Washington, D.C., metro area: D.C. is WalletHub’s top destination for summer travel this year, and with average domestic airfare at $300 to DCA for the season, you can travel to the city cheaply from almost any U.S. city, with the least expensive month for airfare in September. An abundance of free attractions — including all of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo — keep costs low without sacrificing fun. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Hotwire’s “Hot Deals.” Much like Priceline, Hotwire is able to offer discounts if you’re willing to book a hotel, flight, or car without knowing the brand name. Unlike Priceline, Hotwire publishes the prices up front instead of allowing you to name your own price. So, for example, you’ll know that you’re booking a three-star hotel in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles that costs $120 per night, but you won’t know the name of the hotel until after you book.

Why you’ll love it: If you think Houston is only a business city, you’re in for a surprise when you visit with your family. Start your visit at Discovery Green, an urban park designed for kids, with everything from $5 kayak rides on gentle Kinder Lake to special toddler play-group hours. The Children’s Museum of Houston is one of the best in the country, with indoor and outdoor spaces where they can have hands-on fun.

Why: For an affordable and sun-soaked vacation, southern Portugal’s Algarve region should be hot on your radar. The city of Albufeira boasts a beautiful climate, fabulous beaches, inexpensive apartment-style hotels and a central location within the Algarve. There are over 100 different restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and Albufeira even has a charming Old Town with traditional Portuguese streets and plazas within the city center. The prices for both food and wine are extremely reasonable; be sure to sample the wines of Portugal. While summer remains the busiest and most popular time to visit, I love visiting in late spring — the weather is pleasant and sunny, there are fewer tourists and hotel rates are very affordable. Albufeira also offers easy access to nearby towns such as Loulé, with its famous market and an authentic slice of Portuguese culture. Rent a car to see the church of São Lourenço in Almancil, famous for its exquisite blue tile. Head north of Lagos to see Ponta da Piedade, with its towering red rock formations against the sea. Play a round of golf in one of the many beautiful courses in the Algarve. The place to stay: the Epic Sana Algarve overlooking Praia da Falésia, where you can bask in the sun at one of its five outdoor pools and indulge at the beautiful spa.
Family ski trips can be great fun and there are many unique destinations to choose from. In Canada, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort offers skiing on Blackcomb Mountain. Beginners and seasoned skiers alike can enroll in the Ski & Snowboard School which offers programs for kids. In British Columbia, Canada, The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside provides all-suite accommodations which have plenty of space. Colorado ski destinations include Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Beaver Creek, all offering exceptional skiing.

