needs and wants, stick to a budget and carry cash for my splurges.

(Here’s an example: I need watermelon for the kids lunch boxes. I want the chocolate block as an after dinner treat.)

If I don’t have the cash in hand, I don’t buy it.

If you’ve ever wondered how to save money to travel to Europe, or to travel the world for a year, or how to save money for a trip fast, read on.

how to save money for travel - piggy bank by lena thelander

Image credit: Lena Thelander via Flickr CC BY-2.0


A note before we begin.

I save because I love to save, but also because I hate waste.

I don’t buy magazines because I can borrow them for FREE from the local library.

Ditto reading the latest must-read book.

(A library card is my best friend).

I don’t buy DVDs anymore because I don’t want to store them, but will buy the same movie on iTunes for the kids ipad if we love it.

I also love to support my local video shop (yes! we have one of these relics!), but wait a few weeks till the new-release movies drop to $3.

If I wait long enough, these DVDs turn up on the library shelves for free too.

PIN how to save money for travel 800

Hand me downs & joyful splurges

My friends know I’m happy to receive their hand-me-downs, and I love digging through a good second hand stall for treasure.

My saving though, never gets in the way of living a great healthy life.

I won’t skimp on eating well, and while I won’t eat out every week, when I do visit a restaurant, I buy what I want to eat, NOT the cheapest thing on the menu.

I can make sausages into a delicious meal my kids love, but we also eat lamb shanks some weeks.

I just won’t spend money on junk, or any stuff I’ll recycle to the op shop in the next few months.

That money is better put away for travel.

How I love saving for travel in every way, shape and form.

Here’s how I do it.

travel budget planning pic 800 - source unknown

Image credit: Airman 1st Class Anne McCready via USAirforcePhoto CC

Set a Monetary Goal

The best motivation for saving money is to set a goal for the exact amount you need for a dream trip.

Write up a list of all possible travel expenses:

  • flights
  • accommodation
  • spending money
  • meals and drinks, and cash for street food finds
  • entry tickets to attractions
  • shows you want to see
  • transport costs on ground
  • incidentals such as medicine or clothing you need to purchase for the trip
  • passport renewals or visas, and
  • the all important travel insurance.

(We use Covermore travel insurance company. You can also compare travel insurance company prices for different destinations. 

Once I have a definite figure, I add a little for safeguarding, then I count the weeks between now and when I want to leave, and work out a weekly budget figure.

PS: I’ve also learned lots about how to save money ON travel. (Check the guide above for tips)

use envelopes to separate your cash - source unknow

Image credit: Source unknown

Write a Budget

Then I make a realistic budget.

This figure lets me know exactly what I need to save each fortnight to make my trip a reality.

My travel goals come true because of this one key piece of paper.

How to make a budget

From my very first “pay check” from my first job at Coles supermarket – actually, a wad of cash in a small dusty-yellow envelope pay packet – I’ve budgeted and saved.

I have NO idea where I learned this skill, but it definitely was not from my free-spending mum and dad.

(In fact, only recently, I’ve finally taught my mum these skills, and she is now thrilled to have money for all her monthly bills ready and waiting in the bank before they are due.)

Each week, I would come home and take out the cash, and separate it into envelopes.

Some for things I wanted to buy, some for things I needed to pay, but most for my savings account.

I’m a Taurus, so perhaps it’s ingrained?

Any cash left over went into my purse as ‘fun money’ to buy treats, or hot chips!

save money for travel notebook by pxhere

Image credit: Pxhere BY CC0

Saving money for travel and life

This budgeting hack has become a lifelong habit.

These days, I visit and check on my budget at least once a week to balance the accounts, so I ALWAYS know where my money is going.

I have four accounts:

  • a general “daily living” account
  • a “savings” account
  • a “business” account and
  • a “mortgage savings” account.

The first thing I do each time I’m paid is to shift my savings first – my travel savings into my savings fund, and an amount to keep growing my mortgage account.

I set these payments automatically so they are gone from my daily living account before I can spend them.

I also have a regular sum automatically moved from my daily living account to my business account. This amount is put aside for my monthly bills so I’m never left short.

