40 Affordable Destinations for a Family Vacation
In a dream world, we could afford to take our families to Paris, Tokyo, and Disney World every single year. For most of us though, budgets dictate that we find more affordable family vacation destinations.
Thanks to a slew of free museums—all those Smithsonians and the National Gallery of Art!—the National Zoo that has pandas but has no cost to enter, and gorgeous cherry trees that blossom every spring, the District is one of the most affordable family vacation destinations in the country. For a spacious, stylish place to stay close to everything you will want to see and do in D.C. without breaking the bank, check out the stunning and spacious Georgetown Suites.
This Midwest flyover state is far more than just the setting of Parks and Rec, and the capital is jam-packed with affordable family fun. There’s the chance to go back in time at Conner Prairie, a sprawling outdoor living history museum, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, arguably the most magnificent, robust children’s museum in the country. Plus, the Indy Zoo’s orangutan enclosure is sheer delight. Make sure you get a donut (or a dozen) from Long’s Bakery across from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Crystal River, Florida
There are some superb family dining options in this sleepy, swampy stretch of West Florida, including Greenhouse Bistro in neighboring Homosassa, but the main reason a family should want to visit Crystal River are the big, beautiful manatees filling the waterways here. The opportunity to swim with manatees starts as low as $65 per person for a three-hour boat tour, including wet suit, equipment, and terrific tour guides.
With little more than an America the Beautiful National Parks pass ($80 annual, free for current military members as well as for 4th graders and their families) you can have an affordable family vacation for the ages. With Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reed, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks all within seven hours of driving starting from the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, you can visit 8 percent of all U.S. National Parks in one vacation for one price. Now that’s affordable! Get inspired for your trip by taking a gander at these 10 stunning photos of National Parks in full bloom.
Experience the rise, fall, and rebirth of a legendary American city during an affordable family vacation in Detroit. Discover and play the unique blend of football and bowling that was invented at the Fowling Warehouse, gawk at the backyard oddity known as Hamtramck Disneyland, visit the birthplace of the Model-T at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, play on Belle Isle Park between Michigan and Ontario, and tour The Henry Ford Museum and GreenField Village in nearby Dearborn. Staying at the Courtyard Downtown provides easy access to Detroit’s People Mover which runs through the hotel.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This South Carolina beach town is a watersports playground for all ages and golf heaven—both the long and frustrating and mini and fun versions of the leisure sport. At most golf courses along the Grand Strand, kids under 16 golf for free with a paying adult which will help make Myrtle Beach an affordable family vacation destination.
The cabins and treehouses at The Mohicans are truly one of a kind, as is this fertile area for affordable family fun. Whether you fancy a three-hour zip line adventure, a nine-mile canoe trip down the Mohican river, riding horses in the countryside, mountain biking, or prefer a less strenuous visit to Amish Country for craft and furniture shopping and eating too many baked goods, there is something for everyone in Central Ohio.
Taking advantage of the exchange rate in Canada’s capital is easy and fun with your family. The beautiful capital building on Parliament Hill is free to enter and tour, Beavertails treats delicious and cheap, ByWard Market colorful and festive, and the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles at the Canadian Museum of History is stunning.
New York City
It is beyond time to stop believing that the Big Apple is a big expense. Rush tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows will get you in the door for a fraction of the face value cost, and there are plenty of budget hotels, like the funky four bunk bed rooms at Lord & Moris in midtown, for less than $100 a night. While in the city, walking The High Line doesn’t cost a penny, neither does Central Park, and in summer there are great kids bands like 2018 Grammy Award winner Lucy Kalantari and The Pop Ups playing for free outdoors all over the city. If all that sounds too touristy for you, you’ll love exploring these 11 hidden gems even local New Yorkers don’t know about.
Freedom from an expensive family vacation awaits in Philly. Take your kids to see famous (or soon to be famous) bands at World Cafe Live’s Free at Noon Friday lunchtime concerts all year long. On Friday evenings in the summer, head out to the historic Smith Memorial Playground in Fairmount Park for the Kidchella summer family concert series. Downtown is magical too, thanks in part to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, one of the coolest places in America you’ve never heard off, the always free-to-see Liberty Bell, free-to-climb Rocky steps at the Art Museum, and the best Philly cheesesteaks in the city made fresh all day and night at Jim’s on South Street.