45 Mini Family Vacations That Won’t Break the Bank
These great getaways offer big fun on a small budget. We’ve rounded up choices all around the country, so a fabulous family vacation is always right around the corner, even if you only have a day or two.
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Tons of fun without breaking the bank
Need a break from the work and school grind, but don’t have a lot of time, or money, to book a week-long trip? We have the solution—mini-breaks that pack lots of vacation vibes into just a few days and won’t break the bank to boot. Check out these easy-to-get-to destinations and get ready to spring into fun. Wherever you travel, try to cross these 24 summer bucket list ideas off your list.
Asheville, North Carolina
Why you’ll love it: The entry point to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a funky mix of breweries (the most per capita in the United States), great food, arts (the River Arts District is a fun and free way to spend a day), history (the Biltmore Estate), free-spirited hippie culture, and spectacular nature. For the latter, plan a picnic hike to the Craggy Mountains, and stop to smell the berry bushes and take in the exceptional panoramic views of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail.
Budget tip: Live music fills the streets of Asheville; you can listen to everything from old-time mountain music to new alternative rock just by dropping something in the tip jar. Kids will love the free Friday drum circles in Pritchard Park where they can bang a drum and dance along (the festivities get rolling around 6 p.m.).
Where to stay: The Holiday Inn Asheville-Biltmore East feels more like a mountain lodge than a chain property, but it still has all the hallmarks that make Holiday Inn family-friendly, including a great pool and affordable deals; kids 18 and under stay for free in their parents’ room, and up to four kids 11 and under eat free any time of the day at the on-site restaurant.
Why you’ll love it: With silky soft, snow-white sand and gentle Gulf of Mexico water, Clearwater’s beaches are multiple award winners, and are perfect for families who want to spend their minivacation splashing in the surf. When you’re ready to dry off, hope on the free trolley to the Clearwater Aquarium, home to Winter and Hope, the dolphin stars of the Dolphin Tale movies.
Budget tip: There’s a free sunset festival with live entertainment every.single.night right at Clearwater’s main beach at Pier 60.
Where to stay: Enjoy swim-in movies, life-sized games, and s’mores at the beachside firepit at the beachfront Sandpearl Resort. Spacious rooms can accommodate the whole family, plus Sandpearl just launched a Tech-Free Treasure Chest that rewards families with a surprise for going their whole meal without digital devices (a great habit we’re happy to take home from our mini getaway).
Why you’ll love it: Mother Nature went into hyperdrive in this breathtaking corner of Arizona; Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest, four wilderness areas, and six state parks. Everywhere you look are the stunning peaks and spires of red rocks and sandstone outcroppings. Nature-loving families can hike and bike along hundreds of miles of free trails, and at night the stars put on a spectacular show, no ticket required.
Budget tip: Sedona is less than a two-hour drive (100 miles) from the Grand Canyon, making it an easy day trip without the added expense of spending the night at pricey accommodations near the national park.
Where to stay: Plan an Arizona stay-cation at the luxurious Enchantment Resort located in the heart of Sedona surrounded by the towering red rock walls of Boynton Canyon. The resort offers more than 100 activities for families every week, plus pools, tennis, hiking, biking, and a kids club, and spacious suites big enough for the whole family. Best of all, Arizona residents receive a 15 percent discount off the best available rate. Sedona is home to one of the most stunning desert escapes in the United States.
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Why you’ll love it: The insider secret of southern California locals, Temecula has all the charm, and wine and food, of Napa and Sonoma, without the crowds or high prices. Just a short drive from L.A. and San Diego, this is a hidden wine country, with beautiful vineyards, and plenty of outdoor activities in near-perfect climate. There’s plenty to do for families, too, with a car-free Old West-style town dating to the 1800s, horse ranches, and even kid-friendly vineyards.
Budget tip: Don’t miss the super fun Pennypickle’s Workshop, a children’s museum that’s designed as the laboratory of fictional Professor Phineas T. Pennypickle, a scientist, inventor, and time traveler; kids under 18 months are free, adults are $5, and kids are $10.
Where to stay: Pechanga Resort Casino might not sound like a family destination, but with the 4.5 acre Cove pool complex, your kids can play all day in the water, and a $3 million expansion added a wealth of rooms, so there’s always a deal to be had; plus, Pechanga has a beautifully landscaped RV Resort, so you can bring your own RV or trailer and really save on your vacay. Before you go, brush up on these 12 unspoken etiquette rules of RV camping.
