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Washington DC

Cheap family vacations in the U.S. for 2024

Find the ideal family trip to create incredible memories without breaking the bank this year

Pulling off an enjoyable family vacation on a budget is an Olympic feat—there's the researching, the planning, the booking, the packing, the traveling, and the wrangling. So much wrangling. While trips with children, especially young ones, can be a lot of work, they can be worth it for the quality time and memories. There's something special about being away from the daily grind, connecting as a family and watching kids explore a new place. 

A key component of a family trip is picking a place that won't break the bank. To help make planning for 2024 easier on you, we've rounded up 18 of our favorite budget-friendly destination ideas that are both kid  and  wallet-friendly.

If your brood is outdoorsy, you'll be happy to see plenty of national parks  on the list, including iconic spots like Yosemite , Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon . But if you aren't interested in centering a trip around outdoor adventures , we have you covered with plenty of urban centers and under-the-radar locales alike. From the free museums of  Washington, D.C ., to laid-back vibes of  Asheville, North Carolina to the mouthwatering cheap eats of  Portland, Oregon —take your pick from this list and rest assured your money will go a long way.

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Fun cheap family vacation in the U.S.

Destin, FL

1.  Destin, FL

Seek fun in the sun in Destin, Florida , known for its fishing spots, sprawling white sand beaches and being conveniently less expensive than other popular destinations in the state.

Family-friendly activities include boating, snorkeling, parasailing or just strolling along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Use the money you saved to indulge in a sunset cruise on a glass-bottom boat or a high-speed racer. And don't miss  Henderson Beach State Park , which offers quiet and secluded beach access with a hiking route through the sand dunes. 

Hunter Mountain, NY

2.  Hunter Mountain, NY

If you've never properly explored upstate New York , you'd be forgiven for thinking it's not much more than a big farm where pets go when they're very old. And while that's probably still partly true, there is so much more to explore, especially around the Catskills mountains and the town of Hunter . Located at the foot of Hunter Mountain, the town looks like it's been forgotten by time, with lots of local shops mostly still with their colonial-style outdoor aesthetic. There are very few, if any, rubber-stamp brands here, the economy is supported by local businesses.

Hunter Mountain is an all-year-round destination. During the summer, there are paths to hike, trails to mountain bike along, nearby streams to play in and so much open space, it boggles the mind. During the winter, the natural beauty of the area is covered in a thick, soft white blanket and it's only one of a few locations on the east coast that offers really good skiing and snowboarding runs. Rentals and Airbnb accommodations are available, but none beat the Hunter Mountain Sanctuary . Rest your aching legs in the evening, sitting outside on a big, wooden patio with a glass of your favorite wine, and as the sun sets, gaze upon those very same slopes you were carving up only a short time ago.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA

3.  Kings Canyon National Park, CA

Want to really impress your kids? Head to  Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California , where they can stand among giants (giant sequoia groves, that is) and meet General Grant (the second largest tree in the world).

The parks also boast 240 caves, a scenic segment of the Sierra Nevada mountain range (including the tallest mountain in the contiguous US), parts of the Kings River and San Joaquin River, and the towering Moro Rock formation. Because of how isolated it is, Sequoia National Park also has some of the darkest skies in the country, making it one of the best  places to stargaze for amateur astrologers alike.

Yellowstone, WY

4.  Yellowstone, WY

No other place on earth is like Yellowstone National Park . The massive natural sanctuary (3,471 square miles of greenery) mesmerizes all visitors with its mountains, canyons, geysers, and subalpine forests (don’t be surprised if you spot buffalo, too). With challenging hikes into the backcountry as well as handicap-accessible wooden boardwalks, the wonders of Yellowstone are for everyone. Bring a tent and get here early to take advantage of the affordable campgrounds (seven of which are first-come, first-served and five require reservations ) with fire pits for flame-grilled meals—or if camping is not your thing, book a room at a local hotel .

Grand Canyon, AZ

5.  Grand Canyon, AZ

It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and for good reason: The Grand Canyon is a sight like no other. The kiddos might complain when you get out of Wi-Fi range, but they’ll remember hiking these trails forever. For an overnight at the Grand Canyon , opt for the North Rim, less crowded and has no-fuss, first-come-first-served campsites. More experienced hikers can switchback steeply down to the river, a mile below the rim, where secluded campsites reward the effort.

Washington, D.C.

6.  Washington, D.C.

The nation's capital is a perfect spot for a family vacation—not only are there plenty of activities that bring history to life for kids in Washington, D.C ., but a large percentage of them are completely free. Visiting the National Mall, monuments, or other historic buildings such as the Library of Congress won't cost you a penny. On top of that, all of the 17 Smithsonian museums are free to enter—from the National Museum of Natural History to the National Zoo . Stop by the American History Museum to see Dorthoy's ruby red slippers, the National Archives Museum to see the original Constitution or the National Air & Space Museum  to see the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world. 

Oak Hill, WV

7.  Oak Hill, WV

Located on 1,500 wooded acres adjacent to New River Gorge National Park, the ACE Adventure Resort  is a one-stop shop for all of West Virginia 's outdoor possibilities. ACE offers  white water rafting trips  on the New and Gauley Rivers,  zip line tours  with views of the Gorge, rock climbing, mountain biking and lake adventures. And a ny family on a budget will appreciate the multi-day, all-inclusive package deals that allow for spending without worrying about added charges.

Asheville, NC

8.  Asheville, NC

For families who love the great outdoors and great food,  Asheville  in North Carolina is for you. Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains and seeing the beautiful waterfalls at the Pisgah National Forest are free and, in town, you’ll find lots of family fun ideas like minor league baseball  during the summer season. Feel like splurging? The beautiful gardens and grounds of the Biltmore Estate are well worth the price of admission. Inside the historic mansion, you'll find works by Renoir and others. 

Portland, OR

9.  Portland, OR

The eccentric city of Portland is ultra-kid-friendly, with plenty of affordable and free activities to keep little ones entertained during any season. Explore the bounty of nature in this section of Oregon: hike through Forest Park (featuring 50 different trails), get up close to waterfalls (don't miss Wahkeena Falls in the Columbia River Gorge) and visit the famous International Rose Test Garden . Nearly every section of the city features well-manicured parks and playgrounds for kids to get their energy out, plus plenty of cheap eats to fuel their adventures. Another great way to get a sense of Portland's artistic culture without breaking the bank is to head to First Thursdays, where you can enjoy local artwork, food and drink vendors, and more. 

Williamsburg, VA

10.  Williamsburg, VA

If your squad’s favorite subject in school is history—or riding roller coasters—then make the trip to Williamsburg,  Virginia . Families can explore  Historic Williamsburg (a Colonial-era living history museum complete with horse-drawn carriages) and then seek thrills at Busch Gardens , where you'll find coasters, animals, and more. If it's summer vacation, add on a visit to Water Country USA (the season opens May 2023). Check out the area’s package deals like the Kids Play Free Package , which includes your choice of hotel (from selected partners) and free admission to multiple parks to save some cash. 

Durango, CO

11.  Durango, CO

Durango and its nearby mountains and mesas are a thrill in any season. In warmer months, you'll find everything from epic hiking to white water rafting, plus one of the most spectacular train rides in the country: the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (if you visit during snow season, it’s one of the best winter train rides in the country). 

Mesa Verde National Park and its incredible cliff dwellings are just a short drive away, and you can camp for free nearby or check out the railroad's hotel packages for discounts on overnights in the charming former mining town. In winter months, Purgatory Ski Resort  is less expensive and less crowded than Colorado competitors like Aspen, but with equally majestic slopes.

Outer Banks, NC

12.  Outer Banks, NC

The Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, separating the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. The beautiful, breezy coastline incorporates open-sea beaches, state parks and shipwreck diving sites, making them a popular holiday destination. The area positively drips in history: Roanoke Island was the site of England’s first settlement in the New World; aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight at Kill Devil Hills and the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle at Ocracoke. But this archipelago, often referred to as just OBX, isn't just an Aladdin's cave for history aficionados. It also offers fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving or even just wildlife watching. It's a definite must-see if you're exploring the eastern seaboard.

Moab, UT

13.  Moab, UT

If you're an outdoorsy crew with an affection for national parks, look no further than Moab, Utah for your next family vacation. With its proximity to two national parks—Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park—plus several majestic state parks, your days will be packed hiking, rafting, boating, and ATVing through the red rocks. Another perk: the area has a lot of campsite options or affordable cabins to rent. 

Bandera, TX

14.  Bandera, TX

Giddy up to the  Flying L , a genuine dude ranch outside of San Antonio , for some Western-themed fun. Whether you’re dying to try horseback riding or just hoping to relax in a resort where kids can entertain themselves, this ranch has you covered. There are plenty of fun outdoor activities for the whole family including creekside fishing, horseshoes, 18-hole putt putt and a full golf course, plus courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and even pickleball.

Myrtle Beach, SC

15.  Myrtle Beach, SC

Though the sand at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina can get crowded, you’re sure to find a spot for your umbrella (six feet away from everyone else). Just wander along the Grand Strand—a 60-mile stretch of white sand beaches from the North Carolina border south to Georgetown with Myrtle Beach at the center. If sand isn't your thing, book a room at the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort , which just underwent a renovation and boasts its own lazy river and water park-like pool. Better yet, visit on weekdays for better rates, and save some extra dough. 

Yosemite, CA

16.  Yosemite, CA

Yosemite is not just one of California's most awe-inspiring landscapes, it's one of the most impressive examples of natural beauty in the world. Nearly 1,200 square miles of God's gorgeousness includes waterfalls, thousand-year-old sequoia trees and some of the most daunting rock formations in the U.S.

Despite the sheer enormity of this national park , most tourists flock to an 8-sq-mile area of Yosemite Valley where the park's most well-known landmarks are located, including the Half Dome  rock formation and infamous, monolithic El Capitan, along with enjoyable hiking trails through the natural monuments. Take note that reservation and permit procedures are often changing. Be sure to check out the site for more details before you make travel plans.

Old Orchard Beach, ME

17.  Old Orchard Beach, ME

The quaint, peaceful beauty of Maine is on full display at historic Old Orchard Beach —a vacation destination for over 170 years. Here, your family will find gentle waves perfect for swimming, fishing, sailing, kayaking, and top-notch whale watching. In the summer, treat your kids to Palace Playland , New England’s only beachfront amusement park (open seasonally), with over a dozen rides and an arcade. Keen to pinch some more pennies? Plan ahead, pitch a tent and save some money by camping on the beach .

Niagara Falls, NY

18.  Niagara Falls, NY

Everyone on Earth has heard of Niagara Falls and most are probably at least vaguely aware of its history, but nothing will quite prepare you for the moment you first see the 188ft drop in person and hear the roar of water pouring over the precipice at nearly 70mph. There are plenty of things to do here; many are free, but most will require a credit card or cash.

Parking availability isn't too bad, but it's not exactly cheap and sadly, in recent years, the site of outstanding natural awesomeness has taken a turn towards a somewhat commercialized Vegas look and feel. But in all fairness, if you're not too far away and have never visited, it's worth appreciating the mighty force of Mother Nature, even if it's just once.

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40 of the Best Affordable Family Vacations in the U.S.

Finding a budget-friendly destination that makes the whole family happy just got easier.

preview for The 18 Most Beautiful Places in America

National parks are always a top choice for low-cost travel, but don't forget about cities. Places like San Antonio, Nashville , and New Orleans offer unique cultural experiences and cost-friendly attractions, including museums, festivals, and delicious cuisine—and there are plenty of beach options (like Myrtle Beach, Gulf Shores, and Outer Banks) with modestly priced family-friendly activities, such as swimming, fishing, and exploring the coastline.

No matter what your family's interests are, there is a budget-friendly vacation spot waiting to be explored right here in the United States.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

the grand prismatic spring in yellowstone national park, wyoming, north america

With an affordable admission fee and reasonable camping and lodging costs, Yellowstone offers an incredible natural experience at a low cost. Visitors can stay at campsites within the park, like the stunning Bridge Bay Campground , and enjoy the park's many free activities, like hiking, wildlife viewing, and attending ranger-led programs.

San Antonio, Texas

usa, texas, san antonio, san antonio river and river walk at dusk

A hotbed of Texas history, San Antonio has plenty of free and educational attractions for visitors of all ages. One of the city's most popular attractions is the historic Alamo, but you can also explore the River Walk—a scenic network of walkways along the San Antonio River and often a hub for street performers and live music. The city is also home to several parks and green spaces, such as the Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Botanical Garden , and many museums and cultural institutions, like the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Institute of Texan Cultures . Plus, you can't beat the Tex-Mex!

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

myrtle beach, south carolina

If you're hoping for beach time this summer, Myrtle Beach is the way to go, with miles of sandy shores ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and playing in the waves. Visit the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk—which features numerous shops, restaurants, and arcades—and enjoy free events, like live music and fireworks shows. Not to mention, the town has plenty of affordable, family-friendly activities—think miniature golf and water parks—and welcoming resorts, like The Strand .

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

mount rushmore memorial

In South Dakota's scenic Black Hills—under an hour drive from Rapid City , an ideal place to anchor the family for the trip—enjoy the iconic presidential sculptures, attend ranger-led park programs, and explore hiking trails. Outside of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park are also nearby.

Williamsburg, Virginia

early morning williamsburg, virginia

You might be familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, the famed living history museum that re-creates life in the 18th century, but this Virginia city is home to several other affordable historical attractions, like the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center . If you're itching for an active getaway, explore the Virginia Capital Trail , a 52-mile biking and walking trail that connects Williamsburg to Richmond.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

sunrise behind the palm trees

With white sandy beaches and warm Gulf waters, it's easy to visit Gulf Shores and not spend a dime. The area is also home to Gulf State Park, which has hiking and biking trails, alongside fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Other family- and summer-friendly activities include dolphin cruises, water parks, and miniature golf. Don't miss Matt's Homemade Alabama Ice Cream for a sweet treat after a long day in the sand.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

paddle raft on colorado river, grand canyon

With so many free activities and attractions within the park, the Grand Canyon is a classic family vacation spot. Hike along the popular Bright Angel Trail, or stop at one of the breathtaking scenic viewpoints along the South Rim for the trademark canyon views. Camping within the park is an affordable option, with campsites starting at just $18 per night, and the many nearby towns and cities, such as Flagstaff and Williams, offer additional lodging and dining options at a reasonable cost.

Dollywood, Tennessee

exploring tennessee's pigeon forge

Looking to pack a whole lot of attractions and activities into one trip? Head to Dollywood , an iconic theme park in the heart of Tennessee with more than 40 attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and shows. Bonus: There are plenty of free things to do here, including the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary and the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame .

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

sand harbor, lake tahoe 4

Whether you're visiting the California side or the Nevada side of this West Coast landmark, you can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing in the crystal-clear waters of the lake—and hiking or biking on the many trails around the lake—all accessible for free. Plus, Lake Tahoe has plenty of other attractions, like the Tahoe Science Center . If you're visiting during winter, the area is known for its ski resorts and other winter activities, like sledding and snowshoeing.

St. Augustine, Florida

flager college former ponce de leon hotel in old town st augustine fl

The oldest city in the U.S., having been first settled in the 16th century, St. Augustine is an excellent budget-friendly family vacation spot because of its many free and low-cost attractions. Explore the historic district, which features landmarks such as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the Oldest Wooden School House . Other fun attractions include the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park , St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum , and of course, the crystal-clear public beaches.

New Orleans, Louisiana

french quarter, typical house

Vibrant and culturally rich, New Orleans truly offers something for everyone. It's easy to spend hours wandering around the historic French Quarter or exploring attractions, like the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo . The city is also known for its delicious (and affordable!) food, with local favorites, such as beignets and po' boys stealing the show.

Niagara Falls, New York

high angle view of a tourboat in the american and bridal veil waterfalls in niagara falls

This upstate New York hotspot delivers for anyone looking for outdoor adventure. It's always free to walk into the park and experience the falls, where the waters of four the Great Lakes convene into the Niagara River Gorge. (Pro tip: If you want to get up close and personal with the falls, check out Cave of the Winds, a remarkable natural cave behind Bridal Veil Falls.) Plus, Niagara Falls State Park , the oldest state park in the U.S., has ample trails and picnic areas for exploration.

Branson, Missouri

night summer aerial view of the branson ferris wheel in branson, missouri

Full of fun for adults and kids alike, Branson is home to plenty of free activities, like Branson Landing , which offers a wide variety of shops, restaurants, a spectacular water and fire show, and the Lake Taneycomo beaches. Plus, don't miss the famous Silver Dollar City , a theme park with various rides and attractions, and the Titanic Museum, which offers a unique look at the historic ship. The city is also known for its live entertainment, which ranges from music shows, featuring local and national acts, and theater performances.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

sylvan lake, custer state park, in the black hills of south dakota

Within the park's 71,000 acres, you can do everything from hiking and fishing to swimming and wildlife viewing—and you might even spot bison, pronghorns, and elk during your visit, most of which can be seen from many of the park's scenic drives and hiking trails. Lodging in the park is extremely affordable, with campsites starting at just $19 per night—and the park offers family-friendly activities, like scenic drives, horseback riding, and boat tours.

Charleston, South Carolina

cobblestoned street and historic buildings,usa

Charleston boasts many free attractions, like the historic district, and affordable activities, like the South Carolina Aquarium , Charleston City Market , and walking the Ravenel. Plus, public beaches, inexpensive lodging options, and tasty seafood restaurants make it easy to enjoy a unique mix of history, culture, and beauty without breaking the bank.

Yosemite National Park, California

yosemite tunnel view

If you and your clan are hoping to explore the great outdoors, the park's iconic waterfalls, Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley offer incredible scenery and hiking trails for all skill levels. Plus, visitors can take a scenic drive through Tioga Road, explore the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees, and stargaze at Glacier Point.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

view of historic town of gettysburg

If you're looking for a history lesson and natural beauty all rolled into one, head to Gettysburg National Military Park . Visitors can explore the battlefield with a free self-guided tour or attend a ranger-led program. Meanwhile, nearby Catoctin Mountain Park offers hiking trails, trout fishing streams, and affordable campsites. The town itself is home to plenty of excellent attractions and restaurants, including the Dobbin House Tavern , a historic B&B loaded with Civil War history.

Asheville, North Carolina

usa, north carolina, asheville

An increasingly buzzy vacation spot in recent years, Asheville is set amid one of the East Coast's most beautiful natural settings. Hike and explore the Blue Ridge Parkway, or relax in one of the city's popular green spaces, like Pack Square Park and Carrier Park. Not to mention, Asheville has several affordable cultural attractions, such as the Asheville Art Museum and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial . The city is known for its vibrant food scene, including the always-popular Mamacita's Taqueria .

Mackinac Island, Michigan

mackinaw island bike path

A quintessential family vacation spot in Michigan's charming Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island has activities for the whole clan. You can explore its charms on foot, by bike, or via horse-drawn carriage. Visit Fort Mackinac and the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory , and don't leave the island without trying some delicious fudge. Family-owned May's Candy Shop is a favorite year after year.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

verandah overlooking desert at sunset

Spend your days enjoying the idyllic Santa Fe Plaza, surrounded by shops and art galleries, or enjoy the city's plethora of museums, ranging from the Museum of International Folk Art to the Santa Fe Children's Museum . The city is also known for its colorful architecture and scenic outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, skiing, and more.

Headshot of Laura Ratliff

Laura Ratliff is a New York City-based writer, editor, and runner. Laura's writing expertise spans numerous topics, ranging from travel and food and drink to reported pieces covering political and human rights issues. She has previously worked at Architectural Digest , Bloomberg News , and Condé Nast Traveler and was most recently the senior editorial director at TripSavvy . Like many of us, Laura was bitten by the running bug later in life, after years of claiming to "hate running." Her favorite marathon is Big Sur.

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16 Affordable Family Vacations to Take This Summer

From laid-back islands to charming small towns and bustling cities, here are some great getaways on a budget.

Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who’s lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She now splits her time between Colorado and Paris, ensuring she doesn't have to live without skiing or L'As du Fallafel.

travel cheap with family

Summer is right around the corner and vacation is top of mind. And while any trip will set you back a bit, there are plenty of destinations that won't break the bank. The trick is picking the right one — places where the summer season is quieter or lodging and food are more affordable. And when you're traveling with kids, things like pre-packing snacks and shopping at local grocery stores to prepare your own meals can go a long way toward lowering overall costs.

To lend a hand, we've rounded up 16 spots where you can have a memorable vacation at a reasonable price. The best family vacation destinations have free and lower-priced attractions, as well as properties that welcome kids with complimentary, family-friendly amenities.

Our roundup of the best summer vacation ideas includes a handful of relaxing beach destinations, bustling city excursions, and trips that include a bit of both. We've also listed domestic and international options, so you'll find inspiration for an all-out adventure and ideas for a long weekend away.

San Diego, California

Chelsea Loren/Travel + Leisure

California's sunny San Diego has tons of activities for families, with theme parks, water parks, kid-friendly museums, and 70 miles of beaches. The Go City All-Inclusive Pass can be used for top attractions such as the San Diego Zoo , Legoland California , harbor cruises, and several museums in Balboa Park, providing you with discounts of up to 50 percent per person.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor has plenty of places to go swimming, including the freshwater beach at Echo Lake, which has calm waves that are good for kids. You can also follow signs labeled "The Museum in the Streets" around Bar Harbor to create your own walking tour, or hop on one of the myriad hiking, walking, or cycling trails. At nearby Acadia National Park , a vehicle pass will get the whole family into the park for a day of hiking and views of Maine's wildlife and wild coast.

