This unique and quiet village in Australia offers award-winning beach resorts and top-notch dining, plus it's an easy jumping-off point for daytrips to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest. Surprisingly inexpensive, Palm Cove offers the perfect combination of beautiful beaches and tropical weather along with hotel rates that start at less than $100 per night. (Getty Images)
Why: Slovenia is in the heart of Europe and borders the alps and the Mediterranean Coast. It’s a country that has a little bit of everything — mountains, beaches, pristine lakes, 11,000 karst caves, castles, a Pannonian Salt Plain, healthy water springs and city life in Ljubljana, European’s Green Capital. No wonder it’s been called the New Zealand of Europe. One of my favorite towns to visit is Piran, located on Slovenian’s Istria on the Adriatic Sea. Explore this coastal town — a little Venice — and savor a fresh seafood meal for under $10. It’s the perfect place to visit on foot. Meander through the alleyways and visit the market. Climb up to the city walls and to the top of the bell tower for spectacular views. Or rent a bike and cycle through the countryside. It’s an easy day trip from Ljubljana, but if you plan to stay the night, check into a luxury four-star hotel like Hotel Piran for just $80 a night. How to get around? Visit GoOpti for airport transfers as low as $9. If you want to carpool from Slovenia to Italy or Croatia, check their site for great deals. For example, you can carpool from Ljubljana to Venice for as low as $18. Round About Slovenia offers deals for tours around the country and even Croatia (how about a $45 half-day tour to Lake Bled?).
What are the best affordable family destinations? The biggest vacation cost is usually the airfare, so the closer to home you can find a destination that will please the whole family, the cheaper the trip. Take a look at our weekend getaways section which lists ideas from major U.S. cities, family vacations on the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, the South and Southwest. If you are on a budget, stay in a cabin or a campground in a national park, or look for cheap vacation rentals online that will let you stay for under $100 per night. If you have access to the kitchen, you can prepare some of your own meals which will save you a lot of money. For best value, look for destinations where you will have access to many free activities, whether that’s hiking along a scenic trail, outdoor pool, games, or a kids’ club. Take a look at our family packages section for some of the best packages hand-picked by our editors.
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.
An inexpensive way to visit the Caribbean can be aboard a cruise ship. The cruise industry is constantly coming up with bigger ships packed with activities for vacationers of all ages. You can cruise Bermuda and the Bahamas with Regent Seven Seas, take a Nickelodeon-themed family cruise or pick one of the many affordable itineraries offered by the Royal Caribbean.
Where to stay: The Millennium Hilton New York Downtown is as close as you can get to the World Trade Center site without being in it. There’s a pool, and the property offers several packages for saving money on longer stays and getting discounts on admission to area attractions. Another good value is The Wall Street Inn where Wi-Fi and breakfast is free (not common in NYC), and reviews are really good for a three-star hotel.
Just how cheap is it? If you get yourself to Isla Grande -- part of the Islas del Rosario just off the country’s north coast -- it’s a tropical paradise for as cheap as you care to make it. Although there are fancier resorts available, at eco-hotels such as La Cocotera, Las Palmeras, or El Hamaquero, you can sleep in a beachside hammock for just $10 a night. For $20, you’ll also get you three meals, including a freshly caught and grilled fish dinner. Or, pro tip: A local can bring you freshly caught lobsters on request from anywhere between $10 to $30 a day. Sneak into the upmarket Hotel Majagua and grab a piña colada for $5, or go to the inland village for cut-price cervezas. (If you want more privacy, lodging starts at around $30 per room, and goes up to between $90 to $250.)
* This is the largest savings for simultaneous booking of flight and hotel from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, and not the discount rate or amount for your booking. Savings calculated based on the cost of a Flight + Hotel booking on Travelocity.com as compared to the aggregated price of the full published fare given by the airline and the cost of your hotel for the same travel products for the same travel dates when made separately. Savings will vary based on the origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings are not available on all packages. Please confirm the actual discount rate/ price on the booking page.
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.
Huatulco: A beach town located in Oaxaca to the southwest of Puerto Escondido, Huatalco offers tons of water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, some nearby surf spots, and tours of coffee farms to boot. While Huatulco itself is considered one of the safest places in Mexico, the State Department is restricting travel along Highway 200 in the area (except to and from the airport), so you may not want to wander too far. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Book a comfortable family rental as your base for exploring the child-friendly delights of Bloomington. We recommend starting with Nickelodeon Universe—a fun-packed indoor park in the Mall of America—with everything from the tamest of rides to zip-lining adventures. If your children are on the younger side, this is a great place to spend a day. The Mall of America also provides all the shopping and eating opportunities you could hope for, plus adventure golf and an aquarium housing over 10,000 sea creatures—you can pre-book admission to meet them all.
