Where to eat and stay: For family eats, don’t miss Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream in the town of Carmel, home of The Big Ugly, a one-pound burger-eating challenge (eat the whole burger and you’ll get your picture framed on Bub’s infamous burger wall). Waddle back to your suite at the Residence Inn by Marriott – Carmel, Indiana, which includes full kitchens, complimentary hot breakfast buffet, indoor pool and outdoor SportCourt and BBQ patio starting at $115 per night.


Billed as the Waterpark Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells is an obvious choice for fun-seeking families. It’s hard to experience every single one of the great attractions and activities here (because there are so many!). Take your pick of indoor and outdoor adventures, such as Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Timber Falls Adventure Park, Circus World, Timbavati Wildlife Park…the list goes on and on.
What to do: Bring your passport, so you can view them from the Canadian and American sides; to visit both, just cross Rainbow Bridge. Board the Maid of the Mist boat from either shore to get right up to the raging water (they give you ponchos so you don't get drenched). By day you'll see rainbows; at night, the falls are dramatically lit, and there are fireworks too! If your kids aren’t afraid of heights, they’ll also love the bird’s eye view from Skylon Tower.
The vibe on the Florida Space Coast is, overall, beachy and relaxed, but a vacationer’s experience depends largely on the activity you choose. Of course, they don’t call it the “Space Coast” for nothing. The thrill of watching rockets launch from Cape Canaveral, whether up close or miles away, never gets old. In fact, launches still occur, with SpaceX rockets on the launch calendar for 2017. Kennedy Space Center reveals space-centric surprises, from the earliest days of space exploration to the exciting Shuttle Launch Experience and behind-the-gates tours.
Where to stay: If your pup is coming along on this iconic road trip, consider a pet-friendly boutique property like The Laurel Inn in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Breakfast is free, and so is afternoon lemonade and cookies! In Southern California, opt to stay within walking distance of Disneyland. The Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim is pet-friendly and has a pool.

Why you’ll love it: For families who love to explore museums and cultural sites, Atlanta is ideal. Middle schoolers will love seeing the massive whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium (the largest in the country), visiting the Heisman Trophy at the College Football Hall of Fame, and sampling soda to their heart’s content at World of Coca-Cola. Teens will also appreciate the more mature tone of the Center for Civil and Human rights as well. (Atlanta CityPASS offers a reduced price package that includes all of these must-visit spots.)
A family-friendly Costa Rica trip offers jungles filled with chattering birds, monkeys and other wildlife, black sand beaches, waterfalls, hot springs and much more. Let the kids look for endangered green macaws or snorkel and surf. Zip-lining and rafting experiences are also available, along with hiking through the canopy walkways in Montverde Cloud Forest. Drift down the canals at Tortuguero National Park, known as a nesting spot for green sea turtles, leatherbacks and Hawksbill turtles (you’ll need a guide to explore the beaches at night, when the females usually arrive to lay eggs). 
According to USA Today, the Better Business Bureau files well over 1,000 complaints in a single year from victims of “free” cruise scams. Other “too good to be true” deals may not be actual scams, but may require you to participate in a sales presentation, commonly for a time-share. Be alert, be skeptical, and be willing to put in the time to verify anything that doesn’t feel right.
The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, set among a virgin mangrove forest and lush tropical vegetation, offers the ultimate escape to paradise at a more affordable price. It includes lots of family-friendly features, like three large swimming pools and a free kids’ club with the chance to learn about Tobago’s green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles. A free shuttle will bring you to popular Pigeon Point beach, while the complimentary buffet breakfast offers lots of tasty hot items, including an omelet station. Rooms feature ocean view balconies and even marble baths, along with numerous dining and drinking options, including a piano bar and a coffee shop.
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.
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.
Hotel Tonight. While Hotel Tonight is an app that bypasses direct communication with travel companies, it can still be a great source for good, last-minute deals. Hotel Tonight takes advantage of hotel owners’ desire to fill empty rooms by enabling last-minute bookings at up to 70% off standard rates. It’s available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
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

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.