Winter Park, Colorado

While you might think of Winter Park as a snowy destination, it's also a great place to visit in the summer, especially if you're looking to escape the heat. In a single day, families can enjoy hiking, ropes courses, gondola rides, and climbing walls. Buy your day passes early — these provide access to all the activities noted — to secure the best available prices. Snow Mountain Ranch , a YMCA camp about 20 minutes away by car, has one of the only summertime tubing hills in the United States, as well as miniature golf, archery, and a climbing wall to keep everyone busy.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Haizhan Zheng / Getty Images

" Kidsburgh " has tons of great activities for families — from the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. In the summer, there's a 10-day Grand Prix with vintage cars and walking tours to help you enjoy the city and get some exercise. You'll also find economical lunch spots, while the subway line offers free rides around downtown. Consider hiking or biking along the Great Allegheny Passage , which provides a scenic, outdoorsy way to explore the city's many bridges and tunnels along a 150-mile trail.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

If you and your kids love the water, head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At properties like The Breakers , guests can enjoy five water slides, several on-property pools, a sunken pirate ship, and a long lazy river. There's also shuffleboard, a giant chessboard, and cornhole. If your family is into mini-golf, look no further than this seaside town, which boasts over 30 courses .

St. Louis, Missouri

Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Free attractions in St. Louis include Purina Farms (open April to October), where children can enjoy dog agility shows and animal barnyards, and the Saint Louis Art Museum , which is kid-friendly. Admission to the City Museum , with its 10-story slide, huge ball pit, and 40-foot high Ferris wheel, is available through day passes or memberships. Afterward, stop by Ted Drewes Frozen Custard , known for shakes so thick they can be served upside down.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Sean Pavone Photo / Getty Images

Located next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park , Gatlinburg is for the adventurous outdoor lover, with plenty of opportunities for biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting, and more than 800 miles of hiking trails. For a day of shopping that the whole family can get behind, visit the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community , an eight-mile loop road that features eateries alongside artisan galleries selling handmade goods.

Lodging options in Gatlinburg include resorts and cabins — check the tourism board's website to see which ones offer free nights or discounts . Gatlinburg is also about a 20-minute drive from country music icon Dolly Parton's famous Dollywood , a great day trip for all the amusement park lovers out there.

Lisbon, Portugal

Ready to explore the world with your kids? In Lisbon, families can enjoy an all-in-one city and beach vacation. Explore the city's distinct neighborhoods, castles, and palaces, or hop aboard a funicular to climb its steep hills for a scenic tour of the city. Lisbon is also home to 10 free museums, including the kid-friendly Money Museum.

Vienna, Austria

The walkability of Austria's capital city is part of what makes it such an affordable stop for families — plus, there are several free walking tours , including those that introduce you to the city's music, street art, and recreation. With the Vienna Pass , travelers receive complimentary access to more than 90 of the city's top attractions, including museums, a giant Ferris wheel, and spots like Madame Tussauds wax museum. The pass has single-day and multiday options, including up to six days at a steep discount.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is ideal for a family beach getaway thanks to its many all-inclusive resorts. While the country has lots of amazing destinations that are worth visiting, it's pretty hard to top Punta Cana. All ages can enjoy the 30 miles of white-sand coastline, picturesque coconut palms, and direct flights from more than 28 countries and 96 cities around the world.

Washington, D.C.

Danita Delimont, Getty Images / Gallo Images

For a family vacation in a bustling city full of affordable hotels , kid-friendly restaurants, and free attractions, plan a visit to Washington, D.C. The nation's capital has lots to offer for anyone on a budget. All the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo , and the monuments and memorials along the National Mall are free to enter, as are several outdoorsy spots like Rock Creek Park and the U.S. National Arboretum . Plan ahead, though, as some require free timed passes for entry.

Register in advance through your home state representative's office and take the kids on a free (and educational) tour of The White House — if all else fails, the White House Visitor Center just around the corner makes a worthy alternative. You can also reserve free timed tickets online for a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol Building .

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

There's plenty of free fun to be had right across the border in Canada. In Victoria, British Columbia, on the country's western coast, families can stroll through Beacon Hill Park , try their hand at lawn bowling, or drop by the children's farm to meet the park's residents and watch the twice-daily "goat stampede." For a day of coastal bliss, walk along the water at iconic Fisherman's Wharf and grab a sweet treat at Jackson's Ice Cream . A day at WildPlay Element Parks ' Victoria location offers a variety of aerial adventure packages with access to zip lines, wobbly bridges, rope swings, ax throwing, and bungee jumping.

Morro Bay, California

Daniel Gorostieta/Travel + Leisure

There's nothing quite like settling in along the California coast with your kids in tow, and the often overlooked community of Morro Bay is a great place to visit. Spot otters and whales from the coast, pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach, or spend the day sailing, golfing, biking, or surfing. When you need a break, grab a bite at Sylvester's Burgers — the garlic fries are out of this world! Afterward, head to Morro Bay State Park or drop by the Morro Bay Maritime Museum .

Rincón, Puerto Rico

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone, and it's easily accessible with direct flights from more than 50 cities. The surf town of Rincón, on the westernmost tip of the island, is about a 2.5-hour drive from San Juan. Its laid-back vibe, beautiful beaches, and great waves are perfect for families. Book a room at the Rincon of the Seas Grand Caribbean Hotel , or save on food by reserving a villa with a kitchen — the largest villas can accommodate up to six people. Either way, this hotel puts you right on the sea and has a stunning beachfront pool perfect for lounging and playing.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Wiltser / Getty Images

In the summer, there's no place like Mackinac Island , a National Historic Landmark void of chain hotels and cars — yes, you read that right. Instead, your family will be treated to an old-timey experience filled with world-famous Mackinac Island fudge and days spent biking around the island, taking a ferry under the Mackinac Bridge, or cruising around the coast by kayak.

The star of the island is the historic Grand Hotel , which opened its doors in 1887. In addition to old-world hospitality and perks like afternoon tea, the hotel features on-site stables and an expansive pool. Kids can also spend the day playing lawn games and mini-golf.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Dean Fikar / Getty Images

A trip to the Grand Canyon is almost certainly on the to-do list for lots of families. And while the natural wonder tends to be busy in the summer, you can avoid the crowds and find better pricing by heading to the North Rim (open seasonally). Cozy up in the Grand Canyon Lodge — book early to secure a room — or reserve a campsite at the North Rim Campground. This area offers pleasant summer temperatures and serves as the perfect base camp to enjoy the abundant wildlife, hiking trails, and views of the stunning canyon, which is 270 miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

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30 Cheap Family Vacations You Haven’t Thought of Before

Budget-friendly picks for the whole brood.

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PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here .


Planning a great family holiday can feel like a challenge, especially if you are working within a specific budget. Instead of doing the same old thing (or just giving up and going to Disney World again, which, let's be honest, is anything but cheap), it’s possible to come up with a creative idea that doesn’t require flying around the world or spending a ton of cash.

We scoured the map looking for the best cheap family vacations across the country, where you can find accommodations for $250/night or less (for a family of four), plus a bevy of free and inexpensive things to do. From camping in Yellowstone to small, charming Southern towns , here are 30 cheap family vacations for your next trip with the whole squad.

20 of the Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S.

cheap family vacations: yellowstone national park

1. Yellowstone National Park, WY

  • Why We Recommend It: legendary national park, varied outdoor activities for all ages and abilities, close proximity to Grand Teton National Park
  • Free Things to Do: Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
  • Getting there: 30 minutes from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Mountain Family Cabin (from $123/night, sleeps 7); Cozy Yellowstone River Cabin (from $185/night, sleeps 8); Log Retreat by Yellowstone (from $199/night, sleeps 10)

Why leave the country when we’ve got one of the most majestic places in the world right here? Take the kiddos for adventures at Yellowstone National Park —we’re talking watching wildlife in Lamar Valley, visiting the Midway Geyser Basin (aka the largest hot spring in the U.S.) and spending the day splashing around at Yellowstone Lake. You can get a seven-day private vehicle pass for $35.

cheap family vacations: balboa park san diego

2. San Diego, CA

  • Why We Love It: museums, beaches, gardens and great eats can all be found in this coastal SoCal town
  • Free Things to Do: sunsets on La Jolla cove, Gaslamp Quarter, Mission Bay Park, Mission Beach Boardwalk
  • Getting there: San Diego International Airport
  • Where to Stay: San Diego Bungalow (from $84/night, sleeps 4); Lemon Grove Home (from $148/night, sleeps 9); Tropical Paradise Home (from $236/night, sleeps 6)

Drive south from Los Angeles and you’ll hit San Diego, a sunny enclave on the coast filled with activities kids and adults will love. You can birdwatch at the Tijuana Estuary or let the little ones run through Balboa Park while you admire the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and gardens. Need a nighttime activity? The San Diego Astronomy Association hosts monthly stargazing events. Check out the murals at Chicano Park and don't forget to to experience one of the city's famed, otherworldly sunsets.

cheap family vacations: hershey pennsylvania

3. Hershey, PA

  • Why We Love It: dive into a world of chocolate with an amusement park, museums and other Hershey attractions
  • Free Things to Do: chocolate tour, horse racing, Swatara Creek
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Harrisburg International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Sunny Hershey Abode (from $147/night, sleeps 6); House in the Heart of Hershey (from $149/night, sleeps 9); Hershey Historical Home (from $163/night, sleeps 8)

Known as the “Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hershey is a great family destination for those who want to experience a theme park without the sky-high prices. The town is home to Hersheypark and ZooAmerica , as well as The Hershey Story Museum and Hershey Gardens . Need to burn off all that sugar? Swatara Creek and the Hershey Medical Center Trail are great places for outdoor activities, including 10 trails for hiking, biking, walking and kayaking.

cheap family vacations outer banks

4. Outer Banks, NC

  • Why We Love It: endless ocean views, serene ambience, lots of outdoor activities
  • Free Things to Do: Bodie Lighthouse, National Scenic Byway, see the Corolla Wild Horses
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 30 minutes from Norfolk International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Dolphin View Beach House (from $184/night, sleeps 8); Oceanfront Condo (from $119/night, sleeps 6); Home in Nags Head (from $159/night, sleeps 6)

Sea salt air and uncrowded beaches makes the Outer Banks an ideal spot for a relatively serene family vacation. You can spend the day sprawled out and getting a healthy dose of vitamin D (just don’t forget to pack sunscreen ) at Rodanthe, Nags Head or Waves beaches. For some fun and adventure with the kiddos, you can opt for climbing the Currituck Beach Lighthouse or the Bodie Island Lighthouse or spend the day taking historic monuments at Wright Brothers National Memorial and Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site and Museum .

cheap family vacations fort myers florida

5. Fort Myers, FL

  • Why We Love It: laid-back, colorful town, easy beach and water access
  • Free Things to Do: Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers River District, Bunche Beach
  • Getting there: 30 minutes from Southwest Florida International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Charming Cape Coral Home (from $119/night, sleeps 6); Cape Coral Canal Home (from $150/night, sleeps 8); Fort Myers Home (from $156/night, sleeps 6)

Nothing screams rest and relaxation quite like the white sand beaches of Fort Myers. That means there’s plenty of opportunity for tons of water-based activities—deep-sea fishing, kayaking and jet skiing with the family. You can also ditch the kids and spend the day golfing or catch a sunset cruise for just you and your beau.

cheap family vacations myrtle beach south carolina

6. Myrtle Beach, SC

  • Why We Love It: 60 miles of beaches, stand-out golf courses, boardwalk, iconic amusement park
  • Free Things to Do: Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, South Carolina Hall of Fame, Conway Riverwalk
  • Getting there: 10 minutes from Myrtle Beach International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Grand Cayman Oceanfront Suite (from $61/night, sleeps 8); Beach Side Vacation House (from $59/night, sleeps 4); Oceanfront Family Suite (from $79/night, sleeps 6)

Between the amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses and an aquarium, you’ll find so many activities to do in Myrtle Beach, a week’s vacation won’t seem like it's enough. After a fun-filled day spent at tourist hot spots like Alligator Adventure or Blackbeard's Pirate Cruise you can either ramp up the energy and head over to the Carolina Opry for an entertaining variety show, or go slow by taking a leisurely stroll with your brood on the beach. If you’re simply not sure what you’re in the mood for at any given time, head over to Broadway at the Beach —a 350-acre entertainment and shopping center—where you’re guaranteed to find something that tickles your fancy.

cheap family vacations williamsburg virginia

7. Williamsburg, VA

  • Why We Love It: part of the "Historical Triangle" with Jamestown and Yorktown, living history museum
  • Free Things to Do: hiking in York River State Park, Yorktown Trolley, York County Historical Museum, Williamsburg Botanical Garden
  • Getting there: 27 minutes Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Historical Williamsburg Condo (from $93/night, sleeps 6); Resort Apartment (from $115/night, sleeps 6); Cozy Single Family Home (from $154/night, sleeps 6)

Busy the mini-me’s (and yourself) with wild rides at Busch Gardens or a day filled with historic reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg . For some family bonding time, you can also sail the York River, ride horses, hike or bike through the 30 miles of trails York River State Park offers. The options are plenty.

cheap family vacations niagara falls

8. Niagara Falls, NY

  • Why We Love It: iconic, massive waterfall and vibrant city with many outdoor activities and attractions
  • Free Things to Do: drive Niagara Parkway, Niagara River Recreation Trail, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
  • Getting there: 14 minutes from Niagara International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Riverway Village Charmer (from $103/night, sleeps 8); Home with River Views (from $116/night, sleeps 11); Grand Island Townhome (from $158/night, sleeps 4)

Those on the East Coast can easily pack up the car and head north to Niagara Falls, where they’ll find a vibrant city filled with museums and parks and of course, the Niagara Falls themselves. There’s a lot to see in this vivacious city, from the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens to the history museum and endless beautiful drives that all can enjoy.

cheap family vacations bowling green kentucky

9. Bowling Green, KY

  • Why We Love It: great for car enthusiasts, small-town charm, historical attractions
  • Free Things to Do: Fountain Square Park, Lost River Cave, Hobson Grove Park
  • Getting there: 1 hour and 25 minutes from Nashville International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Chic Apartment (from $115/night, sleeps 8); Cozy Duplex (from $102/night, sleeps 6); The Candle Loft (from $145/night, sleeps 4)

For families with children currently bewildered by cars, trucks and the like, Bowling Green may be the unexpected destination where your kids will have the time of their lives. The city is the only place in the U.S. that manufactures Corvettes, and a trip to the General Motors GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant allows visitors to see the step-by-step production of the sleek sports car. The Corvette Museum also includes one-of-a-kind prototypes, that were designed but never manufactured, among other cool Corvette relics.

cheap family vacations denver colorado

10. Denver, CO

  • Why We Love It: perfect mix of outdoor adventure, art, history and culture year-round
  • Free Things to Do: Golden Triangle Creative District, Colorado State Capital, United States Mint, Denver Central Library
  • Getting there: fly into Denver International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Spacious Denver Guest Unit (from $116/night, sleeps 9 guests); Bright 2-Bedroom Escape (from $120/night); Historic Home with Garden (from $99/night, sleeps 10)

While Denver may be a popular hotspot for winter vacationing , it’s not a shabby destination for some summertime family fun. You can spend the day watching elephants swim, orangutans swing and lions roar at the Denver Zoo . You can also explore fossils and dinosaurs, ponder the mysteries of space at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science , which is right next door.

cheap family vacations: grand canyon village arizona

11. Grand Canyon Village, AZ

  • Why We Love It: make this iconic trip even less expensive by camping
  • Free Things to Do: Yavapai Point, cycle on Hermit Road, South Rim Trail
  • Getting there: 15 minutes from Grand Canyon National Park Airport
  • Where to Stay: Cozy South Rim Home (from $73/night, sleeps 4); Grand Canyon Countryside Lodge (from $149/night, sleeps 10); “Altitude Adjustment” Cabin in Kanab (from $180/night, sleeps 6)

Fair warning: A trip to Grand Canyon Village—which houses the widely popular Bright Angel Trail—will not be the quietest vacay to go on. However, looking at the vast wonder that is the Grand Canyon itself will be well worth it. Located at the South Rim, the buzzy town is chock full of things to do with the kids. You can hike and set up a picnic at Shoshone Point (the trail is only a mile long), head over to the Yavapai Geology Museum where kids can touch a 3D large topographic relief model of the area and if you plan for a trip in June, you can even join in on one of the Grand Canyon’s Annual Start Party where you spend the night stargazing.

cheap family vacations washington dc

12. Washington D.C.

  • Why We Love It: world-class museums, historical sites and cultural attractions
  • Free Things to Do: Smithsonian museums, National Mall, Library of Congress, National Archives, Georgetown, Museum of Natural History
  • Getting there: fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Gorgeous Townhouse (from $110/night, sleeps 8); Capitol Hill Apartment (from $120/night, sleeps 4); Townhouse in Greener Part of Town (from $129/night, sleeps 8)

The main draw of Washington, D.C. is the National Mall , where all the museums offer free entry to visitors. Most of the national monuments are also free to explore, and the National Zoo welcomes guests for no charge every day of the year. Just make sure you reserve passes in advance for everyone, including infant children.

cheap family vacations: catskill mountains, new york

13. Catskill Mountains, NY

  • Why We Love It: tranquil refuge from bustling NYC, easy drive from the city for a family weekend getaway
  • Free Things to Do: Slide Mountain, Dutchman's Landing, Pratt Rock, Hudson-Athens Lighthouse
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 22 minutes from JFK International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Townhouse (from $220/night, sleeps 6); Lakefront Cabin in Ferndale (from $139/night, sleeps 6); Woodland Valley Bungalow in Phoenicia (from $210/night, sleeps 6)

Another destination mostly popular for its cold-weather festivities, the Catskills can be equally amusing during the summertime. While you won’t be able to go skiing or anything like that, you can still get your adrenaline pumping at Hunter Mountain's New York Zipline Adventure Tour where you can fly through the air on the longest, fastest and highest zipline canopy tour in North America. You can also get up close and personal with the tigers, bears, alligators, camels, ostriches and farm animals housed at Bailiwick Ranch and Animal Park . And for some truly vacation-appropriate eats, head over to Mama's Boy Burgers where you can fill up on grass-fed black angus beef burgers and top it off with your choice of 26 flavors of frozen custard and yogurt or Jane’s homemade ice cream.

cheap family vacations branson missouri

14. Branson, MO

  • Why We Love It: diverse entertainment acts in historic theaters, amusement park and outdoor, kid-friendly activities
  • Free Things to Do: Grand Village, Historic Downtown, hiking in the Ozarks, Branson Landing
  • Getting there: one hour from Springfield-Branson National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Boho Gated Condo (from $96/night, sleeps 7); Loft Condo (from $97/night, sleeps 8); Branson Home (from $89/night, sleeps 9)

Don’t let the drama of Netflix’s Ozark dissuade you from exploring this lovely city. It is filled with tons of options for things to do with the kids. Silver Dollar City is a rousing amusement park, popular with both locals and visitors. Not only can you find thrilling rides and entertainment, but the park has a 19 th century vibe to it and offers an array of shops selling souvenirs and homemade candies. Also included on your itinerary should be a trip to the Titanic Museum —where there’s tons of hands-on exhibits and hordes of Titanic artifacts— Promised Land Zoo , and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not located in the Branson Theater District.

cheap family vacations south padre island texas

15. South Padre Island, TX

  • Why We Love It: resort town with calm waters and plenty of wildlife
  • Free Things to Do: bird watch at the World Birding Center, Laguna Madre Nature Trail, Andy Bowie Park, Whaling Wall, Palmito Ranch Battlefield
  • Getting there: 40 minutes from Brownsville Airport
  • Where to Stay: Luxurious Ground Condo (from $121/night, sleeps 10); Island Treasure Townhouse (from $170/night, sleeps 12); Aquarius Condo (from $150/night, sleeps 6)

If your kids are hardcore animal lovers, a trip to this little island off the southern coast of Texas is the perfect pick. The island is packed with plenty of venues to interact with animals they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact with. Sea Turtle Inc. , for example, is an educational yet fun-filled facility actively engaged in rescuing sea turtles. Equally thrilling is the SPI Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary where the fam can observe the birds, butterflies and natural wildlife. Maybe just try to avoid March and April when spring breakers take over like wildfire.

cheap family vacations orange beach alabama

16. Orange Beach, AL

  • Why We Love It: 32 miles of white sand beaches, championship golf, nature trails, excellent cuisine
  • Free Things to Do: Gulf State Park, Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum, The Coastal Arts Center
  • Getting there: 15 minutes away from Jack Edwards National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Beachfront Condo (from $180/night, sleeps 6); The Sandy Hideaway (from $129/night, sleeps 13); Escapes Resort 1304 (from $207/night, sleeps 6)

Orange City may be small (population is currently at 6,607), but this tiny town packs a punch. Known as a water sports hub, it’s no wonder this is hands-down one of the best destinations for a beach vacation. You can partake in regular ole’ water activities such as fishing, paddle boarding, parasailing. But if you really want to dial up the fun factor, you can also book a once in a lifetime dolphin or pirate cruise .

cheap family vacations: aerial view of ocean city, maryland

17. Ocean City, MD

  • Why We Love It: resort town with theme-park attractions, wildlife and miles of beaches
  • Free Things to Do: Ocean City Boardwalk, Movies on the Beach, Assateague Island 
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 36 minutes from Baltimore International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Oceanfront Condo (from $93/night, sleeps 6); Edgewater Escape (from $83/night, sleeps 4); Beach Paradise Townhouse (from $66/night, sleeps 12)

A beach vacation doesn’t have to include a five-star resort. Ocean City, Maryland, is a great place to experience the best of the shore, from a lively boardwalk to seaside vacation rentals, and it also offers access to Assateague Island National Park , where the wild ponies run free. (How much will your horse-obsessed 6-year-old love that?) Spend a day on the vibrant boardwalk where you can hit up Marty’s Playland —a video arcade built in the 1940s—as well as The Kite Loft , where you can get the rundown on everything you didn’t think you needed to know about flying kites, which is to say, a lot.

cheap family vacations bar harbor maine

18. Bar Harbor, ME

  • Why We Love It: peaceful coastal New England town, gateway to Acadia National Park
  • Free Things to Do: Shore Path, Bar Island, downtown Bar Harbor
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Bar Harbor Airport; 4.5 hours from Boston Logan International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Sunset Studio (from $65/night, sleeps 4); Bar Harbor Condo (from $83/night, sleeps 4); Talley Cottage (from $150/night, sleeps 5)

