What to do: Get there first thing in the morning because you’ll want to make the most of every second. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first: Muggles meet Dumbledore, join a Quidditch match, and encounter a Whomping Willow. Next, conquer the ultra-fast Dragon Challenge coaster and the tamer Flight of the Hippogriff; then go wand shopping at Ollivanders (if you're lucky, the wand will choose you).
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.
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.
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.

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.


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.

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

Weekend getaways – leaving Friday and returning Sunday – are awfully convenient if you work a Monday through Friday job, but you can expect to pay handsomely. According to Expedia, which releases an annual Travel Trends White Paper, you’re likely to pay 20% less for a flight that departs on Thursday and returns on Monday than one that departs on Friday and returns Sunday.


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.
For example, a writer for The New York Times searched for a long weekend getaway in Washington, D.C. and found a vacation package that looked like a tremendous deal. However, the hotel was 22 miles away from Washington. In other scenarios, the hotel might be fantastic, but your flight might have two stops and a 12-hour layover in Topeka. The bottom line is that it’s worth exploring package options, but be sure to scrutinize the individual components of the package to make sure you’re not compromising too much.
“I cannot speak highly enough of how well-organized this tour was. Everything matched up to the tour description and our tour guide Nick and driver Tony made the day absolutely fantastic. Nick was very informative about all landmarks and aspects of the DC area and was happy to answer all questions that came his way. Highly recommended to anyone looking to experience the monuments and history of DC!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
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.
Why you’ll love it: For tweens and teens, this getaway is a perfect fit; it’s 35 miles east of Los Angeles, but without all the traffic and commotion, so they can explore on their own without parents worrying. Claremont Village is home to over 150 shops and restaurants (don’t miss the I Like Pie Bakeshop or the frozen treats at 21 Choices) and where you’ll want to spend your evening. The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and Folk Music Center are local favorites to visit, and there are events going on every week throughout the summer.

Where to stay: Stay in comfort and convenience under the canopy of the Carolinian Forest in a Parks Canada oTENTik. An oTENIK is a cross between an A-frame cabin and prospector tent on a raised wooden floor for families or groups of up to six. It’s like the luxury “glamping” options springing up across the country, but you bring your own food and bedding, and prices start at just a little over U.S $100. These are the most popular travel destinations in Canada.
No. 9. Santa Monica Beach, Calif. This popular beach is a favorite among television and movie producers and has a great surrounding area with its world-famous Pacific Park seaside amusement park. Travelers can soak up the sun on the three mile coastline with mountain views and walking and biking paths. “It's a lovely beach: large and spacious with great views up and down the coast. The breeze from the Santa Ana Winds always feels good,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Ocean View Hotel, from $288 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $101 round-trip from DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) to LAX (Los Angeles) TripAdvisor
What to do: Since they’re open year-round, the indoor water parks can be enjoyed any month. Get a day pass for Noah's Ark water park (America's largest) and race each other down 2018’s newest ride, the Raja, which ends in the mouth of a king cobra. Or book one of the wet and wild resorts, like the African-themed Kalahari (the Sahara Sidewinders looping slides literally drop you through the roof) or Mt. Olympus (the Lost City of Atlantis water fortress has slides, geysers and monster dump buckets).
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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.

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.


Travel rewards credit cards are specifically designed to let a user earn points by making purchases and applying those points directly toward flights and hotels. Some travel rewards credit cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, are limited by affiliation with a specific travel company. If you’re not keen on sticking to one provider, there are others – including the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Visa Cards – that allow you to apply points toward a wider range of travel services. (FlexPerks is affiliated with 150 airlines, as well as many hotels, cruise lines, and rental car companies.)
Why: Made up of 15 islands and less than 100 square miles, the Cook Islands are everything you’d hope to find in the South Pacific — lush tropical beauty, vibrant reefs and a Polynesian vibe that is both traditional and modern. Its rich Maori culture is still very much intact and hospitality exudes through the friendly locals. Think: Hawaii half a century ago, but with 21st century conveniences like WiFi. Take your pick on where to stay — you’ll find reasonably-priced luxury alongside Airbnbs, beach shacks alongside boutiques, all with a rustic, island-chic appeal. The largest island, Rarotonga or “Raro,” is made up of rugged mountains, unspoiled beaches and the national capital of Avarua, where you’ll find boutique hotels, quaint shopping, rare pearls, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, coffee shops, a distillery that makes banana vodka by coffee pot and even a Friday night party bus. The island is easily accessible by bus and being only 20 miles in circumference, you can easily conquer the entire island in a day. Note to Type A travelers: Bus timetables are on, well, island time. Aitutaki Island to the north, is home to what many refer to as the world’s most beautiful lagoon, thanks to its crystal clear turquoise waters, coral reefs and sandy islets that allow for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. When visiting the Cook Islands, it's not to be missed.

