We're now midway through August and inching dangerously close to Labor Day, summer's unofficial end. Though I'm eagerly awaiting autumn, the end of my maternity leave happens to coincide with the end of summer festivities and the start of the new school year. I suppose I'm already sharing the sentiments of parents of school-age children--and no, I don't mean relief!

Rather than dwell on the fact that the long days spent with my husband and little one are coming to an end, I've been on a quest to ensure that our little family makes the most of the season. Whether you're a new mom with an infant or a veteran mom with a brood of all ages, here are some budget-friendly ideas to help you eke the most out of the next few weeks:

Take a staycation. If you can swing the time and the expense, load the kids into the car and head to a local hotel or take a day-trip to the nearest city. Even bare bones airport hotels and suburban conference centers usually have family friendly amenities like pools, sports courts and DVD rentals, and oftentimes last-minute rates at hotels outside of a major city are super-affordable. If an overnight isn't an option take a drive or public transportation into the city nearest you. Just be sure to check the city's tourism Web site before heading out for a heads up on free or low-cost attractions, special events and suggested itineraries.

Visit a local farm. Almost every state has some form of agriculture, hop in the car for a fun and educational farm visit. Many small farms offer free tours and petting zoos and usually have a market stand where you can purchase fresh produce and dairy products. Tip: Let your kids choose a few items from the store for that night's dinner -- it may even convince them to try something new.

Go out for Fro-Yo. It's the summer of self-serve frozen yogurt. These days it seems as if there's at least one of these shops in every town. In fact, I can think of at least three within a five-mile radius of my home (Yes, I've sampled from all of them!). Not only is it a fun way to cool off, it's also a great interactive activity for your kiddos to look forward to at the end of the day. Encourage them to try some of the unique yogurt flavor like taro and red bean and as many fruit toppings as possible, so you can feel a little better than if you were serving up a big bowl of rocky road.

Head to the beach. This one may seem obvious, but in my experience some of the most obvious things are also the most likely to slip through the cracks. Being that we're still settling into parenthood, we didn't manage a trip to the shore until just this week, but summer now feels complete. Whether it's a lake, a man-made pond or the ocean, pack a cooler and head out for a few hours of sunshine and swimming before temperatures dip.

Camp out. Whether it's in your backyard or you drive out to a campsite, invite a few friends, roll out your sleeping bags (or a few comforters), toast up some s'mores and gather round a fire for a night in the open air. These are the things your kids will fondly look back on when they're adults -- not because they were extravagant or expensive, but because they got to spend time enjoying life with you.

What are your favorite summer activities? Do you have any special plans before school starts?

Image via Flickr/tamckile

About the author

Shayne Rodriguez Thompson is a full-time wife, full-time mom, and freelance journalist trying to balance it all and looking forward to exploring the world with her son and husband. In her rare spare moments, she's a pop culture junkie and kitchen devotee who makes a mean cupcake!

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