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Queen of Free: Fall break on a budget

Even if you are short on time, money or both, Cherie Lowe has some ideas for making memories on fall break.

INDIANAPOLIS — Fall break is here. If you don't have the time or budget to a take a full vacation, these affordable fall break ideas from Cherie Lowe, the Queen of Free, will help you do both.

Stock the fridge

It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but if your family plans on being home for the entire week, it’s a great idea to begin with meal planning and then heading to the store. Whether it’s quick and easy meal kits or special favorite foods, plan on a decent grocery haul to get you through the week. It may be a bit pricier than your regular trip, but still more affordable than hitting the drive-through window at restaurants every day of the week. Make good use of free pick-up services if you’re short on time or prefer not to get out.

Make a recipe with grandma

Depending on their location and health right now, your kids may not be able to physically travel to grandma’s house. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun in the kitchen together. Collect ingredients and bake cookies together via Zoom or FaceTime with grandma. Depending on your kids’ ages, they may be able to do this on their own. We’ve been getting creative with quality time over the last two years, but it's easy to forget how wonderful this sort of activity can be for everyone and easy, too. You could also opt to do a special craft, color, or even put together the same puzzle at the same time.

Host a holiday movie marathon

Almost every streaming platform released fun holiday classics at the beginning of October. Now is the time to put on your comfy pants, pop some popcorn, make some hot cocoa, and snuggle in for a movie or three. Whether you choose a Halloween theme or even jump ahead to Christmas, you can create your own film festival.  You could even toss together an affordable projection set-up and watch a few flicks outside with friends.

Go on a college visit

If you have older kids, you may want to consider hitting a college campus this week. Whether you choose to head to your old stomping grounds or tour a nearby university you’ve never been to, it’s a great idea to get a feel for college. For high school kids, it’s never too early to begin investigating their next steps. Contact the admissions office for an official tour, browse the bookstore, grab a sweet treat, and enjoy the public spaces many campuses have. You may get bonus points if you visit a student you know and feed them dinner.

Take a hike a day

Fall weather is prime hiking weather. You might choose to hit the trail close to home or head to a park you’ve never visited. Planning out a daily hike is a great way to get exercise and do something out of the norm without dropping much cash. Google interesting spots within an hour’s drive. Pack your own water and snacks. Play on the playground. Create your own photo scavenger hunt. Listen to a great playlist or audiobook while on the road.

Rent an overnight getaway

While you may not be able to afford a week at a beach, maybe your budget allows a night or two at a quick getaway. This may be as simple as a local hotel or you could look into renting a house or cabin on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb. Use a cash-back site like Rakuten to access Hotwire for potential discounts. Work the filters on any platform you use so you see only your available dates and offerings in your price range. Read reviews thoroughly, as well, to make sure you are set up for the best possible stay.

Go to a local museum

Outdoor historical sites, special exhibits and even local small museums offer chances to learn a little something, spend less than a pricey vacation and support the efforts of local institutions. Be sure to check out Visit Indy and the destination’s website to look for discount days and coupons. You may also need to purchase tickets in advance since audiences are still limited to allow for social distancing.

Cherie has more information in her weekly blog. Watch her full 13Sunrise segment in the video player.