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.
Indy’s a pretty hospitable place. And if you’re visiting with children, there’s no better starting point than the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—the largest of its kind in the world. We challenge anyone to be bored in this place, where kids are encouraged to explore arts and culture through exhibits, workshops, and live performances—there’s even a steam engine. You might also like to see the animals and plant life at Indianapolis Zoo.
“We wanted to spend time at the Grand Canyon so I looked for a place that could accommodate all 9 of us (this included some children). Rather than rent numerous hotel rooms I decided it might be fun to all stay together in a house. The description of this house made it sound interesting and close to town so we chose it. Best decision ever!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
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.
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.
Some of the top destinations for families are the Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii, attracting vacationers with their sandy beaches and colorful sunsets, especially during the colder months and in the summer when there is no school and kids can get away for a longer vacation. Many families enjoy cruises which allow them to see many destinations in a short span of time. Mega cruise ships offer a wide variety of activities, from pools and waterslides to rock climbing and kids' clubs. Consider the season - the destinations that work best in the spring and summer may not be as interesting in the winter. Resorts with water parks include the Arizona Grand Resort, the Lake Lanier Islands, the Gaylord Palms Resort. Unique getaways in the U.S. include The Cloister at Sea Island, The Bishop's Lodge, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Grand Wailea Resort.
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.
San Miguel de Allende: San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places in Mexico, as evidenced by its popularity with expats. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated almost right in the middle of Mexico and offers cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial churches and plenty of great restaurants. The nearby Sanctuary of Atotonilco, less than 10 miles away, is also a World Heritage Site and an important pilgrimage site for penitent Mexicans and tourists alike. Getty Images
The Cairo: D.C. has a height limit and this is the building that caused it. One of the first residential towers to employ steel frame construction, it was taller than most fire truck ladders could reach. This "moorish pile of bricks" was fashionable but then was in rough shape by the 1960s and now is a lovely Dupont Circle condo. Thomas Franklin Schneider, architect. Justin A. Wilcox
What to do: Watch your kids awaken their inner superheroes at the museum’s American Comic Book Heroes exhibit or walk their way through the world’s largest pop-up book in Reading Adventureland. For nostalgia, visit the Toy Halls of Fame and play your way through the history of video games at eGameRevolution. Expect to spend at least four hours at The Strong National Museum of Play.
Why you should go: Because nature and mild danger make you feel alive. Victoria Falls has a bungee jump, one of the world’s most high-octane whitewater runs, and the Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool at the literal edge of the falls. Forget TLC’s admonitions: Inching your body out over the precipice and looking down into one of the seven natural wonders of the world is one of the most unforgettable things you’ll ever do. - Sarah Theeboom, Thrillist contributor
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.
Set in the Northern Catskills, where there’s lots of fresh air and space to run around, Durham makes a top family vacation base. Show your brood the best of the rural life on a tour with Farmer Frank of Hull-O Farms, where you’ll meet all sorts of friendly animals, including bunnies, piglets, and chicks. For something completely different, book day tickets for the Zoom Flume Water Park, where you can rent a cabana and spend the day crashing into the water via various high-speed slides.
Wonderful humor is applied to the actual challenges faced if you consider traveling to other worlds in our solar system. Information and science from 50 years of space exploration is used to provide a planning guide for visiting our solar system neighbors. The result is a thoughtful look at what manned exploration of other planets requires, and it's presented in the context that the reader would actually make the trip.
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.
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.
What to do: After learning all about the game America loves, take the younger kids to The Farmers’ Museum and Tractor Land at Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard. Then, practice those swings at Barnyard Swing Miniature Golf. For some relaxing sightseeing, climb aboard the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad or cruise Otsego Lake on the Glimmerglass Queen.
NORWEGIAN AIR: By far the biggest of the new European low-cost carriers, Norwegian flies a staggering 53 routes to Europe from 14 U.S. airports that range in size from Newburgh, N.Y., to Los Angeles. With a mix of Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 737s, Norwegian has the most diverse set of options for U.S. fliers. It offers some point-to-point routes (like Newburgh-Bergen) as well as connections through bigger airports like London Stansted, Oslo and Paris. Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, special to USA TODAY
Denver: With mild weather and plenty of museums to explore, Denver is a family-friendly and affordable summer vacation this year. According to WalletHub’s Best Places to Visit in Summer, Denver ranks sixth, earning a spot for its low travel costs and minimal hassles. KAYAK’s 2018 Travel Hacker guide also lists median airfare to Denver under $250 round-trip from the U.S. and Canada for the summer months, and median hotel nightly rates around $150. Getty Images/iStockphoto
How to get here and where to stay: Check with Hawaiian Air for deals on flights starting at just $377 round-trip from the U.S. mainland as well as amazing hotel deals, such as condo-style accommodations at the Maui Sunset in centrally located Kihei for just $146 a night. They even have a kitchen where you can whip up tropical smoothies for the family. Here are all the reasons Maui is the best island in Hawaii.
Why you should go: Sofia is one of Europe’s coolest overlooked capitals, with ancient ruins and salmagundi architecture in Ottoman mosques and Red Army monuments. In the past few years, its streets have proliferated with graffiti art, skateboarder girls, and shabby-chic bars where you can while away days and evenings. A city trip is easily paired with a few more days at the Black Sea on the Bulgarian Riviera. You’ll find a gorgeous seaside that rivals plenty of more-lauded Mediterranean stretches -- again but for a sweet fraction of the cost.
Travel rewards credit cards are specifically designed to let a user earn points by making purchases and applying those points directly toward flights and hotels. Some travel rewards credit cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, are limited by affiliation with a specific travel company. If you’re not keen on sticking to one provider, there are others – including the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Visa Cards – that allow you to apply points toward a wider range of travel services. (FlexPerks is affiliated with 150 airlines, as well as many hotels, cruise lines, and rental car companies.)