In fact, this is another form of savings, as I’ve often saved more than I need for electricity, phone and car service bills.

I move any excess to my travel fund every few months.

how to save money for travel by pxhere

Image credit: Pxhere BY CC0

How to work out your yearly expenses

How do I know how much to put aside for bills?

Easy. I tallied up ALL my expenses and bills for the year into one, then divide this by 52 to get a weekly amount.

I save an amount for:

  • our next trip (as above)
  • electricity
  • phone and internet
  • car servicing
  • car insurance
  • contents insurance
  • adobe subscription
  • cub scouts fees
  • life insurance
  • web hosting
  • the mower man
  • rent
  • swimming lessons, yoga or gym membership
  • petrol
  • the weekly food shop
  • my hair appointment four times a year
  • a small amount for birthday gifts
  • another moderate amount to cover Easter eggs and birthday presents for my boys, and
  • $1000 to cover Christmas presents, Christmas decorations and food.

I also include a yearly amount for tyres, car repairs, $800 for school holiday expenses beyond my normal budget ($200 per term break), and about $1000 total for unexpected household expenses.

Put the bills money aside

I put this aside each fortnight BEFORE I can touch it.

Lastly, I allocate a fortnightly amount just for FUN!

This is cash money I use to go out to dinner, to buy takeaway when I can’t be bothered to cook, to buy a new lipstick or mascara, to pay for my boy’s haircuts, or school photos, or to have my eyebrows threaded.

I take this cash out from the fee-free ATM once a week, and dip into it as necessary.

Any leftovers at the end of the fortnight go back to my travel fund.

Learning to budget is by far the best tip I can give you on how to save money for travel.

Travel_around_the_world map with scrabble letters by unknown - original source unfound 800

Image credit: Original source unknown

Make a Travel Dream Board

Intention is a big part of manifesting a dream into reality too, so it’s very helpful to build a dream board.

The first step in making a dream board is to collect a bunch of old magazines, travel brochures, colourful flyers, leaflets, and photos.

Cut out any words or pictures that catch your eye, or make sense for the goal of this trip.

How to make a Travel Vision Board 

  • Grab a glue stick and a large white piece of cardboard or a foam core board from Spotlight, and arrange the pictures and words on the board aesthetically.
  • This board needs to light a spark of motivation in you, and keep it burning, so make it pleasing to YOUR eye.
  • When you are done, hang or blu-tack it to a prominent wall. (I have mine on the wall in front of my toilet door.)
  • Every single time you stare at this poster, and focus your mind’s eye AND energy on it, you are sowing a seed to bring this dream into reality.

(or use this Vision Board kit)

I do believe intention and manifestation works properly only when combined with “energy”.

You know that positive whole-body shiver feeling you get when you hear a song, or read a paragraph or quote that touches you?

(I get these kind of all-knowing shivers when I drive through the underpass near my home, and see a plane take off or land in super close proximity. This truly thrills me!)

Try to RECREATE THAT SENSATION in your body with your own imagination when you are looking at the dream board and picturing an upcoming trip.

I’m convinced that doing this adds a supercharge to my manifesting powers in making my dreams come true!

save money for travel - coke bottle trick by slgckgc

Image credit: Slgckgc via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Quick wins for Saving Money

Save all your $2 coins and put them in a coke bottle.

When it’s filled, you’ll have saved somewhere between $800 and $1000.

There’s a Jetstar airfare from Gold Coast to Tokyo right there.

Or, collect every $5 note you receive, and put all these $5 notes in an envelope in your top drawer.

They add up quicker than you realise. 

maryborough bank by denisbin flickr

Image credit: Denisbin via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Helpful tips on now to save money for a trip

Set up your bank accounts properly

Spend a bit of time researching the best banks for your cash if you want to start saving money to travel.

Choose a fee-free account and make sure they have readily accessible ATM’s you can withdraw from for free too.

I HATE paying that $2.50 withdrawal fee when I have to use a different ATM than my own. It sucks!

Make use of automatic scheduling and move all those savings from your budget OUT of your normal daily living account as soon as cash hits the bank.

