It’s that time of the year again, and l know that planning a vacation for your family is stressful. You will have to balance out the potential budget, the things that you’re going to take with you, the free time that you’ll have, the trip itself, and most importantly the accommodation.
Finding the right hotel for my family has always caused me headaches. Basically, you have to suit everyone’s preferences and also find something that is reasonably priced. However, fulfilling your family’s wishes isn’t always possible and you will have to find a balance that will, in the end, make everyone happy.
I’ve tried to sum up some of the best places that I’ve visited in the past and that my friends have recommended to me. I’ve always trusted their judgment, and I firmly believe that you and your family will have a great time if you decide on one of the cheap family vacations from the list.
If you are looking for budget accommodation near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, then Wilderness at the Smokies Resort is definitely a place to go.
The design of this huge property is simply amazing. It offers so many child-related activities that your kids will want to stay there forever. They had fun playing laser tag. They also visited the arcade, indoor water park, zip-lines, and much more. You can also enjoy multiple restaurants and even the in-room dining.
However, if you want to experience all of it, you will have to pay for the so-called Adventure Pass, which costs less than $30. For some racing thrills, there is a NASCAR themed go-kart track that is safe for kids too.
When my husband had to visit Huston because of his job, he wanted us to tag along. At first, both kids and I weren’t too thrilled about staying in a city that is so fast-paced. Eventually, my husband talked us into joining him. We weren’t aware that he had an ace up his sleeve all along.
He took us straight to the La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa. It is located on Lake Conroe, only an hour away from Houston. We were thrilled by the quality of the service. They have an aqua park which the kids loved, a mini-golf and a regular golf course.
One night, when my husband finished his work, we sent the kids early to bed and just enjoyed the beautiful upscale restaurant. What’s more, all of that was affordable.
If you want a vacation that is loaded with history, then you should definitely visit Baltimore. You can take a walk alongside the charming Inner Harbor or take your kids to see a baseball game at Camden Yards. And what kid doesn’t love good old pirate tales? Make sure to take them to visit a proper pirate ship, called Fearless. They will love it.
The room at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore Inner Harbor was spacious and the service was simply amazing. The kids loved it at once because we got warm cookies at the check-in.
You shouldn’t go to Canada without visiting Montreal. I enjoy the scrumptious French cuisine. You will also be able to take some of the best photos on your vacation there. The view is just mesmerizing. Also, I won’t bet on it, but your kids will probably love the cobblestone streets.
Make sure to take them to the Biodome to see the penguins! Afterward, you can take them to La Ronde, which is a local amusement park. They also just hosted an International Fireworks Festival. Visiting Montreal will be a great thing for your budget simply because the Canadian dollar is weak against the U.S. currency. We stayed at the Westin Montreal and service was really great. The kids also loved the large glass-bottom pool.
A friend of mine is a single mom, and last year she decided to go on a vacation with her son Josh. In essence, she wanted something cozy that would be a perfect break from all the hard work that she does.
After some googling, she fell in love with the scenery of the South Lake Tahoe in California. I remember how enthusiastic she was when she told me about it. Finally, she decided to stay at the Postmarc Hotel & Spa Suites. She was amazed by the sheer beauty of the resort and the nature surrounding it. It offers a real rustic feel. It was everything she had wanted. I remember looking at the photos when she got back, and my, oh my. I’ve even talked with my husband that we should go on a romantic weekend there just by ourselves. The snow-covered slopes, the crystal-clear mountain lake — it just looks like a real fairytale scenery.
You will find the Cascade Lodge nestled in the quiet woods of Minnesota’s scenic North Shore. It’s perfect for adventurers and hikers as it offers many parks, trails, and beaches that are waiting to be discovered. You can go on a picnic with your family as the park pass is really inexpensive.
