During Pesach and the Tishrei holidays, kids are off school and keeping them busy while avoiding burning a whole in your pocket is always a challenge. No one wants to be stuck at home with kids all day, or be in one outing after another all day, so it is important to find a healthy balance.
There is absolutely no reason to pay full price or even anything at all to have a good time. While it’s hard to believe, keeping your kids busy and having fun in Israel doesn’t need to cost a lot.
Here are some things we like to do:
Israel is gorgeous and is full of incredible history and astounding natural spots. While some national parks have entry fees during the year, dozens of them will be free during Chol Hamoed Pesach through Bank HaPoalim’s annual Pesach initiative. Make sure to reserve tickets in advance to make sure you’ll be allowed in. If you are early risers like us (or even if you’re not), it’s always a good idea to be one of the first ones there. You’ll have more space to enjoy the place. Then you can eat a picnic lunch and head home when everyone else and their mom is on their way in.
Beach season has officially started (as of last week)! Israel has some gorgeous beaches and most of them are free! If you don’t live near the beach or even if you do, but don’t go often, it can be a great activity. Bring food, water, lots of sunblock, a ball or Frisbee, and something for your kids to dig with or cover you up in sand. Even if it’s not quite warm enough to swim, wading in the water, looking for seashells, and building in the sand are great fun on their own. Make sure that the beach you choose is a recognized beach with lifeguards on duty (and preferably showers, changing rooms and lockers).
Museums are a great way to learn and immerse yourself in a subject of interest. While most museums can be pricey at 50 or more shekels per person, you can find free tickets to museums all over the country for chol hamoed Pesach only on Bank Hapoalim’s site. Make sure to reserve tickets in advance so you are guaranteed a spot.
Have a family movie night at home for free or treat your kids to a trip to the movie theater. But if you do, make sure to never pay full price. Taking a family of four to the movies can easily pass 200 shekels for tickets and snacks. Fortunately, some credit cards have 1+1 deals, as do many union clubs such as the Teachers Union or general Histadrut. Don’t buy any food in the movie theaters as it is WAY overpriced. Thanks to a law passed in 2013, you are allowed to bring your own drinks and snacks. One of the last times we went to the movies, we went to a nearby candy store and bought our drinks and nosh for half the price we would have paid inside. There is no reason to pay 7 or 10 shekels for a small bag of chips or candy bar for each kid, when you can buy similar snacks at the supermarket for half the price.
Go to the park
Israel has a lot of wonderful playgrounds and the outdoor ones are all free. While your kids might not find their own local park to be a big treat, visiting a large playground in a different neighborhood can be a great morning or afternoon out – especially if you go with another family and bring a picnic lunch to share. 🙂
Head outside – preferably somewhere pretty. Take out your phone, open the camera and hand it over to your kid to take pictures from their point of view. Finn is an amateur photographer and whenever he whips out his camera, the kids want to take pictures too. Go out and see what their little eyes see. It can and will amaze you.
During the first lockdown, we chanced upon a video from the Dad Lab YouTube channel and became hooked. He is a dad that does science experiments and other projects at home with his kids. That summer, Emily’s Wonder Lab aired on Netflix (by this point we’ve watched every episode over a dozen times) and that solidified our daughter’s love of all things science, which continues to this day. One of our kids’ favorite at home activities is doing science experiments. A particular favorite is oobleck.
Card and board games
Card games and board games can be a nice way to spend quality family time, laughing together and enjoying each other’s company. The conversations that develop will give you an insight to your kids’ thoughts. A date night with your spouse works the same way. Keep your phones away and just enjoy the time with you kids, as they grow up so fast (though sometimes you can’t wait for a particular phase – like the terrible twos – to end).
Free local activities
Most big cities have free activities. Take a look at your city’s website or Facebook page as they will advertise them right before and during the Chagim. The reason why cities offer these free activities is to show their residents that the city has what to offer and also to show others how great the city is.
Conclusion: Making memories doesn’t have to cost a lot
Before going to any paid attraction, check your credit card company, Groo, and any unions or clubs you might be in to find discounted tickets. For example, when we did our trip to Bat Yam, buying water park tickets in advance through our credit card was almost half the price as we’d have paid at the door. Fiona and our daughter recently had a mother-daughter date at a local museum. We did our research beforehand and found 30% off tickets through our credit card company.
Our daughter loves asking us to share childhood memories and is fascinated about what life was like for us at her age. At the end of the day, it is about family time together and creating nice memories that will carry our children into adulthood. Every memory counts.
What are your plans for chol hamoeed with the family?
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