Bacalar: Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, says that Bacalar, also on the Yucatan Peninsula, is “an amazing place, kind of unknown and definitely uncrowded. This is one of my favorite secrets spots in Mexico; the lagoon there is unbelievable.” Called the Lake of Seven Colors, the lagoon stretches for 42 kilometers and is fed by underground rivers. Bacalar holds the official designation as a “Pueblo Magico,” or Magical Town, due in large part to the lagoon. In addition to being one of the safest places in Mexico, Bacalar is also very affordable. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Northern California also has many riches and wonders to offer. Nothing beats the morning mist swathing the Golden Gate Bridge during a San Francisco vacation. Be sure to hike at Batteries to Bluffs Trail and take in the expansive ocean views. If you’re craving sparkling pools, shimmering night skies, and majestic mountain scenery, instead of bay views, spending your vacations in Palm Springs is the way to go. Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven is the ultimate desert playground for people-watching and wandering through art galleries.

Why you’ll love it: A dynamic city with Old West charm, Denver has a vast array of kid-friendly attractions here, including an aquarium, zoo, botanical garden, art museum with a fabulous hands-on projects space, and the fascinating History Colorado museum—all perfect for family vacations. Coors Field is right downtown, which makes it easy to catch a family-fun Rockies baseball game. And a free tramcar traverses 16th Street, so you can leave your car behind while you try out all the great dining and shopping that lines the long pedestrian-friendly zone.
13. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FloridaCost-burdened middle-class households: 38.6%Median single-family home value: $263,245Median household income: $51,362Homeownership rate: 58.3%The majority of homes in the Miami metro area are worth over a quarter-million dollars. As a result, many middle- and low-income area residents spend more than they can afford on housing. ddmitr, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jamaica is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches, Blue Mountains and vibrant culture, attracting loads of different types of visitors. Montego Bay is especially popular among families for the area's laid-back charm, relaxed beaches and calm waters, perfect for small children to play in. What's more, nightly hotel rates are affordable. (Getty Images)

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.
*Unless otherwise noted, fares include ROUNDTRIP AIRFARE via U.S. certified air carrier, hotel transfers (in Mexico and the Caribbean), hotel tax, resort baggage handling, fuel surcharges and all pre-collected U.S. and foreign taxes and fees including September 11th Security Fee. Packages in Turks and Caicos or San Juan, Puerto Rico do not include airport transfers. Packages flying into Cancun but staying in Cozumel require supplemental ferry transfers at an additional cost. More details
Where to stay: Housed in the historic former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore Inner Harbor (from $109) is a kid’s dream with 14 Bunk Bed Suites (not to mention the warm cookies we’ve had at check-in). The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel puts families right next to two other kid favorites, the fascinating fish-filled National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, starting at $134 a night. Don’t miss these top family travel destinations in every state.
Then, sit back and wait. Some (but not all) websites are set up to automatically send a coupon or other offer to people who almost make a purchase but change their minds at the last minute. Coupon values vary dramatically, so you have to know what will be enough to sway you. You might only get a token discount, but it’s not unreasonable to see 10%, 15%, or even 25% off.
Budapest, Hungary: Another affordable European destination for this summer is Budapest. Here, you’ll get two cities for the price of one — Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. With new routes from American Airlines launching this summer to/from Philadelphia, competition is driving airfare prices down. Andrey Danilovich, Getty Images/iStockphoto
St. Augustine’s picturesque and historic center appeals to all sorts of visitors. Many families come here for the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, a fabulous swashbuckling resource offering interactive exhibits, treasure hunting, and more. For some outdoor fun, you could see the town on one of Ripley’s Red Trains, hit the play areas at Davenport Park or Project Swing Park, or turn towards the beach for a kids’ surf session. And for a truly unforgettable introduction to the locality, there’s always a helicopter tour over St. Augustine and Fort Matanzas.
Yelapa: Yelapa is “Mexico’s last authentic beach town,” says Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, “and is definitely under the radar. [Expect] great seafood, great beaches, nice hotels and none of the inflated prices.” Note that it’s in one of the State Department’s orange zones, while nearby Puerto Vallarta is exempted — so you’ll want to do a bit more research before choosing this part of Jalisco. Getty Images/iStockphoto
How cheap is it? Mexico’s huge, it’s right next door, and each of its 31 states has something to offer. You’re gonna take your best cheap shot? Aim for the mezcal and gastronomy capital: Oaxaca, in the south. In the capital, Oaxaca de Juarez, feast on the regional specialty: tlayudas, an oversized crisp tortilla heated on a grill, topped with lard, beans, veggies, salsa, and meat, (think combination of pizza and taco in the best possible way). It is to be eaten from a street vendor in the early hours after a night of drinking, and will set you back all of $4. For daytime noshing the markets are stacked with small vendors who serve sublime homemade moles that cost around $8 for a full portion including rice and soup. Lodging is cheaper than a movie ticket in the States; Hostel Don Nino alongside Parque Llano charges $14 per night, which includes Wi-Fi, a computer station, filtered water, clean showers, and breakfast. For free activities, there are plenty of colorful markets to stroll and art galleries to wander. The ruins of Monte Albán and the ancient Tule Tree cost around $20 for round-trip transportation plus entrance.
Where to stay: A visit to a national park is the perfect time to fire up an RV (either your own or rented one) for a cheap family vacation. Harvest Hosts is a unique experiential company offering RVers the opportunity to stay at any of their over 600 host locations across the United States. For a single membership payment of $49 per year, you can stay at uncrowded, one-of-a-kind destinations such as farms and historical sites.

