We have a large county fair that comes in town each fall, and we always take our family on a Saturday and spend the whole day there. Going to the fair can be rather expensive, especially with a large family. We plan for several months in advance, so we can be sure to have money saved and be fully prepared for that day. I’ve listed a few tips below on how to get the most for your money, and to make the day as fun (and less stressful) as possible.
1. Buy all access passes, in advance if possible.
Our local fair (Gwinnett County) offers the option to purchase tickets or all inclusive hand stamps. Tickets are $1 each and each ride is at least 3 tickets. For a flat fee of $20-25 (depending on the day), you can purchase a stamp that will allow you to ride everything. For our family of 8, that can cost us $200! We were able to purchase hand stamps in advance this year at a local drug store for $17 each, which saved us $64! Even without the advance purchase discount, $200 is still a good deal for a family of our size. We would have only been able to ride 6-8 rides each if we purchased $200 in tickets. Instead, we were able to spend 8 hours there and ride as many things as we wanted.
2. Bring your own snacks and drinks.
Fair and festival food is not only greasy and unhealthy, it is also very expensive. Some fairs will let you bring in a bag with drinks and food. We chose to eat a good lunch and head over around 2:00pm. I packed beef jerky, peanuts, chips, cheese cubes, and water. We carried it in a backpack that we took turns holding. I also have water bottle holders that I made from old ties that my kids were able to use to carry their own drinks (see picture below). 12 water bottles get really heavy, really fast, when one person is carrying them! Our fairgrounds also have a nice, cold water fountain, so we were able to refill bottles as they were emptied. If you are particular about the taste of water from a fountain, you could always bring packets of flavoring, such as Kool-Aid or lemonade to add to your bottle once it is refilled. If you don’t have the option to bring in food or water, look for a booth that will allow you to purchase a reusable cup that can be filled at a discount. Ours offered fresh lemonade for $5, with a $3 refill option, and $3 cokes with a $1.50 refill. Also be sure to check and see if you can leave and get a stamp for re-entry. If so, you could always leave a cooler in your car and take a break to have sandwiches before going back in for more fun.
3. Bring along a friend or family member.
Last year, my parents joined us at the fair to lend a hand with the kids. They didn’t want to ride anything, so there was no charge, and they enjoyed spending time with their grandkids. They stayed for a few hours with the little ones in the kiddie land, which let us take our older kids to ride some of the larger rides.
4. Let your kids earn money to buy their own treats.
We started a month before the fair with a system for our kids to earn money for goodies. We do not give our kids a regular allowance, but instead offered them extra tasks they could do for pocket money. We gave them the option of $1, $3, and $5 tasks, ranging from cleaning out our van to organizing the pantry shelves. The younger ones were able to earn money buy doing simple things like sweeping the stairs or neatly organizing their bookshelf in the playroom. They were very motivated to earn cotton candy money, and we didn’t have to listen to whining about what they wanted once we got to the fair. And of course, it’s a great learning opportunity as well! My oldest earned $13 to spend, while my 7 year old (not so motivated) only earned $5. The younger one was kicking himself when he saw how much his brother was able to buy with his extra earnings.
5. Plan to stay for several hours.
If you purchase an all inclusive pass, then plan to stay as long as you can so you can really get your money’s worth. We left after lunch and arrived at around 2:00, and stayed until 10:30 that evening. Normally my children are in bed by 8:00 at the latest, but some of the rides are just more fun to do once the sun goes down.
6. Take a picture of your kids before entering the gate.
This is a great tip for any outing to a crowded venue. If you happen to get separated from your child, you can show the security exactly what they look like and what they are wearing. It is also important to discuss with your kids what they should do if they get lost. My younger ones knew to stay where they were and tell an adult in uniform that they could not find their parents. My older children knew to meet us by the restrooms, as they have a large yellow balloon above them that can be seen from anywhere on the fairgrounds. Of course, be sure to go over the rules about strangers, and point out to children what the police officer and fair worker uniforms look like.
Going to the fair can be a wonderful way to spend the afternoon with your family, and give them something to look forward to each year. With the right planning, you can save money and stress, and be able to just relax and enjoy the time with your family!
Do you have a local fair that you go to every year with your family? What are your tips for a fun outing with the kids?
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