San Diego, California
Why you’ll love it: San Diego’s near-perfect summer weather, the free beaches of Coronado Island, and the museums and outstanding zoo in Balboa Park all add up to a memory-making quick getaway when it comes to family vacations for Southern California parents with kids of any age.
Budget tip: The Balboa Park Explorer pass bundles 16 attractions into a discounted pay-one-price ticket starting at $48.
Where to stay: The Coronado Beach Resort is located directly across the street from the iconic Del Coronado Hotel (where Some Like It Hot was filmed) and offers condo-style units with kitchenettes starting at just $197 a night (you’ll also have complimentary access to all the amenities at the Loew’s Resort, too.) San Diego is also one of the best ever spring break destinations.
Why you’ll love it: This cosmopolitan Canadian city is just a 90-minute trip from 60 percent of the United States, so it’s easy to reach for many family vacations. Once you’re there, kids will have a memorable time catching a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre right under the CN Tower (you should take a trip up to the top of the tower for the amazing views, too) and riding a moving sidewalk through a shark tank at the neighboring aquarium. Hop on a ferry to explore Toronto’s islands; one is an amusement park! There are also free beaches downtown to catch some summer rays.
Budget tip: The U.S. dollar is strong against Canadian currency, so it will feel like the whole city is on sale.
Where to stay: Children will love the Chelsea Hotel’s indoor pool with Toronto’s only indoor waterslide; you’ll love the weekend summer rates that are less than U.S. $200. Here are more of the most popular destinations in Canada.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Why you’ll love it: Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach, especially the expansive, and free, sandy shores of beautiful Cape Cod, a favorite of Boston-ites looking to escape the city. Plus beaches are a great fit for babies and toddlers, who can spend endless hours playing with you in the sand and surf.
Budget tip: Driving to the Cape? Bring along the family’s bikes to explore the free fun on the 26-mile, car-free Cape Cod Bike & Rail Trail.
Where to stay: Ocean Edge Resort offers plenty of family fun on a sprawling 429-acres. Highlights for families include kayaking, family basketball tournaments, outdoor movies, kite making, s’mores at the private beach bonfire, scavenger hunts, and even special toddler lawn games. Summer prices start at $300 for a one-bedroom villa with plenty of room to spread out and a kitchen where you can save money by making breakfasts and easy meals.
Providence, Rhode Island
Why you’ll love it: Providence is terrific for families, especially high school kids since the capital city is home to a wide range of colleges (Brown University, Johnson & Wales, Rhode Island School of Design), where they can get inspired with campus tours and on-campus museums.
Budget tips: Visitors can go on a free self-guided walking tour of historic downtown Providence, which dives into the making of the now “Creative Capital.” Stop by the brand new Free Play Bar & Arcade that includes over 130 classic video games plus pinball, skeeball, and air hockey, all for free. Then, attend a free WaterFire event this summer, where as many as 80 small bonfires are set ablaze along Providence’s three rivers for the annual summer events, creating a free, one-of-a-kind light show that lasts from just after sunset until about 12:30 a.m. The events are often accompanied by outdoor concerts, street dancing, and other entertainment.
Where to stay: Providence Marriott, which launched a new bike program with preset routes last year. Summer rates average around $200 per night. And don’t miss local budget-friendly dining favorites like the infamous Olneyville New York System for traditional Rhode Island staples of hot wieners and coffee milk. Want to save $5,500 this year? Just cut out these three items.
Estes Park, Colorado
Why you’ll love it: Known as the base camp to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Estes Park is only 90 minutes from Denver International Airport, but has an authentic Colorado mountain village feeling with plenty of outdoor activities to fit any member of the family. Families can try hiking in the national park on their own, booking a mountain bike ride, learn fly-fishing, or try rafting experiences—to name a few. There’s also a number of unique festivals throughout the summer.
Budget tip: Don’t forget to bring your National Parks Pass which grants free access to your full car into the gorgeous Rockies.
Where to stay: The YMCA of the Rockies is one of the best-kept family vacation secrets in the country; you can get a fabulously clean and spacious 2-bedroom log cabin with mountain views starting at just $109 per night. And the sky’s the limit for activities for families here, including hikes into neighboring RMNP, horseback rides, archery, roller skating, and arts and crafts (some activities have a fee).