Acadia National Park is popular for a reason—its rocky and rugged coastal landscape, wildlife on land and sea and the highest point on the United States’ East Coast, Cadillac Mountain—but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Hop on one of Lulu Lobster’s Boat Tours where you can spend two hours learning all about lobster fishing and even catch some yourself. You can also book one of Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company’s magnificent for a chance to possibly spot some whales off the Gulf of Maine.

cheap family vacations gatlinburg tennessee sunrise

19. Gatlinburg, TN

  • Why We Love It: charming town at the base of the Smoky Mountains, beautiful views, nature activities, arts, history and culture scene
  • Free Things to Do: Gatlinburg Parkway, Little Pigeon River, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Tunes and Tales
  • Getting there: 1 hour and 10 minutes from Knoxville McGhee-Tyson Airport
  • Where to Stay: Pigeon Forge Cabin (from $143/night, sleeps 7 guests); Smokies Log Cabin (from $170/night, sleeps 10); Sevierville Cabin (from $90/night, sleeps 10)

This resort town is a coveted hotspot because of the fact that it’s a gateway to the roughly 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park . You can hike the Clingmans Dome , which is only a mile long and leads to a watchtower you can climb, overseeing the entire national park. You also have the option to either drive or hike to three waterfalls in the park—Mingo Falls, Abrams Falls as well as Grotto Falls, if your squad is not yet able to hike long distances. Just be sure to head there early as the fall tends to get crowded.

cheap family vacations milwaukee wisconsin

20. Milwaukee, WI

  • Why We Love It: lively city on the shores of Lake Michigan with an impressive food scene, museums and history
  • Free Things to Do: Riverwalk, Lake Michigan, Milwaukee Public Market, Lakeshore State Park, Old World 3rd Street, Milwaukee Central Library
  • Getting there: Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Little Gray House (from $206/night, sleeps 9); Cozy Modern Guest Cottage (from $105/night, sleeps 5); Cream City Inn and Gallery (from $153/night, sleeps 10)

Milwaukee is a vibrant Midwestern city overflowing with art, culture and food. Here, beer and cheese flow in equal measures, thanks to the city's German roots. Take the whole family to sample fare at establishments such as The Bavarian Bierhaus or Café Bavaria. There is also a plethora of farm-to-table restaurants serving up the best the seasons have to offer. With a whopping 17 museums located downtown, everyone in the family will find something to discover, but we think the kids will be especially entertained by the Milwaukee Public Museum . Keep a sharp eye out for murals by local artist David Mark Zimmerman, whose creations appear in the most unlikely places. Want to get moving? Kayak in the Milwaukee River , play at the beaches of Lake Michigan and stroll the historic Mitchell Street Neighborhood.

cheap family vacations atlanta georgia

21. Atlanta, GA

  • Why We Love It: Southern charm gets an international spin
  • Free Things to Do: BeltLine, Arabia Mountain, Atlanta Monetary Museum, Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Governor's Mansion
  • Getting there: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Atlanta Home (from $120/night, sleeps 6); Artist House in Hip Poncey-Highland (from $128/night, sleeps 4); The Gorgeous Historic Monroe House (from $205/night, sleeps 6)

Atlanta may be sweet like a Georgia peach, but beneath the Southern skin is a thriving multi-cultural identity that makes it a captivating destination for the whole family. Let the kids run down their energy on the 22-mile BeltLine , a pathway with trails and parks that weave between Atlanta's neighborhoods, filled with art installations and city views. Arabia Mountain is an easy drive if you want an outdoor excursion, featuring farmland, trails, lakes and a nature preserve. Be sure to also hit the Buford Highway, renowned for its worlds of cuisine, from Korean barbecue to tacos and bubble tea. In town the kids will get a kick out of meeting Kermit the Frog at the Center for Puppetry Arts , which is free if you check the museum pass out at the library. Other can't-miss activities? The Coca-Cola Museum and Trap Music Museum , which dives into the world of hip-hop.

cheap family vacations glacier national park montana

22. Glacier National Park, MT

  • Why We Love It: over 700 miles of hiking trails, water activities and access to Whitefish
  • Free Things to Do: Hidden Lake, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Logan Pass, Huckleberry Lookout
  • Getting there: 1.5 hours from Glacier Park International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Historic Cottage on Foys Lake (from $245/night, sleeps 4); Martin City Log Home (from $117/night, sleeps 8); Kalispell Log Farmhouse (from $253/night, sleeps 7)

Whether you're all keen to see the breathtaking vistas of the Continental Divide or want to test your athleticism with a vertical five-mile hike to Huckleberry Lookout, Glacier National Park is a family-friendly destination that everyone can enjoy. The entrance fee is just $35 per vehicle ($25 in the winter) for a vehicle, and you can camp in the park for a nominal fee. If you're driving in, a free shuttle runs through the park, making it easy to hit the sites without worrying about your car. Whitefish is nearby, with all the charm and amenities you'd expect from a resort town.

cheap family vacations oklahoma city

23. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Why We Love It: cowboy culture meets fine art and outdoor fun
  • Free Things to Do: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, drive Route 66, Keystone Ancient Forest, Conoco Museum, Oklahoma State Capital
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Will Rogers World Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Village Home (from $85/night, sleeps 8); Modern Oklahoma City Home (from $96/night, sleeps 6); The Billen Ave House (from $118/night, sleeps 6)

Oklahoma City is proof you don't need a pile of cash to have a good time. With so many free things to do, you'd be surprised. Budding artists and art appreciators will enjoy the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art , which houses 16,000 artworks, including some by Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. At the Conoco Museum , your family can learn about the city's past as an oil town. Need a little old-fashioned adventure? Cruise the famed Route 66 highway itself. At the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge , the kids can spend hours searching for hourglass selenite crystals, and if you want a really big thrill, check out Robbers Cave . The former outlaws hideaway now offers rappelling, mountain biking and swimming.

cheap-family-vacations: Photo taken from above of a tour boat with tourists passing between islands at Thousand Islands National Park, St Lawrence River, located between Ontario Canada and New York State USA.

24. Thousand Islands, NY

  • Why We Love It: historic sights, water activities, natural beauty
  • Free Things to Do: Heart Island, 1000 Islands History Museum, Amherst Island Ferry, Antique Boat Museum (free for children)
  • Getting there: 40 minutes from Watertown International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Home in Leeds and Thousand Islands (from $110/night, sleeps 13); Entire Home in Alexandria Bay (from $190/night, sleeps 4); Hideaway on the Bay (from $85/night, sleeps 6)

An overlooked gem near the New York-Canada border, Thousand Islands New York is a serene and incredibly beautiful destination that boasts plenty of things to do for families. The fairytale magic and romantic story behind Boldt castle will charm all members of your brood and the sparkling blue waters of the St. Lawrence River provides ample opportunity for a wide range of activities, including boat tours, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Be sure to tour as many islands as you can during your stay— Singer Castle on Dark Island is well worth a visit—and learn a little bit about the history of the region with a visit to 1000 Islands History Museum and the Antique Boat Museum , too.

cheap-family-vacations: Boy in a life vest paddle boarding on the water against sky.

25. Traverse City, MI

  • Why We Love It: lake beaches, wine tasting, natural beauty
  • Free Things to Do: Point Betsie Lighthouse (free for children under 6), Haserot Beach Park, Torch Lake
  • Getting there: Cherry Capital Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Gristmill Apartment (from $69/night, sleeps 4); Modern Cabin in Bellaire (from $99/night, sleeps 4); The Loft on Union Street (from $199/night, sleeps 6)

Traverse City, Michigan is a beloved vacation spot for many, and it’s not hard to see why. The northern Michigan city has long been a top destination due to its abundance of freshwater beaches, vineyards and natural attractions—most notably the bluffs, sand dunes and lush forests at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore . Downtown Traverse City is a vibrant place with an excellent culinary scene that will make foodies of all ages swoon, and there’s no shortage of outdoor activities on offer in the surrounding area—including rock hunting, biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and good old fashioned sand castle building. Let’s just say you’re unlikely to hear the words “I’m bored” when you bring your family here.

cheap-family-vacations: San Antonio, Texas, USA downtown skyline at dusk. The sky is a number of colors and the buildings have their lights on for the evening.

26. San Antonio, TX

  • Why We Love It: lots of green and scenic places, rich with history
  • Free Things to Do: Brackenridge Park, River Walk, the Alamo
  • Getting there: San Antonio International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Pearl Townhouse (from $132/night, sleeps 4); Entire 2 Story Home Near Downtown (from $115/night, sleeps 4); 15 Acre Tiny Farmhouse (from $37/night, sleeps 4)

There’s lots of history and a boatload of free educational activities to be found in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo is an obvious choice, but other attractions like the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Institute of Texan Cultures are not to be missed. Carve out time in your itinerary for a leisurely picnic in beautiful Brackenridge Park and don’t sleep on the opportunity to stroll the scenic River Walk , where you’ll find top-notch restaurants, boutiques and numerous street performers bringing the city’s vibrant energy to life.

cheap-family-vacations: Historic houses around Forsyth Park, downtown Savannah, GA. The sky is dim just before sunset and trees overhang the road.

27. Savannah, GA

  • Why We Love It: family-friendly beach, public parks, Savannah Children’s Museum
  • Free Things to Do: Forsyth Park, Tybee Island, Ellis Square splash pad, Hutchinson Island Ferry, Fort Pulaski National Monument, Savannah Botanical Gardens, Skidaway Island State Park
  • Getting there: Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Downtown Riverfront Condo (from $159/night, sleeps 4); Sophisticated Home in Historic District (from $129/night, sleeps 4); Renovated 1900s 2-Bedroom Apartment (from $76/night, sleeps 4)

Oak trees weeping Spanish moss, charming cobblestone streets, riverboat cruises, trolley tours and a vibrant art and food scene make Savannah one of the most appealing places to visit in the South. Forsyth Park is a beautiful public space that boasts two stellar playgrounds and plenty of scenic places to picnic. The city's iconic River Street—lined with candy shops, boutiques and restaurants—is a perfect place to take a stroll, and the Savannah Children’s Museum and Savannah National Wildlife refuge are well worth a visit as well. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention that a family beach day at Tybee Island is an absolute must during the warmer months.

cheap-family-vacations: Nashville Tennessee downtown skyline at Shelby Street Bridge at sunset.

28. Nashville, TN

  • Why We Love It: hip and artsy vibes, great music and food scene, lots of parks
  • Free Things to Do: Arrington Vineyards, Frist Art Museum, Musician’s Corner, Metro Nashville Parks
  • Getting there: Nashville International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Edison Condo (from $49/night, sleeps 8); Electric Ave Parkside Retreat (from $71/night, sleeps 6); Dream Treehouse (from $224/night, sleeps 4)

Head to Reese Witherspoon’s stomping grounds for a one-of-a-kind and decidedly budget friendly vacation in Music City. History buffs, blues enthusiasts, foodies and energetic kids itching for a public park to romp around in will all find what they’re looking for in Nashville. In fact, the greater Nashville area has a whopping 243 public parks, so you’ll never be wanting for a splash pad, playground or picnic spot. Centennial Park is a nice spot to spend a leisurely afternoon, while Radnor Lake State Park and the Edwin and Percy Warner Parks are ideal for hiking and enjoying the region’s natural beauty. Both kids and adults will enjoy the Frist Art Museum, Nashville Zoo and Adventure Science Center, as well. Best of all, affordable accommodations are easy to find and none of the aforementioned activities will break the bank, either.

cheap-family-vacations: Cobblestoned Chalmers Street and historic buildings in Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

29. Charleston, SC

  • Why We Love It: local beaches, excellent food scene, vibrant culture and history
  • Free Things to Do: historic district, public beaches, Arthur Ravenel Bridge
  • Getting there: Charleston International AIrport
  • Where to Stay: Downtown Charleston Home (from $152/night, sleeps 6); Southern Comfort Townhouse in Mount Pleasant (from $150/night, sleeps 6); Folly’s Treehouse (from $199/night, sleeps 5)

The old-school Southern charm and laid back vibes of Charleston are hard to beat—and for families seeking a perfect balance of relaxation and entertainment, this destination does not disappoint. Explore the beautiful historic district and Charleston City Market, pay a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium (and then eat some of the amazing seafood you can find all over the city) and soak up some sun on one of the numerous pristine and family-friendly public beaches before you head to your budget-friendly lodging to sip some ice cold lemonade on the porch while the kids play in the yard. Perfection.

cheap-family-vacations: Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport Rhode Island. The lighthouse is situated on the side of a cliff and there are stone steps leading down to the ocean.

30. Newport, RI

  • Why We Love It: local beaches, scenic, low-key vibes
  • Free Things to Do: Cliff Walk, Bowen’s Wharf, Castle Hill Lighthouse
  • Getting there: 35 minutes from Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport (PVD)
  • Where to Stay: Wyndham Newport Onshore Resort (from $98/night, sleeps 6); Newport Harbor View Retreat (from $199/night, sleeps 8); Newport Unforgettable Condo (from $183/night, sleeps 5)

Newport has long been Rhode Island’s most popular vacation destination, and for good reason. This New England gem affords its visitors access to beautiful, windswept beaches, historic landmarks, amazing seafood and incredible seaside mansions, many of which are open to the public for tours. The Cliff Walk is the thing to do for a restorative stroll—it’s studded with said mansions and features oh-so scenic coastal views—and Bowen’s Wharf is a picturesque commercial center where 18th century buildings house art galleries, boutiques, souvenir shops and some of the best seafood restaurants on the east coast. And if your kids aren’t tuckered out after a day at the beach, sample some fudge at the Newport Fudgery and take them to the playground at the historic Miantonomi Park or the arcade at Ryan Family Amusement Center to burn off the last of their energy.

20 Summer Vacation Ideas to Try This Year, Whether You Want a City Escape, Beach Getaway Or Nature Retreat

purewow author

Freelance PureWow Editor

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  • Last Updated On
  • June 10, 2023

22 Best Cheap Family Vacations – Affordable, Fun, Kid Friendly Ideas!

Tanner Wilkes

Are you ready for a trip filled with laughter and cherished memories without breaking the bank?

Look no further, for we have a plethora of affordable, kid-friendly vacation ideas that will leave your family beaming with joy.

From beachfront locations and bustling resorts to quaint countryside retreats, a world of possibilities awaits you.

Immerse yourselves in excellent indoor and outdoor activities and stay in spacious accommodations, all while staying within your budget.

Selecting the best cheap family vacations that suit your interests and budget might be challenging.

And that’s why I am here to help you by reviewing the top cheap and fun destinations.

I have visited many affordable destinations with my family, and we learned a few things during our trips.

I will also include the insights I learned from conversations with other families.

Moreover, I have rated each place according to its family-friendliness, affordability, educational value, and other essential criteria.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prepare for a fun-filled and affordable getaway as you read our reviews below.

Best Cheap Family Vacations Compared

From comfortable hotels to family-friendly resorts, affordable family vacations are within your reach.

We have provided our top-pick destinations in our reviews below.

Editor’s Choice

esme miami beach 1

Esme Miami Beach

Esme Miami Beach is a stunning oceanfront hotel in the heart of Miami Beach, Florida.

  • Family-friendliness: 4/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Educational Value: 3/5
  • Entertainment Variety: 5/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5

#2nd Best Choice

Las Vegas Hilton At Resorts World

Las Vegas Hilton At Resorts World

Located on the iconic Las Vegas Strip, the Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World offers you a memorable experience.

#3rd Best Choice

Tahoe Seasons Resort

Tahoe Seasons Resort

Tahoe Seasons Resort is a charming mountain retreat nestled in the breathtaking landscape of South Lake Tahoe in California.

  • Affordability: 3/5
  • Entertainment Variety: 4/5

Here are the top 22 cheap vacations for families.

1. Esme Miami Beach (Editor’s Choice)

1438 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 809-8050 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Ratings Criteria

  • Fantastic ocean views
  • Convenient location
  • High noise levels during peak seasons

This boutique hotel offers a range of amenities and a luxurious and comfortable experience.

You can spend the day swimming at the pool, relaxing at the spa, or exploring the nearby beaches.

The hotel also offers a kids’ club, which provides your children with fun and engaging activities while you relax.

Additionally, the hotel has a children’s pool, and the nearby beaches provide a range of family-friendly activities.

Water sports, beach volleyball, you name it.

Esme Miami Beach will give you the fun and relaxation you deserve.

Recommended Hotel: Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa, a Noble House

2. Las Vegas Hilton At Resorts World

999 Resorts World Ave Las Vegas, NV 89109 (702) 676-7000 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

  • Various entertainment options
  • Well-equipped and spacious rooms
  • Crowded elevators and common areas

The hotel has a world-class casino, multiple pools, a spa, and a fitness center.

You can also indulge in excellent dining options, with various restaurants and bars available on-site.

Plus, the hotel hosts live entertainment shows and performances, creating a vibrant atmosphere for guests.

While Las Vegas is known for its adult-oriented entertainment, it offers several kid-friendly activities.

Your family will enjoy the outdoor pool complex with water slides and splash zones.

The nearby Adventuredome Theme Park also offers rides and attractions suitable for all ages.

Related: California Family Vacations

3. Tahoe Seasons Resort

travel cheap with family

3901 Saddle Rd South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150 (530) 541-6700 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

  • Relaxing and serene atmosphere
  • Various outdoor activities
  • Limited educational or cultural activities within the resort

Surrounded by majestic pine trees and stunning lake views, this resort provides a perfect getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Tahoe Seasons Resort offers a range of amenities to enhance guests’ experience, including an outdoor heated pool, hot tubs, and a sauna.

The resort’s location provides access to many activities throughout the year.

You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in winter at the nearby slopes.

In the warmer months, Lake Tahoe offers swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities on the surrounding trails.

The resort also organizes kid-friendly events and provides a game room for entertainment.

Related: Washington DC Restaurants

Related: Best Family Hotels in Washington D.C.

4. Hilton Vacation Club Mystic Dunes Orlando

Hilton Vacation Club Mystic Dunes Orlando

7600 Mystic Dunes Ln Celebration, FL 34747 (407) 396-1311 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Hilton Vacation Club Mystic Dunes Orlando is a fantastic family-friendly resort in the heart of Orlando, Florida.

The resort offers spacious and beautifully appointed villas, providing you and your family with a comfortable and home-like experience.

The resort also boasts a championship golf course, a fitness center, a spa, and tennis courts.

Your kids will also love the resort’s multiple swimming pools, including a big lagoon-style pool with a water slide and a lazy river for relaxation. 

The resort offers a children’s playground, a kids’ club with supervised activities, and a game room.

Furthermore, its proximity to popular attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort ensures endless entertainment for your kids.

5. Grand Canyon, AZ

Grand Canyon, AZ

Grand Canyon Village, AZ (928) 638-7888 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

One of the most amazing sights in the world, the Grand Canyon affords some of the best views at almost no cost.

All you need is to hike along the Bright Angel Trail or the Rim Trail or drive the Desert View Drive where you can picnic or visit the Tusayan museum and ruin site.

There are not many eateries here, so head out to Flagstaff, Arizona, for tasty but cheap menus.

Since it can get overcrowded in spring and summer, book your rooms and campsites in advance.

Recommended Hotel: Drury Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Related: Arizona Family Vacations

6. Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC (800) 356-3016 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Myrtle Beach has calm waters, is not very crowded and offers a cheap family vacation package.

Banana boat rides and parasailing are among the many diversions.

Amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses and an aquarium give something for every member of the family.

There is a 350-acre Broadway at the Beach entertainment and shopping center that can keep you busy.

During summers, it also hosts complimentary concerts for music lovers.

If you are a sports enthusiast, you may want to indulge in some baseball games at Pelicans Ballpark.

Recommended Hotel: Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Enclave Myrtle Beach

Related: Best Myrtle Beach Resorts for Families

7. San Diego, CA

San Diego, CA

San Diego, CA (619) 232-3101 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

San Diego has many attractions that make it ideal for a family visit.

It is also where you can visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo that also houses the Balboa Park.

USS Midway Museum exposes you to history for those who enjoy it.

Otherwise, there are many beaches where your little ones can play in the sand.

While you will have to book your hotel or resort in advance to get good deals, you can also look for a vacation rental that can prove to be a real money saver.

Recommended Hotel: Pendry San Diego

Related: Good Restaurants: San Diego

Related: Best Family Hotels in San Diego

8. Destin, FL

Destin, FL

Destin, FL (850) 837-6241 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Yet another spot is Destin , known for its fishing spots and sprawling beaches, having a gala time splashing in the water or building sandcastles.

Your entire family will find the fishing or boat tour very appealing.

You can also go snorkeling or parasailing.

Stroll along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk for a leisurely time with the family.

You will also find that staying in Destin is cheaper than in the other popular Florida beach towns.

Use the money you have saved to indulge in some sunset cruise on a glass-bottom boat or a high-speed racer.

Recommended Hotel: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Related: Best Family Resorts in Destin, Florida

9. Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (905) 356-6061 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls.

And you will find that there is nothing called ‘enough waterfalls’!

You can view the waterfalls from the US or the Canadian side , the favorable dollar rates making it affordable.

You can also get reasonably priced hotels and attractions, and if you visit in late spring or early fall, you can even give the crowds a miss as well as benefit from offseason rates.

That’s not all, you can go hiking if your family loves the outdoors, including the Dufferin Islands and Niagara Glen.

This is an ideal destination for a cheap and fun holiday.

Recommended Hotel: The Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls

10. Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, MD (800) 626-2326 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This Maryland beach town is the most affordable family vacation you can find because of the time you can spend in the free beaches and parks dotting the city.

It gives you unadulterated time to bond with your family as you soak up some sun.

There are year-long festivals where you can participate with your children in the evenings.

There is also mini-golf for you to indulge in with your family.

Look for vacation rentals that will work out easier on your pocket than staying in a hotel.

Recommended Hotel: Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort

Related: Best Family Hotels in Ocean City, Maryland

11. The Catskills, NY

The Catskills, NY

Catskill Mountains, NY Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Away from the regular holiday activities, The Catskills in New York is a budget-friendly getaway where your little ones can try out new things such as farms where they can feed the animals.

Located in southeast New York , you can also go rock climbing, fishing and bumper boating in the summer.