Do not be tempted to spend this cash ever or you’ll have to replace it from your savings account.

Boo hoo.

Ditch all but one credit card

Pay off all your credit card debts as quick as you can, then close all but one. 

Reduce this credit card limit down to $2000 (or $1000 if you prefer) so you have it there for travel emergencies, but also as a way to hire cars, and put down deposits on hotel bookings.

I don’t own a credit card at all (on principle), and it’s painful at times when I need to hire a car and a Visa or Mastercard debit card won’t do, even though the money is in the bank.

It’s dumb.

how to save money - shop your pantry cupboard pic by jodimichelle

Image credit: Jodmichelle via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Reduce Household Bills

Set a realistic food budget.

Aim to trim it by $20 each week, then save the difference. (That’s $1040 right there.)

Write a weekly menu.

I aim to cook a good proper meal at least 4 nights a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

We eat ready-made pizza or toasted sandwiches on Wednesday nights when the boys go to Cub Scouts.

I eat the leftovers for lunch most weekdays.

The boys visit their dad Friday & Saturday.

If you want to get organised, use this meal planner book.  It’s a guide to planning meals and staying on track. 

Cook more than you need.

Spaghetti bolognaise meat sauce turn into tomorrow’s lasagne, nachos, or savoury mince wraps, and my boys love to gobble up any extra plain pasta with grated cheese for breakfast!

Freeze what you don’t use.

Shop online so you only buy what you need.

Then pick it up at the scheduled time to avoid delivery charges.

Shop the specials.

Get to know the sale cycle, and buy multiples of your favourite products when they go down in price.

I pick up boxes of my favourite Carmen’s Breakfast Porridge (this one) when the multipack box reduces to under $4.

Every cent counts.

save money for travel - buy a deep freezer by andrew gomzyakov

Image credit: Andrew Gomzyakov via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Buy a deep freezer.

We buy meat and chicken in bulk, then divvy it up into individual packs for later. 

We buy frozen goods on special for the school holidays munch feasts.

I freeze bread and raisin bread, so we don’t ever run out, and can always whip up a cheese toastie as a last resort.

Shop once a week for groceries.

No more, no less.

Take cash and don’t be tempted to use the plastic for any extra treats.

Shop at Aldi or Costco budget supermarkets.

Honestly, these supermarkets are a lifesaver.

Anyone who wants to save money for travel needs to break the Coles or Woolworths supermarket habit, and pick up all the basics here instead.

You can easily save $10, $20 or $50 a shop.

That quickly adds up!

I usually do a small shop at our regular supermarket or the health food shop about every 10 days to pick up the extra bits I can’t get at Aldi.

Write a shopping list, and stick to it.

I put the shopping list on my fridge, and add to it when things run out.

Then I go get these things on my next supermarket shop.

supermarket fruit aisles by dean hochman

Image credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Set a timer for your supermarket visit.

You can’t overspend when you’ve only got 25 minutes to get it done.

Once a month, shop your pantry & freezer

One week each month, make a pact to use up ALL the stuff in your pantry and freezer before buying more.

It’s a fun creative challenge to make meals from a mish-mash of what’s left over, but the payoff is a week’s food budget to put straight into your savings.

Check in with your utility providers

Take the time once a year to call all your utility providers and ask whether or not you are getting the best deal. 9 times out of 10, you’ll reduce the price.

Do this across all providers and you’ve just saved up to $1000 or more for a trip.

Call your bank

The latest tip I heard is to call your bank, and ask them to refund your account keeping fees.

Not every bank will do it, but some will.

I’ve heard of people receiving a lump sum of more than $500, 4 years worth of bank fees repaid to them.

clothing measurements - source unknown 800

Image credit: Source unknown

Clothing & Shoe purchases

I finally worked out that it makes sense to spend more at the outset on good quality clothing that lasts. Took me years to realise that.

But never pay full price.

Wait a week or two, or three, and the clothing you covet will likely reduce, sometimes by HALF.

Sign up to your favourite clothing shop newsletters

Keep an eye on clothing prices by signing up to receive the newsletter from your favourite brands.