Once you’re done with exploring the trails in the Cascade Falls State Park, you might visit the charming little town of Grand Marais. Grand Marais is a small harbor filled with different shops that just perfectly go with the settings. Finally, if the beauty of Lake Superior hypnotizes you so much that you want to stay for a day or two, you can stay in one of the rustic cabins or the Cascade Lodge that dominates the area.
Everyone should visit the Niagara Falls at least once in their lifetime. Just to hear its roar is something otherworldly and magnificent. You will be able to tour the Niagara Falls State park without paying anything, but you will need to get a ticket to experience the famous Maid of the Mist.
Also, if you want to experience the power of the falls up close, you can try out the Cave of the Winds tour. Guides will lead you deep into the Niagara Gorge itself. We chose to stay at Sheraton at the Falls simply because it was affordable during the summer, and it is also very close to all the main attractions. Your kids will be able to enjoy an indoor pool that is the largest in the area. The service is splendid and the rooms are spacious and clean.
Sometimes my husband and I just leave the kids with our parents and go to enjoy the warm California sun by ourselves. One of our most recent choices was the Amanzi Hotel in Ventura. It is located less than half a mile from the Ventura Beach Pier. Aside from an amazing view and service, you will get free WiFi and breakfast. All rooms have mini fridges in them that you can stock up with snacks and beverages. However, if you decide to take your kids with you, you can take them for one day trip to the Channel Islands National Park. Maybe you’ll get lucky like us and see some whales during the vessel ride to the islands.
Even though Estes Park is only an hour and a half away from the Denver airport, it offers a secluded mountain village that can be your next perfect getaway. You can enhance the experience by taking part in lots of fun activities. You can take a hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park, try out a mountain bike ride, rafting, fly-fishing and many more.
Also, if you get a National Park Pass, you will be able to enjoy its beauties while driving your car. Recommended by many, the YMCA of the Rockies is one of the most beautiful cabin accommodations in the USA. It is affordable and you will get a cozy and charming cabin that has two bedrooms. That can really come in handy if you have many children. They also provide many activities that your kids will absolutely love, like horseback riding and archery. Don’t miss out on this one, especially if you’re in dire need of some fresh mountain air.
When considering exploring Southern California, then San Diego should be high up on your list. Whether you’ll make it a day trip or stay for the weekend, you will absolutely love everything that it has to offer. Sunbathe on one of the free beaches of Coronado Island, visit the incredible museums or take your kids to the fantastic zoo in Balboa Park. You will surely make a lot of sweet memories there, and your kids will be stunned by the diversity of fauna in the zoo. Also, I advise you to get the Balboa Park Explorer pass. It’s not expensive, and it will allow you to visit up to sixteen attractions for much less money.
However, if you decide to stay longer, then I definitely must mention the Coronado Beach resort. You will find it just across the street from the legendary Del Coronado Hotel. I love the movie Some Like it Hot, and that’s why this area is so special to me. As for the beach resort, they offer condo-style units with kitchenettes, but you will be able to access other amenities in the Loew’s resort. San Diego is a perfect getaway for the spring break.
If you wonder why the Dominican Republic is on my list, you must know that it is only an hour away by plane from Miami. It’s not that far at all, and you will be able to experience a real tropical paradise there.
Also, you will be able to choose between multiple all-inclusive options that would really go easy on your budget. They include huge pools, live music in the evening, activities for your kids and unlimited food and drinks.
If you book your stay via Travelocity, your kids will be able to stay and eat for free. Staying at The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, we were amazed by the luxury that it offered. Our kids even got mini bathrobes and full access to the special Kids Zone. It was a one of a kind experience.
My family just loves California. Yes, I know. The kids somehow always choose Southern California because even they know the location of Disneyland. But when we decide to take them there, usually once a year, we also try to save some money by finding an affordable yet great accommodation.