Winter brings with it its own set of activities such as skiing and sledding.

You will be able to find all-inclusive, family-oriented resorts.

Or if you are up to roughing it out in a local campground, you will be able to save extra.

Recommended Hotel: The Roxbury

12. Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg, TN (865) 436-4178 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Head to Gatlinburg in Tennessee , located just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for an inexpensive vacation.

You can indulge in several outdoor activities as the entry to the park is free.

You can go hiking, biking or visit historical exhibits, all of which are free of cost.

What’s more, you can attend innumerable festivals of music, art and nature anytime of the year, all of which is also free.

And what’s more, if you visit in March, April or September, you can save further on accommodation as well.

Recommended Hotel: Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg

Related: Places to Eat in Gatlinburg

13. Branson, MO

Branson, MO

Branson, MO (417) 334-4084 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Nestled within the Ozarks in Missouri, Branson has a reputation for being the ideal quintessential family vacation destination.

What’s more, it is also affordable and fun!

There is a 19th-century themed amusement park that is truly amusing, a water park and a life-sized replica of the Titanic.

You can go swimming in Table Rock Lake or visit the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery at no cost.

Select from one of the many reasonably priced family-friendly restaurants and cafes for menus ranging from buffets to barbecues.

Recommended Hotel: Grand Crowne Resort by Capital Vacations

Related: Best Family Resorts Near Branson

14. Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL (312) 567-8560 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Does the thought of a deep-dish pizza or loaded hot dogs make the pretty mouths of your children water?

Head out to Chicago to indulge them the food they love.

But Chicago is not just about the food.

You can take architecture boat tours, visit science and art museums, or spend time in free parks.

If your family is into baseball, then a visit to Wrigley Field is a must.

Pro tip: visit the city in spring or fall to benefit from best deals from hotels.

Recommended Hotel: The Langham Chicago

Related: Chicago Restaurants

Related: Best Hotels in Chicago for Families

15. South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island, TX (800) 213-5869 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

South Padre Island is a cheap and friendly family vacation destination with several kid-friendly activities.

The island has a pleasant temperature for the most part of the year, so you can visit anytime you want.

Children can take a swim in the sea, visit the Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center and even touch critters or visit Sea Turtle, Inc., to watch turtle feedings.

For nature lovers, this is a bird-watching haven and costs nothing.

All you have to do is head to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center with your binoculars.

If you want to avoid the crowds, skip the spring break crowd in March.

Recommended Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island

16. Adirondacks, NY

Adirondacks, NY

Adirondack, NY Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

For those who love the outdoors, the Adirondacks offer an array of options.

During winter, families can indulge in skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding.

In spring and summer, you can go hiking, biking, fishing and whitewater rafting.

Expose your little one to the Olympic history by visiting Lake Placid’s Olympic museums and sports complexes and avail discounts by purchasing the Olympic Sites Passport.

You can also get discounts on several other activities.

A vacation rental may be easier on your pocket than lodging.

Recommended Hotel: The Whiteface Lodge

17. Williamsburg, VA

Williamsburg, VA (757) 229-6511 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you are looking for an inexpensive vacation spot, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia would be the ideal getaway.

A history buff’s haven, you can meet historical townspeople and be part of one of the several popular tours ranging from ghost walks to carriage rides to experience life in the past.

Water Country USA and Busch Gardens Williamsburg are closeby, a great appeal for the younger ones in the group.

Opt for combo tickets to cut costs as the park tickets can be expensive.

Save on accommodations by visiting in the fall, winter and early spring.

Recommended Hotel: The Colonies at Williamsburg

Related: Food Places in Williamsburg

Related: Best Family Vacations in Virginia

18. Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head, SC (800) 523-3373 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Find cheap family vacation packages in Hilton Head , a South Carolina barrier island, through local resorts where the parents can tee off on the golf course and also enjoy wide, clean beaches at no cost.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge’s animal-filled hammocks are a must see for nature lovers, and attract no admission fee.

You can explore the place on foot or by bike.

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina hosts live music and various events, also free of cost.

You can also explore the island by going on a kayaking trip or spend some quiet time fishing.

Recommended Hotel: Sonesta Resort – Hilton Head Island

Related: Restaurants in Hilton Head, SC

Related: Best Hilton Head Resorts for Families

19. Denver, CO

Denver, CO

Denver, CO (800) 233-6837 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Denver offers something to do for everyone.

Art lovers will find art festivals, concerts and museums just up their alley.

Then there are walking tours that the entire family will enjoy.

Affordable eateries offer cheap and best dishes catering to different tastes, be it for Italian food or classic American fare.

Relax in the parks or take a stroll.

The Denver Zoo with more than 4,000 animals is a treat for the little tykes.

They will also be thrilled to ride in the carousel or the train that winds its way through the complex.

They can have a great movie experience in the 4D theater.

Spring or fall will be the best time to get the best rates.

Recommended Hotel: The Curtis- A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

Related: Best Hotels in Denver for Families

20. Bar Harbor, ME

Bar Harbor, ME (800) 288-5103 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Bar Harbor has much to offer by way of vacation activities.

You can go swimming, and the calm waters at the freshwater beach at Echo Lake will be a novel experience for the family.

You can take a walking tour down the “Museum in the Streets” or find trails for hiking, walking and cycling.

Acadia National Park is another favorite spot for hiking, camping and coastline views.

If you are there between July 17 through August 21, free popcorn and kid-friendly movie viewing at Agamont Park will be a great hit with the family, especially the younger ones.

Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Bar Harbor Regency Hotel

Related: Best Restaurants in Bar Harbor

Related: Best Family Vacations in Maine

21. Winter Park, CO

Winter Park, CO (970) 726-4118 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Winter Park is not only a winter destination but just as great in summer.

What’s more, summer discounts at the Winter Park Resort make it within reach of all budgets.

Families can go hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting, zip-lining and experiencing Colorado’s longest alpine slide.

The United States’ only summer tubing hill is also nearby at the Snow Mountain Ranch.

You can also go for miniature golf.

Other activities include swimming, climbing walls indoor and outdoor.

Hideaway Park organizes free concerts and events throughout the summer.

Recommended Hotel: Best Western Alpenglo Lodge

Related: Colorado Family Vacations

22. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA (412) 281-7711 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

It’s not for nothing Pittsburgh is called “Kidsburgh”.

Be it the Pittsburgh Zoo or the Children’s Museum, there is much that children will enjoy here.

Summer also sees a 10-day Grand Prix where vintage cars can be sighted.

Walking tours give you a glimpse of the city or you can go around downtown in subway lines that offer free rides along the Golden Triangle.

Have mouth-watering lunch for under $10!

You can go biking along the Great Allegheny Passage to enjoy scenic vistas as you ride over bridges and in tunnels along a 150-mile trail.

For those reasons and more this is one our favorite places to go for the best cheap family vacations.

Recommended Hotel: Cambria Hotel Pittsburgh – Downtown

Related: Best Places to Eat in Pittsburgh

Related: Best Family Resorts Near Pittsburgh

Vacationer’s Guide

Comparing destinations: which one is right for you.

Choosing the best cheap family destinations is a breeze.

You can compare each destination’s rate offers, services, amenities, and drawbacks or limitations.

Then, you and your family can select the best place that suits your interests.

Esme Miami Beach offers fantastic ocean views, and its convenient location will put you near various attractions and dining options.

But one drawback of the hotel is the potential for high noise levels during peak seasons.

The Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World provides many entertainment options and well-equipped and spacious rooms.

But given the popularity of this hotel, the elevators, and common areas can get crowded, especially during peak travel seasons.

Meanwhile, the Tahoe Seasons Resort offers a relaxing, serene atmosphere and various outdoor activities like skiing and hiking.

But the resort has limited availability of educational or cultural activities.

If you’re searching for an alternative to Tahoe Seasons Resort, Hilton Vacation Club Mystic Dunes Orlando is a must-stay.

This resort offers various amenities and activities for all ages.

However, the resort offers limited on-site dining options.

How I Picked The Destinations 

As an avid traveler, I always look for cheap family destinations.

I stayed at the hotels and resorts on our list and did careful and thorough reviews.

I also examined each destination’s services, amenities, accommodations, and more.

Apart from that, I engaged with my fellow travelers and talked to them about their experiences and tips to make my reviews more precise.

Our Rating Method 

I rate these family vacations based on the following criteria. 

  • Affordability: I use this to evaluate the affordability of every destination or property. Are food and entertainment included in the prices? Is it worth the money? What packages do they offer? These are the questions I ask myself when assessing the affordability of the vacation destination.
  • Safety: This is used to assess the safety of the destination. Is the area safe? Is the environment family-friendly? How are the crime rates? I ask these to ensure the safety of the stay. 
  • Kid-Friendly Activities: I use this to assess the activities available for kids. Are there playgrounds or waterparks? Are there museums nearby to visit? Do they have kids’ clubs? I use these factors to assess how kid-friendly the activities on-site are.
  • Accessibility: This criterion is used to assess the convenience of the location. Does it have good transportation options? Is it located near airports or major highways? Are there restaurants and local attractions within walking distance? I ask these questions to evaluate the accessibility of the destination. 
  • Accommodations: I use this criterion to rate accommodations. Are the rooms available spacious or interconnecting? Are kitchenettes available? Can you request a crib or high chair? Do they offer complimentary breakfast? These are the factors I consider when rating the accommodations.
  • Ease of Travel: This evaluates the accessibility of the destination. Is it in a convenient location that is easy to get to? Is it easily accessible by public transportation? Does it have enough parking space? Is it wheelchair accessible? I use these questions to assess this criterion. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do i budget for a family vacation.

To budget for a family vacation, estimate your expenses for accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities, and allocate a specific amount for each category. Prioritize your spending based on what is most important to your family and adjust accordingly to stay within your budget.

Are There Any Beach Destinations That Provide Affordable Accommodations And Family-friendly Activities?

Yes, there are beach destinations that provide affordable accommodations and family-friendly activities. Some of these are Esme Miami Beach and Clearwater Beach, Florida.


best cheap family vacations travel photo

Based on the ratings, it is clear that the best cheap family vacations offer something unique for everyone.

The Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World was a whirlwind of excitement for my family.

We couldn’t contain our excitement as we explored the various entertainment options.

The kids’ eyes sparkled brighter than the Strip lights as we indulged in the many fun-filled family activities. 

Their delight in every moment turned our vacation into a priceless treasure trove of memories.

At Tahoe Seasons Resort, we were enchanted by the serene atmosphere and the chance to immerse ourselves in outdoor adventures.

We also loved the fantastic pools and the mini-golf course at Hilton Vacation Club Mystic Dunes Orlando.

But Esme Miami Beach gave us the best family vacation.

Our days were filled with laughter and splashing at Esme Miami Beach. 

The kids adored the children’s pool, their giggles echoing under the sun. 

And the sunsets? 

Simply breathtaking.

We enjoyed playing at the beach and discovering seashells on the shorelines.

We also appreciated the hotel’s convenient location, which allowed us to explore the exciting attractions of Miami Beach.

seven islands state birding park travel photo

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9 Secrets to Family Travel on a Budget

Alisha McDarris

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Family vacations often result in some of the best memories, whether you’re road-tripping across the country or flying around the world. But paying for travel for the whole gang can get expensive fast.

Fortunately, no matter your clan size, you can travel far and spend less. Here are eight tips for planning budget family travel.

1. Choose your destination wisely

The first hurdle to planning budget-friendly travel for your family is choosing a destination wisely. If the goal is to save some cash relative to all of your options, where you go matters.

For starters, will you fly or drive ? If you have a large family, selecting a destination closer to home that you can drive to is likely cheaper than paying for airfare for multiple people.

But suppose you already know you want to visit an international destination or a city on the other side of the country. In that case, the destination itself can be costly or inexpensive, depending on exchange rates and the cost of living.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly adventure, choose your destination based on what you’d like to do, the price of things in that destination and how far the U.S. Dollar will go when you exchange it for local currency .

A beach vacation in Hawaii , for example, will cost more than a beach vacation in Guatemala (where everything from food to accommodations, transportation and activities will be less expensive).

» Learn more : How to plan a trip

2. Travel during shoulder seasons

Selecting when you travel is just as important as where. That’s because most destinations are more expensive during peak travel times, whether you’re paying in cash or points. Peak travel periods in some destinations usually include holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as spring and summer school vacations.

» Learn more: How to get travel deals in the shoulder season

Other destinations depend on seasons and the weather for their peak seasons. For example, you’ll likely find hotels in ski resort areas more expensive in the winter versus summer, whereas other destinations might be more expensive in the summer.

Generally speaking, a shoulder season — like fall — is a more budget-friendly time to travel to many places. If you have the option, conduct a few different date searches on airline or accommodation websites to see what times of the year they typically charge less.

» Learn more: Weather or not — How to book better shoulder season travel

3. Be flexible

That said, if school or work schedules don’t allow flexibility to travel during off-peak seasons, you can still save money by choosing the right day to travel .

travel cheap with family

For example, if you’re willing to fly on Thanksgiving day or the Fourth of July, you’ll likely save more than a few bucks on airfare. Just altering a search by a few days can potentially save hundreds.

» Learn more: There’s just one trick to traveling cheaply — flexibility

4. Consider transportation costs

travel cheap with family

Zipcar allows you to book rental cars by the hour or day. Since they're usually parked in small lots around cities and can be unlocked via the Zipcar app, you don't even need to speak to a human at the car rental counter. (Photo by Sally French)

Airfare aside, if you want to save on transportation, consider all of your options once you arrive. For example, if you’re staying in a walkable city or small town, renting a car might be a waste of money. Public transportation and the occasional rideshare or pedicab may be more cost-effective. In other cities like Honolulu where parking and gas prices are high, you might just want a rental car in Honolulu for one day.

The exception? When you're traveling in large groups and your trip involves a lot of driving from place to place. In these scenarios, a taxi or a dozen bus fares might be unfeasible. Instead, research budget car rental options or even consider rental car alternatives such as Turo and Getaround .

» Learn more : Where to find rental car discounts

5. Search for free experiences

Attraction and experience fees can add up fast when traveling as a family. Fortunately, no matter where you go, there are likely free and inexpensive tourist options.

Many cities offer free museum days where you can explore world-renowned art or history museums at no cost. In other cities, there may be free walking tours (tips are still appreciated).

There’s also a chance you'll find a free version of a popular attraction — like hula performances in Hawaii — which could save you big bucks over paid experiences (and you won't feel as bad if young children get fussy and you have to bail).

From museums and tours to outdoor movies and festivals, be sure to search for free things to do wherever you’re headed to save some dough.

» Learn more: Tips for flying with a toddler

6. Get creative with accommodations

travel cheap with family

Sometimes vacation rentals offer way more space, which can be convenient for families. This Vacasa in Wilmington, North Carolina had a massive living room to spread out. (Photo by Sally French)

Sure, hotels and resorts, especially ones that let kids stay or eat free, are always a valid option, but a quick search on a vacation rental platform — like Airbnb or Vrbo — can unearth many possibilities that might be less expensive and more comfortable for a large group.

For a unique experience, consider a home exchange where you swap houses with someone in a different destination for an annual fee, or housesitting, which offers a way to stay in a local’s home and take care of their pets or plants, also for just an annual membership fee.

» Learn more: Are Airbnbs really cheaper than hotels for large groups?

7. Stock up on snacks at the supermarket

travel cheap with family

When in Hawaii, buy poke from the ABC Stores. It's typically just as tasty (but far cheaper) than what you'll get at a restaurant. Grab your poke to go and eat it on the beach for an oceanfront meal on a budget. (Photo by Sally French)

Costs for dining out every day can add up fast (especially in today's economy ). To save on meals, plan to prepare and eat one or two meals every day at your accommodation, especially if your room has a kitchen. Stock up on groceries and snacks at the supermarket.

That goes for days you’ll spend in a car or on an airplane, too, where you’ll pay for the convenience of readily available snack foods.

Alternatively, explore the street food scene or go to local markets instead of dining out at a sit-down restaurant. You’ll likely find more unique foods from stalls and carts.

Restaurants near tourist areas may upcharge versus those that cater to locals. You can save more money the farther you dine from popular tourist areas.

8. Get travel insurance

Travel insurance may sound like an extra cost when it comes to planning family travel on a budget, but it can save you hundreds, if not thousands, if something goes wrong.

If you need to cancel your trip, someone gets food poisoning or needs stitches and has to go to the hospital, or the airline loses your bag, comprehensive travel insurance can save the day by footing the bill.

Just make sure you read policy details and understand what’s covered in the policy you select.

» Learn more: What to consider before buying family travel insurance

9. Design trips that accommodate a range of family budgets

If you're traveling on a multigenerational family trip with multiple family units, consider designing the trip so each person can book their own lodging, activities and transport there. Then, intersperse plenty of meetup events so the family units can get together.

For example, decide on a date and city for the family trip. Then, let each family book their own lodging. Some families might choose an Airbnb, while others might go for a hotel. Even within those two options, one family might book a cheap motel while another might go for the 5-star resort. Opening up lodging options allows everyone to pick something that suits their travel styles and budgets.

Budget family travel, recapped

Family travel on a budget is possible. You just need to be flexible, get creative, weigh your options and choose your destination wisely to stretch your dollar wherever you go.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024 :

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

1.5%-5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Up to $300 Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

travel cheap with family

Live A Wilder Life


Post Summary: The ultimate guide on how to do family travel on a budget from former full-time family travelers. Our best travel tips, hacks, how-tos, and budgeting advice for family vacations on a budget.

Do you dream of traveling to charming or adventurous destinations together as a family? Who doesn’t, right? Family travel is where lifelong memories get etched into the storybook of a family. But if you’re like most families, you’re probably wondering…is frugal family travel even a thing?

Absolutely. Family travel on a budget is possible ! With the right know-how, resources, and proper planning, you can learn how to afford family travel .

Traveling with a family does provide a good dose of challenge and hearty problem-solving, but money doesn’t need to be the reason you don’t travel together.

Here is our complete guide on budget family travel , including planning a family vacation on a budget and tips for reducing costs. It’s long and thorough and based upon our own trial and error experiences.

READ NEXT: 50 Bucket List Ideas For Family Travel In The USA The Best National Parks In The West 50 Inspirational Quotes About Family Travel

*This family travel on a budget post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you. We only suggest what we think is truly awesome.


mother and toddler run into carribean beach

Family Travel Needs To Be A Priority

I present this one first because I think there has to be a mental shift in your perspective if you desire to travel with family. Finding the means to travel as a family is a priority for us. It’s never IF we’re going to travel; it’s WHEN are we going to travel.

I say this with caution since I know there are people ready to clamor and shout, but but but I have work ! But but but the kids are in school . I know. Those are all real and valid points , and I would never reduce the realities of everyone’s day-to-day circumstances. Let’s be clear that traveling with family requires the privilege of time and finances.

AND, if what you want is to travel, you’ll have to open a window (just a crack) in your mind to allow for the possibility of making travel happen for your family.

Just Say No To Spring Break Travel

Dubrovnik Orange roofs

If you’re looking to do a family trip on a budget, you have to stop traveling during the high season. It’s basic supply and demand. The more people traveling, the more expensive lodging and airfare will be. If you choose to go to Florida in April during spring break, hotels will be astronomically expensive. If you fly to Europe in July and August, airfare will be at its highest.

Visit Arches National Park in winter or Paris in the fall, and you can cut your hotel and airfare costs by 40-70%. We visited Glacier National Park and Whitefish, Montana, in winter and paid $95 a night for a room that costs $400 a night in the summer. I kid you not!

Just because you’re traveling in the off-season doesn’t have to mean cold weather and rainy days. We traveled to Croatia in October when the cruise ships and crowds had left, and we had 80-degree days and plenty of sunshine.

An extra perk of traveling in the off-season is the crowds are gone. We traveled to the Virgin Islands with our son in the off-season, and it was delightfully quiet. Imagine an entire picture-perfect beach with only a handful of people.

In addition, look into traveling right after a major holiday. Instead of traveling on the 4th of July, Memorial Day Weekend, or Labor Day Weekend, look at getting away right after that to see if you can get better hotel and airfare rates. You’re almost always guaranteed a cheaper stay.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Traveling in the shoulder season or after a major holiday is one of the most tried and true tips on how to afford family travel. Research a destination you’re interested in and find out when their off-peak times are.

Consider Taking Your Kids Out Of School

Traveling in the off-season can be difficult when you have kids in school. Consider taking them out for a short period to have your fantastic budget family getaway.

I know. I know. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s disruptive, your school might frown on it, and some kids might not want to miss school.

This is a personal decision that you and your family have to figure out. If you’re hesitant about pulling them out of school, talk about it with their teacher and listen to their concerns so you can work with them to find a solution. Perhaps you have to schedule time on your vacation for the kids to do homework or lesson plans. It’s a great thing to do on the flight! Or maybe you work with the teacher to figure out a time in the school year when it’s not as burdensome for them to leave. For instance, not going right before a big project or test is on the schedule.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Take your kids out of school for a short period of time to get the best off-season rates.

Travel Where Your Money Goes Further

travel cheap with family

If you’re looking to learn how to travel cheaply with kids, you have to expand your mind outside of typical “family destinations” like Hawaii and popular theme parks. You need to travel where your money goes further. Instead of Hawaii, consider other destinations with just as stunning (maybe even better) beaches like Panama, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Instead of France or Italy, consider other magical countries in Europe like Montenegro, Bosnia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. These places are just as charming and, if you travel in the off-season, ridiculously cheaper than other popular European destinations.

Many of the cheaper alternatives listed above can be done with a daily budget of $50-$100 a day. We spent eight days in Nicaragua and paid $800 per person, including airfare! Yes, airfare will probably be your most expensive item, but we’ll get tips on finding good deals later.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Traveling on a budget means trying out destinations that aren’t as “popular” but are easy on the wallet. If you have a dream destination like Hawaii, google “cheap alternatives to Hawaii” and see what comes up.

Credit Card Points Are Your Friend

Credit card points are one of my favorite ways to earn money for a trip. Many people opt to use debit cards as their sole card, but not using credit card points to your advantage is letting your money go to waste!

