Why you’ll love it: It’s a city with a sandy beach right downtown! How fun is that? Plus there are scenic riverboat rides, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of science, Lincoln Park and the zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, and a giant Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Oh, and pizza, lots and lots of cheesy, stringy, deep-dish pies perfect for family dining.
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.
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
What to do: It’s all about being outdoors in this country nicknamed “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.” Fly into Managua, and from there, head to the Spanish colonial town of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua — the 19th largest lake in the world and home to two island volcanoes you can hike. Speaking of volcanoes, visit Cerro Negro near Leon where the kids can sandboard (basically snowboard) down the volcanic ash sides. End your trip at One Love Surf School in the Pacific coastal town of San Juan Del Sur or head to the Caribbean side to explore the Corn Islands. While in the rainforest, keep your eyes peeled for a three-toed sloth!
Finding a destination that has multigenerational attractions and dining and hotel options that can accommodate groups can be difficult. Finding a vacation spot that won't destroy your wallet can be even tougher. Based on traveler feedback, editor analysis and factors like sights and accessibility, U.S. News compiled a list of the best affordable, kid-friendly locales that won't break the bank. Use these rankings to start devising travel plans for a trip – but first, vote for your favorite family vacation destinations below.

Why: Manaus in the north of Brazil is a short flight from Miami and provides multiple economical options in one. It is a top destination for adventure travel or a sedate wildlife and photography sojourn or a serious eco-tour. Although it's a city of 1 million inhabitants, Manaus is mainly famous as the gateway to the Amazon rain forest. Comfortable, modern hotels like the Caesar Business Hotel start at $63 year round. Aside from visits upriver in the rainforest, Manaus offers sites ranging from the local Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro and the fabled Renaissance-style Manaus Opera House/Amazon Theatre. For an up-close look at wildlife, including endangered species, there is a free, small zoo at the Hotel Tropical. A biologist heads up this state-certified rescue center that has elusive deep-rainforest species, from jaguars to the lovable 120-pound capybaras. The Bosque da Ciencia (Science Center) is a popular open-air wildlife park just outside the city of Manaus. Local species roam freely in front of strolling tourists. Day-trip options include short visits to the rain forest as well as the Presidente Figueiredo Waterfalls and Gruta do Refugio do Maroaga, a cave filled with marine life and bats. Traveling in the rainy season provides an even better value, and the weather is no hindrance to boating and spotting a wide array of tropical birds, pink dolphins and a feisty piranha or two.
Why you’ll love it: Want to feel like you’ve jetted across the Atlantic for the weekend and still make it back home for work on Monday? Then add Francophile Montreal to your getaway plans. The city is steeped in French language, cuisine, and culture. Kids will love strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and munching on classic croissants and crepes, not to mention visiting more modern sights such as the Biodome to see penguins and learn about natural science.
Where do we go on the West Coast? Explore California’s scenic coastal towns, have fun at Disneyland, tour Hollywood and check into a full service spa resort for a few days of pampering and relaxation. Some family-friendly ski resorts to try on the West Coast include Mammoth, Badger Pass and Snowmass. San Diego is a popular destination for families with kids, offering amusement parks, beaches, the New Children’s Museum, Maritime Museum and a zoo which will keep little ones busy.
According to USA Today, the Better Business Bureau files well over 1,000 complaints in a single year from victims of “free” cruise scams. Other “too good to be true” deals may not be actual scams, but may require you to participate in a sales presentation, commonly for a time-share. Be alert, be skeptical, and be willing to put in the time to verify anything that doesn’t feel right.
Why: While the devastating hurricanes of 2017 impacted just a portion of the Caribbean region, it damaged some of its more cruise-popular spots, like Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, St. Bart's, and the U.S.V.I.’s St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. While all are under significant rehab and rebuilding — and most are actually now open to cruise ships and tourists, this could be a perfect year to explore more exotic islands. That’s because lines like Windstar, which had, pre-hurricanes, planned to offer BVI-centric trips, relocated ships to other parts of the Caribbean. The winning trip? We love Wind Surf, one of the line’s sailing vessels, with its trip out of Barbados; ports include Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat — all islands that heretofore have often been bypassed by established cruise lines. And get this: There’s plenty of cruise capacity in this region, particularly when it comes to small ship sailings. In part, excess cabins are available because many skittish travelers canceled their bookings. As well, they can typically be more expensive (look for $300 per person, per day) than big ship vessels. But do the math: Windstar, and other small ship lines like Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Azamara, Oceania and Viking Oceans, can actually be quite a good value when compared to land-based properties because they’re more price inclusive. Look for deals that include cocktails, gratuities and shore excursions not to mention pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and, in some cases, airfare to the ships’ port of embarkation.
Just how cheap is it? Dirtbag backpackers can get by on less than $30 per day, easy. Dorms in La Paz, the sprawling capital, are as low as $5 a night. Lunches cost $3, and including rice, a main (usually meat), and soup. Buy some llama print sweaters to take home at $10 each, and spend $20 to cram onto a bus to the next city. A three-day tour in the damn Amazon jungle will set you back just $200 (bring a headlamp and expect to lounge in hammocks next to baby tarantulas).
A Chincoteague Island escape offers the chance to enjoy relaxing on this small, serene island off the Virginia coast that’s home to wild ponies, foxes and more than 320 species of birds. If you can be here on the last Wednesday of July, you can watch the wild horses swim across the channel during the annual Pony Swim. The Waterside Inn is an ideal place to base your stay, with cheap room rates and a family atmosphere. It hosts its own pier for fishing an crabbing, a marina and a seasonal outdoor heated pool that overlooks Chincoteague Channel.
What to do: Get there first thing in the morning because you’ll want to make the most of every second. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first: Muggles meet Dumbledore, join a Quidditch match, and encounter a Whomping Willow. Next, conquer the ultra-fast Dragon Challenge coaster and the tamer Flight of the Hippogriff; then go wand shopping at Ollivanders (if you're lucky, the wand will choose you).
What to do? Spend half your time on water attractions like The Count's Splash Castle, Big Bird's Rambling River and the Teeny Tiny Tidal Wave pool. Then dry off and do the rest: Climb Cookie Mountain, ride Flyin' Fish and Peek-a-Bug (in Elmo's World) and explore Sesame Neighborhood (for character greetings and hands on fun) via the brand new Oscar’s Wacky Taxi. End the day by rocking out at the Neighborhood Street Party Parade.
What to do: Visit Panda Trek first or last in the day, when crowds are lightest, to see the zoo’s black and white superstars, as well as red pandas. Don’t miss: Elephant Odyssey, where the pachyderms often have pool parties; and Northern Frontier, to watch polar bears swimming underwater and see playful arctic foxes. Also noteworthy is the Africa Rocks exhibit (baboons, leopards, blue-eyed lemurs, etc.) that opened in 2017.
What to do? Strike a pose in the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (affectionately known as the Bean). It's like a giant fun house mirror. Splash around in the cheeky, animated Crown Fountain, which literally makes faces at you. Join one of the free activities (family yoga, anyone?) on the big lawn or rent bikes from Bike and Roll Chicago or Divvy Bikes Millennium Park to ride to nearby Navy Pier.
Chosen By: Emily McNutt, associate editor at The Points Guy, where she is responsible for reporting on travel news across a range of topics — from aviation to loyalty programs, general travel news and credit cards. At TPG, McNutt is not only an expert in the travel and points and miles space in the newsroom, but also puts that expertise to work by reviewing aircraft products for the site. With a lifelong passion for travel, McNutt has visited more than 40 countries.
You’ll find savings and a favorable exchange rate in Mexico this summer — Squaremouth reports the average cost of a Mexico summer vacation as the lowest cost of international destinations. Skip out on party-centric Cabo San Lucas and head to “the other Cabo,” San Jose del Cabo, instead. Low airfare to Cabo stands out this season; the average cost of a round-trip flight to/from Los Angeles is around $300 and $500 to/from New York City.
Nighttime is perfect for The Island in Pigeon Forge, an entertainment hub with lighted water shows. Pleasant evenings also draw families to the area’s multiple mini-golf courses, including one in nearby Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg is also home to a surprisingly wonderful aquarium given its mountain location; penguins typically steal the show at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
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.
Why you’ll love it: If you think Houston is only a business city, you’re in for a surprise when you visit with your family. Start your visit at Discovery Green, an urban park designed for kids, with everything from $5 kayak rides on gentle Kinder Lake to special toddler play-group hours. The Children’s Museum of Houston is one of the best in the country, with indoor and outdoor spaces where they can have hands-on fun.
Using a website like Hotels.com or TripAdvisor, set your minimum guest rating level high (start with four stars and above) and be open to hotels at any star rating. Once you’ve eliminated all but the highest-reviewed hotels, sort by price from low to high. As long as the hotels on the list have a reasonable number of reviews – around 100 or more – it’s a fair bet that the hotel makes the best of whatever amenities they have.
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.