I love dresses from:

  • Country Road
  • Katies
  • Elk clothing
  • Review
  • Gorman
  • LazyBones, and
  • Birds Nest. 

I receive a newsletter every week with their new releases, AND end of line sales or seasonal sales.

I also check their facebook pages from time to time for sales notifications.

There’s a new sale every week. 

sale by helge thomas

Image credit: Helge Thomas via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Work out your size

Visit your favourite clothing shops, and work out your size at that particular store or brand.

When you spot a sale, you can buy that dress or outfit online with confidence.

Never pay full price

Sales happen ALL THE TIME.

Last year, I was stung paying $80 for a new dress for an event.

A week later, it was on sale for $25. 

I nearly cried.

Yes, there’s a risk the dress you love might not be available in your size when it goes on sale, but I bet there’s one somewhere.

Ask the staff to find it for you, and ferry it to your local store.

Again, NEVER pay full price.

There’s no need.

clothing swap meet by pip r lagenta flickr

Image credit: Pip R.Lagenta via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Clothing swap meets

If being stylish is a necessity, find other ways to revamp your wardrobe than buying new:

  • swap with friends
  • op shop, or
  • build a capsule wardrobe and change it up with recycled accessories.

Set a yearly spend

Ultimately if you want to know how to save money for travel, clothing and shoe purchases need to be limited.

Give yourself a yearly spend, and don’t go over it.

red bead necklace by elycia

Image credit: Elycia via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Learn what works for you, and stick with it

I’m a bit of a style tragic, in that I missed the gene.

I find it really helpful to cut out pictures from magazines of the outfits and combinations I love. Then I put this all onto a big table and look for the themes.

I can see I’m drawn to:

  • red and blues
  • plain colours over patterns
  • natural fibres and apron style dresses
  • V-neck shapes on dresses and tees, that slim my figure.

I love:

  • big chunky resin necklaces
  • red beads
  • wooden bangles
  • cuffs
  • wool scarfs
  • silver rings
  • delicate rose gold chains
  • Blundstone boots
  • leather sandals
  • Saltwater sandals too.

Knowing this about my likes and dislikes helps to me make sure my clothing purchase stays true to my essence, and I don’t regret my purchase straight afterwards.

how to save money grow 800

Image credit: Source unknown


The only downside to minimising your expenses is that in some ways it can shrink your potential.

I’d much rather MAKE MORE MONEY than have to feel constrained, or live on such a strict budget that life is no fun.

“Making more money” can be a super fun challenge, and I’m totally motivated by the dollar signs when it involves saving for a big trip.

Here’s few new ways to save money for a trip:

Start a side-hussle.

I love Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle School Project.

(Find the book here)

My favourite story of late is an Australian girl, Georgia Norton Lodge, who draws pencil sketches of people’s homes to save money for her own house.

She’s earned over $6000 this past year and is working to make it her full time gig.

Could YOU draw sketches of:

  • the contents of someone’s luggage
  • a drawing of a person’s travel collectables
  • a still life of someone’s souvenir purchases, or
  • a watercolour painting of their favourite destination, to fund your next adventure?

tupperware bowls by katy warner

Image credit: Katy Warner via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Sell Tupperware.

When I was working full time as a teacher, and pregnant, I joined Tupperware to make some extra cash for my maternity leave.

Some weeks I made more selling plastic containers than I did from my full time teaching day job!

I saved $5000 over 6 months, reorganised my entire pantry cupboard with sets of Modular Mates

I use to this day, and took my daughter on a couple of surprise weekend trips, including one to Sydney to see Billy Elliot at the Capital Theatre.

If you, like me, don’t want to contribute to the plastic problem on this planet any more, sell something else on commission.

Young LivingDoterra oils sell like hotcakes in the hippie town where I live, and you could make a fortune selling stainless steel lunch tins here too.

Find a product and business that resonates with you and your town, and sell that.

Teach English online.

VIPKids allows you to pick your own hours, and be your own boss as you teach English to kids between the ages of 4-12 who are based in China online in a one-to-one format.

