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.
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.

D.C. is WalletHub’s top destination for summer travel this year, and with average domestic airfare at $300 to DCA for the season, you can travel to the city cheaply from almost any U.S. city, with the least expensive month for airfare in September. If you live in the Northeast, look into Amtrak’s summer fare deals on the Acela Express (up to a 25% savings) or $1 bus fares between D.C. and New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. An abundance of free attractions — including all of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo — keep costs low without sacrificing fun.
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
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.
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.
Where to stay: Book a stateroom on the luxurious, all-inclusive Crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony, depending on your voyage. If you decide to extend your trip and check out Denali National Park where you can see Mt. McKinley, consider Motel Nord Haven/Aurora Denali Lodge. It’s the highest-rated Denali-area property on TripAdvisor and the staff have been known to help guests spot the Northern Lights!
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.)
Puebla: Once considered a nice day trip from Mexico City (it’s two hours away by car), Puebla is emerging as a primary destination in its own right. After all, it’s not a small village; Puebla is Mexico’s fourth-largest city, with some of the country’s best examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Additionally, at 7,200 feet above sea level, Puebla never gets too hot, and it’s considered one of the safest places in Mexico. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you’ll love it: Naples-area beaches are regularly ranked among the best in the world, landing on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for the Top 25 Beaches in the U.S. Families can learn to skimboard on Naples Beach; then take a stroll to the iconic Naples Pier, where fishermen hang their lines in hopes of a bite. For a peaceful beach scene, head to Tigertail Beach Park on Marco Island.
Chosen By: Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder and CEO of Ciao Bambino. After having her son, Amie searched extensively for credible resources to provide family-focused advice, direction and useful accommodation information. She quickly realized that there were no relevant resources available, particularly for a discerning traveler, so she decided to help solve this problem and started Ciao Bambino.
The summer is definitely the best time to take advantage of a Virginia Beach vacation package. The classic seaside vibe paired with a festive boardwalk and wooden roller coaster rides will please everyone on your trip. If you need a little more excitement, head for the East Coast’s version of Vegas. Our Atlantic City vacation packages will make you feel like you’ve made it to the big time. You may end up even saying “What happens in Atlantic City, stays in Atlantic City,” by the time you leave.
Affordable and wholesome Pigeon Forge is adjacent to American’s favorite national park, Great Smoky Mountains. Most known for the Dollywood theme park, Pigeon Forge now also gets rave reviews for its Titanic Museum, an interactive walk through the doomed cruise ship. Teens will like assuming the persona of a historic passenger, only to find out their fate after visiting the eye-popping captain’s bridge.

