Saving on summer entertainment

With summer just around the corner, finding things to keep the family entertained can be an expensive endeavor.  Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, offers some tips on how to save on summer fun.

Consider visiting a national park.  Most are free every day, and those that charge usually assess just $5 to $30 per car. With beaches, hiking and other activities, it's a cheap day's entertainment or even a weeklong vacation for areas where there are camping facilities at hand. On June 9, even those parks that do charge are free for "Get Outdoors Day."

You can also snag cheap movie tickets.  Regal and Cinemark offer select kids and family movies for $1 on Wednesday mornings during the summer. If the movies you want to see aren't on the list, pick up bulk passes from a warehouse club, where they often sell for 30% less. Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial sometimes offer deals, too, of 50% off or better.

It's also smart to become a member.   Zoos, museums and amusement parks all offer annual memberships or passes, and those can pay off in as little as two visits. That might be worth considering if the attraction is nearby, and interesting enough to warrant a few visits. Some zoos and museums even get members into other locations for free. Factor in the cost of things that might not be included, like parking and food, to decide if it's a decent deal.

Before you go, buy your tickets online.   Zoo, water park and amusement park tickets may be as much as 25% cheaper purchased online instead of at the ticket office. Attractions may also offer exclusive discounts via Facebook or Twitter. Check to see if you need to print the tickets out at home - some don't have on site kiosks for pickup.

And finally, just because you don't have a pool doesn't mean you can't enjoy one.  Check out pool rates in your area.   If there's no public pool or beach nearby, you may still have options. Some hotels, universities and other facilities with in-house pools offer access for a small fee. At fitness centers, take advantage of free trial periods to swim. Check the times first - sometimes access is only available during "free swim," which might be early morning or late evening.

For more advice on how to save on summer entertainment and other personal finance tips, visit. SmartMoney.com.

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