Budget Friendly Fun

Grab Whatcha Got and Let’s GO!

That’s our tagline. It’s also our philosophy. You don’t have to have lots of money or fancy equipment to thoroughly enjoy life. Here’s some tips for some budget friendly fun activity ideas.

 I bet you can gather the things you already have at your disposal and have a wonderful day!

Budget friendly fun photo share

For this post, I’ll concentrate on outdoor activities that are free or budget friendly. We strongly encourage staying within your budget, but that does not mean all drudgery and sacrifice. A great deal of my fondest memories have been spending time with people I love and just being. Plan an activity that doesn’t include screens and does include real face time with those who are special to you.  We all know moving your body, getting out in nature, and being fully present in what you are doing are good for us on so many levels. These things reset our minds and bodies and lead to lower stress and just plain enjoyment of life.

 ** OK, I do mention some Apps, but take em or leave em.


Remember you just need some decent shoes/boots, a water bottle, and a carefree spirit. Do a little or a lot, but get out there. You will be amazed at the things you see – animal tracks, mushrooms, lovely trees, snow frosted branches in the winter and lush greenery in the summer. You can find hiking trails simply by googling hiking in your area. There are local park options and also state park options. We often turn our hikes into mini road trips, perhaps stopping at an attraction or bakery.

Read up on how difficult the trail is. Start slow and flat. If you enjoy your experience, that will make you want to do it some more. If you take on something too difficult you may not want to do it again. We like to go very early and enjoy the sun coming up on the trail and then finding a mom and pop bakery or deli once the hike is over midmorning. Or pack a sandwich and some granola bars and enjoy a bite to eat while we rest and soak up nature’s beauty.

Meet Ups

You can use meet ups 2 ways. 1. Look for actual meet ups with people you have something in common with. You could search all sorts of activities – anything from hiking, biking, walking to meeting with GENEXers, Single, divorced Dads, pet owners who want to walk…. The groups go on and on.  2. You could look at meet up activities for ideas. You don’t necessarily have to attend the meet up, but see what people are doing. This could include indoor or outdoor activities, of course. Often these events focus on budget friendly fun activity ideas

We belong to a group (which does involve a paid membership) that is called InterNations. It is a group of people from all over the world looking to get together and have what I call “an international friendship club.” We meet new and interesting people, of varying ages from many parts of the world.

Festivals and Gatherings

Sponsored by a city, county, or business – these are often free or very budget friendly. Remember, you can go and have a great time just getting off the sofa and doing something new. We recently attended the Hudson, Wisconsin – Hot Air Affair. Here is a list of things we did for free. Sampled and voted on a Hot Dish (casserole) contest, watched a chain saw ice sculpting competition, watched some crazy races called “Smoosh boarding” – where 4 people all together strap on a specialized pair of skis and race another team. We saw a Dress your Pet competition and saw the creative ways people dressed up their pets.

For a whopping $5 we bought a kite and flew it. I never thought of flying a kite in the winter in the Midwest.

Relaxing with a kite

The main event was watching the hot air balloons take off. You could talk to the balloon pilots and get up close to see all the workings. The launch was quite emotional because we were not sure if weather conditions would allow for take off. When they did leave the ground, the crowd cheered and I found myself getting a little teary.

Balloons at the Hudson, Wisconsin Hot Air Affair 2020

Local Parks

Pack a little picnic, gather up any sports equipment you may have and call some friends or take a gaggle of kids. You can play games, do a scavenger hunt, perhaps have a bon fire, even take your $5 kite out for another go. If you play an instrument, you can play guitar around a fire or take a yoga mat and do some yoga in the park.

Many of our local parks offer movies outdoors and music in the park nights. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked around the little lake at our favorite park and listened to everything from Mozart to Teddy Bear Band to Swing, Jazz,…. You name it, you can probably find a specific night for that.


This one can involve a little planning. We have easy access to the Mississippi River which is a migratory path. You can check out peak times when certain birds are migrating, plop yourself on a ridge or near a woods and see how many species of birds you can spot.

Bald eagle at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota
Bald eagle at the National Eagle Center

There are Apps that can help you identify birds or just relax and see what you see.

Water activity time

– swimming, playing on a beach, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, paddle boating… Pack some things for a water day! Some of these activities would involve renting a canoe or other equipment, but if your budget allows it, it could be a great adventure.

Volunteer Activities

These activities will not only get you out moving and grooving, it will give you an opportunity to help out. You could rake, shovel, paint, mow for the elderly. You could volunteer to clean a section of highway, stream, or park. You could chaperone kids on a nature walk. There are many many walks and runs for a given cause. Those often involve an entry fee, but you usually get a T-shirt out of the deal and help support and bring awareness to a cause. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to support a cause, or to do any of these activities.