Now let’s be clear, the following advice is ONLY if you can pay your total balance every month. If you can not, this advice is not meant for you. Any points you earn will quickly become worthless with the interest you pay by holding a balance, not to mention the health of your credit score.

Some people go really in-depth into the points world. They hold multiple credit cards, do all the sign-up bonuses, chat on points and miles forums, and have intricate spreadsheet systems detailing their credit card points. That is not me. I keep it really simple. I use the credit card that’s best for my spending habits, and that’s it. While there are credit cards that offer great rewards for travelers, it’s only beneficial to you if you travel A LOT. Why get a card that offers Uber credits, lounge access in airports, and 5X points for airfare if you only go on a trip once a year?

I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card because it’s a cashback card that offers 6% back on groceries, 3% cash back on gas and transit, and a $300 sign-up bonus. Because groceries are our biggest credit card expense, it’s a no-brainer for us to have a card that gives us 6% cash back on groceries. Last year, I earned $900 in cashback. If you’re saving for a big trip, $900 goes a long way to help cover airfare or lodging. You can learn more about it with my referral link to the Blue Cash Preferred Card.

A common travel hack is to open up a credit card with a big sign-up bonus to capitalize on that extra windfall. Most sign-up bonuses for credit cards entail spending a certain amount of money within an allotted time, for example, $5000 in the first three months. For me, it’s only worth it if your everyday expenses are that much or if you know you’ll be buying a big-ticket item like a new washer/dryer or plane tickets.

Another way to capitalize on the sign-up bonus is to sign up for a hotel credit card like Marriott or Hilton, which both offer a generous sum of points at sign-up. That lump sum of points could get you a few days free in a hotel. A great choice if you know you have travel plans in the future and want to reduce lodging costs. Just make sure to get the credit card several months in advance to ensure you have the points for when you need to book.

We also use the Southwest Credit Card since we fly Southwest a lot, and it’s a convenient airline for our needs. I discuss it in the “choosing a family-friendly airline” section.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Let your spending earn you money by using a credit card with a great cashback or points system that you can use toward your family travel budget.

Price Compare Home Rentals and Hotels

There was a time when peer-to-peer rental services like Airbnb and Vrbo offered the best bang for your buck when traveling as a family. With rising service fees and outlandish cleaning fees, I’m not entirely convinced that home rental services are the best way to go. That being said, it’s still the first place I look when scouring out lodging deals for a destination. When making a price comparison of a hotel to a home rental, you’ll want to budget in the extra perks of staying at a home rental which includes a kitchen to cut down on eating out, multiple rooms, laundry, a backyard for your kids to play in, and the privacy of your own home.

In general, if you’re only staying somewhere for one to two nights, a hotel will be cheaper since the cleaning and service fees can make the final bill more expensive than a hotel. If you’re staying for longer, a home rental typically wins out.

When looking for a hotel, take advantage of a site like that offers immediate discounts for email subscribers and a straightforward cancellation policy. The cancellation policy is great when you’re in the travel planning stage because you can book something and secure a rate while continuing to look for better offers. Booking also has a free loyalty program that offers 10-20% off, free breakfast, and upgrades if you consistently book with them.

KEY TAKEAWAY : Compare home rentals to hotels to see where the best price is, but don’t forget the value of having your own kitchen, more room, and the private space of a home rental.

Consider Camping, Glamping, or an RV Rental

mom and son stand proudly in front of their large tent at a treed in campsite.

If hotels and home rentals are too steep, a camping trip is ideal for family travel on a budget. When we were planning a trip to Yellowstone , we were shocked by how expensive the hotels were in the park. The only way we could swing it was to camp in the park. We spent seven days camping in the park and paid roughly $225 for our entire stay. $225 is not even enough to cover one night at a hotel in Yellowstone! Plus, we entered the park on one of their annual free days , so we didn’t even pay to visit the park.

Camping does have some significant upfront costs (buying a tent, sleeping bags), but the good thing is you can use it repeatedly, allowing the investment to be worth the price. You can also look into renting camping gear from REI if you don’t want to own camping equipment.

If camping isn’t how you love to vacation, you can look into renting an RV, travel trailer, or campervan through the peer-to-peer site Outdoorsy or the campervan rental site Escape Campervans . You can rent a cozy RV and stay at a lovely campsite for a long weekend or try a long road trip exploring the National Parks of the East Coast or the beaches of the Pacific Coast Highway. You could even boondock and find free camping spots to further reduce your costs.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If hotels and house rentals are too expensive, look into camping or renting an RV as an alternative.

READ NEXT: Our Best Tips For Camping With A Toddler

Find Alternative Lodging

A unique way to do family travel on a budget is to do a home swap. The basic idea is you swap homes with someone in a destination you would like to visit. Typically, you would need to come up with an agreement with another family, but Home Exchange has made it easier by also offering the ability to stay at someone’s house without needing to swap. That’s convenient if you don’t live in a location where people want to visit.

You can sign up for free, but if you register, you get a bunch of free points that could get you three to five days at a coveted destination for the cost of a $175 registration fee. My advice is to at least sign up for free to get some signup points. Browse around the site, and you’ll see that it’s a fantastic choice when looking for cheap ways to travel with family. You can use my referral code here to get extra sign-up points .

Score Cheap Airline Tickets

That title is a little misleading because I’m not sure I would ever call plane tickets “cheap,” but there are certainly ways to reduce the costs of airline tickets. As a general rule, you’ll want to try to fly from Tuesday to Thursday. Weekends tend to be more expensive simply because more people are traveling.

I suggest using Skyscanner or Scotts Cheap Flights when looking for good flight deals.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a paid membership program with a pared-down free version. We started with the free membership but ended up upgrading because we liked it so much. They send out emails with mistake fares, and you can sign up to get specific updates to certain areas and airports. If you’re flexible, you can use it to inspire travel. We once saw a deal for a round-trip flight to Japan for $170. It was insane! It took everything we had to not immediately board a plane to Japan. You can learn more about Scott’s Cheap Flights here .

Skyscanner is another excellent tool that is essentially an aggregator. With so many different aggregator sites to choose from, it comes down to ease of use. Skyscanner is simple, straightforward, and best of all, you can sign up for price alerts and get notified when prices drop for a flight path you want to take. That’s a KEY feature and something you’ll definitely want to do if you have a set destination in mind. You can also use the site to browse cheaper destinations. Just put “everywhere” for where you want to go, a departing airport, and they’ll show you a long list of options. You can learn more about Skyscanner here .

If you can remain open about our destination, a good tactic is to see where you can get cheap flights and choose to explore that place.

Don’t forget to check out smaller airlines that might not appear in aggregator searches like Avelo Airlines and Frontier . They are budget airlines that reduce amenities (drinks, choosing your seat) to bring costs down.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Use smart tools and price alerts to find cheaper flights, but also be open to not having a set destination and traveling to a place where you can score low-cost flights.

READ NEXT : How To Survive Flying With A Baby

Choose Family-Friendly Airlines

travel cheap with family

When choosing a flight, most people will understandably pick the cheapest airfare but don’t forget to include extra costs that airlines tack on to the price. The cost to check luggage for a family can easily be an additional $100 for a roundtrip flight.

While Southwest Airlines isn’t an illustrious airline with a highly developed tiered class system or a fancy airport lounge, they are GREAT for family travelers. What do we love about them? Everyone gets two bags checked for free . While I love to pack light, traveling with a family often means a lot of stuff, so getting to check your luggage for free is ideal.

Whenever you’re searching for flights, remember to go direct to Southwest since they NEVER show up on aggregator sites like Skyscanner or Kayak. Cross-reference the prices and factor in the cost of checking luggage.

Southwest is our ideal choice since they have multiple options for domestic flights, affordable tickets, free checked luggage, and they have a companion pass !!

The companion pass is a benefit you earn where a single person can fly with you FOR FREE for the year you earn it and the following calendar year. Anyone can acquire the pass by applying for a Southwest Credit Card and flying 100 one-way flights or earning 125,000 points.

Most people won’t be able to swing either of those in a year, though it’s not impossible, especially if you’re using a Southwest business card and you have high business expenses.

Realistically, your best bet is to get a companion pass when they offer it as a promotional bonus for signing up for a credit card. That’s how we did it! We signed up for the credit card and earned the companion pass plus a slew of bonus points. We did it right before we knew we were going into a year of high travel and used it countless times. We saved well over $1000 using our companion pass for one year. Also, we were traveling with a child under two, so three of us got to travel, and we only paid for one person. It felt like winning the lottery!

Get on their email list and keep an eye out for when they do the Companion Pass promotion. I notice they do it about once a year. You can use our referral link here to learn about the different Southwest Credit Cards .

*Many people don’t like Southwest’s open seating policy where it’s first come, first served for seats. Families traveling with young kids always get to board between the A and B groups, so you’re guaranteed to sit together. We’ve never had a problem getting seats together.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Don’t forget about the cost of checking luggage and factor that into your budget. Also, don’t forget about Southwest Airlines since they don’t appear in aggregator searches.

Use Turo For Car Rentals

If you’re at a location that requires a car, the first place to look for budget car rentals is Turo . It’s a peer-to-peer car rental service, and you can find GREAT DEALS. We have used the service twice and love it. We used it when living in Asheville when we needed to rent a car for two months. We paid $10 a day for our rental!

Typically, there is a set destination for picking up and dropping off, but the great part of using Turo is you’re dealing with a real person. One time we didn’t even have to drop off our rental at the airport since it was more convenient for the car owner to come to our home rental. We literally left the car on the street where our Airbnb was, and he picked it up himself. It was so easy!

If Turo and its fees are too expensive, check out to see if you can find better rates.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If looking for a car rental, first see if you can get a better deal at Turo, a peer-to-peer rental service.

Embrace The Road Trip

trendy mother and toddler stand in front of vintage 1979 camper

You can do all the travel hacking in the world and still not be able to find cheap flights. Even if you find cheap flights, if you have a large family, the deal isn’t so great when you multiply it by six. When flying is out of your budget, it’s time to embrace the road trip.

Yes, gas is expensive, but it’s still cheaper than flying. We are a family that road trips A LOT, and I tell you, once you do it a few times, you realize it’s really not that bad to be in the car for that long. In fact, we made a cross-country road trip in our renovated vintage camper with our three-year-old! The road trip will always be the top choice for anyone looking for how to travel cheaply with family.

Do some research to see what is nine to ten hours from you. Or make a family road trip that extends over several days where you hit up a few different places spread throughout an area. An epic family bucket list item is to make a Utah National Parks road trip .

K EY TAKEAWAY: When flights aren’t doable for your family, pack up the car and go on a road trip.

READ NEXT: How To Road Trip With A Toddler Like A Boss 8 Phenomenal Cross-Country Road Trips

Limit Eating Out

Not eating out every night is perhaps our biggest tip for when you’re trying to do family travel on a budget. We never eat breakfast out and often try to do all three meals at home. And I’m someone who LOVES to eat out. Believe me, I would much rather enjoy fresh local food than make turkey sandwiches for lunch, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for the pleasure of traveling and being together.

If you still want to enjoy eating out while on a family vacation, try to do two meals at your rental or hotel and one meal out a day. At the very least, eat breakfast by bringing cereal, milk, yogurt, or oatmeal or staying at a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast.

If we’re staying at a house rental, we bring groceries with us or buy some once we get there so we have supplies in the house. Even if we’re staying at a hotel, as long as it has a mini-fridge and a microwave, we can make a few meals with that setup. Our go-to hotel meal with only a mini-fridge and microwave is Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, ready-made salad packs, and bread and olive oil. Traveling with small packets like this Marconi Olive Oil are game-changers!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Don’t forget about the cost of food on your travel budget! Plan to have 1-2 meals at your hotel or rental to majorly cut down on costs.

TIP : If your hotel room doesn’t have a microwave, you can sometimes call ahead, and they’ll put one in the room for you. It’s worked for me many times!

Look For Free Things To Do

toddler boy points out at lake view from a bench on a mountain top

When planning your itinerary, try to do a few free things to curb costs. Waterfall hikes, days at the beach, and self-guided walking tours are excellent kid-friendly activities that are all FREE. Here is where Google is your friend. When researching your destination, do a simple search for “free things to do in XYZ” to discover some exciting options in the area.

National Parks are a great choice since it’s typically one flat rate per vehicle and lasts for seven days. For inspiration, you can read our article about 12 fantastic National Parks For Kids .

KEY TAKEAWAY : On your family trip, plan a few activities that are free to offset costs of pricy tours and activities.

Check Out Package Deals

I’m going to be straightforward; our family doesn’t tend to do package deals. But in the interest of giving you the best information possible on how to score family travel on a budget, I feel remiss if I leave package deals out of our article.

Here’s the deal: a package deal MIGHT be cheaper, and it also MIGHT NOT. In my experience, it’s not more affordable, but it is definitely more convenient. For family travelers, convenience isn’t something to ignore. Sometimes it’s nice to have everything taken care of in one go. We are independent travelers who prefer to have more control over our choice of lodging.

My advice is to cross-reference and check out the individual costs of the flight and hotel to see if you’re truly saving money.

We can’t recommend any package deals personally, but Costco Travels seems to be the one everyone touts as having the best vacation deals. Check it out and see if their prices (plus the convenience factor) are cheaper than individually buying airfare and lodging.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Package deals could potentially save you money, but you should always individually check the direct hotel and airfare price to see if it’s truly saving you money.

Travel With Friends or Family

Consider traveling with friends as a way to afford family travel. Splitting the cost of a three-bedroom VRBO can significantly reduce your costs.

For example, say you’re planning a long weekend in Boise and need three nights at a hotel. Three nights in June in Boise at a mid-tier hotel for one room would cost you around $700 in total. An upscale three-bedroom home for three nights in June in Boise would cost also you around $700. Except, now you’re splitting it in half, bringing your total to $350, and you have a kitchen, backyard, a separate room for your kids, and free parking. It’s a no-brainer to me!

Plus, traveling with friends and family means your child or children have other people to bounce their all-consuming energy onto.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Traveling with friends and family can cut your lodging costs in half. Find good travel companions and make some memories!

Think Outside Of The Box

mother and son looking out window on bunk bed

Finally, trying to do family travel on a budget requires flexibility, planning, and creative thinking. It might require more work, but there’s something so satisfying about working hard to pull it all off. Or is that just me?

Decide what’s most important to you and let that be the North Star that guides your vacation planning. For us, it’s always about exploration, ease, and having fun together. None of those things require spending a lot of money.

To have your dream family vacation on a budget, you might need to road trip to your destination, camp for two days, and stay at a home rental for three days to make the trip work. You might need to make all of your meals at home and enjoy free activities like playing at the beach or hiking to a lookout point. It might mean scrapping your vision of frolicking on the beaches of Hawaii and instead exploring the pastel homes of St. Augustine, Florida.

I can practically guarantee you that your children value time spent with their family in a loving environment more than they need expensive trips to far-flung destinations.

Are you ready to plan some epic family travel on a budget? We hope our post on how to afford family travel helps you out.

If you have any other tips or tools for planning a family vacation on a budget, let us know in the comments below. We love to hear tips from fellow travelers.

Happy Travels!

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Hi, we’re Christina and Brad, Idaho based writers and photographers who live to explore. We did a short stint of traveling full time with our two year old and discovered we're much happier as part time nomads. What does that mean? We travel a lot! And then we go home. We love helping fellow parents and everyday adventurers discover new places and experiences.

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Amazing post!!! These tips are very handy if you have a big family and a limited budget. Even I agree that travelling off-season is the best if you want to save money on your entire travel. Keep sharing such helpful posts with the readers.

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How to Plan an Awesome Family Vacation on a Budget

Taking a family vacation doesn't have to break the bank, especially if you can be flexible about timing and opportunistic when you see a great deal. It will be important to focus on where the family wants to vacation, have a budget that fits within your means, and then arm yourself with knowledge about package deals and last-minute savings via reputable websites.

From vacation ideas to money-saving strategies, here's what you need to plan a budget-friendly family getaway with the kids.

Enjoy a National Park Vacation

Called "America's best idea" by the historian Wallace Stegner, our national park system offers families a wonderfully affordable way to visit our most cherished and beautiful landscapes, view wildlife in their natural habitat, learn about geological and cultural history, and appreciate the great outdoors. 

Each year, there are designated free day s at the national parks. Plan your trip to arrive on one of these days. Consider a pass if you plan to visit quite a few parks over the year. 

Have an Extreme Outdoor Adventure

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Trade in the long car ride and unhealthy foods that are typically associated with vacation, and head out on an extended family bike ride or hike. With all the family-friendly  bike trails  and  hiking trails  that are spread out across the country, it’s really easy to hit the trails and just go for miles. While this type of trip takes more planning and commitment than most, it couldn’t be more budget-friendly. Pack food and camping gear, and you won’t have to pay for much more than a nightly camping fee. And just think how cool it would be to say that your family hiked 25 miles or biked 100 miles. Showing your kids that they can accomplish big things is a very good use of vacation time.

Go on a Grand Tour

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 Lots of factories will allow you to tour their facilities for free or a nominal fee. These behind-the-scenes tours allow kids to see how everything from tractors to jelly beans are made, and often come with free samples and swag. Line up a route of factory tours in an area that you’d like to explore. Then, add in a  free walking tour  at each stop along the way.

Most mid-to-large size cities have self-guide tours that you can download to your phone, as well as guided tours run by freelancers, who work for tips. They can be a really interesting way to explore a city, and often lead to discovering hidden gems that you’d normally miss.

Take a Learning Vacation

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 Everyone has things they wish they knew how to do. Start a conversation with your family to find out what those things are. Then, plan a trip around making some of them happen. You could  learn how to ride horses ,  dig for fossils  or  sign up for a basketmaking workshop . There are so many possibilities, and since you'll be coming home with a new skill, you're sure to get your money's worth.

Give Voluntourism a Shot

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Use your family vacation time to do for others, instead of doing for yourself.  Research volunteer vacation opportunities , until you find something that excites your whole family. Then, find out what you need to do to get accepted into the program. You could  help build a Habitat house ,  clean up hiking trails ,  work on a farm  or  tackle a project overseas . There are so many fun possibilities.

These types of vacations often come with free room and board, but spots fill up fast, so you need to plan far in advance. Be sure to check age requirements before you apply, so you don’t waste time going after opportunities that aren’t open to your family.

Visit a Big City

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You may pay more for a hotel room in a metropolitan area, like New York City or Washington, D.C., but all the free activities, cheap eats and affordable transportation options more than make up for it. Take in a bunch of free museums and historical sites;  use an app to locate food trucks when you get hungry ; and bounce around town on the subway.

Just do a search for “free things to do in (insert city)”, and you’re bound to uncover more activities than you have time for. Who knows? You may even uncover cool things, like free outdoor movies, that only the locals are privy to.

Attend One of the Longest Yard Sales in the U.S.

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Take your family on an epic shopping spree without blowing your budget. Nearly every state hosts an annual miles-long yard sale where thousands upon thousands of vendors come out to sell their wares. You'll find antiques and designer goods for the grown ups, as well as plenty of toys and clothes for the kids. There's truly something for everyone, and since the prices are negotiable, you won't have to worry about overspending on souvenirs. 

Find campgrounds along the route  to keep costs down, and get your fill of local fare from all the diners and food vendors you encounter along the way.

Tips for Cheaper Family Trips

The secret to planning affordable family vacations is having a game plan that's simple and surefire. There's a way to set up a never-fail, no-brainer system that will ensure you are always able to find a great getaway at an affordable price. 

The idea is to create a repository of deals and special offers that you can turn to every time you plan a vacation. You'll get these offers by signing up for hotel deals, some directly from the hotel and some through travel websites. The same goes for airline offers.

Many hotel chains and certainly many airlines have loyalty programs. If you are a member and rack up enough points or miles, you will save on your next vacation. 

Jump on Flash Sales

If it's spring, it must be time for  Daily Getaways  from the United States Travel Association (USTA). This spring series of travel flash sales offers savings of up to 50 percent off regular prices. This past year more than 20 of America’s top travel brands teamed up with the USTA to offer travel deals unavailable anywhere else. 

All offers are available on a first come-first served basis and are non-refundable. Watch the USTA website next spring.

Seek Out Shoulder-Season Bargains

Itching to get away but don't want to spend a fortune? Grab the kids and start packing. Early spring through ​ Memorial Day  weekend is one of the year's secret seasons—and spontaneous travelers can reap some of the biggest savings. The other shoulder season is fall after the kids have returned to school.

Some budget-conscious parents actually make arrangements to take their children out of school during these shoulder seasons for a family vacation, complete with class assignments and homework. 

Get Disney World for Less

Want to go to Disney World without breaking the bank? You can grab a deal, find affordable fun, and squeeze extra value from your vacation along the way if you know how to go about it.

Disney World  ticket prices  and room rates fluctuate according to demand and are at their highest during school breaks and seasonal holidays. The first rule in landing an affordable getaway is to come during a time when prices are at their lowest.

There are also budget-friendly resorts and package deals for you when you visit this popular destination. 

Score a Free Rental Car or RV

Let's face it. Snagging a cheap rental car or vacation RV is good, but scoring a free one is much, much better. A new website offers the opportunity for savvy families to take a road trip for next to nothing.

Transfercar  offers the opportunity for savvy families to take an RV  road trip  for next to nothing. The company delivers a nice win-win for both rental car companies needing to transfer cars, camper vans,​ and RVs from location A to B and drivers looking for a way to cut travel costs.

Just be flexible and jump on the opportunity when it presents itself. 

Save on Theme Park Tickets

Theme park getaways are popular with families, but they sure aren't cheap. Happily, there are some golden rules of ticket-buying that apply to pretty much every theme park, and they can help you chip away at the cost of tickets. 

Never, ever pay the walk-up ticket price at a theme park. Instead, visit the theme park website and print out your tickets before you go. Seasonal specials will appear on the website so look for those.

By avoiding weekends and high-demand holidays you're likely to save on tickets. 

Save on a Family Cruise

Shopping for a family cruise? There are some savvy tactics to keep more money in your wallet while landing a fantastic getaway at sea.

