Does your family thrive on challenges? Multiple escape rooms now pepper Charlotte, and near the intersection of the city’s two interstates, you’ll find Escape Kings. This family-friendly attraction lets those over 10 years of age test their collective wits by escaping from Aztec Ruins and Kings Quest rooms. The puzzle clues are for all ages, and escape is neither too hard for kids nor too easy for adults. To avoid disappointed faces, pick up tickets for escape rooms, Segway tours and other family-friendly activities in advance.
Why you’ll love it: Devastated by a double hit of Mother Nature in 2017, Puerto Rico is recovering from the storms and is focused on welcoming families for summer vacation. From Miami, flights to the historical city of San Juan start at just $99 round trip on Frontier Air. Since you don’t need a passport to visit the Spanish-speaking island (it’s a U.S. commonwealth), it’s a great easy first cultural trip for elementary school-aged kids.

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.
What to do: Since they’re open year-round, the indoor water parks can be enjoyed any month. Get a day pass for Noah's Ark water park (America's largest) and race each other down 2018’s newest ride, the Raja, which ends in the mouth of a king cobra. Or book one of the wet and wild resorts, like the African-themed Kalahari (the Sahara Sidewinders looping slides literally drop you through the roof) or Mt. Olympus (the Lost City of Atlantis water fortress has slides, geysers and monster dump buckets).
If you’re tempted to make a vacation-related purchase but are a little put off by the price tag, add the item to your electronic cart – but don’t go all the way through with the purchase. Before doing this, be very careful to make sure that it’s not a one-click purchase or a website where your payment details are stored, or anything else that will rope you into a purchase that you’re not ready to make.
Just how cheap is it? Poland’s economy is swinging upward, but the price of traveling here is still indulgently cheap compared to other EU countries (that could change, though, so don’t dally). In its bigger cities -- Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław -- you can get a centrally located, one bedroom Airbnb for $30 all to your lonesome. Polish food is notoriously cheap and filling, especially if you’re dining on pierogi and goulash in no-frills milk bars (cafeteria-like relics of Communist times). In Warsaw, you could ball out on craft cocktails at bijou bars (or just drink $1 Polish beers and vodka shots for that matter). Or treat yourself to a two Michelin star meal at Atelier Amaro, where the six-course meal is a reasonable $70.
Why: The Golden City of Jaisalmer is often overlooked by travelers because of its distance from Delhi (a 14-hour train ride), but it is absolutely worth a visit for its stunning architecture and magical atmosphere. Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer is made entirely of yellow sandstone and looks like an enormous sandcastle rising out of the desert. A visit to the Jaisalmer Fort costs 50 rupees ($0.80) and offers sweeping views of the city below; aesthetes will appreciate the intricately carved and painted havelis (homes). Don't miss stopping by the picturesque Gadisar Lake, dotted with beautiful temples, and taking a camel ride in the dessert.
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
Zanzibar: If Tanzania’s Zanzibar is on your bucket list, don’t wait to book this summer vacation at an affordable rate. 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. Moiz Husein, Getty Images/iStockphoto
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
Larounis’ top tip: Know the next available flight to your destination. “All 180 people on your plane will try to get on the next flight. As soon as you know of a delay or cancellation, feed your info to an agent,” said Larounis. Sign up ahead of time for Expertflyer.com’s Pro Plan ($99 a year) and you’ll be told if a seat has opened up on one of the next flights. “Even if one seat opens, you can grab it,” Larounis said.