Let any stigma you have about your perceived physical limitations go and focus on having fun and supporting a worthy cause. I guarantee you will be appreciated for your efforts.

Sunrises and Sunsets

Don’t forget about those golden minutes of when the sun either rises or sets. Be sure to find a clearing or a hill that offers great views. Keep in mind the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so pick spots that offer the proper vantage point. Being near water or high on a ridge can be dramatic and romantic.

a sunset is always a good idea for budget friendly fun
Any random sunset will do

You could add on a little star gazing after the sunset if you wait for it to get dark enough. A little road trip away from any city light pollution will make you think you can reach out and touch the stars.  There are also Apps which you point the phone at the sky and it will show/tell you the constellation you are looking at. Kiss your partner or kids every time you see a shooting star!

Ways to find things to do

Google things like Budget Friendly Activities in my area. Local libraries are a wealth of information and often have fliers of things to do. Meet ups mentioned above. Facebook events. Local newspapers. Budget friendly fun activity ideas can be found for anywhere and anytime.

Two and a Half Days in Santorini

Bulgaria, for the first two weeks, was chaotic and eventful all the time. Bulgaria, after two days on Santorini, seemed like a peaceful, quiet, sublime place to relax for the rest of the week.

Lisa and I had been in Bulgaria for a week and a half, or so, before we took a short vacation from our vacation. We headed down to Greece to spend two and a half days in Santorini. We had planned this before going to Europe. Our trip to Santorini was really just a by-product of being near it. On our budget, it was much more feasible to spend some time there if we were already nearby.

Our Trip to Santorini, Getting There

Our plane was leaving at 6:45 am. We were only traveling about 700 kilometers from Sofia to Santorini. I don’t know how many miles that is. But, it’s not many. Still, we didn’t know if this qualified as international travel. We certainly didn’t know what to expect from security. We left the bulk of our bags at the hotel in Sofia and headed to the airport a few hours early with just carry-on luggage.

Turns out, it was no problem. Yay! We hung out in Athens for a couple hours to make a connecting flight and arrived on the island at about noon.

Earlier, when we booked the Airbnb for our stay, they said they would send a driver for us. We thought that was a cool benefit of staying at this place. We soon found out that it was not as cool as we thought. It was not free. We brought 200 Euros with us for our two day stay. We spent 50 of it 15 minutes after we landed.

Our Trip to Santorini, Accommodations

Our accommodations for the next two days were wonderful! Irene, the owner, greeted us when we got there. Glaros Beach was the name of what she called an Airbnb. Really, it was more of a tiny motel. We unpacked and took a nap.

Glaros Beach house on our trip to Santorini
Glaros Beach guest house

Our Trip to Santorini, Day ½

another view of Glaros Beach House
Glaros Beach guest house
Glaros Beach house flowers
Glaros Beach guest house

After resting for a bit, we took a stroll around our new neighborhood. The place we were staying was very charming. White stucco with Santorini’s signature blue trim, with plants and flowers everywhere! As I mentioned earlier, we were on a pretty tight budget. So, this place we rented was not on the more popular, caldera side of the island. We were all the way over on the eastern shore, about 300 feet from a beautiful, and uncrowded, black sand beach. We walked all afternoon visiting a bunch of tiny little beach-front shops. We didn’t understand how good we had it on this side of the island!

Our Trip to Santorini, Day One

Lisa booked us on an 8-hour Notos bus tour of the island on our first full day. We had a limited budget, and a short time to visit. We thought this would be a good way to see most of the attractions that we wanted to. The plan was to rent an ATV, but it seemed unnecessary when we got there. We walked a few blocks and met the Notos travel bus at a nearby Euromarket.

The tour

The tour was awesome! We saw the Akrotiri Excavations first. This is an archaeological site that is open to the public. It has excavations of ruins that date back to 4000 BC!

The rest of the tour was simply amazing! At the end of the tour was a special treat. They would leave us and the bus in the Village of Oia to watch the famed Santorini Sunset. First, though, Lisa and I had to go up to see the famous blue-domed white church that appears in every picture of Santorini, ever.

other view of Oia
….On the other side of the road from the blue domes
Oia on our trip to Santorini
Obligatory Santorini Blue Domes Photo


The crowds were unbearable! Thousands of people were jammed into this little tiny town. I was quickly losing interest in staying in Oia much longer. We fought through crowds up and down tiny alley ways. Finally, Lisa noted, “The crowd is bad. What’s worse is that when the sun does go down, all of these people are going to be in a mad rush to get out of here.” Neither one of us liked the thought of trying to find our bus through this mass of humanity.

