10 Top Value Summer Vacations for Families

It's not too late to plan an affordable escape.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Top Value Summer Vacations for Families

Father and kids walking along tropical beach on Bahamas
Credit

(Getty Images)

Plan a fun and frugal family getaway in these budget-friendly locales.

Procrastinate on making summer travel plans? Happily, there are plenty of value vacations still available. World events, diverse climates and conventions impact demand and summer travel prices daily. And luckily, it's easy to stay on budget and be a master family vacation planner with a little creativity and a few pro tricks for securing last-minute hotel deals and airfare steals. With that in mind, here are top cost-effective getaway ideas for a variety of family interests and vacation types.
Boy river rafting with family.
Credit

(Getty Images)

Organize a last-minute trip in the U.S. or South America.

If you want to plan a frugal family getaway, getting your kicks in the U.S. or South America should be high on your list. Epic Discovery at Vail, an adventure travel company, offers age-appropriate, guided adventures in Colorado. You can watch snow-capped peaks on a canopy tour, alpine coaster or inner tube. Mountain thrills come with the Ultimate Adventure Pass ($89) or Little Explorer Pass ($49). Can't resist Machu Picchu? Reputable adventure tour operators often offer last-minute discounts. Adventure travel outfitter O.A.R.S. is offering a $100 discount per person on river rafting expeditions in California. And if you reserve a Galapagos cruise by September with AdventureSmith Explorations, you can save 20 percent.
Next:

Plan a fun and frugal family getaway in these budget-friendly locales.

Procrastinate on making summer travel plans? Happily, there are plenty of value vacations still available. World events, diverse climates and conventions impact demand and summer travel prices daily. And luckily, it's easy to stay on budget and be a master family vacation planner with a little creativity and a few pro tricks for securing last-minute hotel deals and airfare steals. With that in mind, here are top cost-effective getaway ideas for a variety of family interests and vacation types.

Organize a last-minute trip in the U.S. or South America.

If you want to plan a frugal family getaway, getting your kicks in the U.S. or South America should be high on your list. Epic Discovery at Vail, an adventure travel company, offers age-appropriate, guided adventures in Colorado. You can watch snow-capped peaks on a canopy tour, alpine coaster or inner tube. Mountain thrills come with the Ultimate Adventure Pass ($89) or Little Explorer Pass ($49). Can't resist Machu Picchu? Reputable adventure tour operators often offer last-minute discounts. Adventure travel outfitter O.A.R.S. is offering a $100 discount per person on river rafting expeditions in California. And if you reserve a Galapagos cruise by September with AdventureSmith Explorations, you can save 20 percent.

Enjoy a self-catered cruise.

Go houseboating among spectacular sandstone canyons on the Lake Powell reservoir in the Colorado River, which borders Arizona and Utah. Families can captain their ship while swimming, fishing or exploring diverse beaches. A minimum five-night stay on a houseboat (managed by Aramark) can help you save 30 percent on your trip and, for a limited time, $100 per day in fuel credits. After Aug. 22, you can enjoy 50 percent off your houseboat rental. Plus, skippers can also find bargains this summer on bareboat charters with the yacht charter company The Moorings; savings for Caribbean charters are also available through the charter company Sunsail.

Embrace the desert heat.

At this time of year, desert destinations are a bargain. On the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail in Texas' Big Bend National Park, all ages can spot prickly pear cacti before returning to the oasis at Dugout Wells. Alternatively, adventurous types can join hourlong stargazing tours at Rio Grande Village campground, where 100 rustic campsites for tents or RVs start at $10. If you would prefer to unwind at a resort pool, Arizona's luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale Princess offers poolside movies and weekend fireworks. The property's "Sip, Savor & Sand" package costs $179 and includes a $50 daily resort credit to spend on ice cream.

Steal away to a tropical resort.

Belize's Robert's Grove Beach Resort boasts a beach, three pools and babysitting services. In the summer, the nightly room rate (around $345) includes airport transfers and use of kayak and bikes – plus the fifth night is free and includes a complimentary "Snorkel with Nurse Sharks" excursion. If you and the gang prefer all-inclusive resorts, Karisma Hotels & Resorts, which features locations in Mexico and Jamaica, is offering a 43 percent "Suite Summer Savings" on select stays that includes dining and accommodations. Meanwhile, at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, the “Family Fun” package offers complimentary Wi-Fi access and breakfast (for two adults and two kids) for a three-night stay.

Plan an easy urban escape.

Urban explorers save by traveling on weekends, when rates at Omni Hotels are reduced by 15 percent and include breakfast. Across Cincinnati, for example, there are 6,500 events this summer, including fireworks, concerts and street dancing after each home game. Meanwhile, during Glier's Goettafest (Aug. 4-7) across the Roebling Bridge in Newport in northern Kentucky, the local sausage is celebrated with live music, rides, shows and contests. For a cost-effective stay, consider checking into Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Cincinnati. Nightly rates start at around $150, and the free hot breakfast will fuel your walk to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Seek out theme park deals.

To maximize savings, consider sleeping at hotels that partner with popular theme parks. For example, Burbank, California's Comfort Inn & Suites Near Universal – N. Hollywood offers complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi access, an outdoor pool and early admission to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood starting at $249 a night. Meanwhile, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, offers nightly rates starting at $165, plus 20 percent off spa treatments, with a promotion code. And many parks offer discounts for purchasing tickets in advance, too. At Six Flags, you can save $25 per person by buying online.

Explore a less-trodden park.

Instead of visiting popular national parks across the country to mark the National Park Service's centennial, consider visiting our neighbor to the north. Austin Adventures, an adventure travel company, offers family trips to the spectacular Canadian Rockies, where the U.S. dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar. Or, look for bargains in Death Valley National Park, which straddles California and Nevada. At the nearby Furnace Creek Resort, an oasis fed by natural spring waters, you'll have access to two large pools and plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, golf and hay wagon rides. What's more, families can get a free "National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass" with any two-night stay.

Organize a cheap road trip.

Instead of staying at crowded park lodges, go camping. According to GoRVing.com, traveling and sleeping in a motor home or travel trailer is up to 59 percent cheaper than comparable vacations by road or air. And road-tripping is even more of a bargain for frugal families thanks to low gas prices. Prefer your own tent or a furnished rustic cottage? Check out the 400-plus campgrounds run by Kampgrounds of America, which have pools, Wi-Fi connectivity, tents, RV sites and even outfitted cabins; their KOA Value Kard saves you 10 percent off every stay with discounts on groceries, fuel and more.

Check out free and affordable events at budget-friendly U.S. destinations.

On July 18, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida, will be seen from the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Port Canaveral and public beaches. And the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hotel is offering a promotion for KSC Visitor Complex tickets, so you can afford the "Fly with an Astronaut" program and explore the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. And in Oahu, Hawaii, you can enjoy free performances and hula lessons at the Royal Hawaiian Center mall. Plus, you can participate in native Hawaiian crafts and traditional games. Airbnb.com shows nightly rates for cottages on Oahu starting at around $160.

Hop across the pond.

With the British pound dropping to a 31-year low since the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union, Americans are changing vacation plans to fly across the pond. Long a family favorite for its lack of a language barrier, historical sites and free museums, London is on sale this summer. Celebrate the new Disney film adaptation of Roald Dahl's book “The BFG” or visit Harry Potter film locations. Right now, you can secure lower airfares as well as deals at hotels like the Premier Inn London Angel Islington in Greater London, where the nightly rate for a family room with free Wi-Fi costs roughly $185 in July.
1 of 11

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.