10 Affordable Destinations to Create a Fun Family Vacation
There’s just something about getting away from the everyday events at home that recharges you and helps you connect with your family again! But, the expenses of getting away can sometimes make you feel like it’s impossible. For me, I want a “nice” vacation while also being budget friendly for my family. It doesn’t have to be uber luxurious, but I’m still one of those gals who doesn’t want to rough it too much. Need some tips and ideas on how you can take that much needed vacation while still being easy on the pocketbook? All of the following recommendations can keep you under $1000 for a fun-filled family vacation!
Tips to Cutting Expenses for an Affordable Family Vacation
- Depending on where you live and how far you want to go, driving can sometimes cut down your expenses significantly. You’ll need to calculate what it will cost you in gas, hotel bills, and time to travel to your destination. Then, calculate what it will cost to fly. You may find that the cost of driving saves you lots of $$$!
- All of the recommendations in this article will not consider the cost of airfare because driving is a way to cut costs depending on where you live and where you are going.
- Creating a budget friendly family vacation is hugely reliant on the accommodations you choose. Consider renting a condominium or house rather than a hotel. If you have a kitchen, you can save money by cooking some of your meals instead of eating out. If you have a larger family, that will save you tons of $$$! You can still splurge on paper goods so you aren’t having to feel like you’re doing dishes at home!
- If you stay in a hotel, consider one that has free breakfast or even “kids stay free” options. That will cut out at least one meal of the day that you have to feed the whole bunch.
- If you are okay traveling with others, consider renting a home or condominium and split the cost! A good resource for vacation rentals is Vacation Rental by Owner or Airbnb. When booking, be aware of the additional fees that are added on to the per night charge. A lot of the recommendations in this article actually have cabin options available which could keep you in a great budget if you split the cost with another small family.
- Don’t forget the discount hotel sites. If you do your research, you can often times find hotels cheaper on there rather than going directly to the hotel.
Activities and Vacation Options
- Look for coupons when booking locally, and contact the city’s Business Bureau for advice and special offers. You’ll be amazed at what they send you to help you create a budget friendly family vacation!
- Cruises are a great budget friendly option for smaller family vacations! Since this article focuses on vacations that can stay under $1000, I won’t cover cruises here. However, I do encourage you to look into cruising if your budget allows for a little bit more flexibility.
- National Parks are great for budget friendly family vacations!
- Although camping is always an option to cutting expenses, you don’t always have to camp when you go to a National Park. Many parks have hotels right outside of their entrances that make for alternate lodging options.
- If you plan on visiting multiple National Parks in a year, the annual pass may save you some money. Check into how much the individual park entrance fee is compared to the cost of the annual pass.
- A list of all of the national parks you can visit are located on the National Park Service website!
10 Top Destinations for Affordable Family Vacations in the U.S.
Williamsburg can be a very budget friendly family vacation! In doing my research, I found great hotel deals in the middle of July. Prices for July started at $100/night at a Holiday Inn and Suites that rated 9.0 out of 10 in customer reviews. Besides the historical elements of Williamsburg, it also offers amusement parks, shopping, wineries, and tours. I was also able to find some online coupon codes for some of the amusement parks if that’s your thing!
Branson has a ton of things for kids and families to do! This little city has some neat activities that you can even do for free! Free activities include old time photos, river boat tours, downtown trolley rides, winery tours, and hiking. In addition to the free activities, Branson offers the Silver Dollar City amusement park, family friendly shows, College of the Ozarks, mountain tubing, museums, ziplines, caverns, and shopping. Branson also has a wide variety of places you can stay. Check out the Welk Resort Branson for lodging that’s kid friendly. For additional information, discounts, and specials for Branson, visit explorebranson.com. You can also find great hotel deals by reading the 15 Best Hotels in Branson.
The Grand Canyon is a family favorite! I’ve been there several times, and there is much more to do than just hike! In my research, it was difficult to find reasonably priced hotels in the summer months. So, you may want to try for a different time of year or book well in advance if a hotel is where you want to stay. The Grand Canyon offers many free activities, especially involving hiking. In addition to hiking, there is river rafting, a railway tour, and bus tours. There are additional activities that include hot air balloon tours and helicopter tours, if you are able to add $$$ to the vacation budget.
Gatlinburg is a great place to visit for those who want to explore the outdoors. This destination has so much to offer for the family! You can start with Ober Gatlinburg, a combined ski resort in the winter and amusement park in the warmer months. Not into the amusement park thing? No problem here! Gatlinburg offers an aquarium, shopping, museums, hiking, water rafting, ziplining, theatre performances, and a water park!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is a great budget friendly family vacation option for those with a variety of interests. In addition to its fantastic beaches, Myrtle Beach has golf courses, amusement parks, shopping, Broadway Grand Prix, an aquarium, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, and nightly entertainment for the whole family. There are also a variety of hotels and condominiums for a range of budgets! I was able to find very affordable beachfront hotels in the middle of July through online discount hotel distributors as well as very affordable condominium rentals through VRBO. You may also want to check out some of the accommodations at The Breakers or SeaMist. If you’re willing to forego the ocean view in your hotel or condo, you can cut some expenses to help you stay within your vacation budget and still be close to the beach activity!
