6 Family-Friendly Adventure Trips You Can Afford

Make lifelong memories together in thrilling destinations across the globe.

U.S. News & World Report

6 Family-Friendly Adventure Trips You Can Afford

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Composite of Belize, Yellowstone National Park and zip lining in a rain forest.
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Plan an exhilarating trip with the gang at a great price.

Imagine zip lining through cloud-covered rainforests in Costa Rica, visiting Mayan ruins in Belize or spotting wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. While each family's definition of adventure is different, it's hard to deny the appeal of embarking on an unforgettable journey and exploring captivating cultures, landscapes and wildlife together. But as any parent can attest, the trick to pulling off a successful trip is including activities that cater to every family member's interests. "Don't put them in over their heads," suggests Everett Potter, a columnist for USA Today and author of "Everett Potter's Travel Report," emphasizing the importance of factoring in your kids' preferences, ages and activity level to maximize comfort and allot for downtime. With that in mind, we pinpointed six epic adventures for families that won’t decimate your bank account.
Mother and daughter riding on horseback on beach.
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Costa Rica

For wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers and budding environmentalists, Costa Rica is an ideal vacation choice. The country has become immensely popular among families thanks to its excellent safety record and versatile landscapes, Potter explains. While one family member lies in a hammock, thrill-seekers can go sea kayaking or surfing, he adds. National Geographic Journeys, in partnership with G Adventures, offers a nine-day expedition (starting at $1,499) that begins in San José and takes travelers on an expert-led nature hike through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, where visitors can pick from horseback riding, canopy zip lining or visiting a butterfly garden. The next stop on the tour is Manuel Antonio National Park, where families can keep their eyes peeled for sloths, armadillos and monkeys or venture to nearby beaches for surfing and horseback riding, among other activities.
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Plan an exhilarating trip with the gang at a great price.

Imagine zip lining through cloud-covered rainforests in Costa Rica, visiting Mayan ruins in Belize or spotting wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. While each family's definition of adventure is different, it's hard to deny the appeal of embarking on an unforgettable journey and exploring captivating cultures, landscapes and wildlife together. But as any parent can attest, the trick to pulling off a successful trip is including activities that cater to every family member's interests. "Don't put them in over their heads," suggests Everett Potter, a columnist for USA Today and author of "Everett Potter's Travel Report," emphasizing the importance of factoring in your kids' preferences, ages and activity level to maximize comfort and allot for downtime. With that in mind, we pinpointed six epic adventures for families that won’t decimate your bank account.

Costa Rica

For wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers and budding environmentalists, Costa Rica is an ideal vacation choice. The country has become immensely popular among families thanks to its excellent safety record and versatile landscapes, Potter explains. While one family member lies in a hammock, thrill-seekers can go sea kayaking or surfing, he adds. National Geographic Journeys, in partnership with G Adventures, offers a nine-day expedition (starting at $1,499) that begins in San José and takes travelers on an expert-led nature hike through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, where visitors can pick from horseback riding, canopy zip lining or visiting a butterfly garden. The next stop on the tour is Manuel Antonio National Park, where families can keep their eyes peeled for sloths, armadillos and monkeys or venture to nearby beaches for surfing and horseback riding, among other activities.

Yellowstone National Park

With the rise of multigenerational travel and a growing demand for meaningful trips with immersive experiences, National Geographic has curated trips "with all generations in mind to create fulfilling experiences for grandparents and grandchildren alike," says Sadie McVicker, program director for National Geographic Society Expeditions. "It's an ideal way to spend fun, quality family time together," she says. And there's no better place to bond together beneath the stars or on a wildlife safari than at Yellowstone. On the eight-day Yellowstone and Grand Teton Family Expedition (starting at $4,650 for adults; $4,185 for children), travelers can search for bison, wolves, elk and bears and enjoy natural splendors like Old Faithful and bubbling hot springs, before checking out the mighty Tetons and getting their hearts racing with a thrilling white-water rafting expedition down the Snake River. Another more cost-effective option: camping. If you and the kiddos don't mind roughing it, campsite rates start at $20 a night at popular areas inside the park, such as Mammoth Hot Springs, located near the park's north entrance to the south of Gardiner, Montana.

Thailand

For families itching for a far-flung adventure in remote locales across Asia, it's hard to top a trip through Thailand's diverse and dramatic landscapes. And on G Adventures' Thailand Family Adventure (starting at $1,599 for adults and $1,499 for children), guests ages 5 and up can embark on a 12-day journey across Bangkok, Wat Po and Chiang Mai, where they can enjoy exploring more than 300 Buddhist temples. In Bangkok, visitors can join scenic longboat tours, then trek to Wa Po or check out the Grand Palace. In Chiang Mai, guests have the chance to learn Thai cooking techniques and explore must-see sites across the city. And best of all, visitors can cap off their trip along Koh Chang's scenic beaches. Meanwhile, National Geographic Journeys, in partnership with G Adventures, also offers a southern Thailand eight-day trip (starting at $1,349) that covers Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. Designed for visitors ages 13 and up, the trip includes a boat ride through bustling Bangkok, an expert-led tour through Ayutthaya Historic Park and a Thai cooking lesson as well as a traditional Khantoke meal at a local's home in Chiang Mai.

Appalachian Trail, Maine

If you want a mix of relaxing days spent fishing and action-packed days spent hiking and kayaking, consider retreating to the cluster of cottages along the Appalachian Trail in Maine, available through the Appalachian Mountain Club. Potter points to the Gorman Chairback Lodge & Cabins and the Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins as crowd-pleasing escapes. "These are sporting camps from the 19th century," he explains, highlighting that while they've been modernized to a certain extent, they still have a "roughing it" aspect and put you very close to the trail. Though prices vary according to the season, in March, you can book a communal bunkhouse at the Little Lyford for $96 a night that includes meals, or a private cabin for $118 per night. Besides hiking the Chairback Mountain Loop, you and your crew can hike Third Mountain to enjoy dramatic sunset views from Monument Cliff, picnic or kayak at Black Sand Beach or try your hand at fly fishing on Long Pond.

Belize

If your perfect adventure involves a mix of exploring sacred ruins, traipsing through remote villages and admiring magnificent coral reefs, Belize fits the bill. National Geographic Journeys, in partnership with G Adventures, offers a high-octane 10-day itinerary starting at $1,699 geared toward travelers craving a mix of adventure-driven and culture-rich activities. Tailored to guests ages 12 and up, the adrenaline-fueled trip offers the chance to participate in a Garifuna drum lesson and a look at time-honored traditions such as hand-forming pottery in the remote village of San Ignacio. Beyond enriching cultural experiences, manatee tours and snorkeling outings in Caye Caulker, trips to the Xunantunich ruins await visitors in Belize – making for an unforgettable family getaway.

Alaska by Land or Sea

"Cruising is always an affordable family option because many cruise lines allow kids to sail for free," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo.com, highlighting a recent promotion from Holland America Line offering ocean-view cabins (for $699) on seven-night Alaskan itineraries in April and May that allow the third and fourth guest to sail free. "It's still wave season, so book now for the best deals," he adds. And if you would rather explore on land, G Adventures offers a 15-day Highlights of Alaska expedition (starting at $3,499) for ages 12 and up that weaves through the Kenai Fjords National Park for glacier- and wildlife-viewing and includes guests' choice of rafting, nature hikes or flights in Denali National Park.
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Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

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