You made a comment about how, when we are resourceful, anything can be done affordably. I would like to add to that. With 3 small children, and not a lot of extra funds to mess with most of the time, we have learned quite a few ways to make any adventure affordable, but i have noticed, more and more, that attendance at most of the things we do has been dwindling, and most people say its because they cant afford it.
I think what we need to do, without adding more to your busy day, is to show people ways that they can do things without spending their whole weeks pay. Some tips i have found for doing things without spending a fortune, are things like fuel, for starters, and food. What we usually do, instead of filling the tank at home, and then filling it again when we get where we are going, because a lot of the time, like our recent Adirondacks camping trip for example, we find that some places fuel prices are astronomical. When we went to the Adirondacks, we filled up before we left home at $3.95 a gallon, but when we got about 20 miles from our destination, i saw prices that were almost $5.00 in places, which to me is just crazy, so what we do is fill up when we leave home, and then fill up again when we get to around a 1/2 a tank, or when we are within 50 miles of our destination.
People say to me all the time, like our recent trip, it didn't take a full tank to get here, so why did you fill up before you got here? The reason is simple, this way you have enough fuel to do any sightseeing, and still have enough left to at least get to where prices may be cheaper, and avoid paying the higher rates.
Another one is with food. We usually have a pretty good idea how much we will need food wise, and we usually stock up before we leave because that is another thing that the closer you get to a popular destination, the more expensive it is. Those tips are good for a trip involving a few days. For a couple on a one day trip or maybe overnight, they are still useable, but you wont need as many supplies.
It isn't just food we try to get at home either, but things like batteries, medical supplies, anything that is essential for any trip. The best part is, getting the stuff at home, you know where you are going to get the best bargains as well. On a trip, you are at the mercy of a GPS, or someone local, who may not care that you are shopping for the best price.
Something i have found on long trips, that is a true time and money saver, are sites like www.gasbuddy.com. They show local gas prices for your planned destination, and most of the time who has the best price, anywhere in the country. That way if you are going somewhere that you need to fill up more than once, you have that information ahead of time. I know my two biggest tips are saving fuel, but to most people i talk to, that and lodging are the 2 biggest expenses to any trip.
Speaking of lodging, even if you have very small children, and the initial outlay is sometimes expensive, unless you are handy and can do repairs yourself, don't overlook pop up style campers. If you are handy, then you can sometimes get them needing minor repairs for a fair price. I know sometimes the initial set up when you get to your destination can be a pain, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The other upside is, they can be towed safely behind smaller SUV's, as long as it is done properly, without any problems.
Our last 2 camping trips, we took our camper, and stayed at campgrounds, and both trips combined, cost us less than two night's in a hotel. Even the extra we paid in fuel to tow the camper was negligible compared to a hotel or motel room. And if you can survive without things like electric hookup for a few days, you can rent camp sites for as little as $20 to $30 a night, and most campgrounds have weekly rates that knock some off the price of renting by the night. And if you do have to have electric hook up, most campgrounds can accommodate that for only a few dollars more.
Another advantage to a small pop up camper, as my wife just reminded me, is that some larger department stores, such as walmart, will sometimes, in a pinch, let you set up for a night in their parking lot. I know that isn't the ideal camping place, but a few years ago, i thought i could drive straight through to Florida from NY, and, needless to say, somewhere in North Carolina, i had gotten too tired to drive, and so was my wife, and we set up in a walmart at around 11 at night, because all the nearest campgrounds were closed by then, and spent the night in the camper, and got back on the road the next morning.