A few years back, we discovered the Comfort Inn & Suites. It is located on East Katella Avenue. One of the great things is that you will literally be able to take a walk to Disneyland. As a bonus, they offer free WiFi connection, breakfast, parking and every room has a small kitchen. That means that you can cook instead of dining in restaurants. That can save up a lot of money. Aside from the high-quality service, you can also enjoy the pool and the hot-tub outside.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, my husband travels for work a lot. On one occasion, we ended up with him in Minneapolis. The Sheraton hotel is simply remarkable. It offers free WiFi internet and a free shuttle to my husband’s work. Aside from that, it provides a well-equipped gym and a huge indoor pool.
One of its greatest assets is the vicinity of everything that defines Minneapolis. I’ve managed to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Walker Art Institute, and the breathtaking Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Just across the river in San Paul, I took my kids to the Como Zoo and they loved it. It was a really great and memorable visit to Minneapolis.
I know that Myrtle Beach is already a famous and often visited destination, but the Dunes Village Resort is so well-equipped that you may not want to leave at all. It offers top-notch accommodation that is accompanied by many great amenities. You will find a large seating area in each room alongside a kitchen where you can prepare meals for your loved ones.
And the view? Well, don’t even get me started on that. You will fall in love with the ocean once you get out to your balcony. There is a beach that follows the length of the property, and if you don’t like to swim in the ocean, you can always do it in indoor or outdoor pools.
Now, this is something that your kids will absolutely love! If you decide to stay in the Grand Harbor, you will get a free pass to the Huck Finn II Treehouse that is full of fun. It offers a large water area that is packed with pools, waterslides and hot tubs in which you and your husband can enjoy while the kids are playing.
Aside from that, the accommodation is clean, and the staff is courteous and helpful towards the guests. Once you’re tired of playing with your kids, you can always go for a walk along the Mississippi River and take photos of the amazing view.
Well, Vegas doesn’t sound like a family-oriented vacation, does it? Don’t be fooled — my family had a blast there. We were staying in the Orleans resort, and it is probably the best one for kids too. Even though the casino is their main attraction, you will find a lot of other fun activities. The Orleans offers an area for kids, the arcade, the bowling area, a large pool, and, of course, you can always make it a movie night. The rooms are comfortable, and you will really feel the true spirit of Vegas while you’re staying. I definitely recommend this one.
Cape Cod offers beautiful sandy beaches that mesmerize everyone. I fell in love with them at first sight. We went there when our kids were younger, and they just played in the sand for the whole afternoon, it was a blast. Bring your bikes with you and explore the Cape Cod Bike and Rail Trail. It’s 26 miles long and cars aren’t allowed there.
The Ocean Edge Resort is a comfortable place to stay. Above all, it’s just massive. We had chosen a spacious and bright one-bedroom villa that had its own kitchen. They also offer many fun activities like kayaking, outdoor movies, kite making, scavenger hunts. In the evening, you can enjoy a big bonfire on the beach.
If you are planning a big vacation for the whole family where you’ll just have fun and hang out together, then you should check out the Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri. Your kids will love it simply because it offers so many exciting activities. They will just enjoy the waterpark and indoor and outdoor pools that are filled with waterslides.
And what’s in it for you? Well, when you get tired of swimming and running around with your kids, you can all enjoy a wonderful resort restaurant together. Also, if you are looking for more privacy, you can always rent a condo and have one of the least expensive family vacation spots.
One of the other places that we usually stay at while we visit Las Vegas is the South Point Casino and Spa. We chose it simply because of the number of amenities that it offers, and that really suits my family. The rooms are large and comfy and it is at a perfect location.
You can have fun in the bowling alley and a large swimming pool. The best thing about it is that it is affordable, and still offers so much more than clean rooms and excellent service. I would definitely recommend this one, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
My mother-in-law visited the Candlewood Suites some time ago and she was delighted. She visited it for a few days in the summer season, and the coziness and the view have left her speechless. The rooms are spacious and the accommodation itself offers numerous amenities. It is perfect for you and your kids if you are planning a prolonged stay since it features the laundry facilities and outdoor grills.