As we walked around trying to decide about how to get out of here, a man with a taxi stopped us. He said we looked like we needed a ride. (-: We agreed.

We did the right thing and went back to the bus driver to let him know that we were going to take a taxi back to our hotel.

Our new driver seemed like a good guy. I’m sure he is. We asked him if he would be available after tomorrow for a very early morning ride to the airport. “No problem,” he said. More about him later…..

Sunset…. I mean, moonrise

We were sad to leave before the sunset. We got back to Irene’s place just as dusk set in and decided to go down to our little, and completely EMPTY beach. It was wonderful to be out of the crowds.

A small light shined way off in the distance over the water. Two minutes later we realized that it was the full moon starting to rise.

On a cloudless night, on an empty beach, somewhere in paradise, we got to see a full moon rising above the Aegean Sea! We sat there for hours talking about how lucky we were and loving that we had left the crowds behind.

The moonrise at Perivolos Beach
Moonrise over Agean Sea

Our Trip to Santorini, Day Two

After staying up way past our bedtime, we were tired the next day. No time for that though. We were booked to go on a catamaran tour of the caldera with Spiridakos Travel. We got on board the boat and sat in the prime spot next to the Captain. He seemed young but said he already had been a captain for over 10 years.

The tour was a blast! We sailed through the caldera of Santorini, stopping at several cool places. I got to jump off the boat and swim to an underwater thermal vent with several of the other passengers.

We stopped at one point to do a little snorkeling with the fish that the crew was feeding.

Swimming to the underwater thermal vent on our trip to Santorini
Thermal Vent swimming

For lunch, our cook made delicious grilled chicken. After which, we spent another half-hour swimming with more fish!

When our boat trip was over, we went back to our hotel and napped again. A little bit of shopping, dinner, and a walk on the beach later, we retired to the patio to talk and laugh about our time in Santorini for the rest of the evening.

walking Perivolos Beach on our trip to Santorini
Perivolos black sand Beach

The Taxi Driver… Almost Day Three

A day earlier, our new friend, the taxi driver, had said, “No problem,” when we asked him to pick us up at 4:30 this morning. At 4:25 we grabbed our stuff and walked out to the road to wait for him.

Remember the taxi driver?

At 4:45 he still hadn’t arrived. I started making phone calls. There was no answer and no voice mail at the number he had given us.

I started calling as many taxi services as Google would tell me about. Not one answered the phone. I left a few messages in hopes of someone waking up and learning of our distress. Our plane is leaving at 6:25 am. It’s now 5 am. We are, as they say in Greece, and elsewhere I’m sure, fucked.

Lisa and I walked to the Euromarket which was on what seemed like a busy street. We were hoping that anybody was awake and out and about yet, who could help us. It was completely deserted.

Disheartened, we went back to the hotel and sat down outside. We had already left our room key behind the now locked door. Irene wouldn’t be awake for at least a few more hours. We had 50 Euros left. We needed a plan. A very cheap plan. It would be next to impossible to catch our flight now.

At 5:35 my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the tired voice on the other end. It was a taxi service. I went into a tirade about how the lousy prick who said he’d pick us up didn’t show.

The voice said, “That’s me.” “I slept too late.”

No shit, dude.

He said he would be there in twenty minutes.

Good enough. We figured, at least we’ll be at the airport and can figure out how to get back to Bulgaria from there.

At 5:55 the driver comes racing up the street and slammed on the brakes. “Get in! Let’s go!” We did.

The speed limit on most roads in Santorini is something like 40 kmh. My hands still hurt from gripping the underside of my seat that morning. Our driver friend wasn’t much for being on time, but he was determined to try to make up for it with his driving speed! Santorini is a really small island with really skinny roads when you’re cruising along at 120 kilometer per hour!

Nobody talked the for the entire 17 minutes.

We skidded into the airport lot at 6:12. I threw him our last 50 Euros and didn’t wait for change. The ticket agent said, “That flight is boarding!” and rushed us through security.

We were the last passengers on the plane. We made it. Our taxi driver kept his word. “No problem.”

Back to peaceful Bulgaria

Bulgaria, for the first two weeks, was chaotic and eventful all the time. Bulgaria, after two days on Santorini, seemed like a peaceful, quiet, sublime place to relax for the rest of the week.

Remember to leave us a comment and tell us your travel adventures!