Where to stay: Ocean Edge Resort offers plenty of family fun on a sprawling 429-acres. Highlights for families include kayaking, family basketball tournaments, outdoor movies, kite making, s’mores at the private beach bonfire, scavenger hunts, and even special toddler lawn games. Summer prices start at $275 for a one-bedroom villa with plenty of room to spread out and a kitchen where you can save money by making breakfasts and easy meals.
For accommodations, look to save by staying in a Tahitian Guesthouse, or pension. These family-operated lodgings provide a more authentic glimpse into Tahitian culture without an expensive price tag. Many prepare meals in the house kitchen and offer excursions, like pearl diving with a local guide. With only a few rooms or bungalows onsite, you get a more intimate (and less expensive) experience than you’ll find at larger resorts.
Why you should go: London is always a winner, but venture north to the Yorkshire Dales to experience the majestic, windswept hills of the Brontë sisters, or take a train south west to the Jurassic cliffs of seaside town West Bay, Dorset (you may recognize them from Broadchurch). Both of these options, much more budget friendly than the capital, offer England at its most beautiful. - Ruthie Darling, Thrillist contributor
Why you should go: Don’t let the name fool you; Isla Grande is an intimate, gorgeous Caribbean island just a 45-minute boat ride from Cartagena, full of exceedingly friendly locals and all the hallmarks of a tiny paradise. You’ve got your idyllic beaches, your lagoons of bioluminescent plankton that turn the water bright blue, your fresh seafood and multiple options for diving and canoeing. The chance to visit such a place is probably why you bother to earn money in the first place. - Daniel Cole, Thrillist contributor

