Best Cheap Family Vacations
Finding a destination that has multigenerational appeal and dining and hotel options that can accommodate groups can be difficult. Finding a vacation spot that won't destroy your wallet can be even tougher. Based on traveler feedback, editor analysis and factors like sights and accessibility, U.S. News compiled a list of the best cheap family vacations so you won't have to break the bank to take the kids on a fun trip this year. Use these rankings to start devising travel plans, and vote for your favorite affordable family vacation destinations below.
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Yellowstone's geysers are sure to inspire young children and teenagers, while geothermic wonders like Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs will captivate visitors of all ages. Families can also participate in free ranger programs like wildlife workshops and narrated boat tours. Hotel rates are at their highest during the peak summer season, but you won't have to worry about shelling out a pretty penny for a room if you bring your own tent or recreational vehicle.
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Yosemite's numerous hiking trails, rushing waterfalls and towering sequoia trees are just a few reasons why this national park appeals to families looking for a fun, outdoorsy vacation. Summer is the busiest season, but if you plan a trip here in May or September, you'll still get great weather and won't have to deal with as many crowds. Camping is affordable, albeit popular, so you'll want to book in advance. Consider a road trip here and add stops at nearby Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks to your itinerary.
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Full of free museums, iconic monuments, outdoor spaces and distinct neighborhoods to explore, Washington offers something for every type of family. Checking out the Smithsonian museums and popular sights like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin are a must. For affordable eats, grab lunch at a food truck. Plus, families can explore the city by renting a bike, hopping on an electric scooter or taking the Metro. Spring, summer and fall are the best times to visit.
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The North Carolina coast's uncrowded beaches (which are free to visit) are its main draw, but families will also find historical sites, such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Meanwhile, budding pirates can hit the high seas with Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks. After an active day, families can stroll along the Duck boardwalk or go ghost crabbing. To save on lodging, book rooms or vacation rentals a few months in advance.
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One of the most awe-inspiring sights in the world is also one of the most affordable. For some of the most coveted views of the Grand Canyon, hike the Bright Angel Trail or the Rim Trail. The nearby affordable eateries are limited, so for additional cheap (and tasty) eats, head to Flagstaff, Arizona. Just be sure to reserve hotels and campsites months in advance; the area sees hordes of tourists every spring and summer.
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The beach's calm waters and ample room to sprawl out make this coastal South Carolina city a hit with adults and kids. With free beach access and excellent conditions, it's a family vacation paradise. Other family-friendly attractions here include amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses and an aquarium. Plus, the 350-acre Broadway at the Beach entertainment and shopping center hosts complimentary concerts during the summer. Sports enthusiasts will also love taking in a baseball game at Pelicans Ballpark.
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Parents and kids can enjoy an abundance of free and low-cost attractions during a San Diego vacation. Visit Balboa Park (where the world-famous San Diego Zoo is located), get a hands-on view of history at the USS Midway Museum or pick one of the many beaches to play in the sand. Book your hotel or resort a few months in advance to secure the best rates. Or, consider a vacation rental to save some additional money.
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Boasting everything from optimal fishing spots to sprawling beaches, Destin is a budget-friendly vacation spot ideal for family bonding. Aside from hanging on the beach, splashing in the water and building sandcastles, adults and children can take a fishing or boat tour, or stroll along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. What's more, lodging options in this vacation spot are much more affordable compared to other popular Florida beach towns.
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Travel to this city to catch a glimpse of its famous waterfalls. The region offers reasonably priced hotels and attractions, plus a favorable exchange rate makes visiting the Canadian side of Niagara Falls even more cost-effective for families. Skip the crowds and enjoy lower room rates and excellent weather if you visit in the late spring or early fall. The area also features plenty of superb hiking options for families who love the outdoors, including the Dufferin Islands and Niagara Glen.
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This Maryland beach town is the ideal family vacation for those looking to relax, soak up some sun and spend quality time together. The beach and several parks are free to access, plus the town hosts various festivals throughout the year. When the sun goes down, kids and parents can enjoy the entertainment along the boardwalk or play an affordable round of mini-golf. For accommodations that won't break the bank, stay in a vacation rental instead of a hotel.
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The Catskills#11 in Best Cheap Family Vacations
Families will find many ways to occupy their time while vacationing in the Catskills. In addition to offering farms with animals to feed, this spot in southeast New York features rock climbing, fishing and bumper boating in the summer and skiing and sledding in the winter. All-inclusive, family-oriented resorts are also available, but for extra savings, try roughing it at a local campground.
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Located just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this Tennessee town is all about soaking up the great outdoors while on vacation. The park doesn't charge admission, so you can get your fill of hiking, biking and historical exhibits free of charge. The quaint town hosts numerous free festivals, highlighting music, art and nature, throughout the year, too. To save some coin on accommodations, arrive in March, April or September.
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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. Plus, affordable family-friendly restaurants and cafes abound, offering everything from buffets to barbecue.
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A bustling city known for delicious deep-dish pizza and loaded hot dogs, Chicago will certainly appeal to kids who love food. Dining options aside, Chicago offers plenty of affordable cultural diversions, including architecture boat tours, museums highlighting science and art, and free parks. Make sure to take the kids to Wrigley Field for an unforgettable evening of baseball. Consider visiting in the spring or fall for the best deals on lodging.
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For most of the year, South Padre Island appeals to families with its array of affordable kid-friendly activities. Children can swim at the beaches, touch critters at the Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center and watch turtle feedings at Sea Turtle, Inc. The surrounding area is also ideal for bird-watching, so have the kids grab their binoculars and head to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. But remember, spring breakers arrive in droves every March.
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The Adirondacks beckon to families who love to spend time together outdoors. In the winter, families can enjoy skiing, snowshoeing and dog-sledding, while the warmer months offer opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing and whitewater rafting. If the family is into Olympic history and discounts, purchase the Olympic Sites Passport for access to Lake Placid's Olympic museums and sports complexes, plus discounts on numerous activities. When it comes to saving money on lodging, opt for a vacation rental.
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Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia offers all the history a family could ever want. Kids and adults can interact with historical townspeople and take one of several popular tours, which range from ghost walks to carriage rides. And with nearby Water Country USA and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the city appeals to all of the age groups in tow. The parks can get pricey, but combo tickets are available to cut costs. Plus, accommodations are cheap, especially in the fall, winter and early spring.
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It's easy to unwind on this South Carolina barrier island. Parents eager to hit the golf course can book packages through local resorts, and the wide, clean beaches don't cost a thing to enjoy. Families with aspiring naturalists will appreciate Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge's animal-filled hammocks, which are free to explore on foot or by bike. If you're looking for some free, fun evening entertainment, head to Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, which hosts live music and various events.
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Denver features free art festivals, concerts, museums, walking tours and more, making it an easy, cheap getaway for families. You'll also find ample affordable eateries dishing out everything from Italian food to classic American fare. The city's parks make for a great spot to relax or go for a stroll, while the Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals and kid-friendly amenities like a carousel, a 4D theater and a train that snakes through the complex. Travel here in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall for the best room rates.
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As temps fall in these north Texas cities, so do room rates. However, daytime temps rarely dip below the 50s, so families can take advantage of free outdoor activities (think: fishing and storytelling) year-round at the region's parks. Both Dallas and Forth Worth feature free museums that will pique kids' interest in art, as well as renowned zoos filled with diverse animal life. Adults and kids will also enjoy watching cattle drives and rodeos at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
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