In 2014, CheapAir.com also analyzed nearly 2 million international trips covering 3,184 markets. International flights usually open for booking slightly less than a year in advance. CheapAir.com found that prices “stay fairly flat for a few months” after flights open for booking – but, of course, not all of us are ready to lock down travel plans nine months in advance. After the initial flat period, prices “start to creep up slowly, until about 90 days before departure when the pace of increase starts to accelerate.”
Why you’ll love it: Known for its natural beauty, sustainability, and outdoor activities, Portland is a favorite option for affordable family vacations. It’s a great destination for teens who will enjoy biking around the city like a local or taking in the sites on the great public transportation system, including a cool funicular (and a pass is only $5). There are hip vintage spots and multiple food truck parks where they can try food from around the globe without high restaurant prices. Take in the views of the city and the 500 plant varieties at the International Rose Test Garden.
Children are always welcome on Alaskan Dream Cruises' smaller ships, but even more so on the Become a True Alaskan Family Cruise sailings (July and August). For ages 7 and up, the eight-day Alaska's Glacier Bay and Island Adventure trips feature an onboard youth-expedition leader who guides photo scavenger hunts, teaches navigation basics, and heads hiking and kayaking excursions. You'll sail on the 74-passenger Chichagof Dream, which offers convertible family cabins. Bonus: Kids under 15 save 30 percent.
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.
What to do: First, sign up for the Very Important Kids Snowmass program to see the resort’s daily child-friendly programming and packages. Then, drop the younger ones (2-4) off at The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center for their lessons and then head to Camp Aspen with the older kids and pre-teens for their programs. In the afternoon, meet up to ski together, go tubing or take a free naturalist tour. End the day by enjoying a Snowcat dinner or a family Chuckwagon Dinner hosted at a remote cabin showcasing a quieter side of the mountain.
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.
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.
Washington, DC is a vibrant city with dozens of free attractions and events that make it an ideal destination for a family vacation. Once you’re near the Mall, major landmarks and iconic government buildings are everywhere you look: the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and many more. Have your kids pull out their coins and dollar bills to see replicas of the very buildings they’re standing in front of. Book a line-skipping VIP tour and check them all off your list.
What to do: Stroll through the mile-long Lady Bird Johnson Grove, a mossy jungle of sky-high sequoias — some of them 2,000 years old (kids can crawl through the hollow ones). See if Roosevelt elk are grazing in Elk Meadow, then pick up the path to Trillium Falls and be on the lookout for yellow banana slugs along the way. There are coastal trails too: Take guided tide pool walks to discover anemones and sea stars. Note: your best chance of spotting whales is from December through April.
Less than a hour by plane from Miami, not only can visitors frequently score cheap Bahamas flights, but staying at the Breezes Resort & Spa is an outstanding budget alternative to all of those pricey all-inclusive resorts that average $500 or more a night. Guests have access to a wide range of amenities for less than half that price, and there is no tipping allowed either. You’ll find three outdoor pools, a swim-up bar with submerged seating, and get direct access to the unspoiled white sands of Cable Beach. Nightly entertainment, sailing, rock climbing and more are all included, and there are five dining options, including a diverse buffet and a la carte options, along with four bars.
Why: When it comes to cheap destinations, you can not beat Thailand. Phuket is a beautiful beach spot that is famously known for nice people, affordable hotels and amazing food. Low season is in the spring and winter. (Don't go during summer because it will rain everyday.) Once in Phuket, head to Patong beach at night: The nightlife is something to see, with loud music and constant entertainment. The next day you should head to Phuket Town. With its colorful buildings, Phuket Town looks like you stepped into Portugal. Stay at Andakira Hotel Patong for under $50 a night. Before you leave Phuket, make sure you take a ferry for around $30 roundtrip to the Phi Phi islands: It's a two-hour boat ride, but so worth it.
It’s official: Americans have the travel bug. According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Americans logged 1.7 billion “person trips” for the primary purpose of leisure in 2014. The USTA defines a person trip as “one person on a trip away from home overnight in paid accommodations, or on a day or overnight trip to places 50 miles or more [one way] away from home.” That works out to 5.33 leisure-focused trips for every single man, woman, cash-strapped college student, sulky teenager, wiggly child, and brand new baby in the country.
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.
Guanajuato: Why visit Guanajuato? Think old mines, a mummy museum and streets so narrow that one is called the Alley of the Kiss because couples can smooch one another from opposite sides. You can visit Guanajuato as a day trip from nearby San Miguel de Allende or use it as a home base in itself. Visitors to the area are mostly native Mexicans, so you can immerse yourself in the culture fairly well; try a miner’s enchilada if you get a chance. Getty Images/iStockphoto
St. Augustine, FL: Strolling through St. Augustine, you will sometimes have a hard time believing that it belongs to the 21st century America. From the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos on the western shore of Matanzas Bay to the lavish historic Hotel Alcazar that today hosts the Lightner Museum of Victorian times, St. Augustine has retained the elegance and charm of its past and preserved its historic treasures with lots of love and care. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets of the Old City, St. George, Hypolita and Charlotte Streets, and have a cup of coffee in one of the many quaint shops. Visit the Ximenez-Fatio House built in 1798, an architectural gem that showcases the life of 19th century Florida. A visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and pristine beaches of Anastasia State Park will show you that some things are timeless and never change.