Once you figure out when you want to go on vacation, budget out what a reasonable amount of money to save looks like for your family. The amount you’re able to put aside will determine where you go and how long you can stay. You may need to sell things and make temporary lifestyle sacrifices. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can save up cash quickly.
Since no one has time to check flight prices constantly throughout the day, it’s a good thing that you can ask someone else to do the searching for you. Sign up for a fare alert, which is a subscription notification (usually via email) that provides a selection of flights and prices to a chosen destination. For example, I receive a daily email that tells me the cheapest flights over the next six months to London, Paris, and Bora Bora.
The internationally-renowned collections of the Smithsonian range from a 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton to the original “Star-Spangled Banner” to the space shuttle Discovery. The Einstein Planetarium at the Air and Space Museum offers a constant flow of illuminating, family-friendly entertainment. Any airplane buffs in your family? They’ll will be happy they made the trek to Dulles Airport for the Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It’s so enormous that the actual planes dangling from its ceiling look like toys.
Why: Did you know that Lake Tahoe is one of the oldest, tallest, largest, deepest and purest lakes in the world? The southern shore of the lake, known as South Tahoe, straddles two states and is known to be the livelier shore. There is a booming craft beer scene, and they even have a beer map for visitors. Some standouts are locally owned Lake Tahoe Ale Worx and the Cold Water Brewery. Not too sure what’s in the water out there, but the southern shores of Lake Tahoe also produces world-renowned athletes. South Tahoe is home to a couple of Winter Olympian Gold Medalists and several 2018 Olympic hopefuls. (Check out my interview with Hannah Tetter, Maddie Bowman and Kyle Smaine, who all train on Sierra, the “locals” mountain.) In October 2017, an 11-foot bronze sculpture by artist, Gareth Curtiss, was unveiled at Champions Plaza called the “Spirit of Competition," inspired by local Olympic athletes. Heavenly is a mountain that's great for families. The resort has a village with shops and outdoor fire pits. Check out dinner and magic show at The Loft, and for the best sunset views (and steaks) in South Tahoe, go to Friday’s Station. Stay at the Lake Tahoe Resort at Heavenly, where rates start at just $109 and its location in the middle of the village means you can walk right to the gondola — nice when lugging skis or a snowboard. But South Tahoe isn’t all about the powder; in fact over two-thirds of tourist arrivals are in the spring and summer months for hiking, biking and golf. Wildlife lovers won't want to miss a visit to meet Emma, an American bald eagle rescued by Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

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Planning on taking an Arkansas vacation this year or just want to visit Hot Springs for a weekendgetaway? Our free vacation-planning guide provides valuable information about Hot Springs National Park as well as lodging and places to stay attractions and fun things to do, an events calendar and free discount coupons for Hot Springs hotels, restaurants, events, attractions and shops.

Where to stay: Not many hotels can boast their own marina, but Marigot Bay Resort and Marina isn’t like most hotels. It also has a kid’s activity program, and a seven-night stay comes with four hours of free babysitting! At the other end of the price spectrum, Harmony Suites ranks pretty high with families who appreciate the boutique atmosphere with big hotel amenities like on-site dining.


Why: La Paz is the perfect destination for those looking for a bit of adventure with the comfort of being in a vibrant, bustling city. Surrounded by the Bolivian Andes, La Paz is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Visiting during the winter season (May through October) is the best time for escaping to the slopes. If you’re looking for a real adventure, day tours to ski on one of the highest ski slopes in the world go for less than $70, including transportation and food. If you’re looking to stay more grounded, check out the local activities, such as Cholita Wresting, a La Paz specialty combining WWF and lucha libra. Or check out the Mercado de las Brujas (the Witches’ Market), an attraction not to be missed with locally handcrafted items and some herbal and folk remedies. The best part of all: You can live in near-luxury at five-star hotels around the city, with prices almost always less than $150 per night. Check out the Camino Real Aparthotel & Spa and the Casa Grande Hotel.
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.
Travel Auctions. There are two kinds of travel auction sites. One allows you to enter your preferred travel dates, destination, and class of service (such as economy or business class), and travel companies compete to offer the lowest-priced trip that meets your criteria. Flightfox is one site that operates this way: It charges a per-trip fee, and while the exact price depends on the trip itself, you can expect to shell out around $30. The other type of travel auction operates the opposite way: Companies offer flights, hotels, or packages, and users can bid on the trips. When the auction closes, the top bid wins. SkyAuction.com operates using this model. It’s free to bid – though you should be aware that additional taxes and fees are unlikely to be included in your bid price, so you will end up paying more than your bid if you win.
Just how cheap is it? Poland’s economy is swinging upward, but the price of traveling here is still indulgently cheap compared to other EU countries (that could change, though, so don’t dally). In its bigger cities -- Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław -- you can get a centrally located, one bedroom Airbnb for $30 all to your lonesome. Polish food is notoriously cheap and filling, especially if you’re dining on pierogi and goulash in no-frills milk bars (cafeteria-like relics of Communist times). In Warsaw, you could ball out on craft cocktails at bijou bars (or just drink $1 Polish beers and vodka shots for that matter). Or treat yourself to a two Michelin star meal at Atelier Amaro, where the six-course meal is a reasonable $70.
The Whitewater rafting on Kicking Horse River, in Banff, is awesome. Choose from a variety of family packages; options include passes to Banff Hot Springs, a ride on a gondola for a 350-degree view of Sulphur Mountain and the Canadian Rockies; a canoe ride or a tour of a grizzly bear refuge. Packages can also include certified rafting guides and equipment. Kicking Horse, which flows from a glacial lake, is considered one of the most exciting whitewater runs in the Canadian Rockies, with a drop of about 50 feet about every 6/10 of a mile.  You’ll enjoy stunning scenery as you journey down this Canadian Heritage River. 
Why you’ll love it: Playful Pismo Beach and nearby Shell Beach offer the quintessential southern California beach vacation, from swimming and hiking to kayaking and surfing—it’s all outdoor fun all the time. Energize your vacation with an ATV drive on 5.5 miles of beaches open to off-road vehicle use in Oceano Dunes, the only California State Park where vehicles may be driven on the beach. If actual horsepower is more your thing, enjoy a horseback ride instead. Pismo Beach Pier is the place to go to throw a line in the water and wait for a tug, while Pismo Beach’s award-winning boardwalk is rife with delicious treats and colorful boutique shops.

