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5 Unexpected Last-Minute Family Spring Break Vacation Ideas

Steer away from the usual overcrowded spots and consider these affordable alternative getaways.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Unexpected Last-Minute Family Spring Break Vacation Ideas

Family running on sunny beach

From a stress-free all-inclusive vacation to a late-season skiing getaway, these outside-the-box trips appeal to a variety of ages and interests.(Getty Images)

If you haven't locked in your spring break travel plans, there's still time to plan a cost-effective family getaway in a unique locale. With one- or two-week school closings between March and May, there are ample opportunities to pull off a bargain-friendly holiday before the popular summer months. From alluring beach getaways to spring skiing destinations, here are five kid-approved vacation ideas to jumpstart your search.

Unconventional Beach Breaks

Florida practically invented spring break in the 1930s, when it was promoted as an ideal training ground for college athletes. Nowadays, enticing hotel deals are luring visitors of all ages. Clearwater, Florida, is holding its annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival from April 14 to 23, bringing world-class sand sculptors to compete, teach kids and mark the city's 100th anniversary. Take 20 percent off your stay and enjoy free breakfast at the Sandpearl Resort, where poolside movies, bikes and family yoga classes add to the fun. Or, for a little more activity, catch a Phillies flyball at Clearwater's Spectrum Stadium through April 2, or take spring trainers to the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. At Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa, you can book a one-bedroom suite with ballpark swag and breakfast for $799 by Mar. 31. Plus, at this Marriott outpost, you can support wildlife by purchasing a plush turtle toy, pampering yourself at their Si Spa or touring the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, where a percentage of sales contributes to conservation work.

Prefer a care-free family getaway at an all-inclusive resort? A variety of reputable third-party booking sites package cheap Caribbean vacations that are ideal for budget-conscious travelers, solo visitors, night owls and couples. The company allows you to sort your options using a "More for Less" filter to find deals such as four nights at an all-inclusive resort, two tickets for dinner and an evening show for $610 per person. Once purchased, you can take your pick from one of six Catalonia Hotels & Resorts, secure reasonably priced plane tickets and use your package within a year of purchase.

History-Driven Trips and Outdoor Adventures

If you and your crew are history buffs, plan a trip to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia, which will celebrate its grand opening from Mar. 23 to April 4, with programming devoted to each of the 13 colonies, including lectures by noted historians, fife and drum marches and cannon salutes at their recreated Continental Army encampment. After getting a history lesson, explore the Colonial National Historical Park and compact waterfront town of Yorktown. lists hotel deals and a rewards card for 10 to 20 percent discounts at restaurants, Segway tours and boat charters.

For a more action-packed trip, consider embarking on an organized family adventure abroad. Reputable outfitter O.A.R.S. runs river trips as far away as Peru, where this year's March adventures are 15 percent off and include two nights in Cusco at no extra charge. Meanwhile, REI Adventures leads family-friendly expeditions across the globe, from Thailand to top U.S. national parks. The outfitter's Yosemite Volunteer Vacation, for example, is available for $990, and includes a week of trail clearing and reforestation, the perfect itinerary for teens who don't mind getting their fingernails dirty.

Spring Break Cruises

This spring, book a Royal Caribbean cruise through Mar. 31 for travel on or after April 1, 2017, and receive 30 percent off on every ship. In addition, guests booking the New York-based Anthem of the Seas can take an extra $100 off per stateroom. What's more, Royal Caribbean, boldly following its family-market competitor Disney Cruise Line, has begun making flotation vests and lifeguards available at onboard pools – a safety measure that's a win for parents and grandparents.

Late-Season Skiing and Snow Sports

With record snowfall this year, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe will stay open through Memorial Day. The area has received more than 650 inches, and a variety of world-class ski and snowboard resorts are competing with excellent values as warmer temperatures and spring sunshine heat up the ski scene. Aspen Snowmass gives kids ages 7 to 12 a free lift ticket for every day's equipment rental from the on-site Four Mountain Sports. Also in Colorado, the teen-friendly mountain town of Breckenridge is offering 30 percent off lodging from the end of March through mid-April, and up to 40 percent if you book by Mar. 31 and visit by April 23. Closer to Denver, Keystone offers kids 12 and younger free lift tickets for booking a minimum two-night stay.

If you're planning a trip out West, allow time for snowmobiling and sightseeing in Yellowstone when you ski in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Enjoy this historic western town full of shops, galleries and the picturesque snow-capped Tetons on an unforgettable family getaway. What's more, by purchasing lift tickets online at least a week in advance, you can save up to 25 percent at any mountain resort in the area.

Interactive Space- and Film-Themed Museum Tours

In the Berkshires in Massachusetts, budding film enthusiasts will love the Animagic Museum of Animation. The free museum focuses on film animation, special effects and art and is open by appointment only, so plan an afternoon to explore the models and memorabilia associated with pioneer Douglas Trumbull. At the museum, you and the gang can learn about special effects for "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Matrix" or join a two-hour $20 workshop to create and animate a model, record it, add titles and upload it to YouTube. And if you're traveling with art aficionados, don't miss the region's many other great museums, including the contemporary MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, or the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

For an out-of-this-world family getaway, consider a spring staycation in space, something that the Intergalactic Travel Bureau is providing thanks to a new virtual reality app. You can watch the innovative educators at use NASA data and new mapping technology to preview potential vacation possibilities. Whether you're interested in stargazing from low Earth orbit, dune surfing in Mars' Mariner Valley or enjoying snow sports on the icy surface of Jupiter's moon, no one will have time to ask, "Are we there yet?" And that might just be the best spring break vacation ever.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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