Located on the southern edge of Lake Erie is chilled-out Sandusky. This place is home to the Cedar Point amusement park, which draws rollercoaster-crazy visitors each year. It’s mostly for the thrill-seekers, but there are also gentler options available for younger children. Alternatively, you can take jet skis out on the lake or enjoy a stroll with stunning views along the Sandusky Bay Pathway.
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.
Why you’ll love it: The largest alpine lake meets the biggest little city in the world in Reno Tahoe. This quirky city on the rise has incredible street murals, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Guinness Book of World Records Tallest Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall at the Whitney Peak Hotel. Summer is the time for festivals: Artown in July features musical performances, interactive workshops, and art exhibits; the Shakespeare Festival, at Lake Tahoe, puts on multiple traditional Shakespeare plays—including versions for kids; and then there’s the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off, the country’s best rib competition. Take a drive over to North Lake Tahoe to enjoy the sun, beach, and water sports.
Another affordable European destination for this summer is Budapest. Here, you’ll get two cities for the price of one — Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. With new routes from American Airlines launching this summer to/from Philadelphia, competition is driving airfare prices down. Average airfare from New York and Boston for the summer is under $700 round-trip; I also found deals under $600 round-trip from Chicago.

Budget tip: Reno Tahoe is an awesome place to be outside, so take advantage of free entry to the area’s great hiking and biking trails. Rent bikes for only $45/person/day, and ride along the Truckee River, starting in Reno and ending up at North Lake Tahoe. Stop for a picnic brought from town and enjoy it over great views of the Sierra Nevadas and the Lake.
When planning your family holiday, remember that one template will not fit all. A template that worked one year for one family may not work again the next: as families grow, so do their interests and abilities. Whether you are looking to travel with young infants or toddlers, high-energy elementary schoolers, angst-ridden teens, or an extended family group, the perfect family vacation is out there, just waiting for you to find it.
Just how cheap is it? Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is the girls’ getaway paradise you never knew existed, where full-body waxes run about $20 and the full-meal deal of manis, pedis, and haircuts are much cheaper (because Bulgarian women like looking on fleek). A three-course dinner plus vino also shouldn’t cost more than $20 (and the local cuisine here is known to be hearty). Despite its post-Communist exterior, Sofia is also incredibly modern, and you’ll be able to find international bites from tapas to sushi.
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.
Why you’ll love it: Located along North Carolina’s central shore, the Crystal Coast has been a favorite beach destination for generations and represents one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems in the world with 85 miles of sparkling beaches. Base yourself near Beaufort, a 300-year-old town filled with pirate lore (Blackbeard’s sunken flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, rests in its watery grave just miles offshore), and plan a trip to The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close look at what lives beneath the seas.
White-sand beaches run the length of the 96-acre Kamalame Cay private-island resort. If your kids aren't smitten with the place from the moment they hop off the private ferry from Andros, the fresh homemade cookies laid out each afternoon should do the trick. Villas are pricey, but a good choice for multigenerational stays. Alternatively, the all-inclusive Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros has 21 beachfront cottages.
Planning on taking an Arkansas vacation this year or just want to visit Hot Springs for a weekendgetaway? Our free vacation-planning guide provides valuable information about Hot Springs National Park as well as lodging and places to stay attractions and fun things to do, an events calendar and free discount coupons for Hot Springs hotels, restaurants, events, attractions and shops.
What to do: First, try to visit during the spring (usually mid-March through mid-April) for the city’s famous Cherry Blossom festival. The National Mall is where most of the action and colors are. Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, spend hours everywhere from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. There are also several art museums — ideal for older kids — and just a few blocks away, kids of all ages will have a blast at the International Spy Museum. Don’t forget to visit all the memorials too.
What to do? Get a look at Plymouth Rock, where colonists first set foot on American soil. You won’t believe how tiny it is. Costumed actors recreate what it was like on the crossing and in the settlement. As you roam through the 17th century village, you’ll encounter farmers, cooks, blacksmiths and other residents, and hear their stories about life in the New World. Meet actual Native Americans at the Wampanoag Homesite, and learn about their cooking, crafts and culture. Make sure to save time for a visit to the nearby Plimoth Grist Mill where you can see how they grind corn and even buy it to take home!
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
Charlotte’s Carowinds, a combination amusement park and waterpark, is a big hit with families. Weekdays offer shorter lines than weekends, and themed events are scheduled near year’s end. Young park-goers will discover mini-rides just for them, while teens will be thrilled with the likes of Intimidator and Fury 325. The park offers free water at multiple stations, but parents consistently recommend purchasing cups with free refills for the day. Count on $20 for parking, and budget extra for food, or consider at least one combo ticket, which includes food throughout the day.
Up in Tennessee, “Music City” is calling your name, and you can’t help but listen! This country music city feels like a small town—and its siren call resonates with those looking for simpler times and Johnny Cash cover bands. You can spend your Nashville vacation taking in performance after performance at the Grand Ole Opry, but leave time for the art collection at the Parthenon at Centennial Park.

The East Coast has it all: beautiful beaches, stunning vistas, historical importance, and some of the most famous cities in the world. First stop on your Eastern Seaboard getaway: the “Big Apple.” A trip to New York City means you get to see the sights that are talked about all over the world, like Lady Liberty, Broadway, and Central Park. If you want to delve into U.S. history, a Washington D.C. vacation filled with monuments, museums, and galleries is for you. Speaking of history, the American Revolution got its start in a city a few hours to the north. Your Boston vacation will bring you to one of the most popular spots on the East Coast. Indulge in some of the best clam chowder in the world, then walk back in time on the Freedom Trail, which hosts 16 sites that played a huge role in the founding of the nation.
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