Your child may be on his or her way to being a master builder—or not—but either way, few Florida destinations are as child-friendly as Winter Haven. That’s because of the incredible LEGOLAND, where single- or multi-day passes are available to purchase. This child-centric haven is practically overflowing with Lego bricks. What’s more, every room is themed—from pirates to knights to adventurers.
Where to stay: One Ski Hill Place, a Rock Resort, is located right at the base of Peak 8 and offers multi-room suites that function like a private condo with full kitchens and living rooms, perfect for families to spread out, plus there are two indoor pools and a private two-lane bowling alley in the hotel, and free shuttle service to area restaurants.
Germany, France, New Zealand, The Bahamas and other countries have issued travel warnings about visiting the U.S., Frommer noted. The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, just changed its travel advisory system from one providing travel warnings and alerts to a sliding scale from Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel) to indicate the safety of travel to each country. Eleven countries are now at Level 4, including Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Travel Auctions. There are two kinds of travel auction sites. One allows you to enter your preferred travel dates, destination, and class of service (such as economy or business class), and travel companies compete to offer the lowest-priced trip that meets your criteria. Flightfox is one site that operates this way: It charges a per-trip fee, and while the exact price depends on the trip itself, you can expect to shell out around $30. The other type of travel auction operates the opposite way: Companies offer flights, hotels, or packages, and users can bid on the trips. When the auction closes, the top bid wins. SkyAuction.com operates using this model. It’s free to bid – though you should be aware that additional taxes and fees are unlikely to be included in your bid price, so you will end up paying more than your bid if you win.


Why you’ll love it: Travelers on the hunt for an upscale family vacation ideas filled with rich local culture at bargain prices should visit Panama, one of Latin America’s most thriving, cosmopolitan destinations—and with no currency exchange and easy direct flights from many major U.S. cities, traveling there is a breeze. Nearby natural areas offer the opportunity to see everything from swinging sloths to tiny tree frogs in their natural habitats.

Thailand has it all: good food, friendly people and a fascinating culture. Start a Thailand Family Holiday in Bangkok, where you can ride through the city’s famous canals and see the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  In Kanchanaburi, stop for the night where two rivers converge (they were featured in the film, Bridge on the River Kwai). Head north to Chiang Mai to visit a temple (you may hear Buddhist monks chanting at the end of the day). Kids will like the Northern Thai Doll Museum, where over 400 handmade dolls represent Thai culture and dress. Later, tour one of the biggest aquariums in Southeast Asia, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, and shop in Bangkok for everything from Jimmy Choo shoes to flower garlands and live crabs. 

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!
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.

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.
A family-friendly Costa Rica trip offers jungles filled with chattering birds, monkeys and other wildlife, black sand beaches, waterfalls, hot springs and much more. Let the kids look for endangered green macaws or snorkel and surf. Zip-lining and rafting experiences are also available, along with hiking through the canopy walkways in Montverde Cloud Forest. Drift down the canals at Tortuguero National Park, known as a nesting spot for green sea turtles, leatherbacks and Hawksbill turtles (you’ll need a guide to explore the beaches at night, when the females usually arrive to lay eggs). 
What to do: Bring your passport, so you can view them from the Canadian and American sides; to visit both, just cross Rainbow Bridge. Board the Maid of the Mist boat from either shore to get right up to the raging water (they give you ponchos so you don't get drenched). By day you'll see rainbows; at night, the falls are dramatically lit, and there are fireworks too! If your kids aren’t afraid of heights, they’ll also love the bird’s eye view from Skylon Tower.

Where to stay: A visit to a national park is the perfect time to fire up an RV (either your own or rented one) for a cheap family vacation. Harvest Hosts is a unique experiential company offering RVers the opportunity to stay at any of their over 600 host locations across the United States. For a single membership payment of $49 per year, you can stay at uncrowded, one-of-a-kind destinations such as farms and historical sites.
Larounis’ top tip: Know the next available flight to your destination. “All 180 people on your plane will try to get on the next flight. As soon as you know of a delay or cancellation, feed your info to an agent,” said Larounis. Sign up ahead of time for Expertflyer.com’s Pro Plan ($99 a year) and you’ll be told if a seat has opened up on one of the next flights. “Even if one seat opens, you can grab it,” Larounis said.
Locals refer to Long Beach as one giant playground, so families are certainly welcome here. And there’s one place you really can’t miss. More than 11,000 creatures await you at the Aquarium of the Pacific—you can even touch and feed some of them. Learn about all the animals of the ocean and the importance of conserving their environment. Long Beach also has lots of family-oriented places to eat and plenty of fun watery activities, including boat tours.