Families will find many ways to occupy their time while vacationing in the Catskills. In addition to offering farms with animals to feed, this spot in southeast New York features bumper boating in the summer and skiing and sledding in the winter. All-inclusive, family-oriented resorts are also available, but for extra savings, try roughing it at a local campground.
Travel has the ability to enrich each person’s life. For a family, this can simply be from spending time together to talk and each other’s company. But family adventures promote independence, self-confidence and interpersonal skills. The more people travel, the more curiosity and a sense of adventure grows, ensuring new ideas and fresh perspectives are carried through into everyday life.
Why you’ll love it: Travelers on the hunt for an upscale family vacation ideas filled with rich local culture at bargain prices should visit Panama, one of Latin America’s most thriving, cosmopolitan destinations—and with no currency exchange and easy direct flights from many major U.S. cities, traveling there is a breeze. Nearby natural areas offer the opportunity to see everything from swinging sloths to tiny tree frogs in their natural habitats.

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Parents and kids can enjoy an abundance of free and low-cost attractions during a San Diego vacation. Visit Balboa Park (where the San Diego Zoo is located), get a hands-on view of history at the USS Midway Museum or pick one of the many beaches to play in the sand. Book your hotel or resort a few months in advance to secure the best rates. Read More »
Take your vacation to the next level at Universal Orlando Resort™. Explore three amazing theme parks: Universal’s Volcano Bay™, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios Florida™, featuring the new ride Fast & Furious – Supercharged™, plus spectacular on-site hotels and more. It’s days and nights of endless, high-octane fun for every member of the family.
Campeche: A UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the western coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Campeche is a walled Spanish colonial city that has been superbly restored nearly to its former glory. The walled center is somewhat of a museum piece, but the life of the town surrounding it might even be the main attraction. There are also significant Mayan ruins in the state of Campeche, of which the city is the capital; these aren’t as well known as the famous ruins to the east, and as such they’re less crowded. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
Looking for a flight on one of Europe's new set of long-haul low-cost carriers? Scroll through for a complete list of routes flown by those airlines (as of May 2018). Routes are organized by U.S. airport, with a list of each budget airline and its routes from that airport in parenthesis. Remember, some routes are seasonal. Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, special to USA TODAY
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
Ancona may be a popular place to board a cruise ship bound for Croatia or Greece, but it's also a beautiful beach destination in its own right. The Beach of the Two Sisters, or Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle, located about 12 miles south of Ancona, offers white sands and clear waters with a protected shore and towering cliffs above. What's more, hotel rates in the city start around $65 a night. (Getty Images)
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.