The close vicinity of Hershey Park only makes it more attractive to visitors. You will have a lovely time if you choose to stay there.
Sagebrush Inn and Suites has a long history. You will also be thrilled by the amount of luxury that it offers for a certain price. It is quite affordable and worth checking out. Expect beautiful scenery, an outdoor pool a hot tub and many other amenities that will make your stay unforgettable.
Voted as the best place for kids to have fun in Taos, Children will have fun at Twirl, which is conveniently located just a few miles down the road with the free play and discovery space.
Best Western Edgewater Resort is at a breathtaking location on Lake Pend Oreille. When we’re on a tight budget but we also need to get away from work and the hectic city environment, we love to visit this place. It is located in the vicinity of the Sandpoint City Beach Park.
Aside from sunbathing or walking on a beautiful sandy beach, you will find many other fun things to do there. It incorporates multiple playgrounds, volleyball courts, picnic sites, and so on. In the afternoon, you can go for a hike on one of the hiking trails or immerse yourself in other lake activities. It’s worth mentioning that the hotel also features an indoor pool and a hot tub, and that the downtown Sandpoint is in the vicinity.
If you have a large family and you’re almost never able to fit in one room, then Comfort Inn will find a solution for you. Being in one room rather than in two adjoining ones is better, simply because it would be easier for you to keep an eye on the kids. They will love both the indoor and outdoor pools, especially since they are larger than most hotel pools that we’ve encountered. The breakfast is yummy and diverse, and the hotel itself is clean, roomy and bright.
It is also well-connected with nearby attractions like the Cedar Point.
You will discover Best Western Tunnel Road to be a well-furnished hotel with great view. This property comes at prices that are really affordable and that pays off especially if you have a large family. Basically, it will probably leave you with enough money for all the restaurants and entertainment nearby, so the fun will never have to stop.
The property itself incorporates nicely decorated and clean rooms, and hospitable staff that will always welcome you with a smile. As a bonus, it’ll only take a few minutes by car to get to the Asheville which still retains some of the old, southern charms. It’s a perfect weekend getaway, especially if you’re tight on budget.
If you wanted to visit the desert, then staying in Four Points in Tucson is a must. It’s within a mile’s range of the Sabino Canyon, Mount Lemmon, and Saguaro National Park. The night rates are decent and you will get really nice and clean rooms. Also, if it’s too hot outside, you and your family can just cool off in the outdoor swimming pool.
Our family really loves Florida, especially since we lived in Daytona Beach years ago. We still visit sometimes, and when we do, we usually stay at the Holiday Inn Resort. Its main asset, aside from the breathtaking view of the ocean, are the economical rates. It’s family-friendly, and your kids will love it. Apart from bright and comfy rooms, it has a heated pool so don’t be afraid to go out for a dip in the evening.
There is also one thing that I must mention when it comes to affordability. The resort has a policy that up to four kids that are younger than twelve can eat for free in their restaurant. Isn’t that amazing?
If you wanted to immerse yourself in a historical setting, then Homestead Resort is the perfect place to visit. It brings some of the old town charms and perfectly blends with the Midway scenery. The activities and amenities are also unique and will leave a deep impression on you and your family. For example, you can enjoy the hot water crater.
Also, if you happen to visit Midway in January, the ice castles should be on your list of things to see. The other activities in the resort include festivals, outdoor concerts, hiking, like skiing. You should definitely check out the Historic Heber Train Rides too. Once you get to the Homestead Resort, you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And because of its sheer beauty, you might wish to stay there indefinitely.
Albuquerque is famous because of the hot air balloons. Your kids will love the colorful skies. Also, if you are brave enough, you might go on a ride yourself. But your family will surely enjoy a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. It is the longest aerial tramway in North America. The view is absolutely stunning since you will be traveling to the 10,378 foot top of the Sandia Peak.