There are seasonal discounts, last minute traveler discounts and deals for special groups. 

During the three-month period between January and March, known as "wave season," cruise lines offer some of their very best deals for the coming year.

Score a Cheap Vacation Rental

Renting rooms, or an entire home can save you a ton of money. Sites like HomeAway, , and AirBnb offer a range of accommodations from shared space to luxury homes with a pool. 

The best reason for renting a home is that you'll have cooking facilities and a washer/dryer at your disposal, saving money on dining out and luggage fees.

Lower Rental Car Costs

Want to keep your rental car costs from getting out of control? There are simple tips to ensure you will never pay more than you have to.

Rental car prices are determined by  surge pricing , which means they are based on supply and demand and rise and fall over time. There are websites that track this pricing for you.

Another tip is to know what insurance coverage you have before you rent the car (auto insurance policies and credit card benefits often cover rental cars). Then, don't fall for any heavy-handed sales pitch to add on daily insurance if you don't need it.

Consider Midwest Beach Vacations

Looking for an affordable Midwest beach getaway this summer? A stay at one of the Ohio State Park Lodges might be just the ticket.

Located in parks throughout the central and northern regions of the Buckeye State, the lodges offer a surprising array of beach experiences on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

Vacation on the Cheap

Want to plan a budget-friendly family vacation? The key is making common-sense choices that keep costs under control. There are tried-and-tested tips that can deliver significant savings on your family vacation.

Tips such as knowing when to book your travel itinerary to find the cheapest flights in advance can greatly reduce the cost of your overall trip. Travel experts share that the lowest price-range occurs between 52 days and three months before you plan to travel.

Watch for deals by signing up for e-mail notifications with the major airlines that fly to the vacation destinations you are interested in. 

Grab September Savings in Orlando

Looking for the perfect time to visit Orlando? You'd be hard-pressed to beat September, a month when hotel rates are at their lowest of the year and crowds have thinned with the back-to-school season. 

Visit Orlando offers lists of coupons and special deals. Watch for announcements of promotional packages. And, of course, sign up for their newsletter.

Save Money on a Family Ski Trip

Looking to score a great deal on a family ski getaway? Ski vacations with the kids are a ton of fun but nobody ever said they were cheap. From finding affordable airfare to locating deals, there are ways to save money and enjoy a ski trip.

Look for a resort area near a major airport. For example, flights to Denver International, the largest hub for Colorado ski vacations, will typically be cheaper than flights to smaller airports during ski season. 

There are resorts where children ski free . And there are small, family-friendly resorts that don't have a big price tag on their rooms and lift tickets.

Check out spring skiing. It's the shoulder season and the snow is melting in the lower elevations This is an ideal time to find bargains, especially if skiing and boarding in your t-shirt and shorts sounds appealing. 

Find Resorts Where Kids Ski Free

The cost of family ski vacations can really add up—especially when you start shelling out for lift tickets, lodging, food, equipment, and lessons.

That's why there's nothing better than a resort that lets you save some money. While a great many ski resorts offer free lift tickets for very young children (typically under age 5 or 6), the most family-friendly resorts also offer packages that include free lift tickets for older children, too.

How to Save Money on a Family Ski Trip

The Top 10 Summer Vacation Ideas for Families

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Smart Parent's Guide to Walt Disney World

US Ski Resorts Where Kids Ski Free

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The Best Spring Break Destinations for Families

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A Travel Guide for How to Visit Orlando on a Budget

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13 Cheap Family Weekend Getaways 2021


Feb 18, 2021

See recent posts by Beth Luberecki

oxford Mississippi rowan oak home; Courtesy Visit Oxford Mississippi

1. Oxford, Mississippi

Known as the “Cultural Mecca of the South,” Oxford, Mississippi , is a great alternative to pricier destinations like Charleston and Savannah. Average daily hotel rates can start as low as the $75-range, and it’s within a few hours by car from cities like Memphis (where you would fly to if traveling by plane); Jackson, Mississippi; and Birmingham, Alabama. Admission is free at the University of Mississippi Museum, whose collection includes everything from 19th-century scientific instruments to artwork by Georgia O’Keeffe and Man Ray and which offers a variety of kid-friendly events and programs. William Faulkner’s home Rowan Oak is also under the museum’s umbrella, where it’s free to roam the grounds and just $5 to tour the house. Head to the historic town square to find Neilson’s Department Store (the oldest continuously running department store in the South) and legendary Square Books, where the whole family can find good reads and attend free live tapings of the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.

Recommended Hotel: Tru by Hilton Oxford

Washington, D.C. National Zoo; Courtesy of

2. Washington, D.C.

If you live close enough to either drive or take a train into Washington, D.C. , you can have an affordable weekend getaway here. That’s because admission is free at the 17 DC-area Smithsonian museums, where the kids can check out everything from dinosaur fossils to an Apollo Lunar Landing Module, and the National Zoo, where you can find resident pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang. There’s also no cost to visit major city landmarks like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, or to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol. It’s easy and affordable to get around by foot or via the city’s Metro subway and bus system. And there are lots of good, cheap eats to be found, from the legendary half-smokes at local institution Ben’s Chili Bowl to the crab cake sandwiches at Market Lunch in Eastern Market. Tip: To potentially save even more money, check out hotels near Metro stops just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, which can often be cheaper and are just a short subway ride away.

Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Place Washington DC / National Mall

Scranton, Pennsylvania Steamtown; Courtesy of TripAdvisor Traveler/Tony J

3. Scranton, Pennsylvania

About two hours from both New York City and Philadelphia, Scranton is a cheap weekend getaway that ticks a lot of boxes—especially if you’ve got tweens and teens who’ve been binging The Office . There’s a free, self-guided walking tour that will take you to spots around the city made famous by the show. Little train lovers will want to visit the Steamtown National Historic Site (free admission, extra fees for train rides), while the whole family will enjoy spending time at Nay Aug Park, home to an oh-so-cool treehouse, two playgrounds, walking trails, and two pools plus a waterside complex ($5 for pools and waterslides, free for everything else). The park also sits along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, a more than-70-mile stretch for hiking and biking that travels alongside its namesake river. Average daily hotel rates in the city can start as low as $75.

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Scranton at Montage Mountain

Rockford, Illinois Rock Cut State Park; Courtesy of TripAdvisor Traveler/150177hamidha

4. Rockford, Illinois

Less than two hours from Chicago and Milwaukee, Rockford is a city on the rise. This “Amateur Sports Capital of the Midwest” is home to spots like the new Atwood Park Silent Sports Trail System, whose first five miles are open for hiking and biking, and the site of free shows put on by the Ski Broncs water-skiing team during the summer. Go fishing, ice skating, hiking, or cross-country skiing at Rock Cut State Park (free admission) or try to spot some paranormal activity at the supposedly haunted Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum ($8 for adults, $5 for kids). The Burpee Museum of Natural History ($10 adults, $8 kids) features the world’s most-complete and best-preserved juvenile T. rex skeleton (named Jane), while the Rockford Art Museum offers free admission for kids ($7 adults), as well as free family-friendly programming. The kids can also burn off some energy at the Grove Nature Playscape, a playground made with materials like fallen logs and tree stumps at Severson Dells Nature Center (free).

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Rockford

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina boardwalk; Courtesy of Myrtle Beach CVB

5. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This perennial family fave for a beach trip also makes for a cheap weekend getaway, with the average nightly hotel rate coming in at around $110. In addition to 60 miles of free beaches, the area also offers a slew of no- or low-cost activities for the whole family. There’s free admission at spots like the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum and Vereen Memorial Gardens, and free entertainment at locations like the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Broadway at the Beach during the summer months. Myrtle Beach is also home to more than 35 mini-golf courses and a state park ($8 adults, $4 kids) that’s great for surf fishing, bird watching, and shelling. Tickets to the Brookgreen Gardens complex aren’t super cheap ($18 adults, $10 kids), but they’re good for up to seven consecutive days, which means you can spend some time at its Botanical Gardens one day and then come back to visit its Lowcountry Zoo another.

Recommended Hotel: Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark

Murrieta, California Oaks sports park; Courtesy of TripAdvisor Traveler/SoCalOregonian

6. Murrieta, California

An easy getaway from Los Angeles or San Diego, Murrieta offers activities for all kinds of interests. The city is home to more than 50 free parks including California Oaks Sports Park, which has tennis and basketball courts, a skateboard park, and a playground. It’s also a great place for hiking and biking at spots like the Sylvan Meadows Multi-Use Area, where you might see poppies and other wildflowers in bloom during the spring. Take the mile-plus trail to Tenaja Falls or bring a picnic to Lake Skinner Recreation Area ($6 adults, $3 kids), where there’s also a splash pad for the little ones. Kid hotspot Mulligan Family Fun Center has mini-golf, go-karts, arcade games, and rides. The Murrieta area is home to family-friendly breweries like 8 Bit Brewing Company and is also a jumping-off point for Temecula Wine Country. Average hotel rates are in the $75 to $115 a night range.

Recommended Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites Murrieta Temecula Wine Country

Dublin, Ohio giant dancing rabbit sculpture; Courtesy TripAdvisor Traveler/mitsugirly

7. Dublin, Ohio

Get a taste of Ireland without having to travel across the Atlantic in Dublin, Ohio . An easy drive from cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis (and not far from Columbus, Ohio), Dublin offers authentic Irish pubs and Celtic kid-friendly treats like the Shamrock Sundae at Graeter’s Ice Cream. The whole family can search for the 11 magical spots on the free Irish Fairy Door Trail and check out the sculptures that are part of the Dublin Art in Public Places program, which include the striking Field of Corn honoring the area’s farming history. Dublin offers more than 100 miles of bike trails and 60 parks; don’t miss Ballantrae Community Park and its free splash pad, located behind a statue of dancing hares, or the waterfalls located around the city at spots like Indian Run Falls Park. Hotels in Dublin average around $125 a night.

Recommended Hotel: Staybridge Suites – Columbus / Dublin

Pensacola, Florida Bay Bluffs Park; Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

8. Pensacola, Florida

Home to award-winning, sugar-sand beaches, the Pensacola Bay area makes it easy to watch your budget and still have a great weekend getaway. Hotel rates can start as low as $69 a night in the off-season and there’s a range of options for every price point. In addition to spending time on the sand, families can look for winged creatures of all kinds at spots along the Pensacola Birding Trail; the area is a major stopping point for birds migrating north in the spring. The free Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail features 29 stops offering info about the plants and animals in the area, while Bay Bluffs Park lets visitors travel by boardwalk along its namesake geologic feature. Set the teens and their phones loose on the Pensacola Photo Trail and take the whole fam back to the past at Historic Pensacola, where tickets ($8 adults, $4 kids) are good for seven days and offer admission to several different sites.

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach

San Antonio, Texas Enchanted Rock; Courtesy of Visit San Antonio

9. San Antonio, Texas

For a budget-friendly weekend getaway in a bigger city, try San Antonio , where average hotel rates are under $200 a night (and sometimes way under). It’s free to visit San Antonio’s most famous landmark, the Alamo, along with the city’s four other missions. You can stroll along the San Antonio River Walk for no charge, or hike or bike along the River Walk Mission Reach trail. Other admission-free spots to explore include the tranquil Japanese Tea Garden and San Pedro Creek Culture Park, where the kids can splash around in the water while also learning a little about the city’s history and culture. Head to Historic Market Square for shopping and good eats, or stop by Yanaguana Garden, an uber-cool free kids’ play space at the Hemisfair site that features a splash pad, climbing structures, sand play area, and giant chess and checker boards . End the day by attending a free showing of “San Antonio – The Saga,” a video art projection displayed several nights a week on the façade of the city’s San Fernando Cathedral.

Recommended Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott San Antonio Downtown/Market Square

Kansas City, Missouri children's fountain; Courtesy of Visit Kansas City

10. Kansas City, Missouri

Visit this middle of America city known for barbecue and jazz for some wallet-friendly family fun. It’s totally free to ride the KC Streetcar around the city’s downtown area; the route travels between River Market, home to the City Market farmers’ market and all kinds of food vendors, and historic Union Station, where you’ll find a planetarium and the Science City museum. Admission is free at the Peace Pavilion, which features 25 interactive exhibits to help teach kids about concepts like self-acceptance and cooperation, and the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City , where you can learn all about how currency is made. Look for the more than 200 watery wonders in the City of Fountains and check out the Hallmark Visitors Center (free), where you can learn about the history of the greeting card company and even make a star-shaped bow to take home as a souvenir.

Recommended Hotel: The Fontaine

Clear Lake, Iowa

11. Clear Lake, IA

For a great selection of family-friendly activities and events, book a cheap family weekend getaway in Clear Lake, Iowa, says Sara Broers of Travel with Sara . “Located two hours south of Minneapolis and two hours north of Des Moines, right off of Interstate 35 in North Iowa, this town of nearly 8,000 people is filled with affordable family experiences,” she says. These include a family-friendly beach, boat tours on the historic Lady of the Lake, water sports galore, holiday events and even a kite festival on the lake in the middle of winter.

Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN Holiday Lodge

Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Courtesy of DnDavis/Shutterstock

12. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

National and state parks are wonderful, budget-friendly destinations that every family should explore, with a wealth of free or low-cost activities ranging from hiking and boating to wildlife classes and ranger-led talks. A great example is  Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, which is within a half-day’s drive of approximately half the nation’s population. Admission is free, and there are numerous campgrounds throughout the park. Not a camping family? Head to nearby Gatlinburg , which overflows with family-friendly accommodations for all budgets and styles.

Recommended Hotel: Zoder’s Inn and Suites

Helen, Georgia; Courtesy of Sean Pavone/

13. Helen, GA

Just an hour and half north of Atlanta in the North Georgia Mountains, Helen, Georgia, welcomes families to experience all this German town has to offer. “There is cheap river tubing, hiking, biking, golf and a fun, walkable downtown in Helen,” says Becky Beall of The Travel Voice by Becky . In fact, floating down the Chattahoochee through the heart of downtown Helen is one of the town’s most popular summer activities. Visitors also love shopping in the eclectic stores, sampling sweet treats at the Hansel & Gretal Candy Company, and touring the area’s wineries.

Recommended Hotel: Heidi Motel

What to Pack for Your Next Trip

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Lightweight Wide Leg Crop Chino

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Mom’s/women’s summersalt swimwear for a cheap vacation.

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10 Tips For Traveling On A Budget With Family (That Are Actually Helpful)

Learn how to travel cheap with a family - because traveling with kids and other loved ones doesn't have to be expensive, thanks to these travel trips.

  • Choose inexpensive destinations like Greece or Mexico for a budget-friendly family vacation with lower costs of living and attractions.
  • Travel during off-seasons or shoulder seasons to save on transportation, lodging, and activities, but be aware of potential closures.
  • Book flights ahead of time and search for package deals to maximize savings, and consider flying midweek or to nearby cities for cheaper airfare. Utilize local transportation options and save on food costs by packing lunches and taking advantage of free experiences. Remember to prioritize experiences over souvenirs for a budget-friendly trip.

Traveling the myriad corners of the earth is a wonderful way to experience the incredibly diverse cultures, cuisines, and natural wonders of the world. And, for those traveling with a family, it's also an amazing way to create new experiences that will undoubtedly be cherished for years to come.

But traveling with the family unit, whether it be a small brood or a larger household, means vacation costs can add up quickly. Want to book a trip of a lifetime but are unsure of how to budget travel ? Here are some tips and cheap ways to travel with a low budget for families looking to embark on an exciting getaway that won't break the bank.

Related: 10 Amazing Family Vacation Ideas (That Also Happen To Be Budget-Friendly)

10 Choose An Inexpensive Destination

This one goes without saying, but a tourist can really get the most out of their dollar by picking their travel destination wisely.

For those eager to travel abroad, in lieu of choosing destinations that are notoriously expensive , such as England or St. Barts (the latter of which has accommodation rates that run an average of $1,770 per night!), opt for a location that has a low cost of living and favorable exchange rates . These places will generally be cheaper in terms of food, lodging, and attractions.

Countries that generally have a low cost of living include Greece (average daily cost of $131), Turkey (average daily cost of $23), Hungary (average daily cost of $70), Mexico (average daily cost of $93), Thailand (average daily cost of $52), Indonesia (average daily cost of $47), and Laos (average daily cost of $15), as per Kiplinger .

9 Travel In The Off-Season

There are a number of tourist towns in the US to visit during the off-season . And, since fewer people travel during the off-season, the period of time when activity is lower in any given region, prices are generally lower.

Off-seasons vary depending on the location, but it typically runs from November to February in the Northern Hemisphere and from June to August in the Southern Hemisphere.

It's important to note that due to extreme weather or the drop in demand, many places or modes of transportation may not be open during the off-season, such as restaurants, attractions, hiking trails, museums, ferries, shuttle buses, and more, so be sure to double-check any potential closures prior to booking.

8 Travel During The Shoulder Seasons, Too

Whether traveling within the US or abroad, opting to travel during the shoulder seasons — which typically fall between a destination's peak season and its offseason — is generally cheaper in terms of transportation, lodging, and activities.

Of course, shoulder seasons greatly vary by location; for example, Park City, Utah's peak season is winter, whereas Orlando, Florida's peak season is during the summer. But in addition to the savings, another added perk of traveling during the shoulder seasons is that tourists won't have to deal with the off-season closures.

In terms of budget-friendly flights, plane tickets booked for the shoulder season were an average of 23 percent cheaper compared to peak travel season, per a 2021 study by NerdWallet .

Related: 10 Island Destinations That Will Help You Plan A Budget-Friendly Vacation

7 Book Flights Ahead Of Time

When it comes to airfare, savings can be had by booking ahead of time instead of last minute.

In terms of flights, it's best to purchase plane tickets about three weeks to two months before the scheduled departure date , as this time period tends to see cheaper rates.

However, the opposite can usually be said for hotel accommodations. A 2019 study by NerdWallet found that it's moderately cheaper to book hotel rooms only 15 days out compared to four months in advance 66 percent of the time.

6 Search For Package Deals

From booking an affordable Disney World vacation to embarking on an all-inclusive cruise, when it comes to traveling with a family, there's probably no better way to save money than by opting for family package deals, which usually feature plane tickets, hotel accommodations, and sometimes even local attraction tickets.

Try looking for package deals off-season or during the shoulder seasons, too, for added savings.

5 Snag Cheaper Flights

Avoiding the usually high costs of airfare is possible, which can mean a lot of money saved for a family on the move. In addition to seeking flights during the off-season or shoulder seasons, consider flying during the midweek. Per Google , the off-peak days of Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays tend to be about 12 percent cheaper than weekend flights.

And, while it may seem the opposite, opting not to fly directly to a chosen travel destination — meaning flying to a nearby city and then boarding another flight or train to the final destination — may also result in cheaper airfare. Keep in mind that this may not be a favorable option for those with younger children as the total time spent in the air will be longer.

Compare cheap airfare online using websites like .

4 Take Local Transportation

Some things travelers should go cheap on, while others should be splurged on . Getting around the travel destination each day is definitely one thing that shouldn't be expensive.

Depending on where a tourist chooses to vacation, there is usually a myriad of affordable (sometimes even free) public transportation options, including local buses, subways, ferries, light rails, and trams.

Be sure to plan out public transportation routes ahead of time in order to have a stress-free family vacation.

Related: These Are The Cheapest Ghost Towns To Visit If You're On A Tight Fall Budget

3 Save On Food Costs

Another costly aspect of travel is eating out, so reduce food-related expenses by packing lunches to-go and carrying refillable water bottles.

Prioritize accommodations with kitchenettes or kitchen access so that meals (whether eaten there or on the go) can be made in lieu of eating out every day.

Also, be sure to keep refillable water bottles and snacks on hand to help save on food expenses throughout the day.

2 Take Advantage Of Free Experiences

Before settling on a travel destination, do a quick Google search to see if any free experiences or attractions are available in the area , including museums, state parks, historic sites, and natural wonders, such as lakes, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks.

Some museums and other attractions may also offer free or discounted admission on certain days of the month.

Related: 17 Cheap Weekend Getaways In The US Perfect For Any Budget

1 Collect Experiences, Not Things

There's no better way to spend less than by...spending less, so a great way to cut back on travel spending is by forgoing the trinkets and souvenirs.

If collecting mementos while on a trip is an absolute necessity, then be sure to set a budget for souvenir spending ahead of time.

For travel keepsakes that won't cost a dime, take lots of pictures or save ticket stubs, boarding passes, receipts, hotel cards, local newspapers, or maps of the local area.

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Family Vacation Guide

Let Hotwire help you plan your next family vacation. Whether you're looking for an all-inclusive vacation package or a last-minute trip, we have the latest information and hottest deals on popular family vacation destinations. Planning a fun family vacation can be a tricky thing; maybe some of you want a beach vacation, while others may want to be in a big city for lots of urban exploration. And if you have small children, you want to make sure that wherever you go, you won't be faced with the phrase that brings parents to their knees: "I'm bored!" Never fear. Hotwire has lots of ideas for family vacation destinations from bustling big cities to relaxed desert oases to lazy beach towns.

Whether you want to splurge or save, we've got information on how you can make the most out of spending time with your family in a new and fun destination. So don't wait: take a look at a list of our top family vacation destinations and get a few great ideas. Our inventory will help you choose the family vacation that best fits your family's interests.

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Featured Family Friendly Hotels in Orlando

Estimated price for 1 night/2 adults

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Per night/room

Jun 16 - Jun 17

Hilton Vacation Club Aqua Sol Orlando West

Jun 20 - Jun 21

Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites - Waterpark, an IHG Hotel

Jun 19 - Jun 20

Floridays Resort Orlando

Jun 17 - Jun 18

Orlando, FL

Orlando, FL, is the best spot for family vacations. In addition to a heavenly climate, Orlando is also the theme-park capital of the world. SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Disney World - you can visit them all. Save time by purchasing theme-park tickets before you arrive and avoid waiting in long ticket lines. Get your fill of family fun at the world's most famous theme park: Walt Disney World. Watch Mickey and the crew come alive at the Magic Kingdom, explore the wilds of Animal Kingdom, experience movie magic at MGM Studios, or explore the world at Epcot.