You must have a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve not done it, but I know lots of people who do it just to save for their next trip.

Pick up a casual job at a local weekend food truck market.

It’s fun, it’s busy, and the hours pass quickly.

You might even get a free dinner! (or leftovers to take home.)

Babysitting is a great job if you have kids at home.

What’s one or two more?

blessingway painted belly by robyn janetzki 800

Offer your talents and skills to friends and family.

I’d give anything to have my own talented cook who loves to make delicious dinner.

I’m sure there are people out there who would happily make dinner for me, for a fee. (Note to self: start looking).

Love to sew, or iron, or build wood furniture, or garden, or build compost piles, or nurture a veggie garden, or paint pregnant bellies?

My friend Robyn Janetzki paints pregnant bellies at ‘blessingways’ or baby showers with the cutest motifs.

She painted my belly twice!

Make a simple ad, or put the word out among friends, and see if anyone responds.

Set up an AirBNB, and offer your spare room in your house to travellers who want a local experience.

But don’t rent out the whole house as investment income.   

That’s not what AirBNB is about. 

(This disruptor startup is destroying the fabric of communities, by pushing all the local workers, creators and artists out of town, reducing the amount of available long-term rentals for families, and increasing the cost of housing to breaking point in places like Byron Bay, New Orleans and Venice.)

AirBNB is good when it’s used as it was designed for, as a way for travellers or tourists to meet and stay WITH locals in their own homes, so they can help build community and show off their local area attractions, but not so good when it’s used for greed.

Or for people who want to rent out their house to fellow travelers while they are away, and vice versa.

uber hire car by elvert barnes flickr

Image credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Become an Uber driver.

Drive fellow explorers in your spare time for cash.

Busk on the street.

My friend’s 18 year old son plays sax and guitar in a local tourist town from time to time.

In two hours, he regularly earns $200 or more.

Yes, you’ll likely need a licence but not always.

Failing that, ask around at local cafes and restaurants. They might be happy for you to provide entertainment each Friday night for a fee.

Run a craft workshop for adults or homeschoolers.

Or host a regular playgroup, or teach a skill.

I’ve run hundreds of creative arts workshops, and hosted crafternoons for friends on:

  • felting
  • hand-carved stamping
  • sewing and embroidery
  • simple doll making
  • nature crafts
  • quick and easy seasonal crafts for kids, and
  • a full 10-week course on creativity for women.

These kinds of workshops fill my soul, AND my wallet.

RELATED: The Best ART and CRAFT Workshops Around the World for Travelers who want to join in & make stuff!

money box by hernan pinera flickr

Image credit: Hernan Pinera via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Need more tips on how to save money for travel?

I’ll be adding more money saving tips to this list of how to save money for travel every now and then, so check back to see more new ideas for saving money for travel.

Start saving. It’s simple.

copenhagen playground - local area attractions pic 800

Looking for more helpful money tips?

Here’s 20 Non-boring Fun Things you can do at home FOR FREE!

knitting by aine

Image credit: Aine by Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.1: Make your own pair of knitting needles

For this, each child will need two wooden craft sticks or pieces of dowel (at least 25cm long) to make a pair of knitting needles.

Show the children how to gently sand one end of both sticks or dowel into a fairly sharp point, using medium grade sandpaper or by scratching the sticks against a piece of old outdoor concrete.

Glue on a funky bead, a gumnut, or a cute trinket onto the flat end for personalised decoration, then show the kids how to cast on for knitting adventures.

A10 cm  square of knitting can be sewn up into a little handbag, a pencil case, or be used for the body of a simple tube doll instead of felt.

Older children can sew simple patterns.

There’s plenty of knitting ideas in this original book, The Children’s Year, and also in this one, A First Book of Knitting for Children.

Both of these books are faves on our bookshelf, and very tatty these days. 

Or head to the local library to find more options, or ask a family member for help.  

childrens art gallery wall by peter van broekhoven

Image credit: Peter Van Broekhoven Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.2: Host your OWN art gallery, just like the ones they see when travelling.