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.
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.
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

Surfers flock to the fantastically consistent waves of Playa Guiones, on the country's Pacific coast, but you don't need to be Laird Hamilton to experience Nosara's excellent surf. Safari Surf School caters to all levels, even those who've never been on a board, and the gentle white water makes it ideal for beginners. Packages include two lessons per day over six days, plus accommodations, most meals and all equipment.


A Chincoteague Island escape offers the chance to enjoy relaxing on this small, serene island off the Virginia coast that’s home to wild ponies, foxes and more than 320 species of birds. If you can be here on the last Wednesday of July, you can watch the wild horses swim across the channel during the annual Pony Swim. The Waterside Inn is an ideal place to base your stay, with cheap room rates and a family atmosphere. It hosts its own pier for fishing an crabbing, a marina and a seasonal outdoor heated pool that overlooks Chincoteague Channel.
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.
Yellowstone's geysers are sure to inspire young children and teenagers, while geothermic wonders like Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs will captivate visitors of all ages. Hotel rates are at their highest during the peak summer season, but you won't have to worry about shelling out a pretty penny for a room if you bring your own tent or RV. Read More »

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Why: As the gateway city to celebrated tourist destinations like the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Pompeii, Naples is finally getting its well-deserved time in the spotlight and intrepid travelers are flocking to the stunning southern city in droves. Naples is one of the oldest cities on the European continent and filled to the brim with intriguing cultural sights and monuments, from seaside castles and underground catacombs to show-stopping Baroque architecture and a plethora of contemporary art. It also boasts one of Italy's most cherished cuisines and is well-known as the birthplace of pizza, which you can enjoy for as little as €4 ($5), accompanied by views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius (free). Neapolitan pizza making has just been recognized by UNESCO as part of its Intangible World Heritage list, so now is a great time to visit and enjoy its effervescent energy and fabulous cuisine.

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