What to do: It’s all about being outdoors in this country nicknamed “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.” Fly into Managua, and from there, head to the Spanish colonial town of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua — the 19th largest lake in the world and home to two island volcanoes you can hike. Speaking of volcanoes, visit Cerro Negro near Leon where the kids can sandboard (basically snowboard) down the volcanic ash sides. End your trip at One Love Surf School in the Pacific coastal town of San Juan Del Sur or head to the Caribbean side to explore the Corn Islands. While in the rainforest, keep your eyes peeled for a three-toed sloth!
With new babies, booking a one-way flight is essential. Think about renting a vacation house or apartment for maximum space and flexibility. Or go the all-inclusive route: resorts and cruises handle the meals and sometimes also the child care too. Some luxury hotels have amenities jut for babies, such as chic cribs or infant-only toiletries. With school-aged children, consider traveling with another family whose kids are your children’s age. Companionship goes a long way towards engaging—and delighting—young ones. (Pools go a long way in this department, too.)  Disney World and Disneyland are big players at this age, as is camping. The National Park System is probably the best bang for your vacation buck anywhere in the world, being consistently stunning and always affordable. Kid-friendly resorts can provide a variety of on-site activities, such as pizza-making or baby shark feeding or mini science camps, all while giving parents a break.
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Why you should go: Not only is it arguably the greatest swinging-around-a-stage-in-purple-sequined-zebra-print-pants anthem of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, it’s a slinky, skinny swatch of land with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific on the other. Smaller than South Carolina, it boasts 1,800 miles of ocean coastline and 5 million acres of national parks on the inside. For those who enjoy stylishly restored ruins, Panama City’s old quarter, Casco Viejo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 1600s and is now filled with hipstery shit, because of course it is. This cobblestoned city center is surrounded by the ultra-sleek, modern, quasi-futuristic skyscrapers of Panama City, which kind of looks like Rio without the smog and soon-to-be decaying Olympic infrastructure. - Nicole Rupersburg, Thrillist contributor
What are the best affordable family destinations? The biggest vacation cost is usually the airfare, so the closer to home you can find a destination that will please the whole family, the cheaper the trip. Take a look at our weekend getaways section which lists ideas from major U.S. cities, family vacations on the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, the South and Southwest. If you are on a budget, stay in a cabin or a campground in a national park, or look for cheap vacation rentals online that will let you stay for under $100 per night. If you have access to the kitchen, you can prepare some of your own meals which will save you a lot of money. For best value, look for destinations where you will have access to many free activities, whether that’s hiking along a scenic trail, outdoor pool, games, or a kids’ club. Take a look at our family packages section for some of the best packages hand-picked by our editors.
What to do: Fly into Cancun and then immediately head to Playa del Carmen: the perfect launching point for all of Quintana Roo’s adventures. Float the underwater river at Xcaret Eco Theme Park and stay late for the cultural musical show, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” Then, take a taxi or bus to Dolphin Discovery in Puertos Aventuras where the kids can splash and play with dolphins, manatees and even sea lions! Finally, lather on the sunscreen and explore the clifftop ruins in Tulum. They are some of the best preserved Ancient Mayan ruins along the coast. Further inland, you can take a day trip to Chichen Itza! And for beach time, check out Aloha Paddle Club's water sport rentals in Playa del Carmen or take the ferry to nearby Cozumel.
Why you’ll love it: If you think Houston is only a business city, you’re in for a surprise when you visit with your family. Start your visit at Discovery Green, an urban park designed for kids, with everything from $5 kayak rides on gentle Kinder Lake to special toddler play-group hours. The Children’s Museum of Houston is one of the best in the country, with indoor and outdoor spaces where they can have hands-on fun.
Make planning your next vacation hassle-free and fun. Our 100-page full-color vacation guide can help you plan every detail of your vacation, from where to stay, to where to eat and what to do. Our 2018 vacation guide takes you on a photographic journey through our destination with special sections including annual festivals and events, and area maps. You will also find listings for accommodations, attractions, dining, nature trails, golf, fishing and much more! Download a copy or request a FREE printed copy of our 2018 Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Vacation Guide.

What to do: Get there first thing in the morning because you’ll want to make the most of every second. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first: Muggles meet Dumbledore, join a Quidditch match, and encounter a Whomping Willow. Next, conquer the ultra-fast Dragon Challenge coaster and the tamer Flight of the Hippogriff; then go wand shopping at Ollivanders (if you're lucky, the wand will choose you).
For the most savings, fly into Dar es Salaam via a stopover in Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, Abu Dhabi with Etihad, or Dubai with Emirates. This way, you can get two vacations for the price of one flight ... since you’ll already be spending a decent amount on airfare. Once you’re in the Tanzania port city, you can take a 90-minute ferry for $35 to Zanzibar.

Where to stay: Tanque Verde Ranch is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and they’re offering a special $150-per-night family stays for the entire summer. The family-owned property provides an authentic wild west experience with horseback riding and much more, through Arizona’s most breathtaking desert landscapes of the Rincon Mountains. The $150 for the 150th special includes breakfast and free use of the pool and general facilities. A kids camp, great for ages 4 to 12, is available for an extra fee, as is horseback riding, biking, and guided hikes.
Just about every adventurous activity imaginable can be found in Costa Rica: kayaking, zip-lining and surfing, to name a few. Plus, there's the opportunity to see fascinating wildlife — monkeys, sloths, hundreds of bird species — right outside your door. Bonus: This exotic destination won't bust your budget. Zip-lining, mountain biking, whitewater rafting: that's just some of the GoPro-worthy action you'll find at Sky Adventures Arenal Park. Too extreme? Try the three-hour walk across hanging bridges high in the canopies, or glide 3,200 feet above the rainforest in the Sky Tram. Take a break from the hot Central American sun with a day pass to the water slides and pools at Baldi Hot Springs Hotel Resort & Spa.

With daily flights from many cities across North America, affordable hotels and resorts, and activities that range from scuba diving to horseback riding and caving, Belize has become a popular destination for tourists from around the world. You can find Belize accommodations for less than $100 per night, and fill your days with cheap food and outdoor fun. (Getty Images)
Is Argentina on your bucket list? Now is an excellent time to book the 6-night Marvelous Argentina tour for $1,000 off the regular price of $2,499! This tour takes you to Buenos Aires and the incredible Iguazu Falls—with all flights and transportation, top-rated luxury hotels, English-speaking guides, and more included. This tour starts at $1,499,…
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