What to do? Start monitoring flights months in advance and consider European airlines. (For example, low-cost carrier Norwegian Air is just as comfortable as major American airlines but often has round trip, nonstop London flights from several major U.S. cities for less than $500.) On your first full morning in London, check out the Changing of the Guard where the soldiers march out in their trademark red coats and fuzzy black hats, accompanied by music and royal horsemen. It starts at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. on Sundays) but get there at least a half-hour early so the little ones have a spot they can see from. If the royal flag is flying, it means the Queen is in residence. While the kids can’t run wild in the palace itself, St. James Park is a stone’s throw away and has a lovely playground. If you’re lucky, you’ll see ducklings, swans and maybe even a pelican or two.
Family life can be both wonderful and exhausting. That’s why The Great Family Vacation is so important—a time to make memories and celebrate your loved ones away from the daily grind. But with so many great family-friendly destinations in the USA, it’s hard to narrow it down. While our list leaves out a few of the obvious big-hitters like Orlando, Virginia Beach, San Diego, and Myrtle Beach, we’re featuring equally amazing spots, where the amenities for children are just as great and the welcome just as warm. With a little help from the local city experts at Apartment Guide, we’ve also highlighted some of the best kid-friendly attractions you won’t want to miss.
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.
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
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.
Why: Okay, you may be thinking, “Isn’t Saint Martin/Sint Maarten destroyed?” Yes, this unique Caribbean island, which is half French (Saint Martin) and half Dutch (Sint Maarten), was devastated by Hurricane Irma. But now it’s on the mend. Saint Martin’s famed Princess Juliana International Airport has been open since late October 2017. The majority of the island’s electricity has been restored, and many beaches, bars, restaurants and businesses have reopened their doors. Because tourists are still wary, many hotels have discounted rates (like Hotel Mercure for $169 night) as well as gorgeous Airbnb properties starting at $50 a night. It’s a win-win. Not only will you save money, but your money will be spent on businesses and people who really need our help.
Los Cabos experienced a 23 percent increase in international tourism from 2016 to 2017, and for good reason. Not only is it inexpensive for tourists, but Los Cabos is chock full of stunning scenery and fun things to do. While basic hotels and dining are on the affordable side, you can save even more by skipping the all-inclusive resorts, buying groceries and fresh seafood rather than dining out. (Getty Images)
No. 4. South Beach – Miami Beach, Fla. People watching is a great pastime in Miami's South Beach, which draws celebrities and models. Travelers love the wide, fine, white sand-covered beaches as well as the surrounding area, known for wild nightlife and excellent restaurants. “Direct access to the beach! The promenade is always full of people walking, biking and strolling with their dogs and families. Very clean and well-kept area,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Room Mate Lord Balfour, from $264 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $107 round-trip from LGA (New York) to MIA (Miami) wsfurlan, Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.
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.
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. Average airfare from New York and Boston for the summer is under $700 round-trip; I also found deals under $600 round-trip from Chicago.
No. 5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Honolulu, Hawaii. Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular natural attractions. Travelers note that the beach is good for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and picnicking. According to a TripAdvisor user, “One of my favorite places to visit in Hawaii. I sincerely appreciate the staff’s every effort to preserve and respect marine/aquatic life. I would have given it a 5 star except for the very limited parking.” • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Park Shore Waikiki, from $186 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $416 round-trip from LAX (Los Angeles) to HNL (Honolulu) TripAdvisor
Just how cheap is it? Here $20 can last a day or even two if you’re feeling tapped. Your dream beach vacay awaits for lunch-money prices: In Goa, comfy waterfront bungalows go for around $30, but if you forgo housekeeping and some space, basic huts can be had for $15 (often, with breakfast). If you don’t mind skewing rustic, the beach town Gokarna, a two-hour train ride away, is even more budget-friendly. Rooms go for around $5 (a little run-down but clean), and you can shop flowy pants, dresses, and trinkets for $3 a pop, assuming your haggling is on-point.