Three famous San Diego attractions, plus Disneyland® Park! Save $150 or more and skip main entrance ticket lines at Southern California’s famous theme parks. The only multi-attraction admission card with the 3-Day Park Hopper Ticket to Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure®, plus a Magic Morning for Disneyland®. The adventure continues with admission to SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California. BONUS: Book online at citypass.com and add on a day at San Diego Zoo/Safari Park.


Family resorts abound in Hawaii where you can spend your days playing in the waves and building sand castles. Grown-ups can indulge in a few rounds of golf and relaxing spa treatments. The Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii has a sandy beach which is very kid friendly because it's well protected from the waves year-round. The Four Seasons Resort Maui offers luxury accommodations and access to the golf courses and beach in Wailea. Maui offers many family-friendly beaches, such as the top rated Kapalua, Napili and Makena Beaches. Sometimes you just need to get away quick family weekend when you need to recharge but don't have time for a longer trip.

What to do: Sign up for a lesson at one of the Star Beach Boys stands, located on the sand in front of the statue of Duke Kahanamoku. (This Hawaiian hero is considered the father of modern surfing.) Or try one of the local surf schools, like Big Wave Dave and Surfer Girl Academy where instruction is pricier but more personalized. While you’re on the island of Oahu, visit the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites including the USS Arizona Memorial.
Unless otherwise indicated: rates quoted are accurate at time of publication, & are per person, based on double occupancy. Airfare, taxes, surcharges, gratuities, transfers & excursions are additional. Advertised rates do not include any applicable daily resort or facility fees payable directly to the hotel at check-out; such fee amounts will be advised at the time of booking. Rates, terms, conditions, availability, itinerary, government taxes, surcharges, deposit, payment, cancellation terms/conditions & policies subject to change without notice at any time. Cruise rates capacity controlled. Other restrictions may apply, including, but not limited to baggage limitations & fees, standby policies & fees, non-refundable tickets & change fees with pre-flight notification deadlines, & blackout dates. Fees & policies vary among airlines. Contact airline directly for any details or questions. Advance reservations through AAA Travel required to obtain Member Benefits & savings which may vary based on departure date. Not responsible for errors or omissions. Pleasant Holidays acts only as an agent for cruise & tour providers listed. CST# 1007939-10. Copyright©2018 Pleasant Holidays, LLC. All Rights Reserved.>
Why you’ll love it: You can explore more than 300 miles of shoreline jetting out into Lake Michigan and Green Bay in Door County all dotted by charming communities and a Midwestern friendliness that will make you feel like you stepped back in time. Younger kids will enjoy peering through the periscope at Door County Maritime Museum with views of Sturgeon Bay and active shipyards; teens will enjoy hiking, biking, and kayaking along the Mink River Estuary. Everyone will love the classic Skyway Drive-In and the creamy treats served up at the old-fashioned soda fountain at Wilson ice Cream Parlor.
The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, set among a virgin mangrove forest and lush tropical vegetation, offers the ultimate escape to paradise at a more affordable price. It includes lots of family-friendly features, like three large swimming pools and a free kids’ club with the chance to learn about Tobago’s green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles. A free shuttle will bring you to popular Pigeon Point beach, while the complimentary buffet breakfast offers lots of tasty hot items, including an omelet station. Rooms feature ocean view balconies and even marble baths, along with numerous dining and drinking options, including a piano bar and a coffee shop.
Why: Zanzibar may sound like an expensive, bougie honeymoon island, but take it from this solo affordable adventure traveler; it's more budget friendly than you think. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful. You can take the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar for only $35 ($50 if you want a VIP seat), but flights to and from there are usually less than $100. Yes, there are many luxury resorts like Tulia Zanzibar and Melia Zanzibar that you should definitely splurge on if you can. (Tulia has a jungle waterslide and pool floaties. Enough said.) But there are also budget options. In fact, I found an Airbnb called the Surf Escape that was only about $40 per night, right on the beach, and had on-site surf, paddleboard and wind-surfing lessons.
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