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Family vacations can get really pricey, and when you search for cheap vacation ideas, you might find that what you come up with either isn’t that desirable or isn’t really that cheap. Luckily, there are quite a few family vacation ideas that will make both your family members and your wallet happy. Check out these cheap vacation ideas below!

Family Vacation Ideas in the USA

Family on log ride

There’s no need to leave the country to give your family an amazing vacation filled with both culture and Instagram-worthy landscapes.

National Parks/Camping

Head to one of the nation’s picturesque national parks for truly jaw-dropping scenery. Whether you’re exploring the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the Caribbean waters of Dry Tortugas National Park or famed spots like Yellowstone or Yosemite, you’ll have a great time and have so much to explore. You could easily spend a week at any park within the system. 

One way to make visiting national parks more affordable? 

Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass. It’ll get you into more than 2,000 sites that charge entry and covers an entire carload of people. It’s the perfect excuse to hit more than one national park during a family vacation or to take multiple family vacations to national parks over a year. 

If you’re still not keen on paying the $80 fee for the American the Beautiful Pass, you can have a similar experience camping at state and regional parks all over the country, for as little as a few dollars per day. If you already have a tent and some camping gear, or can borrow some from a friend, then you’ll be all set for this cheap vacation idea.

Theme Parks

From Anaheim to Orlando, when someone says “family vacation ideas,” it’s likely that one of several very popular theme parks featuring a certain mouse pops into their head. While theme park ticket prices can be absolutely astronomical, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy an affordable family vacation at one. 

Choose to stay at one of the on-park budget properties (you’ll save a lot of cash in transportation, parking, etc.), visit during non-peak times, look for ticket deals and take advantage of all the free activities that are available around the parks. The more you can plan ahead, the better chance you’ll save money.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., while potentially costly in terms of hotel stays (if you’re staying downtown — you’ll find cheaper options outside the city), offers so many free things to do that you could literally plan an entire family vacation where everything you do is free. All of the Smithsonian museums, the monuments, events and festivals and more are open to the public at no cost. 

Gatlinburg/Branson

Gatlinburg in Tennessee and Branson in Missouri offer up very similar experiences and they’re just one cheap vacation idea that can’t be overlooked, especially for families. These towns are built around family tourism and they offer a wealth of activities. Hotel stays are pretty affordable and there are properties that offer extra amenities tailored to families (such as indoor water parks), and you’ll have no problem finding loads of kid-friendly ways to stay busy, from mini-golf to mini amusement parks, children’s museums to aquariums. 

Out-of-the-Box Family Vacation Ideas

Man in child sit in tent

If you’ve already considered all the typical family vacation ideas and you’ve either marked them off your list or you’re just not interested, try something a bit out of the box. These options are sure to win you Parent of the Year. 

A Dude Ranch

Dude ranches are becoming increasingly popular with the luxury travel crowd, those travelers who want to get away for awhile, experience some nature and “rough it.” (Don’t worry, you can choose a dude ranch with your preferred level of roughing it — some are more suited to spa-goers while others offer horseback riding, cow wrangling and the like.) 

You don't need a luxury budget to take your family to one of these dude ranches, though. For example, Southern Cross Guest Ranch offers an all-inclusive plan that starts at $100 per person per night and includes horseback riding twice daily, all meals and snacks, lodging, beverages, mountain biking and more. 

Glamping

If you’re not a fan of camping, one family vacation idea could be a glamping trip. You get the great parts of camping (nature, campfires, s’mores) without any of the bad stuff (sleeping on the hard ground, bugs, bad weather). Glamping Hub allows you to search for all kinds of glamping accommodations — from tiny homes to yurts — all around the country, for a variety of budgets. 

An Airbnb Local Getaway 

Forget the lame staycation. You can still have a fun family vacation without leaving your home city when you book an Airbnb local getaway. Find a fun and budget-friendly Airbnb suitable for your crew, in a new neighborhood, and then getaway in your own town. 

Visit that museum you’ve always talked about going to, but never have. Try all new restaurants. See a side of your city that you’ve never seen. You might just fall in love with your town all over again. 

Cheap Vacation Ideas for Families with Teenagers

Family looks over water from bridge
Page Light Studios / Shutterstock

Teenagers are difficult to please, especially when it comes to travel and especially now that travel is such a social media-fueled experience. Luckily, these cheap vacation ideas are both teenager-approved and easy on the wallet.

Chicago

Flights to Chicago are usually on the affordable side, no matter where you’re coming from, thanks to the city’s status as an airline hub. Additionally, there are an abundance of hotels in Chicago competing for your hard-earned dollars, meaning it’s not difficult to find a great deal on accommodations. Even some of Chicago’s greatest food is affordable! (Try the pizza at Uno’s, the hamburgers at Billy Goat Tavern and the popcorn at Garrett’s.)

Once in the city, you’ll have no problem at all coming across activities the entire family will enjoy. Window shop on Magnificent Mile. Stroll Navy Pier. Visit the dinosaurs at the Field Museum. Take a photo in front of the bean at Millennium Park. 

Vegas

Vegas isn’t all gambling, pool parties and strip clubs. Teens can have fun in Sin City just as much as those of drinking age. Grab an affordable guest room in one of the casinos near or on the strip (Circus Circus is a popular budget-friendly option) and check out one of the many free things to do in Las Vegas that are totally suitable for travelers of all ages.

Ski Lodges 

Hit the slopes with your family before ski season is gone for the year! While you might think that a ski vacation is a bit too high-class for your budget, think again. There are plenty of ski resorts out there, all across the country, offering budget-friendly vacation options.

Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, for example, is a good, family-friendly alternative to more expensive Stowe, while Ski Cooper is one of Colorado’s more budget-friendly options.

Beachy Family Vacation Ideas

Family play on the beach

If you’re looking for beach-centric family vacation ideas, don’t feel discouraged and like you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars per night at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean just to feel some sand between your toes. Lots of family-friendly beach towns in the United States can provide an experience that’s just as memorable.

Destin, Florida, for example, is one of the favorited family Florida beach destinations, with its wealth of outdoor activities and plenteous home rentals that make traveling as a large family easier and more affordable. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, offers similar amenities and is in driving distance for many families in the Mid-Atlantic United States. 

For those in New England, Ocean City, Maryland serves up budget-friendly accommodations, eats, amusements and more. On the West Coast, the Oregon Coast offers loads of shoreline and lots of Airbnb and similar properties for stays on a budget.

The Best Family Vacation Ideas?

Whether you’re looking for a ski getaway, a beach retreat or city explorations, the best family vacation ideas can be enjoyed on a budget. There’s no need to dip into your savings or settle for something less than ideal when it comes time to use up your vacation days. Give your family a vacation to remember in 2020.

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Posted 
Feb 25, 2020
 in 
Parenting
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