Up in Tennessee, “Music City” is calling your name, and you can’t help but listen! This country music city feels like a small town—and its siren call resonates with those looking for simpler times and Johnny Cash cover bands. You can spend your Nashville vacation taking in performance after performance at the Grand Ole Opry, but leave time for the art collection at the Parthenon at Centennial Park.
Where should we go? Pick the best family trip ideas based on the interests of everyone in your group. The age of the children and how well they travel in a car or a plane will determine whether you will be checking into a nearby resort, taking a flight to a Caribbean island or going on a family trip to Europe. Other equally important considerations when picking the best kids vacations are budget, how long is your vacation and what type of a destination your family finds the most exciting and fun. Babies and toddlers will be happy crawling around a sandy beach and carrying a bucket of water from the ocean all day long. Older kids will need more entertainment, however, everyone is generally happy and relaxed next to the water, whether that’s a lake or the Pacific Ocean. Keep reading for more best family vacations.
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
Break up a day at the beach with an outing to the Cayman Islands National Museum. The colonial-era building depicts the island's natural and cultural history in 3-D displays, murals and videos. Or spy colorful blue iguanas at the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, located in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. A 90-minute guided tour is suitable for the entire family, and if grandma doesn't share the kids' fascination for lizards, she can always enjoy the native flora in the park instead.
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.
While the weather and crowds are at their peak, median airfare and nightly hotel rates are lower this summer in Orlando. The amusement park mecca takes WalletHub’s second spot for best places to visit this summer and KAYAK’s third spot for wallet-friendly destinations. Median round-trip airfare from U.S. and Canadian destinations is about $200, with nightly hotel rates hovering around $125.
Chosen By: Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder and CEO of Ciao Bambino. After having her son, Amie searched extensively for credible resources to provide family-focused advice, direction and useful accommodation information. She quickly realized that there were no relevant resources available, particularly for a discerning traveler, so she decided to help solve this problem and started Ciao Bambino.
Where to stay: If you don’t want to bother with a rental car, stay at Stonebridge Inn, A Destination Hotel where everything Snowmass-related is within walking distance and you have a heated pool to look forward to returning to in the evenings. If you prefer to stay where Aspen’s action is, reserve a room at the town’s only ski-in, ski-out property, The Little Nell. Sometimes you can get two complimentary ski passes for each night you stay!
An added benefit? These top family vacation spots boast plenty of local rentals from TripAdvisor. Choose an entire house or apartment where you can all be together (while still having your own space). Swap the hotel mini-bar for a fully stocked kitchen and the communal lobby for a family living area—and maybe even a garden. Imagine an evening barbecue on the outdoor patio, a family movie night in the theater room, or a morning swim in your own private pool.
Active Getaways: It’s amazing how many things kids are interested in if you sit down and talk to them about it. A 12-year-old may want to take a cooking class and learn how to prepare meals using farm-fresh ingredients with the hotel chef. A 5-year-old may want to see a polar bear swimming in a pool in a local zoo. A 3-year-old may be extremely interested in building various machines from blocks and legos so his ultimate dream vacation may be a morning spent at Legoland. Getaways with a touch of adventure create fun memories. In California, visit Safari West and watch unique wildlife in a natural setting. Take a cruise aboard Disney Fantasy, a mega ship that offers many things to do and comfortable staterooms with an extra half bath. At Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado, kids can go horseback riding and learn about the inns and outs of a working dude ranch. Lake Villarrica in Chile is a stunning lakeside getaway with a view of a volcano. Explore the natural wonders of the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, go horseback riding and visit a zoo. Other cheap family vacations include Yellowstone and Jackson Hole where you will be surrounded by the spectacular Tetons.
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.
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.
Are you on the hunt for cheap vacations? Perhaps you're looking for a luxury honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort. Maybe you’re scouting for a last-minute family vacation package with a hotel that’s suitable for children of any age. No matter what kind of vacation you want to book, we’ve got the best deals to help you save money on your upcoming travel.