No. 5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Honolulu, Hawaii. Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular natural attractions. Travelers note that the beach is good for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and picnicking. According to a TripAdvisor user, “One of my favorite places to visit in Hawaii. I sincerely appreciate the staff’s every effort to preserve and respect marine/aquatic life. I would have given it a 5 star except for the very limited parking.” • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Park Shore Waikiki, from $186 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $416 round-trip from LAX (Los Angeles) to HNL (Honolulu) TripAdvisor
Why you’ll love it: The Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is located on one of the ten largest man-made lakes in the country, and it’s one of the top vacation destinations in the eastern United States. But, it’s still affordable, with elementary school-aged activities such as horseback riding ($18), miniature golf ($4), and a boating adventure to Cumberland Falls ($9), all within easy budget reach.
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
Where to stay: Panama Jacks Resort Playa del Carmen is located on prime beachfront real estate (steps away from the shop-lined Fifth Avenue) and home to the Camp Jack kids club, so it gets our vote. Outside of town, Barcelo is the brand to look for with everything from its impressive Barcelo Maya Grand Resort (five family-friendly hotels in one) to its more intimate Allegro Playacar where babysitting is always available. Finally, if you want to overnight in Cozumel, Allegro Cozumel has a Pirate’s-themed water park on site.
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: 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.
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.
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.
Huatulco: A beach town located in Oaxaca to the southwest of Puerto Escondido, Huatalco offers tons of water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, some nearby surf spots, and tours of coffee farms to boot. While Huatulco itself is considered one of the safest places in Mexico, the State Department is restricting travel along Highway 200 in the area (except to and from the airport), so you may not want to wander too far. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Coastline beaches are going to be more expensive than beaches along the Gulf. The water might look a little different, but when you’re coming from a landlocked area, a beach is a beach. Staying in a two-bedroom beach condo in Miami could cost you upwards of $100 more per night in comparison to the same accommodations in Galveston, Texas. Plus, those beaches will have less expensive hotels and cheaper food and activities.
Is Argentina on your bucket list? Now is an excellent time to book the 6-night Marvelous Argentina tour for $1,000 off the regular price of $2,499! This tour takes you to Buenos Aires and the incredible Iguazu Falls—with all flights and transportation, top-rated luxury hotels, English-speaking guides, and more included. This tour starts at $1,499,…