You can also visit the aquarium, botanical garden and zoo in the ABQ BioPark. Make sure to visit it during Summerfest that offers a series of events like free concerts, activities for children, food trucks and much more. We stayed in the Nativo Lodge that offers really inspiring rooms. Also, don’t be worried about the kids, they’ll have a pool in which they can swim.
If you’ve planned to visit the Islands, then you should definitely stop by Maui. It offers endless sandy beaches that capture the essence of Hawaii. Most of them are free and you will simply love the view, or do some snorkeling. Later, you can visit the dormant volcano that touches the clouds. It is located in the Haleakala National Park.
We were also quite satisfied with our accommodation at the Maui Sunset. The rates were reasonable, and the condos were incredibly comfortable. We were even able to use their kitchen to prepare meals and smoothies. It was a perfect Hawaii experience for us.
Friends of ours are RV enthusiasts. So once a year, they usually go out camping in the Yellowstone National park. They are enamored with nature there. There are so many great sites to visit like the Mammoth Springs, the Lamar Valley, Canyon village and the Old Faithful. The number of gushing waterfalls, clear springs, and diverse wildlife will make it a fairytale-like experience.
If you don’t have an RV, you can always rent one. Also, if you pay for the Harvest Hosts membership, you will be able to stay in over 600 RV host locations that are scattered across the USA. Don’t wait up and plan your first adventure to the Yellowstone National Park.
Whether it is summer or spring, choosing the right place where they’ll have fun and which you will enjoy too doesn’t have to be something exotic and luxurious. You can create pleasant memories and take loads of photos even if you don’t take them to see some popular European destination.
Going on a vacation is about spending time with your family. It should be more about the experience than the destination itself. I am sure that you will be able to find something that is both cost-effective and enjoyable. Using your imagination would be my ultimate advice. And why not, maybe even the kids can help you choose something perfect where everyone will be happy.
Now let’s see what else you can do to make a perfect budget vacation.
Why not try visiting the local attractions? You will still get a vacation-like experience but you won’t have to spend money on the travel itself. It is also a great way to reconnect with the area that you live in and your kids will get to know it better too.
Whether you have some historical sites or national parks that are worth the visit, make sure to do so. You can always stay at some of the local accommodation in order the get a real vacation feel. Also, if some of those accommodations have pools, your kids will be thrilled.
It’s also worth asking the hotels whether they offer some type of discounts for local guests. Finally, if none of the accommodations suit your needs, you can always go out camping for a few days and have fun.
Book Accommodation Directly Through Owners
I’ve realized throughout the years that too many people rely on hotels when vacationing. That is a bit unreasonable since hotels are usually quite expensive to stay at and some even don’t offer that many amenities, to begin with.
Instead of looking only for the hotels, google Airbnb, condominiums and vacation homes. Not only are their rates lower by half than in hotels but they also provide decent accommodation that you and your family will enjoy. Don’t be afraid to check them out — you will save some money and still have a great time.
Go For the Active Holiday
How many times have you gone on a vacation just to spend a lot of money on movies, going to a theater or a baseball game, or visiting a theme park? These activities don’t usually help create a bond between family members. You might consider doing something active that you will be able to do together and make great memories that way.
The next time you’re on your vacation, try to go hiking together or riding mountain bikes for example. If you are near the river or a lake, you should know that rafting can be a great deal of fun for your kids. I also advise you to check if there are zipline courses. Also, if your kids have a fear of heights then it might help them to overcome it.
Book Full Cheap Family Vacation Packages
At first, it may seem that it is cheaper to book travel and accommodation separately. Full packages offer many great family vacation deals that will actually save you money. Some of them are even on discount during certain periods of the year. All-inclusive resorts are ideal. Aside from choosing them through a travel agency, you might as well try to find some through your airline of choice.
I was able to book a great deal for Maui via US Airways. The hotel was simply amazing and I’ve also saved a lot of money for the actual vacation. It may be time-consuming, but make sure to always compare a full package deal with the cost of booking transport and accommodation separately.
