Take those vacation days and get ready to stay at home! There are plenty of ways to be creative (and thrifty) without losing the fun factor. Plan out what nights of the week you want to take your family out to eat or explore downtown. And don’t forget to meal plan for the night’s you’ll be eating at home too. Try sprucing up your backyard and tossing some burgers on the grill!
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.
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.
Why: Encircled by massive stonewalls, this Adriatic gem is hard to resist. With its old-world charm, the city’s streets are paved with limestone giving it a cool feel during hot summer days. Its well-preserved homes and monuments range from baroque St. Blaise Church to renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace. It’s a perfect day excursion when island hopping along the Adriatic coast. Oh, and you won’t want to miss the stunning medieval fortresses, Lovrijenac and Bokar, which tower over Dubrovnik.
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.
Where to stay: The Anaheim Marriott is offering a can’t miss deal for families this summer: A double room, free shuttle to the park, and a $100 gift card to Disney for every night you stay for only $269. (Make sure you enter promotional code THM). Ask for a high floor facing the park (which is just a few blocks away) and you’ll be able to watch the nightly fireworks from your room, too. Here are 14 more ways to save on your next trip to the Magic Kingdom.
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.
Price/Availability: Price is per person, based on double occupancy, and includes hotel rates, hotel taxes, roundtrip airfare, and gov't taxes/fees applicable to airfare based on specified departure city. Price shown is sample price found 6/21/17 on jetblue.com/vacations for travel departing New York (JFK) between 9/24/18 and 9/27/18 and may not represent current savings. Package/price subject to availability; may change without notice; valid for new bookings only; capacity controlled; may not be available on all dates or with all flights; and may be restricted to certain hotel room categories.
Where to stay: The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon is only one mile from the popular South Rim entrance. You’ll love the luxury (it’s quite nice for a national park accommodation) and the kids will love the indoor pool. If staying at the bottom of the canyon is on your bucket list, or you want the kids to experience a time machine, check into a cabin at the historic Phantom Ranch.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: If you’re looking for an affordable but exotic beach getaway, check out Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast. Often overlooked by U.S. travelers, Nicaragua is only a three-hour flight from Atlanta and has a very favorable exchange rate ($1 USD to C$31 NIO). You’ll find San Juan del Sur about an hour-and-a-half drive from the main city of Managua. Getty Images/iStockphoto
What to do? Check the Magic Kingdom classics off your list first. Then, head to Disney's Animal Kingdom, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018. If there are any fans of the galaxy in the family, make sure to swing by Disney Springs to experience the all new Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. Finally, be among the first to check out the all new Toy Story Land, which opened summer 2018!
Why: It might be expensive to get to the Northern Territory of Australia, but the investment of money and time is worth it to experience this once-in-a-lifetime destination. The Northern Territory of Australia is best known for Australia’s most famous natural landscape, the dual World Heritage listed, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which spans 311,000 acres of wilderness. Australia’s spiritual center, Ayer’s Rock, is all lit up by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s immersive installation, “Field of Light Uluru.” The exhibition has been so popular since it launched in April 2016 that the artist has agreed to keep the installation open until December 31, 2020. Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia sustainably manages Ayers Rock Resort on behalf of the Indigenous Land Corporation, and all profits from the business go toward supporting indigenous training and employment across Australia. Safari in Australia? What's that you say, mate? The diverse geographic terrain of the Northern Territory allows for travelers to go from the Outback to the tropical Top End, which experiences some of the dramatic climatic extremes of any region in Australia. The coastal floodplains are Australia’s answer to the Okavango Delta and the Kakadu and Arnhem Land are the heartland of indigenous culture. Stay at Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park for as little as $78 a night, where you can save your money for the ultimate treat: a stay at the bucket list-worthy Bamurru Plains, a bush camp on the edge of the Kakadu National Park.
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.
San Antonio: Embrace the summer heat with an affordable summer vacation to Texas’ emerging city, San Antonio. Plenty of free attractions, including the Alamo, plus low costs for food and drink make it an affordable summer vacation. Round-trip airfare averages around $300 round-trip from both Los Angeles and New York City for the summer months. Sean Pavone, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why: The second largest city in Morocco, Fez has an enchanting souk, lively markets, fascinating leather tanneries (which you can sniff out before you see) and quaint cafes serving Moroccan mint tea and local pastries. Fez is also filled to the brim with palatial riads, Moroccan homes built around a central courtyard or garden, which feature cozy rooms and rooftop terraces where you can relax after a walk through the bustling labyrinth of alleyways right outside your front door. Prices for a double room in a riad can be as low as 550 dirhams ($60), while a tangine dinner is around 50 dirhams ($6). Step inside a medersa, a theological college, to marvel at the splendid architecture and tilework and get a scrub at a hammam for a fraction of the cost of a spa in the U.S.