For more thrill-seeking adventure, jet around SeaWorld's Wild Arctic, get wet on the Journey to Atlantis, or watch legendary Shamu perform. In addition to wild rides and shows, you can also visit with penguins and sharks, or play games on the Midway. If the kids are interested in science, wander through the Orlando Science Center's exhilarating exhibits or head to the observatory for a first-hand glimpse at the stars. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and attractions to satisfy the whole family in this warm-weather paradise.

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Featured Family Friendly Washington DC Hotels

Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington D.C. – Convention Center

Jul 1 - Jul 2

Holiday Inn Washington Capitol - Natl Mall, an IHG Hotel

Jun 30 - Jul 1

Hyatt Place Washington DC/National Mall

Jun 28 - Jun 29

Omni Shoreham Hotel

Washington D.C.

Take the family on a fun and educational vacation — the two terms don't have to be mutually exclusive in vibrant and historically rich Washington D.C. One of the best things about D.C. is the sheer number of free attractions. Take in numerous monuments and memorials - Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Vietnam Veteran's, WWII. Or visit any of the 16 museums and galleries that comprise the Smithsonian - you can check out everything from real space ships to the Hope Diamond.

Take a tour of the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Holocaust Museum, or simply stroll the huge Mall - you'll be sure to catch an outdoor festival or concert at any given time of day. But it's not all about politics and civic virtue in the Capital City. Take the family to Georgetown, a bustling shopping district and home to Georgetown University. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in this area, as well as the nearby Adams-Morgan district, where you'll find a slew of appealing dining options and music venues.

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Featured Family Friendly Hotels in Arizona

Arizona Grand Resort & Spa

Jul 7 - Jul 8

Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak

Jul 8 - Jul 9

The Scottsdale Plaza Resort & Villas

This desert oasis in the southwest is a great place to take the whole family for fun and relaxation. Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona, and it's filled with treasured places to visit. Explore the Sonoran Desert Museum which features both a botanical garden and zoo filled with coyotes and lions! Or take the kids to the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix. It features numerous hands-on exhibits and a giant planetarium.

Adjacent to Phoenix is the city of Scottsdale, which is internationally known for being a premiere tourist destination. Architectural great Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West is nestled in the mountains of Scottsdale and worth a visit. Meant to be a winter home to Wright and his students, today it houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a school for architects, and is open to the public for tours. Many of Wright's most famous buildings were designed in the drafting room of Taliesin West. If you are traveling with your family by car, about three hours outside of Phoenix is the stunning Red Rocks of Sedona. The sandstone formations form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from meditations to the hundreds of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.

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Featured San Francisco Resorts

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf

Jul 3 - Jul 4

Handlery Union Square Hotel

Jun 15 - Jun 16

The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

San Francisco, CA

It may not come to mind as the first spot for a family vacation, but it's actually an ideal city for a family getaway. Popular with adults and kids alike, Alcatraz offers fascinating day and nighttime tours of the remnants of the prison. Take the audio tour and listen to the voices of actual prisoners as you visit their cells.

A favorite among tourists, Fisherman's Wharf is known for its historic waterfront, delicious seafood, spectacular sights, and unique shopping. This lively area offers a wide array of things to do and see. Visit the Maritime Museum or Ghirardelli Square, or see the sea lions near Pier 59. Try a taste of the local catch, like Dungeness crab or chowder in a sourdough bowl. Check out Union Square to take the kids on a cable car ride and treat yourself to first-rate shopping and fabulous cuisine.

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Featured Beachfront Hawaii Resorts

Kahana Reef 402 by RedAwning

Jun 23 - Jun 24

The Twin Fin Hotel

Jun 22 - Jun 23

The whole family can have fun in relaxing, idyllic Honolulu. Oahu's largest city and the state capital, Honolulu is home to many top attractions: sample a great dim-sum lunch in vibrant Chinatown or check out Aloha Tower, the city's landmark harbor-side clocktower surrounded by a marketplace brimming with shops and popular restaurants.

Honolulu is also home to famed Waikiki Beach, located between the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Diamond Head. Waikiki's Beach's white sand runs along a 2-mile stretch of coast, flanked by dozens of high-rise hotels. The area is popular for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, body-boarding, picnicking, and outrigger canoeing - you and the kids will never be lacking for things to do! At the end of the beach is Diamond Head, one of the world's most famous volcanic rings. Although no diamonds were ever found here, the calcite crystals in the lava rock sparkle in the bright Hawaiian sunshine.

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30 Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Families to Visit Right Now

There's something for everyone at these top-rated, kid-friendly retreats, chosen by real families and travel experts.

preview for 7 Summer Vacation Ideas The Whole Family Will Love

All-inclusive resorts allow you to be the "yes" parent on vacation. Ice cream? Sure. A trip to the arcade? Have fun. Snorkeling? Let's do it! By not worrying about how much everything costs, you can let your heart (rather than your wallet) guide your family experiences. The "one-price" vacation also eliminates awkward moments if you're traveling with extended family or friends. You don't have to divide checks, and it's easy to split up for parts of the day so everyone can try their favorite activities. In fact, a recent survey by the Family Travel Association found that nearly 20% of multigenerational groups are eyeing an all-inclusive resort for their next trip.

The bulk of the resorts on this list have been vetted by our expert Good Housekeeping Institute team and several have won a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award . Search for your crew's next vacation now! It'll feel so good to get away.

Hotel Xcaret México, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

the pool and balconies at hotel xcaret mexico, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Adventurous families will have the time of their lives at the 900-suite Hotel Xcaret México , winner of a 2024 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award . Besides having an incredible pool area on the sprawling grounds, the resort provides admission and transportation to any of the brand's eight adventure parks.

The nearby parks specialize in bucket-list experiences. At Xplor, for instance, your crew can zipline in a jungle, raft through an ancient cave and swim in an underground river that leads to a waterfall. "The resort is an especially great vacation spot for a family with elementary school-age kids and up," said our tester.

But if you do have a baby or toddler, the brand steps up to provide gear, so you don't have to bring or rent any. You're welcome to borrow a huge array of baby equipment, including bathtubs, bottle warmers and even strollers that are specifically designed to go on the beach. Our mental load feels lighter already.

Franklyn D. Resort & Spa, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

an aerial view of the beach and franklyn d resort and spa, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

The best thing about Franklyn D. Resort & Spa : Every family receives their own CPR-trained "Vacation Nanny" for about eight hours daily, from morning to late afternoon. They can take the kids to the pool, make sure they have lunch, put them down for naps and re-stock your fridge with snacks and beverages.

They could be an extra set of hands for you, or you could put them in charge and split off to go kayaking, book a spa treatment or read a book on the beach. All the accommodations are two-bedroom suites. While they're more practical than posh, not having to tip-toe around in the dark to avoid waking up a sleeping toddler more than makes up for the lack of 400-thread-count sheets.


Beaches Turks & Caicos, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

the white sand beaches of beaches turks and caicos, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Beaches Turks & Caicos thinks of everything families need and want for the vacation of a lifetime. A variety of restaurants? Beaches boasts 20-plus choices. Fun supervised clubs? They provide programming for babies to teens and divide it by many age groups, so kids hang with other children within a year or two of their age. They even have a program for children with special needs. One-of-a-kind stuff that will blow your kids' minds? Toddlers and preschoolers can't get enough of the Sesame Street-themed programming, which includes baking with Cookie Monster and a dance party with Elmo. Older kids won't want to leave the fun slides, a lazy river and surf simulator at the pirate-themed water park.

"Our kids went to the pool's swim-up soda bar every single day," said our tester. And, for you, of course, there's the spa and a chance to sit by the pool or beach with a drink in one hand and a book in the other. Many rooms accommodate larger groups, so bring the grandparents or family friends. Said our tester: "Beaches Turks & Caicos has everything you could possibly want — including convenience. It's only 10 minutes from the airport."

The Tyler Place Family Resort, Highgate Springs, VT

a lineup of sailboats along a dock at the tyler place family resort, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Open from late May to early September, The Tyler Place Family Resort offers magical camp-like experiences for families with babies through high schoolers. With many repeat guests, the resort sells out quickly.

In the morning, kids and teens — divided into eight groups by age — participate in supervised nature-based activities on the lake, private shorefront or surrounding fields. Counselors take toddlers on nature walks, fishing for perch or to the playground while pre-teens go on mountain bike rides and navigate a ropes course. Meanwhile, you can actually drink your coffee in peace or enjoy a yoga class or tennis lesson.

In the afternoon, families come together for maple snow cones, arts and crafts, bike rides and so much more. Seventy-two cottages and suites come in a variety of sizes and configurations; the largest one, Farmhouse West, can sleep up to 10 guests.

Flathead Lake Lodge, Bigfork, MT

flathead lake lodge

If you think it's practically impossible to please every member of your extended family on a trip, you haven't been to Flathead Lake Lodge . The lakeside dude ranch truly appeals to all ages and interests because it has "everything you could dream of," according to a Good Housekeeping staffer who recently visited with her daughter, nephews and parents. “The food was delicious. The menu was very well-planned and smart. They obviously care deeply about what they serve. The staff was the nicest, most hospitable I can recall. Everyone was just so polite and so friendly and so helpful and so knowledgeable. Our group had the best time — even my dad who hates everything.”

Although Flathead Lake Lodge doesn't have an official kids' camp, the supervised kids' activities, broken down by age group, run from morning to night. Highlights for adults include mountain yoga, water sports, horseback riding and flower-arranging classes. While the lodge is open seasonally, from May to October, it's not too early to book your summer trip.

Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resort, Rivera Maya, Mexico

hilton tulum rivera maya all inclusive resort

If you want to sneak in a little history and culture along with your beach vacation, book a room at the Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resort . Opened in 2022, the resort is located just 8 miles from Mayan ruins, a popular archaeological site. You can explore the area, and then head back to the resort for more cultural activities or hit the Family Zone, home of the kids' club, teen club, pool complex and playground. "The kids' and teen clubs both looked great," said a Good Housekeeping staffer who recently visited with her family. "While all the food was good and plentiful, we especially loved the Mexican restaurant."

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby, CO

c lazy u ranch

A dream come true for kids who are passionate about horses, C Lazy U Ranch — a GH Family Travel Award winner — fosters riding skills and independence for preschoolers to teens. From sunup to sundown, campers are busy with their supervised activities, so you can mountain bike, take a beehive tour and go horseback riding without the kids in tow. "It's a family trip with alone time for the parents," said a Good Housekeeping tester who recently visited with her husband and three daughters. Kids and adults even eat dinner separately — and that arrangement went over well with our tester's family. "The food is probably 50 percent of the reason people come here," said our tester. Absence makes the heart grow fonder because, at the end of the day, kids are excited to show off what they learned at camp. As our tester noted, "The kids' mini performances are beyond adorable."

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, Mexico

a statue of spongebob stands in front of the pool area at the nickelodeon hotel and resorts a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

SpongeBob fans, young and grown, will lose their minds at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, Mexico , winner of a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award. Character breakfasts, meet-and-greets and selfies with SpongeBob ensure that there's fun around every corner. Families can compete in the Slime Time Live show or book a personal slime session.

Four- to 12-year-olds can hang out at Club Nick while you sink into a Bali beach bed that has butler service. While the kids may just want Krabby Patties, you'll be well-fed thanks to the amazing dining experiences at Gourmet Village and culinary pop-ups. Tastefully themed guest rooms with splashes of orange come in a variety of sizes. Some first-floor rooms even have a small pool directly outside the hotel room door.

RELATED: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Is the Best Place to Travel With a Baby and a Sibling

Woodloch Resort, Hawley, PA

the pool overlooking the lake at woodloch resort, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

For an easygoing vacation with throwback vibes in the best way possible, look no further than this four-season all-inclusive Pocono Mountains retreat, winner of a 2024 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award.

"If you want the amenities of a hotel but the advantages of a lake house, Woodloch Resort is it," said our tester. Activities, from bumper cars to boat tours to baking contests, are designed to bring families together. Meals are thoughtfully organized: "You're assigned a table, and that's your table for the whole stay, so you just walk in and seat yourself when you're ready."

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

a family enjoys the pool and waterslide at the hyatt ziva los cabos, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Nestled between desert dunes and ocean rock formations, the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos delights parents and kids alike. Little ones have their own water park with slides, a splash pool and a sandy playground. Adults are treated to a swim-up bar and state-of-the-art gym.

Mexican-inspired nightly entertainment, ranging from magic acts to tropical dance music performed by the resort band, entertains all ages. There's a wide selection of accommodations — the Ziva suite, in particular, is family-friendly with a separate sleeping space for the kids, two bathrooms and a prime location near the kids' club and water park.

Keep in mind that you can't swim on most beaches in Los Cabos, including this one, because of strong currants. But if your kids prefer the pool anyway, you probably won't miss it.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, Labrelotte Bay, Saint Lucia

the beach and villas of the windjammer landing villa beach resort, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Tucked away on a lush mountainside overlooking a bay, the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort will captivate your entire family. The calm and protected bay, perfect for kids to splash around, has sunbeds and in-water hammocks that make a beach day feel extra special.

Active families can take advantage of the beachfront volleyball net. At night, the resort's parrot mascot gathers families on the beach for storytelling. For an extra charge, the resort will deliver warm milk and cookies to the kids at turndown. Perfect for larger groups, Mediterranean-style, multi-bedroom villas are built into the hillside. A quick shuttle brings guests to the beach, six swimming pools and tennis courts.

You can also book a variety of off-property excursions. These aptly named "Jammin Tours" include a Rainforest Ariel Tram and Sunset Cruise.

Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort, Dominica

fort young hotel and dive resort

The only all-inclusive on this small island in the eastern Caribbean wants your family to explore beyond the resort. Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort 's "All-Inclusive, Island Included" package for stays of five nights or more covers the cost of excursions, such as a city walking tour and a guided hike to see the island's famous waterfalls. Situated on a historic site, the resort has lovingly refurbished 40 existing guest rooms and suites — and added 60 more. A rooftop wellness garden is in the works for 2024. While kids of all ages are welcome, the resort is best for tweens and teens who would be excited about the excursions. Visit between May and October when you might see three endangered sea turtle species swimming and nesting along the shoreline.

Garza Blanca Resort & Spa Cancun, Cancun, Mexico

the hotel, pool and beach at garza blanca resort and spa cancun, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

This new oceanfront oasis on Playa Mujeres beach makes it more fun to travel with kids. Instead of lugging your own gear, Garza Blanca Resort & Spa has strollers, car seats, baby monitors and other necessities to borrow.

You'll find plush kid-size robes and slippers alongside the adult versions so you can match your mini-me. There's a ton to do as a family, like visit the water park, play tennis and take electric beach bike tours, but there is also a supervised club for kids ages 4 to 12 so you can take some much-needed R&R or head to the adult-only rooftop bar.

Multi-bedroom suites and residences that would be ideal for a family reunion are available. Complimentary souvenirs, like a Mexican coloring book and handmade toys, help kids remember the vacation. Big plus: kids eat and stay free!

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY

the mohonk mountain house, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts, is nestled into the hills of the hudson valley in new york

Every season is fun for families at this historic Hudson Valley retreat, winner of a 2024 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award. Our tester, who visited Mohonk Mountain House in August with her family, particularly enjoyed boating on the lake.

"We even did a few lunches by the water, which was a beautiful backdrop," she said. Other appealing summertime activities include archery, tomahawk-throwing and stand-up paddleboarding. In winter, snow tubing, ice skating and cross-country skiing will keep your crew entertained. Three meals, afternoon tea and cookies and most activities are included in the price.

The service is top-notch: "The staff was incredibly accommodating, knowledgeable and kind," our tester said. "They recognize that they are a family destination and are very prepared to cater to and handle kids. Even when things went a bit amok, I never felt like I had to be apologetic for it."

RELATED: This Historic Resort Has Housed Presidents and Should Be Your Next Vacation Destination

Villa La Valencia Beach Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico

villa la valencia beach resort spa los cabos

The newish Villa La Valencia Beach Resort & Spa boasts the area's longest lazy river and has a stunning infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. The kids' club offers an array of unexpected activities from Mini Zumba to Mexican Loteria. For adults, cooking classes, tequila tastings and salsa dance lessons are part of the fun. All accommodations are one- to four-bedroom suites. While the beach at this resort is fantastic for long walks, like many Los Cabos beaches, swimming isn't possible because of the strong rip current.

Club Med Québec-Charlevoix, Petite-Riviere-Saint-Francois, Canada

a wintry view of the club med québec charlevoix, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

Club Med Québec-Charlevoix sprinkles more magic into a ski trip for families. Nestled between a mountain and river, the all-inclusive provides ski-in and ski-out access to the slopes and delivers gear to your on-site snow locker. Group skiing lessons for ages 4 and up and snowboard lessons for ages 8 and up are included in the price; mini skiers are paired up with other kids at their level. Adults can take lessons too! Family rooms have separate kid and adult sleeping spaces.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

the pool area at the hard rock hotel and casino punta cana, dominican republic, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

An all-inclusive that welcomes rockers of all ages, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana encourages families to choose one of two experiences at its music lab: Your crew could star in a music video or play in a jam band in front of a live audience. A Rock Specialist will get you ready!

The new Roxity Kids Club is groovin' too: Dance lessons, karaoke and other music-themed activities are part of the action for 4- to 12-year-olds. Tunes play at the resort's huge array of pools — hit up the family pool for teen-friendly music. Family suites sleep up to six, and you can even request to have a turntable and 10 iconic records brought to your room. That's music to our ears! EXPLORE NOW

Hilton Cancun, an All Inclusive Resort, Cancun, Mexico

the hotel is reflected into the waters of the pool at the hilton cancun, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

On a secluded stretch of the Mayan coastline, Hilton Cancun, an All Inclusive Resort , leans into local culture and food. A two-time Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award winner, the newish resort has 12 places to eat, including the Mexican restaurant Maxal.

"I would have come here for every meal," said our tester. "It had tons of regional dishes and during the day, it turns into a taquería with delicious offerings." Nightly happenings, like a culturally immersive Fiesta Show, entertain families.

But if you wanted to drop off 4- to 12-year-olds at the kids' club, that works too. Themed parties, glow-in-the-dark games and even a mini disco keep the kids happy before bedtime. It's just one of the ways "this resort really does a great job to accommodate everyone."

Castle Hot Springs, Morristown, AZ

a fire pit looks cozy in front of a cabin on a rocky hill at castle hot springs, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

A unique choice for older teens and multigenerational groups, a stay at Castle Hot Springs will revitalize your family — and land you lots of bonding time. This wellness resort for guests ages 16 and up includes a robust lineup of adventurous experiences in the heart of the Sonoran Desert mixed with mindfulness offerings and, the pièce de résistance, soaking in the natural geothermal hot springs.

Guided canyon hikes, archery lessons, classes to make sun prints and body scrubs and even paddleboard yoga are among the standout offerings. Farm-t0-table meals refuel you after a busy (but wonderful) day. Bungalows, cabins and cottages all have thoughtful details. For instance, sky-view cabins provide a telescope on the deck. Truly five-star!

Migis Lodge, South Casco, ME

a dock extends into a lake at migis lodge, a good housekeeping pick for best all inclusive family resorts

For a classic New England vacation, rent a lakeside cottage at Migis Lodge , an all-inclusive retreat on Sebago Lake about 40 minutes northwest of Portland.

Take the kids canoeing or fishing, or simply soak up the peaceful lake vistas from your porch. Camps for kids ages 4 and up lean into nostalgic fun like fairy housebuilding and talent shows for little ones and games like capture the flag for tweens. There's a special family dining room where young kids can roam around.

At dinner, parents are welcome to eat at their leisure while kids enjoy a fun supervised meal and playtime. The lodge's menu changes daily, but it always includes fresh Maine lobster. EXPLORE NOW

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Are vacation packages worth it.

Vacation packages can save a lot on your 2024 vacation, as discounts may be available when booking multiple aspects of your vacation at once, such as the hotel and the flight. Flights and hotel packages can include a car rental at your destination. Check our package deal today on Expedia!

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If you're looking to save, be sure to set filters for any budget limitations you may have in your search. Additionally, you can sort by price to automatically put the cheapest options first in your search results. Weekend getaway packages can be relatively inexpensive as well if you are looking for cheap getaways. 

How to vacation on a budget?

Budget-friendly travel is easy when you book with Expedia, as we can help you keep prices low via search filters, but that's not all. There are general trends to keep in mind regarding prices, such as travel packages generally being cheaper during the off-season of your vacation destination. Additionally, the higher the quality amenities you opt for, the higher the price typically is.

How to get great vacation deals?

Vacation deals are common with Expedia, as we offer plenty of discounts on great packages, with packages already being a deal compared to booking hotels and flights separately.

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To book last-minute vacation trips, simply input your travel dates into the search and see what's available at that time for your destination. You can still filter based on virtually anything you can imagine, including amenities, price, star rating, and more.

Where should I go on vacation?

Booking a Hawaii vacation package is especially popular with all sorts of travelers, whether it's families or couples, and Disney World packages have much to offer for families. Consider the kind of vacation you're looking for to determine the perfect destination. 

What are some of the best vacation spots?

Top vacation spots include cheap Caribbean vacations and European vacation packages . With rich culture, history, and stunning natural beauty, a vacation package to these destinations can provide an unforgettable adventure. 

Where to go on a vacation in the US?

Staying in the US still offers easy access to great vacation places with Vegas packages and a Grand Canyon vacation being popular choices among other options. Whether you’re seeking the thrills of the Vegas Strip or the majestic views of the Grand Canyon, browse your options today.  

Where to go on vacation on a budget?

Cheap vacation ideas can still take you to a variety of great cheap vacation destinations, including Yellowstone vacations and Glacier National Park vacations . Parks and outdoor experiences tend to be free, so national park vacations are excellent for a budget-friendly trip. 

What are some great all-inclusive vacation packages?

All-inclusive vacations to the Bahamas and all-inclusive vacations to Cancun are some of the best options available, putting you in a Caribbean paradise. However, all-inclusive vacations are more varied than you might think, with worldwide options. 