Invite the children to make glorious pieces of art on A4 sheets of paper or cardboard, using whatever you have on hand:

  • pencils
  • markers
  • paint
  • collage materials.

If you want to go all professional, make a frame. 

Cut a piece of cardboard that will fit over the piece, adding a border of at least 3 – 4 cm.

Use a stanley knife to carefully cut out the centre rectangle of the cardboard to leave an art window for the child’s work.

Tape their art piece to the underside of the frame.

Hang prepared artworks across a blank wall by suspending a length of fishing line from a hook or thumbtacks and pegging them on with mini wooden pegs.

Invite guests for a gala gallery opening one afternoon, providing peppermint tea, and sweet nibblies for all.

FUN THINGS TO DO AT HOME FOR FREE! - teddy bears picnic by virginia state parks

Image credit: Virginia State Parks via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.3: On a fine sunny day, take the beloved teddies outside for a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Spread out a comfy rug, and help your teddy and doll guests to feel comfortable by propping them up with cushions and pillows.

You might like to share a snack.


  • honey and banana muffins
  • sweet iced tea
  • ‘beary’-good sandwiches or wraps, and
  • fruit skewers and honey-yoghurt dipping pots.

Endow awards (gold cardboard stars on finger-knitted ropes ) to the:

  • Best Dressed Bear
  • Most Unusual Named Bear
  • No. 1 Adventurer Bear, and
  • Bear with the Biggest Heart.

Sing bear-inspired songs:

  • ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’
  • ‘Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around’ or
  • my favourite, ‘If you go down to the woods today’ (The Teddy Bears Picnic song).

Why not make a Photo Booth and provide props (wigs, moustaches, groovy glasses…) for the children and bears to wear for fun snaps?

Hot Tip: This is why we always carry a small ball of coloured 100% wool knitting wool, and a small pair of scissors with us. You just never know when you’ll need to make a finger knitted rope when you are out and about!

fun things to do at home for free - rainbow resin necklace by ritzee rebel

Image credit: Ritzee Rebel via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.4: Host a fun afternoon of recycling old fashion jewellery.

Gather unwanted supplies from your favourite grandma, aunty or friend (those with a cupboard overflowing with fashion faux pas especially!) and set up a bunch of empty bowls on a big table.

Use scissors or pliers to snap old strings and chains and save the beads, the ornamental pieces, the jewels, and the buttons, sorting them into the bowls as you go.

When this work is done, invite children to scavenge through the loose parts to make brand new necklaces and bracelets of their own, threading them onto thin elastic strands or linen thread using blunt tapestry needles.

Or fill chocolate moulds with your favourite bits and pieces, top them up with resin and leave them to set.

(The making and pouring resin bit is an adult’s job.)

At afternoon’s end, or when the resin has set, host a fashion parade and view all the exotic creations.

backyard posies by kelly taylor flickr

Image credit: Kelly Taylor via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.5: Pick a posy.

Take a walk through the local neighbourhood with your children to find pockets of blooming glory.

Pick a bunch of your favourite blossoms and arrange them in a sweet display.

(Be sure to ask before you remove flowers from private gardens.)

Wrap the stems together with string twine and place in a see-through vase, cup or whatever you vessel you have on hand.

natural dye by vicky katrin kuhlmann

Image credit: Vicky Katrin Kuhlmann via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.6: Play with Natural Dyeing 

Put on your Wizard’s hat and brew up a concoction of natural finds to dye fabric and wool!

I love that you can do this anywhere you go!

 All you need is to forage through the forest or bushland for some fallen leaves, seedpods, flowers, or bark; and have access to a bottle of vinegar and a stove top.

To begin, you need to prepare a piece of cotton or silk fabric (an old white cotton tshirt will also suffice) or a plain un-dyed 100% knitting wool ball or skein with a ‘fixative’ that will help the  to hold the colour.

For plant dyes:

  • Place 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Add material and simmer for an hour
  • Then rinse fabric or wool gently in cold water.
  • Chop up 2 cups of your chosen material into tiny pieces and cover with 4 cups of water.
  • Bring to boil and allow it to simmer for an hour.
  • Strain the dye, then add your wet fabric or wool skein.
  • Leave for 2 hours, or for a more intense colour, overnight.
  • Rinse gently in clean water and hang out to dry.  