With daily flights from many cities across North America, affordable hotels and resorts, and activities that range from scuba diving to horseback riding and caving, Belize has become a popular destination for tourists from around the world. You can find Belize accommodations for less than $100 per night, and fill your days with cheap food and outdoor fun. (Getty Images)
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
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TripAdvisor has named its 2018 Travelers' Choice award winners for world's best beaches. Here's a countdown of the top 25 in the USA and the World. No. 1 in the USA is Clearwater Beach, Fla. About a forty minute drive west of Tampa, Clearwater Beach dazzles with two and a half miles of sugar-white sand, crystal-clear waters and tranquil Gulf breezes. Perched on a barrier island, the beach offers calm, shallow water, making it an ideal playground for families. “GREAT white sand beach ... very long, so if you are a beach walker, you will be happy. There is nothing like FL white, silky, sand! I love it!” shared a TripAdvisor traveler. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Pier House 60 Marina Hotel, from $293 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $71 round-trip from ORD (Chicago) to TPA (Tampa) TripAdvisor
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.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains are considered the crown jewel of the state, home to the highest peak in the Northeast, and filled with pristine lakes and dense forest. By staying at the American Mountain Club’s rustic Highland Center lodge, you’ll have access to all types of activities, from guided scenic hikes to spots like the gorgeous Presidential peaks while learning about the area’s geology, nature and picking up some outdoor skills. You can also enjoy splashing around in the pools underneath Arethusa or Ripley Falls, and even rock climbing on the nearby Frankenstein Cliffs. The lodge itself serves hearty home-cooked meals to fuel those adventures, with all meals included in room rates.
It’s worth noting that if the original price isn’t always posted for these types of deals, so you may not know exactly how much you’re saving (or if you’re saving at all). And while Groupon does post the percent savings (and it’s often 50% off or even higher), some critics point out that the “original” prices for Groupon deals and other discount sites are occasionally inflated to make the deals look better.
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.
What to do: Start at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum — on Tuesday nights, starting at 5 p.m., admission is free. The museum’s exhibits are broken into three parts: before 9/11, during 9/11 and after 9/11. Because of the sensitive subject matter, the museum has a free downloadable guide for tips on visiting with children. Since the memorial is so close to Battery Park, ask the kids if they’d like to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. It’s a good way to see New York City from the water while learning about how most of us got here.
Akumal is a snorkeling and diving haven with numerous lagoons and natural parks. Mayans referred to this spot as the "Place of the Turtle" and today it draws droves of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures in their natural habitat. Like the rest of the Riviera Maya, Akumal features a slew of affordable hotels, motels and all-inclusive resorts. (Getty Images)
When is the best time to go? You will be less limited with a baby or a toddler because they don’t yet go to school, allowing you to plan a trip in September or early May when places are less crowded and room rates are lower. If you have older children that are in school, you will need to get away during their school holidays like spring break and summer. During the summer season, most beach destinations are quite crowded while cities tent to be emptier and a good choice as vacations for kids. If you have a teenager who is learning about the U.S. history, take her to Washington D.C. and spend a few days at the Smithsonian Museums.
Where to stay: Panama Jacks Resort Playa del Carmen is located on prime beachfront real estate (steps away from the shop-lined Fifth Avenue) and home to the Camp Jack kids club, so it gets our vote. Outside of town, Barcelo is the brand to look for with everything from its impressive Barcelo Maya Grand Resort (five family-friendly hotels in one) to its more intimate Allegro Playacar where babysitting is always available. Finally, if you want to overnight in Cozumel, Allegro Cozumel has a Pirate’s-themed water park on site.
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.
Why you’ll love it: This cosmopolitan Canadian city is just a 90-minute trip from 60 percent of the United States, so it’s easy to reach. Once you’re there, kids will have memorable time catching a baseball game right under the CN Tower (you should take a trip up to the top of the tower for the amazing views, too) and riding a moving sidewalk through a shark tank at the neighboring aquarium. Hop on a ferry to explore Toronto’s islands; one is an amusement park! There are also free beaches downtown to catch some summer rays.
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Albania: Summer is arguably the best time for a European vacation because of the great weather and easy accessibility, but popular cities are crowded and expensive. Check out Albania as an alternative to pricey Mediterranean destinations. While direct airline routes are hard to come by from the U.S., Tirana (the country’s main international airport) recently opened up routes with Wizz Air, and has affordable fares from London-area airports for under $200 round-trip. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you’ll love it: Sometimes the kids only want to go to Disneyland; never fear, we’ve found a way to visit Mickey without breaking the bank. The Disney experts at UnderCover Tourist offer discounted tickets and additional money-saving tips at their site as well as calendars about when to visit when it’s least crowded. And of course Disney magic is always a hit with kids of all ages.
Where to stay: HALCYON, a hotel in Cherry Creek, located in the charming walking-friendly neighborhood, has a rooftop pool, a free gear garage with bikes and longboards, and complimentary muffins and scones in the morning, plus snacks, coffee drinks, and even wine and beer for mom and dad from 4 to 9 p.m. at its “kitchen counter” check-in desk, from $179 a night. It’s also right around the corner from a Whole Foods and one of the city’s most-beloved burger spots, The Cherry Cricket. Be sure to check out these awesome spring break getaways for families too.
Just about every adventurous activity imaginable can be found in Costa Rica: kayaking, zip-lining and surfing, to name a few. Plus, there's the opportunity to see fascinating wildlife — monkeys, sloths, hundreds of bird species — right outside your door. Bonus: This exotic destination won't bust your budget. Zip-lining, mountain biking, whitewater rafting: that's just some of the GoPro-worthy action you'll find at Sky Adventures Arenal Park. Too extreme? Try the three-hour walk across hanging bridges high in the canopies, or glide 3,200 feet above the rainforest in the Sky Tram. Take a break from the hot Central American sun with a day pass to the water slides and pools at Baldi Hot Springs Hotel Resort & Spa.