What to do: Crystal Cruises, the first cruise company to complete the entire Northwest Passage, has several options for experiencing Alaska’s glaciers. For example, its Glacier & Gold Cruise visits the Inside Passage where it parallels the tallest coastal mountains in the world. On port days, kids can learn about the historic Gold Rush in the once-booming frontier town of Skagway or do optional excursions like dogsledding or taking a floatplane to go fishing in a remote inlet. Of course, it’s also nice to just relax on the Crystal Symphony or Crystal Serenity and use their spotting scopes to look for humpback whales, get crafty in the Fantasia children’ playrooms or hit up the all-you-can-eat Scoops Ice Cream Bars.
Twelve-time winner of "best cruise line in Alaska" from Travel Weekly's Readers Choice Awards, Princess Cruises recognizes that different ages have different needs. Kids clubs are divided into two age groups: 3-7 and 8-12, while teens 13-17 have their own space at Remix, with DJ workshops and hip-hop dance classes. The whole family can come together for the Klondike Festival (with sled-dog presentations) and the Midnight Sun Party (an all-ages gathering on the top deck under the Midnight Sun). Excursions include visiting a gold mine and watching a lumberjack competition. Princess has even teamed up with the Discovery Channel to present adventures tied to the popular Deadliest Catch franchise.
What to do: Start at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum — on Tuesday nights, starting at 5 p.m., admission is free. The museum’s exhibits are broken into three parts: before 9/11, during 9/11 and after 9/11. Because of the sensitive subject matter, the museum has a free downloadable guide for tips on visiting with children. Since the memorial is so close to Battery Park, ask the kids if they’d like to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. It’s a good way to see New York City from the water while learning about how most of us got here.
Where to stay: At The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, the luxe all-inclusive is offering a Kids for Free promotion where two children stay for free with every paying adult. Family Concierge suites room include milk and cookies turn-down service, mini bathrobes and slippers for kids, bathroom toys, access to Kids Zone, and more from $344 per night.
Cleveland: For art lovers, Cleveland is a delight. This modern, vibrant city has more than its fair share of world-class museums, galleries and theatres. Cleveland Museum of Art, located in Fine Arts Garden north of the Wade Lagoon, has more than 30,000 priceless art pieces. Cleveland Cultural Gardens, created by University of Cleveland students, features living, blooming exhibitions of world cultures and history. Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art showcases modern local artists in a range of permanent and temporary exhibits. Check the program of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the world’s most renowned institutions of its kind. There is always something going on at Playhouse Square, among the country’s biggest and best performing arts centers. There is also The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which is dedicated to archiving the history of music and those artists who have influenced it. If all this art becomes a bit too heavy, sit on the bench in the University Circle, a green square mile in the center of Cleveland, where everything that happens in the city intersects. It is the beating heart of Cleveland.
Just how cheap is it? The aftershock of the debt crisis can still be felt at plenty of Greece’s tavernas, restaurants, and supermarkets (though not so much in touristy areas). On a popular island such as Mykonos, you’re likely to spend at least €25 or more on a lush evening meal -- but you can also get a bottle of godly nectar and cook at your Airbnb or hotel kitchenette for a sliver of that. On smaller, less touristy islands and in some parts of Athens you’ll feel less of a wallet pinch, especially when it comes to accommodation.
This friendly place on the Atlantic Coast has a boardwalk packed with lively eateries. Families tend to favor Funland for its arcade games and vintage rides and Jungle Jim’s Water Park for water slides, go-karting and mini-golf. For a bit of calm before bedtime, you could head slightly north and take a river cruise, enjoying the peaceful views of the shoreline and its birdlife before the sun sets.
Virginia’s Historic Triangle extends to nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, where innovative exhibits and educational experiences depict America’s first permanent English colony and guide visitors through the battlefield where American independence was won – advance 7-day passes are available, so you can return with the family to explore time and time again. Merchants Square, an 18th-century-style village, includes more than 40 shops and restaurants ranging from family-style to fine dining.
If you’re looking to save money when going to Orlando’s amusement parks, look to travel in September during midweek and stay at a non-affiliated park hotel or one of the area’s campgrounds. Other money-saving tips for the parks include budgeting in a non-park day and instead relaxing at your hotel’s pool. If you’re a AAA member, you may also be entitled to hotel discounts and special packages with Universal Studios.

Patras has its own stretch of beach, but this town offers plenty of history and culture as well. Hotels are affordable, and you can relax the day away near the water, roam the ancient Old City or visit the Medieval Castle, which was built during the second half of sixth century A.D. Travelers will find several other beaches nearby as well, including Kalogria and Rodini. (Getty Images)

Why: Moab, Utah is a great place to travel to if you are looking to explore the outdoors. There are two national parks in this town — Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, along with state parks and lots of recreational land all over. You can camp for free in many different areas around town, or there are also hotels and Airbnbs. If you like to camp, then like I said, you can camp for free in a beautiful place with a mountain or canyon view. An affordable way to see Moab is to stay in one of its many cabins. For example, you can stay at Archview RV Park in a basic Camping Cabin with two beds for just $78 a night. In Moab, there is an endless amount of activities. You can go rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, explore the national parks, skydive, off-road (you can rent Jeeps and go off roading if you don't have your own), camp and more. My favorite tour is the river raft trip with Canyon Voyages.


While hotel prices might be cheaper in underrated locales, you do need to be aware that flight prices might be more expensive – and possibly at less convenient times with more stops – if it’s not a common route. For example, an August flight from Minneapolis to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil might cost around $857, but a flight at the same time from Minneapolis to La Paz, Bolivia costs $1,177. The distance is nearly identical, though most flights to La Paz require at least two (and, in many cases, three) stops, whereas there are flights available from Minneapolis to Rio de Janeiro with only one stop.
Vacation rentals are becoming increasingly popular. Sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway permit homeowners to put their own properties up for rent whenever they won’t be using it. This is a good way to experience life as a local, because you’ll be staying in a residential area instead of one that caters to tourists. While some properties are tiny, cheap, and perfectly suitable for one person, vacation rentals are also a great way for a large group to get away together in a big house without having to pay for individual hotel rooms.
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