Fall is an excellent time to take a field trip as a family or with a homeschool group. The weather is pleasant, and there are plenty of local events and activities available. With a little planning, homeschoolers can take advantage of discounts, making it easier to enjoy these activities on a budget.

September and October are prime months for weekend trips to pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and farmsteads. Although homeschoolers in rural areas seemingly have more options in this area, most families in the United States likely live within reasonable driving distance of a pumpkin patch. Some pumpkin patches that are not open to the general public on weekdays may make exceptions for school groups, if requested.

Some farms charge admission, but others are free, earning their profits by selling produce. Farms often feature a number of fall activities geared for all ages, including relay races, corn mazes, hayrides pulled behind a tractor, and more. After a day of games, the kids can enjoy picking a pumpkin fresh from the farmer’s field.

Homeschoolers interested in educational opportunities as well as fun may want to look for larger regional farmsteads that cater to children, families, and school groups. Some include a petting zoo or museum that lets children see and learn about animals and agriculture. Families and homeschool support groups may be able to arrange special tours or demonstrations by calling the farmstead ahead of time. Check online, and ask around your community to learn more about farmsteads worth visiting in your region.

Fall also is a great time to check out local festivals. County and state fairs offer a lot of fun for minimal cost. Besides Ferris wheels and Tilt-A-Whirls, many feature exhibits that showcase local nonprofits, regional businesses, and other organizations. Fairs and festivals also may include livestock demonstrations, arts and crafts, and family-friendly musical performances. All of this makes them an excellent opportunity to combine a fun afternoon of carnival rides and games with a little learning.

Zoos are another great standby for the budget-conscious homeschooler looking for a fun field trip. Although zoos typically do not offer guided tours to the general public, some may provide them for school groups. Many feature special presentations like animal feedings or talk-back sessions with zookeepers on select days. Larger zoos may have a calendar of daily, weekly, and seasonal events and programs, and some even offer classes specifically for homeschoolers. An easy way to learn what kinds of opportunities a zoo offers for homeschoolers is to call the zoo’s main office.

In recent years, children’s museums and discovery centers have become wildly popular in communities across the United States. These facilities may offer everything from interactive toys and games to quality presentations about science and natural history. Families with older children may enjoy more traditional museums run by local historical societies. Many museums are nonprofit and operate on a donation basis or by charging minimal admission fees for children and parents.

Families and homeschool groups also should not rule out a simple field trip to a nearby park. Some parks feature walking trails through arboreta or botanical gardens and may include informational placards about local trees, plants, flowers, and wildlife. Local conservation groups also may maintain arboreta and gardens that are open to the public. This gives homeschoolers an opportunity to enjoy a day of learning outdoors.

Although most of these activities are fairly budget friendly, they still may be cost prohibitive for some families. This is where it can pay to plan ahead and ask questions. Many farmsteads and museums offer special rates for families and large groups. Some offer educator discounts for public school and private school teachers, and they may be willing to extend those same discounts to homeschoolers, if asked. Many zoos and discovery centers run discounts on general admission from time to time; these discounts may be advertised on the group’s website or calendar.

Families that frequent zoos, aquariums, and museums may want to look into membership programs these organizations offer. Purchasing a membership typically provides free or discounted admission for the rest of the year—meaning your family can go back as often as you like. Members also may enjoy other perks, like discounts on merchandise or other goods at the zoo, and they may be able to use their membership to get discounts on admission to other zoos and aquariums. This is especially helpful for families that travel or live in a region with multiple zoos and aquariums.

There is no shortage of both fun and educational trips and activities homeschoolers can enjoy. With a little planning, any field trip can be budget friendly as well as memorable.

As you explore the zoos, aquariums, farms, and parks in your area, bring along a free printable scavenger hunt from our Field Trip Printable Pack to keep your kids engaged.

This post is Part Four of our Homeschool Field Trip series. Check out some of our other Homeschool Field Trip articles below:

6 Tips for a Stress-Free Field Trip

Free Field Trip Printable Pack

Field Trip Discounts: Clever Ways to Save Some Green

Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

David Cox

David Cox is a freelance writer and homeschool dad. He resides in Kansas with his wife and children.