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.
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No. 4. South Beach – Miami Beach, Fla. People watching is a great pastime in Miami's South Beach, which draws celebrities and models. Travelers love the wide, fine, white sand-covered beaches as well as the surrounding area, known for wild nightlife and excellent restaurants. “Direct access to the beach! The promenade is always full of people walking, biking and strolling with their dogs and families. Very clean and well-kept area,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Room Mate Lord Balfour, from $264 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $107 round-trip from LGA (New York) to MIA (Miami) wsfurlan, Getty Images/iStockphoto

There is another way that the practice of almost purchasing can pay off. You’ve probably already noticed that, after conducting a web search for a specific item, the advertisements on the Internet pages you visit are chock full of that very item. Those ads might annoy you, but they also might contain tailor-made discounts on the exact hotel, cruise, or vacation package you were looking for. It’s worth a second glance.

Branson has gained a name for itself as a quintessential family vacation destination. Nestled within the Ozarks in Missouri, this town offers a 19th-century themed amusement park, a water park and a life-size replica of the Titanic. What's more, activities like swimming in Table Rock Lake and touring the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery are free. Read More »
Los Cabos experienced a 23 percent increase in international tourism from 2016 to 2017, and for good reason. Not only is it inexpensive for tourists, but Los Cabos is chock full of stunning scenery and fun things to do. While basic hotels and dining are on the affordable side, you can save even more by skipping the all-inclusive resorts, buying groceries and fresh seafood rather than dining out. (Getty Images)
In 2014, CheapAir.com also analyzed nearly 2 million international trips covering 3,184 markets. International flights usually open for booking slightly less than a year in advance. CheapAir.com found that prices “stay fairly flat for a few months” after flights open for booking – but, of course, not all of us are ready to lock down travel plans nine months in advance. After the initial flat period, prices “start to creep up slowly, until about 90 days before departure when the pace of increase starts to accelerate.”
What to do: Watch your kids awaken their inner superheroes at the museum’s American Comic Book Heroes exhibit or walk their way through the world’s largest pop-up book in Reading Adventureland. For nostalgia, visit the Toy Halls of Fame and play your way through the history of video games at eGameRevolution. Expect to spend at least four hours at The Strong National Museum of Play.
Where to stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites has free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and fitness facilities that include a pool and exercise room. It’s conveniently located just minutes away from Bowling Green’s local attractions such as Lost River Cave, Beech Bend Raceway And Park, Mammoth Cave, and the National Corvette Museum nearby. Rates start at $105 per night. Find out tips to make an affordable family vacation happen.
Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
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.
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.
Where do we go on the East Coast? During the summer months, visit the scenic coast of Maine, stay at a family resort in Vermont, take a trip to New Hampshire, relax on the beach in Cape Cod and enjoy other family vacation spots. Visit the museums of New York, Boston and Philadelphia, dine a family-friendly restaurants, and watch outdoor theater performances with older children. In the winter, plan a ski trip that will let your kids learn how to downhill ski, cross-country ski or snowboards at a New England mountain resort such as Stowe, Killington or Sugarbush.
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

