Top Budget-Friendly Vacations for Families

Planning a vacation with kids can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little creativity and flexibility, you can plan an amazing family getaway without breaking the bank. From national park adventures to beach vacations and city explorations, here are 10 of the most affordable vacation ideas for families.

  1. National Park Road Trip
    One of the most budget-friendly vacation options is exploring the great outdoors at America’s national parks. With over 400 national park sites across the country, there are plenty of breathtaking natural wonders to discover. Pack up the car with camping gear or book affordable lodges inside the parks. Kids can go hiking, learn about nature and wildlife, and make lifelong family memories—all for just the cost of gas, food, and potentially modest entrance fees.
  2. Beach House Rental
    Book an affordable beach house through sites like Airbnb or Vrbo and you’ve got built-in entertainment in the sand and surf. Rather than paying premium rates for a cramped hotel room, an entire house provides plenty of space to spread out, plus kitchen facilities to prepare affordable meals. Many beach towns also offer free outdoor concerts, fireworks, playgrounds, and other low-cost activities.
  3. All-Inclusive Resort Deal
    While not as cheap as the other options, a well-priced all-inclusive resort package can be an incredible value for families if you find discounted rates and really take advantage of all the included amenities, activities, dining and drinks. You’ll pay one flat rate up front, with no surprise costs during your stay other than tips. Many all-inclusive resorts also offer kids clubs included so parents can enjoy some couple time.
  4. Major City Exploration
    World-class cities like New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco can actually be very affordable vacation options if you bypass the priciest hotels and attractions and get creative. Book economy Airbnb apartments, take public transit, visit free museums and parks, and grab affordable eats at food trucks and hole-in-the-wall ethnic eateries. Many cities offer affordable pricing for public transit and attraction passes.
  5. Canadian Cool
    Take advantage of the favorable exchange rate and head north to explore affordable cities like Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Toronto. With its multiculturalism, historic districts and outdoor lifestyle, Canada offers families an accessible international experience without the high sticker price (and need for passports!). Stay in budget hotels or home rentals and enjoy free activities like parks, playgrounds, and street festivals.
  6. Theme Park Packages
    Orlando’s Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and other theme parks can provide an unbeatable family experience—but also seriously inflate vacation costs. To make these vacations much more affordable, consider staying off-property at cheaper hotels, cooking some meals, and purchasing discounted multi-day passes. You can also visit during low seasons when crowds and rates are lower.
  7. Ranch or Lake Retreat
    For a more rustic and outdoorsy family trip, head to one of America’s many dude ranches, farms or lake resorts. These all-inclusive spreads allow kids to experience horseback riding, fishing, campfires and more, while offering simple accommodations and dining facilities. Many have programs to keep kids busy while parents enjoy alone time. Do your homework to find the best value per night.
  8. Cruising on a Budget
    Family cruises can provide exceptional value by including transportation, accommodations, activities and dining in one prepaid package. Cruise lines frequently offer deals and last-minute discounts, especially for off-peak sailings. Of course, extras like alcoholic drinks, shore excursions and gratuities can add up quickly, so keep an eye on costs during the cruise.
  9. Educational Tours
    Instead of just lazing around on vacation, why not have your kids experience enriching educational and cultural activities? Many companies offer affordable student tour packages that visit historic sites, museums