Here is my favorite quote from the first section "In the next stage, blackout, you'll lose your sight entirely and finally, you'll pass our because of g-force-induced loss of consiousness. However, if the g-force increase is rapid, you might pass out before you notice anything is wrong. . . .Keep in mind that no all g-forces affect you in the same way. Force exerted from head to toe can be much more damaging than force exerted from the chest to the back. That's why your seatback is parralel to the ground during launch."
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.
Yelapa: Yelapa is “Mexico’s last authentic beach town,” says Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, “and is definitely under the radar. [Expect] great seafood, great beaches, nice hotels and none of the inflated prices.” Note that it’s in one of the State Department’s orange zones, while nearby Puerto Vallarta is exempted — so you’ll want to do a bit more research before choosing this part of Jalisco. Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.
Why you’ll love it: If you have baseball fans in the family, you’ll want to focus on Cooperstown, home to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where they honor some of America’s athletic heroes. You can also visit The Fenimore Art Museum, which boasts an extraordinary collection of American Indian and folk art, or step back in time at The Farmers’ Museum where American history comes to life with real-life experience on a working Farmstead. Then taste your way through over 40 specialty food products at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, including cider that’s been made for over 150 years in a water-powered mill.
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.
When planning your family holiday, remember that one template will not fit all. A template that worked one year for one family may not work again the next: as families grow, so do their interests and abilities. Whether you are looking to travel with young infants or toddlers, high-energy elementary schoolers, angst-ridden teens, or an extended family group, the perfect family vacation is out there, just waiting for you to find it.
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).
After a long winter, spring break tempts millions away from their homes in favor of sunny destinations and fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. Unfortunately, that mass exodus creates demand that drives up both flight and hotel prices. Even if you’re staying within the continental United States, expect to share a plane with spring breakers on the first leg of their international trips – and expect to pay accordingly.
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.
CheapCaribbean offers an All-Inclusive Sunscape Bavaro Beach Punta Cana 4-Night Flight and Hotel Vacation for two in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with prices starting from $1,060.06. That's the lowest price we could find for this package by at least $26. This price is based on departure from Miami, FL, (MIA) on November 26; other departure cities are available for an additional cost. Book this travel deal by December 13 for stays through December 22.
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.
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.
What to do? Hike! How else are you going to get close enough to touch an actual glacier? The Going-to-the-Sun Road (one of the most scenic in the world) is also fun to bike, but it's best ridden early or late in the season when car traffic is minimal. The popular, open-top Glacier Park red bus tours allow kids to see wildlife from a safe distance and you to photograph without worrying about pulling over and parking. If you want to get out on the park's many glacial lakes, rent canoes or kayaks or book a boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Co.
Where to stay: With its private beach, private farm (where the kids can learn how to milk cows and make corn tortillas) and resident monkeys and sloth, there’s no place on earth quite like Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge. Jicaro Island Ecolodge Granada is another unique property where you feel like you have the island to yourself — until the birds wake you up in the morning.
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.
Weekend getaways – leaving Friday and returning Sunday – are awfully convenient if you work a Monday through Friday job, but you can expect to pay handsomely. According to Expedia, which releases an annual Travel Trends White Paper, you’re likely to pay 20% less for a flight that departs on Thursday and returns on Monday than one that departs on Friday and returns Sunday.
Why you’ll love it: For tweens and teens, this getaway is a perfect fit; it’s 35 miles east of Los Angeles, but without all the traffic and commotion, so they can explore on their own without parents worrying. Claremont Village is home to over 150 shops and restaurants (don’t miss the I Like Pie Bakeshop or the frozen treats at 21 Choices) and where you’ll want to spend your evening. The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and Folk Music Center are local favorites to visit, and there are events going on every week throughout the summer.
