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.
Virginia’s Historic Triangle extends to nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, where innovative exhibits and educational experiences depict America’s first permanent English colony and guide visitors through the battlefield where American independence was won – advance 7-day passes are available, so you can return with the family to explore time and time again. Merchants Square, an 18th-century-style village, includes more than 40 shops and restaurants ranging from family-style to fine dining.
Soar through towering trees on a zip line, raft down a whitewater river, hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, and go camping on a Great Smoky Mountains Family Adventure. This park has an incredible variety of plant and animal life, so look for old-growth trees, salamanders, black bears (do not feed or approach them!), wild turkeys, and, for a short period each spring, fireflies that blink in unison. Take selfies at Cades Cove, a popular stop for visitors, where you’ll see historic homes and churches. Go in the spring to enjoy the butterflies and wildflowers, or in the fall, when the trees turn brilliant orange, gold and scarlet. 
Once you figure out when you want to go on vacation, budget out what a reasonable amount of money to save looks like for your family. The amount you’re able to put aside will determine where you go and how long you can stay. You may need to sell things and make temporary lifestyle sacrifices. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can save up cash quickly.
Does your family thrive on challenges? Multiple escape rooms now pepper Charlotte, and near the intersection of the city’s two interstates, you’ll find Escape Kings. This family-friendly attraction lets those over 10 years of age test their collective wits by escaping from Aztec Ruins and Kings Quest rooms. The puzzle clues are for all ages, and escape is neither too hard for kids nor too easy for adults. To avoid disappointed faces, pick up tickets for escape rooms, Segway tours and other family-friendly activities in advance.
The best family vacations become the stuff of legend, inspiring the stories you and your relatives repeat and reminisce over for years. That’s not to say mishaps don’t happen: National Lampoon has made five Vacation films based on that very pretense. The stakes can sometimes feel impossibly high to plan the perfect vacation that everyone will love. (And that’s without factoring in a budget.) Travel + Leisure’s writers and editors know how stressful planning family vacations can be, but also how stress-free they should be. With a discerning eye for value, multigenerational fun, and simplicity, they can help reduce the hassle and maximize the memories.
What to do: See Old Faithful, which shoots steam sky-high every 90 minutes, and then move on to the other geysers, stinky mud pots and multi-colored hot springs within walking distance (check out the flower-shaped Morning Glory Pool). Yellowstone is also a great place to spot wildlife: Bison, elk, bears, wolves and Bighorn sheep all hang out here. If you visit in the winter (when it’s easiest to spot wildlife) take the kids on their very first snowcoach tour. For summer fun, fly high at West Yellowstone’s Zipline Adventure Park.

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 ... since you’ll already be spending a decent amount on airfare. Once you’re in the Tanzania port city, you can take a 90-minute ferry for $35 to Zanzibar.
Why: Zanzibar may sound like an expensive, bougie honeymoon island, but take it from this solo affordable adventure traveler; it's more budget friendly than you think. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful. You can take the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar for only $35 ($50 if you want a VIP seat), but flights to and from there are usually less than $100. Yes, there are many luxury resorts like Tulia Zanzibar and Melia Zanzibar that you should definitely splurge on if you can. (Tulia has a jungle waterslide and pool floaties. Enough said.) But there are also budget options. In fact, I found an Airbnb called the Surf Escape that was only about $40 per night, right on the beach, and had on-site surf, paddleboard and wind-surfing lessons.

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?).
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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.

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.
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Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” Option. When using Priceline, you can enter the day you’d like to fly (or the day you’d like to stay at a hotel) and the price you’d like to spend. Priceline comes back with an offer of a flight or hotel, if there’s something available that meets your criteria. You find out the times of the flight and the star rating and general location of the hotel, but you won’t get to know the airline or specific hotel name until you book. Priceline claims that you can save 40% off published prices by using this method. Priceline also offers traditional booking services if you’d rather know exactly what you’re getting.
Jamaica is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches, Blue Mountains and vibrant culture, attracting loads of different types of visitors. Montego Bay is especially popular among families for the area's laid-back charm, relaxed beaches and calm waters, perfect for small children to play in. What's more, nightly hotel rates are affordable. (Getty Images)
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 your bearings on the free park shuttle around Yosemite Valley — home to famous sights like the Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls; hopping on and off as you please. Feeling adventurous? Set aside a half day to hike the Mist Trail alongside majestic Vernal Falls, climbing 600 granite steps to the top. (Pack a waterproof poncho because you will get wet!) To ride the whitewater, go tubing with Zephyr Whitewater.
What to do: Take it slow and make lots of stops — whether you conquer the whole thing (should take about four days) or just tackle small portions. Kids will be wowed by the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (ride the wooden coaster!); Monterey (go kayaking and see the Aquarium); Carmel's Pt. Lobos State Natural Reserve (otters, seal lions and whales hang here); Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (great hiking and camping); Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, and the elephant seals on the beach just north of it.

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