What are the best destinations for a family vacation?

Traveling with kids means you'll need to find fun for the whole family, and Orlando vacation packages can put you and your little ones in the world's theme park capital. Of course, a vacation package to Anaheim offers a similar experience on the West coast. 

Where should I go on vacation this summer?

If you're looking to embrace the season, head to the beach with a summer vacation package to Destin . Of course, you may be more interested in escaping the heat with something like a vacation package to Vancouver . 

How to find cheap beach vacations?

In your search, you can apply search filters for beach trip packages and sort your results by price to see the cheap vacation options first. With those standards, you can find amazing cheap trips with beach vacation packages like vacation packages to Panama City and vacation packages to Myrtle Beach . 

What are some great couples' vacations?

Traveling with your partner means a more romantic adventure, which is easy when you book vacation packages to Honolulu . However, you can always opt for the classics and get a vacation package to Paris . Even a simple 3-day cheap getaway can be suitable. 

What are the best destinations for a luxury vacation?

One of the best destinations for luxury is a Las Vegas vacation package , as the city was essentially designed to make visitors feel luxurious. Of course, a Lake Tahoe vacation package can be just as fulfilling as a more outdoor-oriented experience. Golf vacations also tend to be quite elegant. 

How to find great Christmas vacation packages?

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Where to get ski vacation packages?

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29 top cheap weekend getaways in the u.s..

Weekend getaways are often cheaper by default – especially in these destinations.

Top Cheap Weekend Getaways

A couple poses for a nature selfie in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jason Tarr | Courtesy of

Asheville, North Carolina, is one of the best places for an affordable weekend escape.

Sometimes you just need to escape from your everyday routine – but you may not have weeks (or funds) on end to spend away from home. For those seeking a quick, affordable trip, we've compiled a variety of cheap weekend getaways across the U.S., organized by region so you can find something within driving distance to keep costs low (or further afield if you're up for the journey).

Top Regional Destinations:

Burlington, vermont.

Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, lined with historic buildings, at night.

Getty Images

You don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy Burlington, Vermont – especially since the best ways to experience it are low-cost or free. Rent bikes and go for a ride on the Burlington Bike Path, which later becomes the Island Line Trail – a stunning pathway over Lake Champlain. You can also stroll Church Street Marketplace, where the Burlington Farmers Market is hosted on Saturdays; sample sweets at Lake Champlain Chocolates; and enjoy a craft beer tasting or two.

Niagara Falls, New York

Niagara Falls including American Falls in foreground and Horseshoe Falls in background, with autumn leaf colors

There's no cost to visit this iconic landmark , and if you want to get up close, you'll find several affordable tours of Niagara Falls – namely boat rides that'll get you up close to the roaring waters. A visit to Niagara Falls, New York, also omits the cost (and hassle) of getting or renewing a passport . Free and low-cost things to do in Niagara Falls include hiking state parks and sampling vinos along the Niagara Wine Trail.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Cheap weekend getaways

You can enjoy an affordable weekend in Atlantic City – provided you steer clear of (or don't spend too much time at) the casinos. Instead, explore the beach and boardwalk, whose roots date back to 1870. Other budget-friendly things to do in Atlantic City including visiting Absecon Lighthouse (the tallest in New Jersey) and Lucy the Elephant. If you come here for a romantic getaway , treat yourself and your partner to dinner on the waterfront.

The Poconos, Pennsylvania

"Factory Falls, Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area, Poconos, Pennsylvania"

Spend as much or as little as you like in the Pocono Mountains. Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, the region's terrain affords a variety of free and low-cost activities amid beautiful scenery, from hiking and biking to fishing and boating. Lake Wallenpaupack, Hickory Run State Park and Lehigh Gorge State Park offer some of the best camping for those who'd like to keep lodging costs low, though you can also find affordable vacation rentals in the area.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

A family explores Gettysburg National Military Park.

Courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park (which also comprises the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center) is free to visit, and there's no cost to explore the Civil War battlefields with a national park ranger. Gettysburg ghost tours – a must for anyone who's interested in the area's haunted history – are relatively affordable, too, as are local hotels , which include options under $200 and $100 per night.

Farm Sanctuary: Watkins Glen, New York

Cheap weekend getaways

Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary

Farm Sanctuary in the Finger Lakes region of New York is part animal sanctuary, part country retreat – and an ideal location for a weekend escape from New York City . Travelers eager for a break can book a tiny home or cabin and spend time with more than 500 rescued farm animals in Watkins Glen. Nightly rentals start at $250 per night (plus a $25 membership fee) for up to two people in May through December, and include a special tour each morning of your stay. Sample the region's signature rieslings and chardonnays at some of the top wineries in the Finger Lakes during your visit, or hike to waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park .

Address: 3150 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Black Hills National Forest and Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Cheap weekend getaways

This area of the U.S. is home to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and the fascinating caverns of Wind Cave, making it easy to see several iconic attractions in one jaunt. To save on entry fees, consider the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. Priced at $80, it provides access to all national parks and federally protected lands in the U.S., so you'll likely be able to use it for another trip down the road, too.

Read: The Top Things to Do in South Dakota

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari: Santa Claus, Indiana

Cheap weekend getaways

Courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari ranks among the most affordable amusement parks in the U.S., in part because of its free parking and modest lodging costs. The amusement park also offers complimentary family-friendly perks with admission, including sunscreen and soft drinks.

Address: 452 E. Christmas Blvd., Santa Claus, IN 47579

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Cheap weekend getaways

Courtesy of Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

Wisconsin Dells is home to myriad water park resorts – many of which combine water park admission and overnight lodging in one rate. Other attractions in Wisconsin Dells include a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, a bustling downtown and plenty of gorgeous scenery marked by unique rock formations. You can frequently find hotel and attraction discounts on the Wisconsin Dells tourism bureau's website ; keep in mind for any family trips that the best prices are typically available when kids are in school.

Branson, Missouri

The sun sets over Branson, Missouri.

Courtesy of Explore Branson

Table Rock Lake State Park, where you can swim, canoe, kayak, fish, hike and bike, as well as Branson Landing, which features a spectacular fountain show at night, are among the free attractions in Branson, Missouri . You can also ride a free trolley around town from March to December. The most expensive activity in Branson might be a visit to Silver Dollar City, though you can often find deals on tickets, like discounted evening rates in the fall. For affordable lodging in Branson , try the Thousand Hills Resort Hotel , which often lists rates around $100 per night.

Indianapolis, Indiana

A father and daughter look at art on the Monon Trail in Indianapolis, Indiana, while a woman bikes in the foreground.

Courtesy of Visit Indy

There are a variety of free things to do in Indianapolis , including the Monon Trail, which connects downtown Indy to the Carmel area, with shops and restaurants along the way; the 250-acre White River State Park, perfect for a picnic lunch; and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which connects the city's public spaces. On the first Thursday of every month, the Newfields Art Museum offers free admission (and whether or not you go to the museum, the grounds alone are worth a visit). In the summer, Concerts on the Canal brings free entertainment to the area – just bring your own blanket or lawn chair.

No matter your budget, a visit to the Indianapolis Children's Museum is worth the splurge if traveling with kids – it is the largest children's museum in the world.

Cedar Point: Sandusky, Ohio

Cheap weekend getaways

Courtesy of Cedar Point

Not only is Cedar Point one of the best amusement parks in the U.S. – and the self-proclaimed Roller Coaster Capital of the World – but a visit here is also relatively cheap when you factor in the affordability of hotels in Sandusky . The Comfort Inn Sandusky , for example, offers free breakfast with rates starting at less than $100 per night. Keep in mind that, as a seasonal attraction, Cedar Point is typically closed from November to early May.

Address: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, OH 44870

Read: The Top Water Parks in Ohio

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Washington, D.C.

A panda snacks at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of

With 22 free Smithsonian museums including the National Zoo, Washington, D.C. is an obvious choice for a cheap weekend getway. And while many hotels in D.C. are expensive, you can still find affordable accommodations on rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Cheap weekend getaways

Gulf Shores boasts more than 30 miles of white sand beaches , making it one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast . You don't have to visit during the summer to experience the area's best weather, though: Spring and fall bring temperatures that are still comfortable for sunbathing, swimming and strolling on the sand.

Budget-friendly things to do in Gulf Shores include bike riding at Gulf State Park; casting a line at Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier; exploring The Wharf, an entertainment and shopping venue; and visiting the Orange Beach History Museum and the Gulf Shores Museum, both of which are free. At local hotels like the Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores , nightly rates for apartment-style accommodations and free breakfast currently hover around $100 a night.

Massanutten Resort: Massanutten, Virginia

An ideal weekend getaway from Washington, D.C. , Massanutten Resort offers four-season fun, from winter sports like skiing and snowboarding to golf, mountain biking and water park action during warmer months. A la carte fees for many activities allow you to spend as much or as little as you'd like, and while there's a nightly resort fee, it covers access to the indoor and outdoor pools, playgrounds, sports courts (including pickleball), hiking trails and more. Plus, the resort fee doesn't seem so bad when you consider that townhomes and guest rooms are available for less than $150 a night.

Address: 1822 Resort Drive, Massanutten, VA 22840

Asheville, North Carolina

People come together to play music, dance, and enjoy at the Asheville Drum Circle at Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Krista Rossow | Courtesy of

Situated within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is known for its mix of history (Biltmore Estate), nature (the Blue Ridge Mountains) and food (from craft breweries to a flourishing dining scene). Travelers can tackle a number of hikes in Asheville for some scenic – and low-cost – fun. You can also stroll along the 1.7-mile Asheville Urban Trail to learn about the city's unique past, go for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and explore downtown, where you're bound to come across some of the tiny city's famous street performers. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an easy and relatively affordable day trip from Asheville, too.

Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Cheap weekend getaways

You don't have to visit Key West – or break the bank – to experience the best of the Florida Keys; in fact, the best beaches in the Florida Keys are not even in Key West. At Bahia Honda State Park, for example, you can swim, rent kayaks and snorkeling gear, or even hop on a boat to snorkel in the Looe Key marine sanctuary reef. Entry fees at Bahia Honda State Park are $8 per vehicle with two to eight passengers. Plus, you can camp here for just $36 per night (not including tax and the utility and reservation fees). Renting a cabin costs about $120 per night plus fees from May through October, and slightly more in the cooler months.

Read: The Best Places for Camping in Florida

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Cheap weekend getaways

One of the most affordable beach destinations in the U.S., Myrtle Beach is known for its roster of low-cost or free activities that appeal to travelers of all ages. Explore the mile-long Myrtle Beach Boardwalk (home to the iconic Skywheel) as well as Broadway at the Beach (an entertainment complex), both of which offer live entertainment including music performances and fireworks shows. Vereen Memorial Gardens, just north of the city, is also free to visit. When it comes to Myrtle Beach accommodations , there are affordable options aplenty; the Crown Reef Resort, for example, offers an on-site, year-round water park and rates as low as $92 per night for a family of four.

Polk County, Florida

Bok Tower Gardens in Polk County, Florida

Courtesy of Visit Central Florida

A vacation in Orlando has its time and place, but if you're on the hunt for a cheap weekend getaway, head to Polk County instead. Here, you can explore stunning (and free) parks and nature preserves such as Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, as well as Bonnet Springs Park. The park connects several attractions, including a kids treehouse, a rooftop bar, a butterfly house, The Florida Children's Museum, botanical gardens and more. Legoland Florida Resort and Peppa Pig Theme Park are close by if you decide to splurge on a theme park visit.

New Orleans

Cheap weekend getaways

There are more things to do in New Orleans than you could ever accomplish in a weekend, but you can still enjoy a short and cheap trip to The Big Easy. Ogle the historic houses in the Garden District, stroll along iconic Magazine Street, wander through the French Quarter (where you're bound to see street performers), or stop in a local eatery for a famous po'boy sandwich or beignet. For affordable accommodations in New Orleans , look outside of the French Quarter.

South Padre Island, Texas

A father and daughter fish in South Padre Island, Texas.

Courtesy of South Padre Island CVB

Not only does South Padre Island offer 34 miles of coastline and the cleanest beach water in Texas, but it's also ultra-affordable. Low-cost attractions include Sea Turtle, Inc., which is currently building the world's largest sea turtle hospital, and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. There are also plenty of places to enjoy fishing, one of the island's most popular activities. A visit to the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site – the last Texas lighthouse open to the public – costs just $5 per adult ($3 for kids). Sandcastle Days, the island's beloved festival that is hosted every October, is also free.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cheap weekend getaways

One of the most beautiful national parks in California , Joshua Tree National Park is also fairly affordable thanks to campgrounds like Jumbo Rocks, where you can enjoy the seclusion of the deserted wilderness. There are more than 100 primitive campsites available here, with reservations required in the busy season from September to May; a maximum of six people can occupy a campsite for just $20 per night (on top of fees to enter the park).

San Luis Obispo, California

A woman walks on a nature trail overlooking San Luis Obispo, California.

Courtesy of Visit SLO CAL

Combining small-town charm with beautiful weather, San Luis Obispo is an ideal weekend getaway from Los Angeles (about 190 miles from the city). With the plethora of outdoor activities here, visitors can enjoy budget-friendly fun like hiking the area's trails, surfing in the ocean, zip lining or horseback riding. For local flavor, visit the Thursday evening farmers market or dine alfresco at one of many downtown patios. The town's free Concerts in the Plaza series features performances by the area's top artists. Beaches await those seeking relaxation in SLO, while wine lovers can explore the region's Edna Valley wineries.

Cheap weekend getaways

A glitzy getaway in Las Vegas can be yours – and it may be less expensive than you initially imagined. Hotels in Vegas can cost as little as $50 per night on weekdays (plus resort fees), and local attractions like Bellagio Fountains, the Fremont Street Experience, the Las Vegas Sign and Seven Magic Mountains (just outside the city) are all free to visit. This might just mean you'll have some room in your budget for a casino visit, tickets to one of the city's spectacular shows , and/or a tour of the Grand Canyon .

Sedona, Arizona

A couple mountain bikes on red rocks in Sedona, Arizona.

Courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

It won't cost you a penny to visit most attractions in Sedona , including Cathedral Rock, Devil's Bridge and Fay Canyon. And while Sedona's spa and wellness resorts are undoubtedly pricey, you can find lodging for less in off-peak months (summer and winter), as well as a variety of vacation rentals year-round.

Read: The Top Things to Do in Arizona

Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

Cheap weekend getaways

The Gros Ventre Wilderness, which is part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, is another natural wonder worth visiting. Plan a weekend here to discover rolling rivers, abundant wildlife, and amazing geological features such as rock formations and natural slides. As for accommodations, travelers can rent the cozy Hoback Guard Station cabin for $80 per night for a party of up to six guests from May to October.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Cheap weekend getaways

Olympic National Park is well worth a weekend visit, whether you want to hike, stargaze or explore its more than 70 miles of untouched Pacific Coast shoreline – which include dog-friendly beaches , if your furry friend wants to come along. While here, visit the famous Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent and Rialto Beach. You can even camp within the park for as little as $40 per night for up to 10 people sharing a campsite. Note that you'll have to pay a fee to enter the park.

Read: The Best Weekend Getaways from Seattle

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hot air balloons rise in the air at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Courtesy of Visit Albuquerque

Albuquerque is quirky and fun, with an Old Town that features cobblestone streets and adobe-style buildings and is free to explore. Plan a visit during spring or fall for the best weather, then take advantage of local, low-cost festivals: May brings the New Mexico Wine Festival ($25 or less per ticket) to town, or come autumn, you can stop by the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (around $15 per person) to witness one of the best hot air balloon festivals in the U.S. Other things to do in Albuquerque include visiting the Petroglyph National Monument, which is free of charge. Opt for a vacation rental rather than a hotel to save some coin.

San Antonio, Texas

Cheap weekend getaways

San Antonio is an affordable Texas destination brimming with cultural flair, historical significance and free activities. There's no cost to visit iconic attractions like the Alamo or the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and you won't pay anything to stroll the famous River Walk (though dining at least once here is a must). Another popular activity, narrated river cruises are also cheap, with tickets for less than $15 per person via local operator GO RIO Cruises.

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World's Best Places To Visit

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Trying to plan the ultimate family vacation? Royal Caribbean offers thrills for everyone onboard

Pulling off the perfect family vacation isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to cater to different ages and preferences. Fortunately, Royal Caribbean is known for delivering great family getaways designed to wow guests across multiple generations. Every ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet is packed with palate-pleasing dining options, incredible entertainment, and unforgettable activities for all ages included in your cruise fare — not to mention itineraries that take you to some of the world’s most adventure-filled shores. The best part? All the planning has been taking care of for you, so you can focus on bonding with your loved ones while doing as much or as little as you like. 

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Family-friendly vacation destinations are always on the itinerary when you sail with Royal Caribbean®. From thrill-topping island hopping to exploring the Last Frontier, max memories like never before onboard the best family cruise ships in the world.

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Kick family bonding up a notch at Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas — voted Best Private Island Experience by Travel Weekly readers. Turn up the thrills, like conquering Daredevil’s Peak®, the tallest waterslide in North America. Or unplug and chill along Oasis Lagoon®, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean.


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Sun-kissed shores are yours to explore. Build epic castles on the pink sand beaches of Barbados . Splash into the turquoise waters of Curaçao. Or wander through legendary forts in Puerto Rico . No one does kid-friendly cruises better than Royal Caribbean® — the cruise line voted Best Overall for 21 years running by Travel Weekly readers.


Alaska Juneau Glacier Couple


Discover the magic of Alaska, where snowcapped mountains, towering forests and misty fjords dare you to deny their majesty. Spot bears hunting for salmon in Tongass National Forest. Listen to the thunderous roar of Hubbard Glacier . And cross once-in-a-lifetime experiences off your list together — on one unforgettable journey.


Aaerial view of the Arch, El Arco, in Cabo San Lucas. Mexico.


Nothing fuels bolder bonding like an epic adventure with your squad. Set out from L.A. on the family vacation you’ve been waiting for onboard the best cruises for kids. From whale-watching in Ensenada to post-card pretty shores in Puerto Vallarta and lounging on Cabo’s world-famous beaches — make memories that last a lifetime.



Cruise Planner is the place to get the most out of your adventure. Securing reservations and purchasing packages before you sail lets you score the best savings available anywhere. Add peace of mind to the mix — and you’re ready for big adventure. 

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From record breaking rides — like the tallest slide at sea — to dining that offers a taste of every culture and shows that will leave you in awe, being onboard a Royal Caribbean ship makes the journey as bold as the destinations you’ll visit.

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Each ship offers endless ways for families to fill their sea days. Think epic experiences like a plunge down the tallest slide at sea, Ultimate Abyss℠, and glow-in-the-dark laser tag battles that are bound to boost your adrenaline. Sun-soaked pool parties and hang ten sessions on the FlowRider®* surf simulator. A round of Mini Golf with a side of sea views and a rushing zip line ride ten stories above deck — and that’s barely scratching the surface.


Mother and Son Dinning at Giovanni's Table


With so many delicious dining options onboard, everyone in your family will find something to satisfy their cravings in between adventures. From the endless selection of complimentary flavors at Windjammer Café and family-friendly feasting with My Family Time Dining at the Main Dining Room, to specialty restaurants that take you from the Far East to Italy to Wonderland, there’s something to please every taste onboard.


Mamma Mia Broadway Show Three Women Singing


Every night is an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy some of the best entertainment at sea. Dazzling original productions and fan favorites straight from Broadway, deck-defying high dives and aerial stunts at the AquaTheater, and the coolest moves you’ve ever seen on ice at the skating rink — you’ll quickly discover that on these ships, every performance is a show-stopper.


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Finding your crew’s just-right stay-place is easy, with spacious rooms designed with families in mind. Choose from rooms with endless ocean views or suites with wrap-around balconies. And if you’re craving next-level luxury, the first-ever Ultimate Family Townhouse on  Icon of the Seas℠ maxes the memories with three tiers of unbelievable amenities and direct access to the Surfside℠ neighborhood from your private patio.


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Who says a family vacation has to be all about the kids? While the young ones are off exploring onboard or having a blast at the award-winning Adventure Ocean youth program, reconnect with your partner over dinner at one of the fleet’s world class specialty restaurants, catch a Broadway spectacular in the Main Theater, or get down on the dance floor to the sounds of a DJ or a talented live band.

Navigator of the Seas Adventure Ocean


Craving a little grownup time? Both Adventure Ocean and the Royal Babies & Tots programs provide care and educational activities for kids in different age groups. Adventure Ocean also offers a Late Night Party Zone group sitting for children ages 3-11 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so you can enjoy a stress-free adults-only night out on deck.


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While the kids are at play, indulge in the ultimate date night with your partner in adventure. Kick things off with a dinner to remember, followed by a glass of your favorite wine at Vintages or a singalong session at Schooner Bar. Then keep the party going long into the night at a live stand-up comedy show before you take a whirl on the dancefloor at Club Twenty.



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WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Don’t sweat the details — they’re all taken care of so you can focus on making lifelong family memories.

Family vacations should be stress-free, and Royal Caribbean makes it easy to fuel your wanderlust without worry. You can book unforgettable  shore excursions , onboard activities and shows online before you board, making the planning process a breeze. Once you’re on deck, you’ll enjoy award winning service by dedicated staff members that strive to meet every request, whether you’re traveling with special needs or just looking for ways to celebrate a special occasion onboard.

You can even get started customizing every aspect of your vacation from the moment you book. Browse and save big on onshore experiences, beverage and specialty dining packages, spa treatments and more when you reserve in advance online through  Cruise Planner . That way, you can go straight to enjoying your vacation as soon as you come aboard the ship.

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Many of the attractions onboard require closed-toed shoes and socks, so pack accordingly.

Even if you’re on a summer sailing to the tropics, pack a sweater if you plan to use the ice skating rink.

Luggage might not arrive in your stateroom until later. Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on so you can dive into adventure early.


Fill every minute with everything you love, anytime you want. Indulge in gourmet globetrotting, applaud show-stopping entertainment, and take on fleet favorites like rock climbing and the FlowRider®* surf simulator, plus so much more!



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