Family ski trips can be great fun and there are many unique destinations to choose from. In Canada, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort offers skiing on Blackcomb Mountain. Beginners and seasoned skiers alike can enroll in the Ski & Snowboard School which offers programs for kids. In British Columbia, Canada, The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside provides all-suite accommodations which have plenty of space. Colorado ski destinations include Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Beaver Creek, all offering exceptional skiing.
Why: Colombia isn’t usually thought of as a value destination, but due to the strong U.S. dollar, it has become one of the most compelling destinations in the world for those willing to venture off the beaten track. Travelers in the know are loving Barichara, one of the most beautiful small colonial villages in the Andes. Stay at Casa Barichara for under $200 a night and dine at El Carambolo, a quaint B&B rich with personality and the perfect fit for those searching for authentic, Colombian hospitality. Though not a typical tourist destination, Barichara is perfect for adventure travelers who enjoy activities like paragliding. A trip to Barichara can be paired with the town of Salamina, where travelers will find quirky architecture and a renowned coffee production, and/or the vibrant city of Medellin, which boasts music, museums, nightlife and friendly people.
Where to stay: The new Kimpton Hotel Born is located in the heart of downtown (a stone’s throw from Union Station) and has a fleet of complimentary bikes reserved for guests. Another great option is the highly rated (it’s 13th out of 161 Denver hotels on TripAdvisor) Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. It’s just one block from the 16th Street pedestrian-only mall and has an indoor pool.
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.
St. Augustine, FL: Strolling through St. Augustine, you will sometimes have a hard time believing that it belongs to the 21st century America. From the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos on the western shore of Matanzas Bay to the lavish historic Hotel Alcazar that today hosts the Lightner Museum of Victorian times, St. Augustine has retained the elegance and charm of its past and preserved its historic treasures with lots of love and care. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets of the Old City, St. George, Hypolita and Charlotte Streets, and have a cup of coffee in one of the many quaint shops. Visit the Ximenez-Fatio House built in 1798, an architectural gem that showcases the life of 19th century Florida. A visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and pristine beaches of Anastasia State Park will show you that some things are timeless and never change.
A Family Zion & Bryce Hiking adventure begins in Bryce Canyon National Park, where you’ll hike to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Staircase is actually a set of plateaus that lead to Lower Calf Creek Falls, where a green oasis has formed around the falling water. This is a great place to see Native American pictographs and granaries and learn about their culture. As you hike on to Zion National Park, you’ll see “hoodoos,” bright red, orange and white spires, some of which are over 200 feet tall. Legend says they were formed when ancient people behaved badly, drawing down a curse that turned them into stones. Take a refreshing dip in the Virgin River, and hike The Narrows, a stretch along the river considered one of the best hikes in the country. 
Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
Boston has it all—the culture, the fantastic city parks, and a relaxed pace you might not expect in a city of its size. Baseball fanatics, young and not so young, will love Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. You can take a guided tour, watch a game, and soak up some sporting history. Also check out the giant ocean tank at the New England Aquarium and board a Boston Duck Tour to be transported around this beautiful city on land and water.
The toughest part about being a pint-size tourist in Costa Rica is that many of the activities are often — literally — out of reach, with size, weight or age restrictions. Instead, peg your adventure to nature. Manuel Antonio National Park, which stretches from the Pacific coast up into the mountainous rainforest, is brimming with wildlife: Hundreds of species of mammals and birds live within its 1,700 acres. (If you don't spot a few white-headed capuchin monkeys, you aren't looking.) Visitor numbers are capped, so start early, and take the flat, easy main trail. Pack a swimsuit for this family vacation: Off the trail is the famous Playa Manuel Antonio, with warm blue waters and a crescent-shaped ivory-sand beach. (Note: The park is closed on Mondays.)

What to do? Immediately head to Siam Park — voted the best water park in Europe (it has nearly 25,000 reviews on TripAdvisor). Check out the water slide that travels through a shark tank or relax at the world’s biggest wave pool. Rent a car and drive across the island to paddle board, kayak and snorkel with Teno Activo at Los Gigantes (where coral reefs meet towering cliffs). Also, don’t forget to check out Loro Parque — voted best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor — and visit the volcano in Teide National Park. It’s Spain’s highest point and the third tallest volcano in the world!
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Why: Peru’s northern beaches are an excellent option for budget travel, and Trujillo is no exception. The vibrant coastal city is awash with warm-colored colonial façades dating back to its status as a colonial powerhouse, and it offers excellent cultural and adventure activities, as well as upscale restaurants that are surprisingly affordable ($10-15). Accommodations are also very inexpensive; for example, the four-star Costal del Sol Wyndham can run as low as $65. Trujillo is home to the former capital of the Chimú people, the behemoth archaeological site of Chan Chan. Its Spanish-influenced architecture and bohemianism were an inspiration for the illustrious author Cesar Vallejo, and it continues to keep traditions alive by hosting prestigious events such as the month-long Marinera Dance Festival. For some action under the sun, check out the famous beach Huanchaco, Latin America’s first designated world-surfing reserve. Watch wave chasers in their caballito de totora boats and cool off with a plate of fine ceviche at its birthplace. Trujillo flies under the radar for tourists who focus on Cusco and Machu Picchu, but with its rich heritage — in addition to year-round sunshine, delicious food, vibrant dance and beaches — you’ll have plenty to write home about.
Where to stay: The Coronado Beach Resort is located directly across the street from the iconic Del Coronado Hotel (where Some Like It Hot was filmed), and offers condo-style units with kitchenettes starting at just $159 a night (you’ll also have complimentary access to all the amenities at the Loew’s Resort, too.) San Diego is also one of the best ever spring break destinations.
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.