Immerse Yourself in an Active Vacation by Working on a Farm
Have you ever thought about joining both fun and learning activities for your kids? With that in mind, working farms can be a perfect vacation destination. Your kids would be able to learn about farm life first hand by taking care of animals, helping with some chores and even learn the horseback riding! It can also be very cost-effective since you’ll be actually earning your stay by providing help.
The accommodation is usually very rustic and cozy. So if you’re looking for a perfect lodge or cabin experience, then you might check these out. The food is shared between the guests, and it is also a perfect way to make new friends from across the country. The only downside to it is that it is a seasonal activity.
If you are near San Antonio, Texas, you can visit the Flying L Guest Ranch that is located just outside of the town. It offers an immersive experience and besides horseback riding, it includes many other fun activities. Your kids can go swimming or have fun playing miniature golf.
On the other hand, Milford Pennsylvania hosts the famous Malibu Ranch. They sell weekend packages for the whole family. Even though they might look expensive at first, you should know that they include numerous attractions and activities aside from great food and comfy accommodation. Enjoy the guest rodeo, try out your skills at the shooting range or just relax and go fishing. Furthermore, if you want to immerse yourself in the ambient, you should definitely try cattle drives. At the end of the day, your family can always sit by the campfire and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Make sure to differentiate between dude ranches and boutique ones. The boutique ranches are much more expensive and you will also need to add the food and lodging expenses to the equation. Dude ranches are a cheap and effective way to give your kids a vacation that they will remember and learn and experience something entirely new along the way.
Find the Best Deal Through Club Stores
Now this may sound unusual, but many club stores like Costco actually offer vacation services that are mostly focused on attractions. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you would get a lower price, but you will get many services that aren’t included if you book your package directly, for example, through Disneyland. It will surely help you get a better deal, and above all, a better vacation experience.
Try Visiting Less Expensive Beaches
I know that a perfect vacation has to include the soft sand, warm sun, and the ever-blue ocean. Going to a beach is simply a wonderful stress-relieving experience that will create a lot of great memories. But we all know that visiting popular sunbathing destinations can be pricey and can ruin the overall experience just because you’ll have to save on food, accommodation, and other things.
However, there are many beaches across America that you can visit and that aren’t that expensive. Once you realize that the US has 88,633 miles of coastline, you will immediately start searching for your next perfect budget destination.
I would definitely recommend the Galveston, Texas or the Gulf of Alabama. The point is that you shouldn’t always think of Miami or Southern California when you want to take a walk on the sand. For example, San Mateo County is a great substitute for Orange County and they are both located in California.
You can also find amazing coastlines in Washington and Oregon. A beachfront hotel in Oregon is cheaper by a half in July than a hotel in San Diego. Visiting Oregon will literally save you a tremendous amount of money.
But accommodation that is less expensive isn’t the only bonus of beaches that are less-frequented. You will find that both the food and activities will come easier on your wallet. A good advice is always to ask around if you know someone who lives nearby, just to make sure not to fall into regular tourist traps and miss out on a better deal. They will also be able to give you some guidance on how to get the most authentic experience while you’re staying there.
However, if you live far away from any coastline, you might want to consider visiting lakes instead. Not only will you save a lot of money on expensive travel but the accommodation rates on lakes are usually much lower.
We once visited Lake Powell that is located in southern Utah. You will only need to pay a small fee to enter the area, but once you’re inside, the camping is free. Of course, we also had to spend some money to rent an RV, but if you already have one or are planning to buy one, then make sure to visit it. You won’t regret it.
I would also like to recommend Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, our close friends went there and had a great time. We visit Lake Havasu in Arizona almost every year since it’s close to where we live. The rates are low and nature is just amazing. Lake Tahoe in Nevada is also a great camping spot as well as the Finger Lakes area in New York.