Coastline beaches are going to be more expensive than beaches along the Gulf. The water might look a little different, but when you’re coming from a landlocked area, a beach is a beach. Staying in a two-bedroom beach condo in Miami could cost you upwards of $100 more per night in comparison to the same accommodations in Galveston, Texas. Plus, those beaches will have less expensive hotels and cheaper food and activities.
Why you’ll love it: The largest alpine lake meets the biggest little city in the world in Reno Tahoe. This quirky city on the rise has incredible street murals, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Guinness Book of World Records Tallest Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall at the Whitney Peak Hotel. Summer is the time for festivals: Artown in July features musical performances, interactive workshops, and art exhibits; the Shakespeare Festival, at Lake Tahoe, puts on multiple traditional Shakespeare plays—including versions for kids; and then there’s the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off, the country’s best rib competition. Take a drive over to North Lake Tahoe to enjoy the sun, beach, and water sports.
Family Vacation Ideas with Toddlers: When planning a trip with toddlers, remember a few key points: they have short attention spans, get tired quickly and need simple engaging activities such as pouring water or transferring beans. It will take a lot of effort to keep them happy on a long airplane trip, although with careful planning it can be done. They will probably want to sleep with you in an unfamiliar hotel room and may not like resort food all that much. On the other hand, having many new things to see and do will be exciting, as long as they are not tired or hungry. If you only have time for a long weekend getaway, pick a quick getaway that won’t require a lot of time to get to or having to deal with jet lag. If you have time for a longer vacation, consider destinations with nice beaches where your toddler will be able to run around, splash water and have a lot of fun.
What to do: Miami Beach has the most tropical beaches in the continental United States. Its warm waters are calmer than North Atlantic counterparts and less salty than the Pacific. As you drive to Miami Beach from Miami, you hit your first two must-see attractions. Indoors, there’s the internationally recognized Children’s Museum that shares an island with Jungle Island — an interactive zoological theme park. Beloved by celebrities just as much as kids, The Sugar Factory on Ocean Drive is also a mustl. It's the most Instagram-worthy restaurant in the world!
Why you’ll love it: Located along North Carolina’s central shore, the Crystal Coast has been a favorite beach destination for generations and represents one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems in the world with 85 miles of sparkling beaches. Base yourself near Beaufort, a 300-year-old town filled with pirate lore (Blackbeard’s sunken flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, rests in its watery grave just miles offshore), and plan a trip to The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close look at what lives beneath the seas.
Located on the southern edge of Lake Erie is chilled-out Sandusky. This place is home to the Cedar Point amusement park, which draws rollercoaster-crazy visitors each year. It’s mostly for the thrill-seekers, but there are also gentler options available for younger children. Alternatively, you can take jet skis out on the lake or enjoy a stroll with stunning views along the Sandusky Bay Pathway.
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.
If you’re located on the West Coast, this year is one of the most affordable times to head to Tahiti. Why? This May, French budget airline Frenchbee launched non-stop service from San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti (PPT). Searches for summer airfare yield results well under $1,000 round-trip, which is unheard of for this exotic destination. Travel in August to take advantage of fares under $750 round-trip. United will also fly directly to the South Pacific islands starting in October of this year, meaning prices will continue to be competitive through the fall.
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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.
Why you’ll love it: Ruminate on the Revolution on Beantown’s historic streets while following the (free) Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red-lined route that winds past 16 historically significant sites dating back to the American Revolution. Don’t miss taking a spin on the swan boats in the lake at the Boston Public Gardens in Boston Common, and plan a stop at the New England Aquarium and Museum of Science too.
Larounis also advised making a beeline to an airline club; if you don’t belong to one for your flight, buy a day pass. “When there’s a delay or cancellation, everyone rushes to the terminal agent’s customer service desk. But the airline clubs rarely have lines and they have the same capability—sometimes they’re more empowered than the agents downstairs and can bend the rules to get you on flights that look sold out.”
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.
Why: The Golden City of Jaisalmer is often overlooked by travelers because of its distance from Delhi (a 14-hour train ride), but it is absolutely worth a visit for its stunning architecture and magical atmosphere. Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer is made entirely of yellow sandstone and looks like an enormous sandcastle rising out of the desert. A visit to the Jaisalmer Fort costs 50 rupees ($0.80) and offers sweeping views of the city below; aesthetes will appreciate the intricately carved and painted havelis (homes). Don't miss stopping by the picturesque Gadisar Lake, dotted with beautiful temples, and taking a camel ride in the dessert.