Las Vegas, Nevada
So, you normally think about casinos and entertainment for adults when you think of Las Vegas. But, there’s so much for kids and families to do! First, you can typically find hotel deals for Vegas by looking on Groupon or discount hotel sites. While Las Vegas does have activities for the adults, kids can stay right on the strip and go to Adventuredome Theme Park at Circus Circus hotel, the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the volcano at the Mirage hotel, Marvel Station, and the pirate show at Treasure Island. Don’t forget the kid friendly shows that Vegas offers! The kids will love Cirque Du Soleil’s Mystere or Blue Man Group. You’ll also be mom or dad of the year if you stop by the M&Ms store! If you want to get out of Las Vegas a bit, you can always head to Hoover Dam or go ziplining in the desert.
I couldn’t narrow down one spot to recommend for Utah because there are so many places to see that you can do economically. If you want to go to some of the more popular ski resorts (like Park City), you’re going to pay more than if you choose one of the smaller, less known areas. The first Utah destinations to consider are Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. These two national parks are actually only 85 miles apart from Visitor’s Center to Visitor’s Center, so you could easily do both over a couple of days! Hotels, camping, RV parks, and Bed & Breakfasts are all lodging options. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort offers options at a variety of price points for different budgets (including extremely affordable options for those on a tighter budget). Both have incredible views for hiking, but they are vastly different in what you will see. For more information on their differences, go to visitutah.com to learn more about what each offers.
If you’re looking for something a little more urban, consider some of the smaller communities like Ogden or St. George. By staying in these locations, you can cut the expenses of lodging but still be within driving distance to the great places for day visits like Salt Lake City or Park City!
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park has a lot to do for the entire family! For those less adventurous, the city life includes shopping, wineries, art galleries, and museums. For those wanting to experience the outdoors, hiking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, water rafting, and ziplining are easily accessible. Estes Park is a great place to take the kids! The area has ziplining, go karts, slides, and biking available. They even have a bowling center and movies for those who want a little bit of the indoors. An aerial tram will give you an overhead view of the incredible landscape and is a kid favorite! There are also affordable lodging options including the Blue Door Inn, Coyote Mountain Lodge, Swiftcurrent Lodge, and YMCA of the Rockies.
Winter Park, Colorado
Winter Park isn’t just for skiing! There are extremely affordable lodging options during the summer with great activities for the kids. Renting a condominium here makes it easy to travel affordably if you take advantage of preparing most of your meals in the condo. In addition, if you are willing to travel with other families, splitting the cost of the condo makes this a very budget friendly family vacation! If you’re looking for places to stay in the resort, visit winterparkresort.com to see the variety of available options.
There’s a lot to do in Winter Park! Depending on the number in your family, a day pass is a budget friendly option that includes unlimited access to many activities. If you can go during a weekday, you’ll also save some money there instead of going on the weekend. Families can enjoy the Gondola ride to experience an aerial view of the beautiful landscaping, and the Alpine Slide will take you racing down the mountain to base camp. The day pass also includes access to the climbing wall, mini-golf putting course, and ropes courses. There’s also hiking, biking, rafting, ziplining, and many other activities to enjoy. Winter Park also offers alternate places to stay that are close by. Snow Mountain Ranch, outside of Winter Park, is owned by the YMCA. A day pass for activities can also be purchased here to enjoy the wide variety of events they offer.
Atlanta isn’t your typical summer vacation, but there’s so much to do there! Activities include the College Football Hall of Fame, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, and Centennial Olympic Park. Kids will enjoy the SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel, and the zoo has an amazing panda exhibit. In addition, the city is filled with incredible history for the adults that includes walking the same pathway of Martin Luther King, Jr.! For those needing to get out and about, Piedmont Park is a great place to enjoy the warm afternoons, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to take in the natural elements of Atlanta. The city offers a City Pass which may make all of the sightseeing a bit more affordable. With the City Pass, you get a discount on popular sights that can be spread out over a 9 day period of time.
Lodging can be a bit more expensive in Atlanta, but I was able to find some specials through some online discount travel websites. You’ll want to make sure you have a car to get around Atlanta as walking or public transportation isn’t ideal. It is possible to find good airfares to Atlanta depending on your city of origin.
Affordable Family Vacations in Texas
I’m in Texas, ya’ll (I had to get that in there). There are a TON of great, budget friendly family vacations that you can take with your family here. In all honesty, it would be way too much information to add to this article, so I’m writing an article specifically on affordable family vacations in Texas. Be on the lookout for it, or sign up for my weekly newsletter to have it come straight to your inbox!
There’s no way to possibly cover all of the great budget friendly family vacation destinations to visit in the U.S. So, I’ve listed below some resources for creating a vacation that fits your budget and needs.
- US News and World Report Best Cheap Family Vacations
- Trivago Recommendations by Moms
- Travel & Leisure 13 Affordable Family Vacations
- Travel Channel Cheap Summer Vacations
- Reader’s Digest Mini Family Vacations That Won’t Break the Bank
I always love to discover new places to go, and my budget is happier when I’m able to save some money doing it. Let me know in the comments below what you’ve found so we can share it with other families traveling on a budget!