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
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.
Begin your Peru Family Adventure in the historical center of Lima, once a Spanish colony, and show the kids around the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History, where tools, textiles and other Incan artifacts date back to 1,000 B.C. Next, fly to Puerto Maldonado, known as the gateway to the Amazon. Guides will take you via motorized canoes into the jungle and explain the medicinal plants and wildlife you’ll see. Later, you can look for llamas and alpacas in a small village, and shop for hand-knitted items and locally-crafted ceramics. The “lost city” of Machu Picchu, with some 200 ancient homes and temples, is the highlight of the trip. Return via Cuzco, if the family wants to zip-line, mountain bike or hike. 
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)
It’s official: Americans have the travel bug. According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Americans logged 1.7 billion “person trips” for the primary purpose of leisure in 2014. The USTA defines a person trip as “one person on a trip away from home overnight in paid accommodations, or on a day or overnight trip to places 50 miles or more [one way] away from home.” That works out to 5.33 leisure-focused trips for every single man, woman, cash-strapped college student, sulky teenager, wiggly child, and brand new baby in the country.
Bacalar: Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, says that Bacalar, also on the Yucatan Peninsula, is “an amazing place, kind of unknown and definitely uncrowded. This is one of my favorite secrets spots in Mexico; the lagoon there is unbelievable.” Called the Lake of Seven Colors, the lagoon stretches for 42 kilometers and is fed by underground rivers. Bacalar holds the official designation as a “Pueblo Magico,” or Magical Town, due in large part to the lagoon. In addition to being one of the safest places in Mexico, Bacalar is also very affordable. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why you should go: Prague is quintessentially European, an architecture junkie’s dream for its lofty spires, stuccoed high ceilings, and Art Nouveau quirks. Sure, it’s touristy -- just try fighting through the selfie sticks on Charles Bridge or not wincing in disgust at Kafka bastardized on T-shirts and coffee mugs -- but this is also a city with plenty of nooks and crannies to escape from the masses, from dimly lit bars, minuscule art galleries, or in some old world cafe.

Bacalar: Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, says that Bacalar, also on the Yucatan Peninsula, is “an amazing place, kind of unknown and definitely uncrowded. This is one of my favorite secrets spots in Mexico; the lagoon there is unbelievable.” Called the Lake of Seven Colors, the lagoon stretches for 42 kilometers and is fed by underground rivers. Bacalar holds the official designation as a “Pueblo Magico,” or Magical Town, due in large part to the lagoon. In addition to being one of the safest places in Mexico, Bacalar is also very affordable. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Attractions, Family, Kids (Amusements, aquarium, mini golf, museums, etc.) Nature, Sports & Outdoors (National park, hiking, horseback riding, trout fishing, whitewater rafting, skiing & snow, golf, shooting sports, etc.) Arts & Cultural (Crafts, demonstrations, music, winery, etc.) Entertainment & Special Events (Parades, exhibits, live shows, food, etc.) Shopping (Mountain crafts, galleries, candy, etc.) Dining (Casual, southern, ethnic cuisine, etc.) Weddings/Marriage (Chapels, ministers, flowers & photography, etc.) Transportation (Maps, driving tours, etc.)

Yellowstone's geysers are sure to inspire young children and teenagers, while geothermic wonders like Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs will captivate visitors of all ages. Hotel rates are at their highest during the peak summer season, but you won't have to worry about shelling out a pretty penny for a room if you bring your own tent or RV. Read More »
Take those vacation days and get ready to stay at home! There are plenty of ways to be creative (and thrifty) without losing the fun factor. Plan out what nights of the week you want to take your family out to eat or explore downtown. And don’t forget to meal plan for the night’s you’ll be eating at home too. Try sprucing up your backyard and tossing some burgers on the grill!
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What to do: Visit Panda Trek first or last in the day, when crowds are lightest, to see the zoo’s black and white superstars, as well as red pandas. Don’t miss: Elephant Odyssey, where the pachyderms often have pool parties; and Northern Frontier, to watch polar bears swimming underwater and see playful arctic foxes. Also noteworthy is the Africa Rocks exhibit (baboons, leopards, blue-eyed lemurs, etc.) that opened in 2017.
Although this Playa del Carmen hotel includes “liquor drips” with free tequila right in your hotel room, it’s not a destination for spring breakers as no parties are allowed in rooms, and no wild partying can happen on the property either. It does, however, offer a good time at a budget price, surrounded by tropical palms on a beautiful powdery white sand beach. The buffet restaurant serves up a wide variety of dishes, and there are also themed international restaurants and live cooking shows, included in the all-inclusive packages. Guests can also enjoy swimming in the freshwater pool set right next to the sea, and indulging in a variety of treatments and massage at the Renova Spa. Entertainment is offered daily and includes dancing, live music and shows.
Chosen By: Emily McNutt, associate editor at The Points Guy, where she is responsible for reporting on travel news across a range of topics — from aviation to loyalty programs, general travel news and credit cards. At TPG, McNutt is not only an expert in the travel and points and miles space in the newsroom, but also puts that expertise to work by reviewing aircraft products for the site. With a lifelong passion for travel, McNutt has visited more than 40 countries.
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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.
“America’s Finest City” is a prime spot for those stellar Pacific Ocean sunsets, and you’re just miles away from the Mexican border—the best authentic street tacos are on order here! Book a San Diego vacationthrough Travelocity and get ready for sandy beaches and bright sunny days. While you’re staying in SoCal, why not try out another famous city? Head north on I-5 and explore the storied realm Tinsel Town during a Los Angeles vacation. The glitzy storefronts and iconic Hollywood sign are sure to pique your interest in film editing, screenplays, and studio life. If you’re looking for something a little more family-friendly, “The Happiest Place on Earth” may be calling your name. That sweet, bubbly feeling you get when you book a Disneyland vacation package is the pixie dust beginning to work. All you need is faith, trust, and a suitcase big enough for souvenirs. 
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