Here’s a list of some of the natural seedpods and treasures you can use:

  • onion skins
  • eucalyptus leaves
  • pomegranate peel
  • madder root
  • roses
  • lavender
  • beetroot
  • tumeric
  • dried hibiscus leaves
  • spinach leaves

There is alchemy in this process and once you have a go, everyone will be on the hunt to see what other colour combinations you can create with natural finds from your backyard or nature walks.

fun things to do at home for free - flower mandala by heather

Image credit: Heather via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.7: Make a leaf or flower mandala.

Give each child a basket and invite them to collect a stash of green or dried material on a nature walk, including seedpods, flower heads, four leaf clovers, leaves, sticks, Y sticks, pine cones etc. 

Upon your return home, demonstrate how they can artistically organise their nature finds into ‘mandala’-like repetitive patterns.

For inspiration, type ‘flower (or ‘leaf’) mandalas’ into google images.

Just imagine what you can do with your nature materials too!

Nature provides us with lots of fun things to do at home for free. 

chalk art by franklin park library

Image credit: Franklin park library via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.8: Give children a bucket of coloured chalk

No matter where you go, you can just about always find a cheap tub of coloured chalk in a discount variety store or as we call them around here, a ‘cheap shop’.

Then it’s just a matter of inviting the kids to ‘make art’ on your concrete driveway or road, or a pathway.

Draw ‘picture frames’ or shape outlines they can fill.

Or draw a ‘hopscotch’ pattern and show them how to play using a few small rocks as your tokens.

Or, try this awesome idea I saw on Facebook.

Use washi tape or narrow masking tape to outline a huge rectangle shape on your wooden fence

Inside the rectangle, break up the open space into lots of smaller shapes using tape laid out in straight lines.

It’s similar to a tesselate but instead of one shape repeating over and over, these shapes will be random triangles, rectangles, oblongs and all sorts.  

Then have the children color in the spaces with chalk. One color per space. When you are done, peel off the tape to see this magical creation! 

If you are lucky enough to have access to white chalk rocks or white ‘mud’ in your local neighbourhood, pre-empt your chalk adventures with a “nature forest kindergarten” bush walk to explore and make stuff, including homemade chalk sticks, with the white mud clay.  

We did this as kids growing up, wiling away hours on the bush-covered empty building blocks in our cul-de-sac making chalk-mud tea-sets and painting chalk-art figures on the enormous boulders.

I still remember how much I loved it!

fun things to do at home for free - use colored pavement chalk by steve johnson

Image credit: Steve Johnson via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.9: Scoot the race track!

While you have the chalk handy, draw some ‘race track’ pathways on the ground and invite the kids to ‘race’ their bikes, scooters, or trikes around the course.

Give them a stopwatch, so they can time their efforts and try hard to beat their own personal best!

sandwich by cyclone bill

Image credit: Cyclone Bill via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.10: Host a ‘sandwich style-off’ in a similar vein to a “Bake-off”.

Challenge children to come up with the most inventive, yet edible, fillings for lunchtime sandwiches.

Go beyond the boring ‘vegemite and cheese’ or ‘cheese and pickle’ or ‘salad’ and see what extraordinary layered concoctions you can create.

Invite friends to share in a yummy lunchtime feed.

fruit ice lollies by lablacovegmenu

Image credit: Lablascovegmenu via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.11: Become a master illustrator and cookbook designer

Gather a basketful of seasonal fruit.

Give the kids small knives and show them how to cut the fruit into small pieces, ready for healthy smoothies, flavour-filled juices, and icy block treats.

Write your original recipes into your “family favourites recipe book” and ask the kids to illustrate the pages, like a bullet journal. 

Don’t have a special family recipe book yet?  

Well, then, it’s time to start one!

mud play by bandita

Image credit: Bandita via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

No.12: Find (or make!) MUD and make mud pies.

Dress your children in their oldest clothes, and give them access to water and a pile of dirt somewhere.