While hotel prices might be cheaper in underrated locales, you do need to be aware that flight prices might be more expensive – and possibly at less convenient times with more stops – if it’s not a common route. For example, an August flight from Minneapolis to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil might cost around $857, but a flight at the same time from Minneapolis to La Paz, Bolivia costs $1,177. The distance is nearly identical, though most flights to La Paz require at least two (and, in many cases, three) stops, whereas there are flights available from Minneapolis to Rio de Janeiro with only one stop.


Where to stay: The YMCA of the Rockies is one of the best-kept family vacation secrets in the country; you can get a fabulously clean and spacious 2-bedroom log cabin with mountain views starting at just $109 per night. And the sky’s the limit for activities for families here, including hikes into neighboring RMNP, horseback rides, archery, roller skating, and arts and crafts (some activities have a fee).
Germany, France, New Zealand, The Bahamas and other countries have issued travel warnings about visiting the U.S., Frommer noted. The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, just changed its travel advisory system from one providing travel warnings and alerts to a sliding scale from Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel) to indicate the safety of travel to each country. Eleven countries are now at Level 4, including Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Why you should go: The landlocked country has a rich indigenous culture (por ejemplo: you can buy dried llama fetuses from colorfully dressed mamitas in the markets of La Paz), and a stunning range of landscapes, from rust-colored desert where dinosaurs once trekked to lush pampas and jungles to the otherworldly expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, where the horizon disappears between ground and sky. Adventurous spirits can find some of the cheapest paragliding in the world in Cochabamba, while mountaineers can tackle the 21,000ft high Nevado Sajama. The rest of us can wander around charming cities like Sucre, or take in the mesmerizing sunsets of Lake Titicaca, as beautiful to behold as it is fun to say. - Laura Yan, Thrillist contributor
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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.

Couchsurfing hosts sometimes take great pride in serving as tour guides and cultural ambassadors for their visitors. The website features quotes from visitors, such as Sam, who said, “Nong showed me the sights and helped me search out the best street eats (insects included!) during my week in Bangkok. She also helped me with more practical matters, like getting my Myanmar visa and planning the next leg of my Thailand trip.”

Why: With so much to see in Namibia, Windhoek, the country’s capital, is just the jumping point. Best of all, the U.S. dollar is strong enough to make travel, accommodations and activities all relatively inexpensive in the country — even for some luxury experiences. Windhoek is cheap in itself and has plenty of see, between exploring the local scenes like at the Namibia Craft Centre and checking out the city's German influence like at the Christuskirche church. Five-star properties, such as the Hilton Windhoek and The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel can be booked for less than $150 per night, thanks in large part to the preferable exchange rate to Namibian dollars. But some of the best sights to see are located outside the city limits. Consider day or multi-day trips to get your outdoor fix and to see the stunning scenery and dunes that makes up the majority of the country. Tours, which often include meals, camping, activities and more, can be found for reasonable prices. If you’re more interested in seeing the beautiful country on your own, consider renting a car and driving to all of the sights. Entrance fees to national parks, such as the Etosha National Park, go for as little as $6 per day. Throughout the country, don’t anticipate spending a lot on food — you can find good, local dining for less than $10 per meal.
Couchsurfing connects would-be travelers with hosts around the world who are willing to offer up a modest amount of space in their homes (not always an actual couch, though that is certainly common). As a matter of policy, Couchsurfing does not allow hosts to charge visitors money. However, it is common for visitors to thank their hosts by reimbursing the cost of groceries, or perhaps buying a gift equivalent to the extent to which they cleaned out their hosts’s wine cabinet.
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.

Northern California also has many riches and wonders to offer. Nothing beats the morning mist swathing the Golden Gate Bridge during a San Francisco vacation. Be sure to hike at Batteries to Bluffs Trail and take in the expansive ocean views. If you’re craving sparkling pools, shimmering night skies, and majestic mountain scenery, instead of bay views, spending your vacations in Palm Springs is the way to go. Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven is the ultimate desert playground for people-watching and wandering through art galleries.
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