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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
Why: A genuine bucket list trip for many, a visit to Australia and New Zealand can be super-pricey. Cities are spread out, way out, which means a lot of hopping on planes to get from one place to another. And for top level accommodations, not to mention simple daily necessities like a flat white, you’ll shell out big bucks. What’s good about a cruise itinerary that includes visits to both countries is that the big expenses are included in fares – onboard meals, accommodations, entertainment and transportation from place to place. On Oceania Cruises, which offers a New Zealand/Australia itinerary, for instance, the per diem is $350 a night, but you pretty much don’t have to whip out a credit card beyond that (do note that it’s priced at per-person, based on two sharing a cabin). Consider that in super-expensive cities like Auckland and Sydney, a hotel stay at a four-star place like the Hilton and Westin respectively will run you $350 or so. And that’s for the room only — you’ll pay out of pocket for food, entertainment and bars. One tip: Look for a cruise line that arranges its itineraries to spend maximum time in port, whether it’s long days or plenty of overnights, so you can have as much time to explore as possible. As well, you’re better off, in most cases, avoiding cruise-line shore excursions, which can be overpriced and epitomize group cattle travel, and engage a travel agency specialist in the region to plan private tours for your days in port. Bottom line, though, is when experiencing Australia and New Zealand by cruise ship, especially on your first visit to the region, the biggest plus is not just the convenience of unpacking once and keeping short-hop plane trips to a minimum. It’s also that, depending on the itinerary you choose, you can visit some pretty special somewhat off-the-grid places in between marquee stops at Auckland and Sydney. New Zealand’s Akaroa, Dunedin and Wellington, and Australia’s Eden, Burnie and Melbourne, might otherwise be missed — and shouldn’t be.
Just how cheap is it? The food and accommodation aren’t fabulous bargains -- but, oh, the shopping is. In the tourist town of Victoria Falls, a hostel bed or a hired tent will cost you $15 to $20 per night, but I scored a carved stone necklace from a street vendor for the sandals I was wearing. Bartering is common at flea markets and on the streets, where second-hand clothes -- shoes, baseball caps, and sportswear (think basketball or soccer shirts) -- have real buying power. Fill your suitcase with gently used gear and exchange it for jewelry, handmade crafts, and souvenirs like devalued trillion dollar notes.
What are the best luxury vacation ideas for families? If you are looking to spend $5,000 or $10,000 on a family vacation, you can be as picky as you like (although that will not buy you a first class airline ticket). Luxury resort rooms and suites start at $350 per night, and can go as high as $900 per night for a villa in an exotic destination like Fiji. Some of the best luxury beach destinations for families include plush resorts in Barbados, Paradise Island in the Bahamas and beach resorts in Maui. Look for all inclusive rates at Sandals resorts in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos where you will have access to many fun activities for kids of all ages. Families have access to a wide selection of room and suite layouts, letting you balance cost and just the right layout. On your luxury family vacation, look for activities that will be fun for adults as well as kids, such as golf, spas and fun dining options. If you have a baby, Club Med’s Ixtapa resort in Mexico offers the Baby Med program which includes a crib, bottle warmers and diapers in your room.
Where to stay: If your pup is coming along on this iconic road trip, consider a pet-friendly boutique property like The Laurel Inn in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Breakfast is free, and so is afternoon lemonade and cookies! In Southern California, opt to stay within walking distance of Disneyland. The Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim is pet-friendly and has a pool.
Why: The Greek Island of Karpathos offers much of the same allure as chic Santorini and Mykonos, but with the advantage of lower prices. Karpathos is the second largest of the Dodecanese Island chain, which includes better-known Rhodes. Karpathos dates back to the 5th century BC, offering history buffs a way to have two trips in one, combining sun and sand with a step back in time. Ancient ruins can still be seen at Aghia Anastasia, while the island’s history can be studied in more detail in the Archaeological Museum. Beyond lounging on white-sand beaches, active travelers can choose from a selection of sports: fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing. Away from the well-worn tourist path, Karpathos has hillsides covered in vibrant wild flowers and small villages like Arkasas to explore. The island’s capital, Pighadia, is a modern city, but in small towns like Olympos, traditional dress is still worn day-to-day and life has the authentic feel of the past. Karpathos has many apartments and studios to rent, resulting in real savings. There are plenty of budget hotels under $100. Multiple restaurants and tavernas dot the countryside, where you can savor traditional Greek dishes at low prices.
The 22-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort complex, set on the widest strip of beach in Waikiki, is a family-entertainment mecca. You can swim, surf, snorkel and paddleboard right from the hotel. Ideal for little ones is its beachfront lagoon, which lets them experience salt water without the big waves. Four nights of the week, the hotel stages Waikiki's only outdoor luau, with traditional food, Polynesian dancing and music, and fire dancers. The resort's Spirit of Aloha snorkel tours include a visit to Turtle Canyon. Sea turtles come to a spot where fish "clean" them before the turtles push off, making way for the next ones in line. If you don't want to get wet while experiencing the ocean, descend 100 feet in an Atlantis Submarine to see reefs, sunken boats and planes, along with fish, sharks and turtles. — Todd Pitock
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
Why you’ll love it: Start your Music City visit with a stop at the Ryman Auditorium to explore the origins of country music and even step on the stage where The Grand Ole Opry started (then head to its new home for a fabulous all-ages show). A highlight of the Country Music Hall of Fame is the Taylor Swift Education Center where kids can learn to strum a ukulele or create a take-home art project. Be sure to indulge in some home cooking at a meat-and-three or Nashville Fried Chicken spots.
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.