Throw in a few unwanted kitchen tools such as:

  • old whisks
  • salad servers
  • bowls
  • rolling pins, and
  • spoons

Then watch them concoct all kinds of experiments.

A long plank perched upon some bricks, branches or river stones can act as a shop front for all their weird and wonderful creations.
dinner table setting by didriks

Image credit: Didriks via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.13:  Host a Homemade Restaurant

Ask the kids to pick their three favourite dinner recipe items:

  • one for a starter
  • one for a main, and
  • one for dessert.

Together, write up a list of ingredients and prices, then go food shopping to gather supplies.

Invite an older sibling, or teenage friend to help the children to follow a recipe and prepare dinner for the family.

Let them set and decorate the table, and prepare the meal presentation, ‘Masterchef’ style.

They can also make some hand-drawn menus for their guests. 

Enjoy a night off, and be sure to celebrate your chefs!

go fishing by virginia state parks

Image credit: Virginia State Parks via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.14: Go fishing off a river bank with the most basic of supplies.

Fishing is a place to daydream together, and share innermost thoughts and feelings.

If you don’t like fishing, go for a foot-only paddle in the shallows.

singing by jim pennucci

Image credit: Jim Pennucci via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.15: Sing to your heart’s delight

Harness the children’s inner divas by setting up a microphone and inviting them to sing along to their favourite tracks.

Remember the wise words of Gabrielle Roth to help you overcome any cringe-worthy moments and let them sing to their hearts content.

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person
complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed,
they would ask one of four questions:

“When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?”

breakfast in bed by shari's berries

Image credit: Shari’s Berries via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No. 16: Eat breakfast in bed.

Prepare a tray of yummy goodies:

  • vegemite on toast
  • cheese slices
  • a glass of fresh juice
  • a dish of yoghurt with a squashed berry mix and oat crumble
  • homemade crepes or pancakes with magnificent chocolate sauce, or lemon and honey
  • strawberry and blueberry waffles 
  • cut fruit selection
  • a european-inspired selection of savoury delicacies such as ham, salami, feta and ricotta cheese
  • and perhaps a warm mug of peppermint tea.

Bring a selection of books (some of theirs, and at least one of your own) and spend a lazy hour or two, nibbling and reading the time away.

Reading and eating are two very fun things to do at home for free!

dancing by boudewijn berends

Image credit: Boudewijn Berends via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.17: Host a dance concert.

Help children create a ‘mix-tape’ of their favourite tunes.

Invite the children to dance and show off their funky moves.

star gazing by phillip chee

Image credit: Phillip Chee via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.18: Moonlight Gazing

Wake the children at midnight on a clear night.

Lay on your backyard trampoline, or on a rug on the grass for a star-gazing adventure.

Hot tip: If you are in the market for a new trampoline, we highly recommend looking at VULY trampolines

Read our review here too. 

fun things to do at home for free - put up lights by steve jurvetson

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson via  Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.19: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Pull the Christmas twinkle lights back out from your Christmas storage, and repurpose them for a front-door welcome.

I love twinkle lights as they remind me of magic and travel, and Christmas celebrations, Christmas markets, and all those divine Christmas decoration montages and displays we’ve seen around the world, and I believe they should be in use all year round.

When I’m staying at home for a time, I love to see twinkle lights every single day.

They remind me that soon, we’ll be back on the road for more adventures!

fun things to do at home for free - tree climbing by aaron weber

Image credit: Aaron Weber via Flickr CC BY-2.0

No.20: Climb trees of all shapes and sizes.

Scope your local area and neighbourhood for a procession of climbing trees – a la ‘Sound of Music’.

Dress your kids in long comfortable trousers and tees to ward off ant bites, bee stings and ticks, pack a picnic, and head off for a morning of tree exploration and time in nature.  

Walk there if you can.

Leave the car idle for the day and go by foot to save fuel and the environment where possible. 

We’re lucky enough to have THE climbable tree of our street in our front yard, and it’s always heaving with tiny bodies.  

Tree climbing is one of the most fun things to do at home for free.

vuly trampoline review with roam the gnome


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