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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.

In La Fortuna, at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, you'll find a variety of lodging options; many boast hot springs and natural pools on the property. Hotel Los Lagos offers villa rentals that can sleep up to nine and feature a full kitchen, dining room and volcano views. Arenal Kioro has spacious family suites with two queen beds and a daybed that can sleep a small child, as well as options for connecting or adjoining rooms and free cribs on request.
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.
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
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

Why you’ll love it: The New York Times named the Big Easy the best place to visit in 2018, and even though it may seem like a grown-up getaway, it’s actually the perfect spot for a family vacation. In addition to eating beignets around the clock and watching the free outdoor performances at Jackson Square, you can take a cruise on the Paddleboarder Creole Queen, watch for gators on the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours; get up close with nature at the Audubon Nature Institute (including the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium), the Aquarium, or the Zoo; and deep dive into history at the National WWII Museum, featuring a 4D cinema experience narrated by Tom Hanks. Plus there’s Carousel Gardens where you can enjoy more than a dozen rides for kids including a roller coaster and a historic carousel.
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.

Just how cheap is it? The aftershock of the debt crisis can still be felt at plenty of Greece’s tavernas, restaurants, and supermarkets (though not so much in touristy areas). On a popular island such as Mykonos, you’re likely to spend at least €25 or more on a lush evening meal -- but you can also get a bottle of godly nectar and cook at your Airbnb or hotel kitchenette for a sliver of that. On smaller, less touristy islands and in some parts of Athens you’ll feel less of a wallet pinch, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Teens who like golf will love hanging out at Topgolf. Fun music adds to the excitement of golfing with a variety of provided clubs on a three-level driving range. Servers keep the food and drinks coming, while you rack up the points and have a few laughs. Charlotte—a major metroplex—has no shortage of other family-friendly restaurants at all price points.
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.
How cheap is it? The UK saying “laters” to the EU may be bad news for Brits, but it’s proving to be great news for travelers. Brexit tied a brick to the already-sinking pound; overall it’s down 30 percent against the dollar since summer of 2014. Airfares, too, have dropped. And the UK is, for the next couple of years at least, formally in Europe -- so super cheap air and train fares that currently operate between the UK and the continent still run post-Brexit, pre-exit. You can be in Paris in 2.5 hours by train. Boom! Take that European trip you’ve been dreaming about since your student days, as it may never be cheaper.
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.

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.

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