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.
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.
What to do: Climb the dunes, of course! But, don't expect kids to walk. Running (or rolling) down these majestic sand mountains is part of the fun. Cool off with a swim at Esch Road Beach where you'll find the pristine Lake Michigan water is brisk but refreshing. There's great kayaking and tubing on the warmer Platte River (gear up with Riverside Canoe Trips). Or, sign the kids up for their first freshwater surf lesson. Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak hosts daily lessons by the lighthouse.
Just how cheap is it? Poland’s economy is swinging upward, but the price of traveling here is still indulgently cheap compared to other EU countries (that could change, though, so don’t dally). In its bigger cities -- Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław -- you can get a centrally located, one bedroom Airbnb for $30 all to your lonesome. Polish food is notoriously cheap and filling, especially if you’re dining on pierogi and goulash in no-frills milk bars (cafeteria-like relics of Communist times). In Warsaw, you could ball out on craft cocktails at bijou bars (or just drink $1 Polish beers and vodka shots for that matter). Or treat yourself to a two Michelin star meal at Atelier Amaro, where the six-course meal is a reasonable $70.
Todos Santos: This surf town in Baja California Sur features world-class waves and lots of natural beauty — and it’s just far enough north of touristy Cabo San Lucas to offer respite from the crowds. Todos Santos is slowly being discovered, but its stone streets and uncrowded beaches have earned it the official Pueblo Magico designation. 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.
Mexico City: Despite a longstanding reputation as a dangerous city to visit, Mexico City is conspicuously absent from the State Department’s warning, and for good reason; the downtown core in particular is considered quite safe, and the city has numerous attractions for visitors — including street art, colorful markets and more than 150 museums. Getty Images
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 6/21/18 on jetblue.com/vacations for travel departing New York (JFK) between 9/17/18 and 9/20/18 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.
Tulum: As Playa del Carmen has been the site of some troubling violence of late, the coastal town of Tulum to the south may be a safer alternative at present. It is also less touristy than other resort towns on the Yucatan Peninsula, offering well-preserved ruins of the former Mayan city walls and other historic structures right in town. The State Department has explicitly stated there are no restrictions on travel to Tulum or to Chichen Itza, the magnificent archaeological site just an hour up the road. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Where to stay: Ocean Edge Resort offers plenty of family fun on a sprawling 429-acres. Highlights for families include kayaking, family basketball tournaments, outdoor movies, kite making, s’mores at the private beach bonfire, scavenger hunts, and even special toddler lawn games. Summer prices start at $275 for a one-bedroom villa with plenty of room to spread out and a kitchen where you can save money by making breakfasts and easy meals.
What to do: Sleep under the stars in the national park named for Theodore Roosevelt who once lived here. Let the kids’ imaginations run wild amidst these dramatic badlands (home to the Painted Canyon) and have a contest to see who can spot the most bison or elk. Laugh out loud at the prairie dog towns where the barking is audible and the little critters are as entertaining as they are mischievous. Just outside of the park, explore downtown Medora — an Old West cow town where horses are still a form of transportation.
Why you’ll love it: Kids of all ages will be impressed when they hear the more than 3,000 tons of water that crashes over the falls here every second. Here you can witness nature at its best, explore acres of pristine hiking trails and scenic terrain, immerse yourself in outdoor adventure. You can walk around Niagara Falls State Park (the oldest park in the country) for free, but experiencing the views of the thundering falls aboard the famous Maid of the Mist is what will be the most memorable way to take in the falls (including a soaked selfie). Or sign up for the Cave of the Winds tour, where you’ll find yourself deep in the Niagara Gorge and face to face with the crashing water of the falls.
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.
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
Make planning your next vacation hassle-free and fun. Our 100-page full-color vacation guide can help you plan every detail of your vacation, from where to stay, to where to eat and what to do. Our 2018 vacation guide takes you on a photographic journey through our destination with special sections including annual festivals and events, and area maps. You will also find listings for accommodations, attractions, dining, nature trails, golf, fishing and much more! Download a copy or request a FREE printed copy of our 2018 Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Vacation Guide.
“We decided to rent this cabin a week before 4th of July. It was our very first experience on TripAdvisor… The cabin is amazing. [It’s] very modern, clean, and full of any kind of supplies, from glasses to dishes, from a huge collection of music to a great collection of DVD, from towels to linens. EVERYTHING. Huge fire pit outside, amazing grill, summer shower to cool down. Amazing screened porch to spend the nights chatting with friends and laughing. ” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
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: Manaus in the north of Brazil is a short flight from Miami and provides multiple economical options in one. It is a top destination for adventure travel or a sedate wildlife and photography sojourn or a serious eco-tour. Although it's a city of 1 million inhabitants, Manaus is mainly famous as the gateway to the Amazon rain forest. Comfortable, modern hotels like the Caesar Business Hotel start at $63 year round. Aside from visits upriver in the rainforest, Manaus offers sites ranging from the local Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro and the fabled Renaissance-style Manaus Opera House/Amazon Theatre. For an up-close look at wildlife, including endangered species, there is a free, small zoo at the Hotel Tropical. A biologist heads up this state-certified rescue center that has elusive deep-rainforest species, from jaguars to the lovable 120-pound capybaras. The Bosque da Ciencia (Science Center) is a popular open-air wildlife park just outside the city of Manaus. Local species roam freely in front of strolling tourists. Day-trip options include short visits to the rain forest as well as the Presidente Figueiredo Waterfalls and Gruta do Refugio do Maroaga, a cave filled with marine life and bats. Traveling in the rainy season provides an even better value, and the weather is no hindrance to boating and spotting a wide array of tropical birds, pink dolphins and a feisty piranha or two.

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