Why you should go: Goa’s coastal-scapes are sumptuous, wrangling the perfect balance of untouched beauty and clean, cared-for strands. Tourist creature comforts abound: jungle parties, seafood feasts, drop-in yoga on the beach. But you’ll get the gratification of skipping off the beaten track too. Spending another $18 a day will get you a motorbike and unlimited access to backwoods lagoons and hidden beaches, where it’ll be just you and the sea turtles bathing.
Why you’ll love it: Known as “charm city,” Baltimore is an enchanting, family-friendly destination loaded with history. Families can enjoy the scenic Inner Harbor or watch a ball game down the block at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. You can also sight-see by water-taxi or climb aboard Baltimore’s own pirate ship in Fell’s Point, Fearless, to hear swashbuckling tales of adventure. The fantastically fishy National Aquarium is a must visit too!
Just how cheap is it? Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is the girls’ getaway paradise you never knew existed, where full-body waxes run about $20 and the full-meal deal of manis, pedis, and haircuts are much cheaper (because Bulgarian women like looking on fleek). A three-course dinner plus vino also shouldn’t cost more than $20 (and the local cuisine here is known to be hearty). Despite its post-Communist exterior, Sofia is also incredibly modern, and you’ll be able to find international bites from tapas to sushi.
You don’t have to travel overseas; try a Western USA Family Holiday. Hit the beach in San Diego to surf and swim. Then head to the Grand Canyon to watch the sun paint the canyon walls and hear rangers explain park geology. Drive on toward dazzling Las Vegas, and, if you dare, venture into Death Valley, the hottest, driest spot in the country, where you’ll find volcanic craters, mountain peaks and salt flats. Don’t miss the giant sequoias and granite cliffs at Yosemite National Park. End your trip by returning to San Francisco via Monterey, where you can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, go kayaking, or journey by boat to spot sea lions, otters and whales.
With their quiet sophistication, these two islands are the Nantuckets of the Bahamas. Explore the local history with a trip to Governor's Harbour, or rent bicycles to pedal around Harbour Island. Shelling in the morning and stargazing at night are markers of a great day. The more adventurous can try horseback riding on the beach (ages 12 and up, or pony rides, ages 5-11) at Oceanview Farm.
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.
Affordable and wholesome Pigeon Forge is adjacent to American’s favorite national park, Great Smoky Mountains. Most known for the Dollywood theme park, Pigeon Forge now also gets rave reviews for its Titanic Museum, an interactive walk through the doomed cruise ship. Teens will like assuming the persona of a historic passenger, only to find out their fate after visiting the eye-popping captain’s bridge.
What to do? Immediately head to Siam Park — voted the best water park in Europe (it has nearly 25,000 reviews on TripAdvisor). Check out the water slide that travels through a shark tank or relax at the world’s biggest wave pool. Rent a car and drive across the island to paddle board, kayak and snorkel with Teno Activo at Los Gigantes (where coral reefs meet towering cliffs). Also, don’t forget to check out Loro Parque — voted best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor — and visit the volcano in Teide National Park. It’s Spain’s highest point and the third tallest volcano in the world!
Why you’ll love it: Kids of all ages will be impressed when they hear the more than 3,000 tons of water that crashes over the falls here every second. Here you can witness nature at its best, explore acres of pristine hiking trails and scenic terrain, immerse yourself in outdoor adventure. You can walk around Niagara Falls State Park (the oldest park in the country) for free, but experiencing the views of the thundering falls aboard the famous Maid of the Mist is what will be the most memorable way to take in the falls (including a soaked selfie). Or sign up for the Cave of the Winds tour, where you’ll find yourself deep in the Niagara Gorge and face to face with the crashing water of the falls.
Steeped in Civil War history, the picturesque town of Gettysburg makes a pleasant and educational base for families. Tour the Gettysburg Battlefield, the National Military Park, and the Shriver House Museum at your leisure, or hop on a guided bus tour of the town to get the expert lowdown on all the key sights. From historical re-enactments to ghostly tours, there’s so much here to keep the whole family entertained.
Why: Made up of 15 islands and less than 100 square miles, the Cook Islands are everything you’d hope to find in the South Pacific — lush tropical beauty, vibrant reefs and a Polynesian vibe that is both traditional and modern. Its rich Maori culture is still very much intact and hospitality exudes through the friendly locals. Think: Hawaii half a century ago, but with 21st century conveniences like WiFi. Take your pick on where to stay — you’ll find reasonably-priced luxury alongside Airbnbs, beach shacks alongside boutiques, all with a rustic, island-chic appeal. The largest island, Rarotonga or “Raro,” is made up of rugged mountains, unspoiled beaches and the national capital of Avarua, where you’ll find boutique hotels, quaint shopping, rare pearls, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, coffee shops, a distillery that makes banana vodka by coffee pot and even a Friday night party bus. The island is easily accessible by bus and being only 20 miles in circumference, you can easily conquer the entire island in a day. Note to Type A travelers: Bus timetables are on, well, island time. Aitutaki Island to the north, is home to what many refer to as the world’s most beautiful lagoon, thanks to its crystal clear turquoise waters, coral reefs and sandy islets that allow for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. When visiting the Cook Islands, it's not to be missed.