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)

If you’re looking to save money when going to Orlando’s amusement parks, look to travel in September during midweek and stay at a non-affiliated park hotel or one of the area’s campgrounds. Other money-saving tips for the parks include budgeting in a non-park day and instead relaxing at your hotel’s pool. If you’re a AAA member, you may also be entitled to hotel discounts and special packages with Universal Studios.
Denver: With mild weather and plenty of museums to explore, Denver is a family-friendly and affordable summer vacation this year. According to WalletHub’s Best Places to Visit in Summer, Denver ranks sixth, earning a spot for its low travel costs and minimal hassles. KAYAK’s 2018 Travel Hacker guide also lists median airfare to Denver under $250 round-trip from the U.S. and Canada for the summer months, and median hotel nightly rates around $150. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you’ll love it: Known as the base camp to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Estes Park is only 90 minutes from Denver International Airport, but has an authentic Colorado mountain village feeling with plenty of outdoor activities to fit any member of the family. Families can try hiking in the national park on their own, booking a mountain bike ride, learn fly-fishing, or try rafting experiences—to name a few. There’s also a number of unique festivals throughout the summer.

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.


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.
The toughest part about being a pint-size tourist in Costa Rica is that many of the activities are often — literally — out of reach, with size, weight or age restrictions. Instead, peg your adventure to nature. Manuel Antonio National Park, which stretches from the Pacific coast up into the mountainous rainforest, is brimming with wildlife: Hundreds of species of mammals and birds live within its 1,700 acres. (If you don't spot a few white-headed capuchin monkeys, you aren't looking.) Visitor numbers are capped, so start early, and take the flat, easy main trail. Pack a swimsuit for this family vacation: Off the trail is the famous Playa Manuel Antonio, with warm blue waters and a crescent-shaped ivory-sand beach. (Note: The park is closed on Mondays.)
Where to stay: Naples Grande Beach Resort features views of the Gulf surrounded by beautiful lawns, gardens, and reflecting pools, and they just unveiled 50 newly renovated villas, perfect for family getaways. Rates start at $179 a night for tower rooms, and the property offers a variety of free kids’ programming including balloon toss, tye dye time, watermelon eating contests, and more.
Why: A genuine bucket list trip for many, a visit to Australia and New Zealand can be super-pricey. Cities are spread out, way out, which means a lot of hopping on planes to get from one place to another. And for top level accommodations, not to mention simple daily necessities like a flat white, you’ll shell out big bucks. What’s good about a cruise itinerary that includes visits to both countries is that the big expenses are included in fares – onboard meals, accommodations, entertainment and transportation from place to place. On Oceania Cruises, which offers a New Zealand/Australia itinerary, for instance, the per diem is $350 a night, but you pretty much don’t have to whip out a credit card beyond that (do note that it’s priced at per-person, based on two sharing a cabin). Consider that in super-expensive cities like Auckland and Sydney, a hotel stay at a four-star place like the Hilton and Westin respectively will run you $350 or so. And that’s for the room only — you’ll pay out of pocket for food, entertainment and bars. One tip: Look for a cruise line that arranges its itineraries to spend maximum time in port, whether it’s long days or plenty of overnights, so you can have as much time to explore as possible. As well, you’re better off, in most cases, avoiding cruise-line shore excursions, which can be overpriced and epitomize group cattle travel, and engage a travel agency specialist in the region to plan private tours for your days in port. Bottom line, though, is when experiencing Australia and New Zealand by cruise ship, especially on your first visit to the region, the biggest plus is not just the convenience of unpacking once and keeping short-hop plane trips to a minimum. It’s also that, depending on the itinerary you choose, you can visit some pretty special somewhat off-the-grid places in between marquee stops at Auckland and Sydney. New Zealand’s Akaroa, Dunedin and Wellington, and Australia’s Eden, Burnie and Melbourne, might otherwise be missed — and shouldn’t be.
No. 2. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Fla. Just south of Sarasota, Siesta Beach on Siesta Key is renowned for its eight mile stretch of sugar-fine, quartz-white sand. It’s also a great spot for kids to collect seashells and sand dollars. “It is a very large beach that accommodates lots of people — it has lots of parking, picnic tables, BBQ, there is also a snack shop. It gets very crowded so timing is important,” added a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Tropical Beach Resorts, from $295 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $238 round-trip from EWR (Newark) to SRQ (Sarasota) aiisha5, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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. 


Chosen By: Patricia Stone, founder of Global Adventuress. She's traveled to 157 countries and seeks out unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations for solo travelers, girlfriends, couples and families. Her site has been featured in the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and was nominated by USA Today as a Top 20 Travel Destination site.
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