Where to stay: Housed in the historic former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore Inner Harbor (from $109) is a kid’s dream with 14 Bunk Bed Suites (not to mention the warm cookies we’ve had at check-in). The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel puts families right next to two other kid favorites, the fascinating fish-filled National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, starting at $134 a night. Don’t miss these top family travel destinations in every state.
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Budapest, Hungary: 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. Andrey Danilovich, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why you’ll love it: Known for its natural beauty, sustainability, and outdoor activities, Portland is a favorite option for affordable family vacations. It’s a great destination for teens who will enjoy biking around the city like a local or taking in the sites on the great public transportation system, including a cool funicular (and a pass is only $5). There are hip vintage spots and multiple food truck parks where they can try food from around the globe without high restaurant prices. Take in the views of the city and the 500 plant varieties at the International Rose Test Garden.


The internationally-renowned collections of the Smithsonian range from a 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton to the original “Star-Spangled Banner” to the space shuttle Discovery. The Einstein Planetarium at the Air and Space Museum offers a constant flow of illuminating, family-friendly entertainment. Any airplane buffs in your family? They’ll will be happy they made the trek to Dulles Airport for the Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It’s so enormous that the actual planes dangling from its ceiling look like toys.

Why you’ll love it: Sometimes the kids only want to go to Disneyland; never fear, we’ve found a way to visit Mickey without breaking the bank. The Disney experts at UnderCover Tourist offer discounted tickets and additional money-saving tips at their site as well as calendars about when to visit when it’s least crowded. And of course Disney magic is always a hit with kids of all ages.
What to do: Though the real space shuttles have flown their final missions, you can feel what it's like to rocket into the stratosphere on the Shuttle Launch Experience flight simulator. Take mission control tours, have lunch with an astronaut and even train with one in a family Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) program, preparing for g-forces and a mock journey to the International Space Station.
What to do? Ride the Blue Streak — a historic wooden roller coaster dating back to 1964. Or, opt for more modern thrills like the monstrous Millennium Force (rated one of the best steel coasters around), suspension coasters (your feet dangle from the floorless Raptor) and the maXair—one of the world’s biggest pendulum rides. Younger kids will find fun at Snoopie’s Space Race and the Kite Eating Tree.
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.
Looking for a flight on one of Europe's new set of long-haul low-cost carriers? Scroll through for a complete list of routes flown by those airlines (as of May 2018). Routes are organized by U.S. airport, with a list of each budget airline and its routes from that airport in parenthesis. Remember, some routes are seasonal. Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, special to USA TODAY
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.
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.

Branson has gained a name for itself as a quintessential family vacation destination. Nestled within the Ozarks in Missouri, this town offers a 19th-century themed amusement park, a water park and a life-size replica of the Titanic. What's more, activities like swimming in Table Rock Lake and touring the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery are free. Read More »
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