Budget Family Vacations
Planning a family vacation is an exciting experience, but traveling can really put a strain on your budget. Fortunately, with careful planning and resourcefulness, a memorable family getaway doesn't need to break the bank!
This article will show you how to enjoy an unforgettable summer vacation on a budget. We will also highlight ten fantastic destinations throughout the U.S. that provide budget travel opportunities with free or low-cost attractions in each destination.
Budget Vacation Travel Options to Consider
Before you start planning your fun-filled family vacation, here are some key considerations that will help you stay on budget during travel:
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Free and Low-Cost Attractions
Finding free and low-cost attractions, like parks and nature reserves, can help you enjoy nature at no costs. You can also benefit from museums and similar attractions that offer free admission days. While planning your vacation, stay tuned into local event calendars for free entertainment, music, and activities suitable for the whole family.
Save on Transportation
One of the most expensive components of a family vacation is how you get there. Car trips offer flexibility while cutting transportation costs compared to air travel, so drive there if possible! If your destination is too far, search for budget airlines or book off-peak season flights to secure affordable tickets. Once at your destination, take advantage of public transportation like buses, trams, and subways, as these are often more cost-effective than taxis or rental cars.
Find Hotel Deals
Use search engines and compare prices across platforms to find the most cost-effective hotels and rentals for your stay. Hotel deal newsletters, travel websites, and social media pages can help you find discounted rates. Consider staying at budget accommodations such as hostels, guesthouses, or vacation rentals for cost-effective lodging options.
Plan Your Meals
Try to find a hotel or rental with kitchen facilities so you can prepare meals and save money by forgoing dining out. Planning ahead to visit local grocery stores, markets, and street food options at your destination can help you experience affordable and authentic cuisine. Pack snacks or sandwiches as on-the-go meals to save on spending at expensive restaurants or touristy areas.
10 Affordable Family Vacation Destinations in the U.S.
Here are ten of our favorite affordable family vacation destinations in the United States to consider for your upcoming vacation:
1. Asheville, North Carolina
Situated amongst the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, eclectic shops, and outdoor adventures. Enjoy exploring its lively downtown area packed with local breweries, art galleries, and farm-to-table restaurants. Here are some budget-friendly activity options in the area:
- Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway: Take a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and be inspired by breathtaking views of mountains, forests, and waterfalls.
- Visit the Biltmore Estate Gardens: Enjoy an easy stroll through its breathtaking gardens at Biltmore Estate, boasting vibrant blooms, lush landscapes, and tranquil ponds.
- Discover Downtown Asheville: Experience Asheville's lively streets by meandering around eclectic shops, street performers, and an energetic atmosphere.
2. San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio's rich history and vibrant Tex-Mex culture draw visitors in. Behold the iconic Alamo as you stroll the many shops, restaurants, and picturesque bridges in the area. Experience family-friendly attractions that won’t break the bank like the San Antonio Zoo, or immerse yourself in lively events hosted throughout the city!
- Experience History at San Antonio Missions: Take part in history by exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion.
- Stroll Along San Antonio's iconic River Walk: Visit this area for breathtaking views, restaurants, shops, and great dining. Don't miss visiting Alamo to discover its historical significance while roaming free through its grounds!
3. Portland, Oregon
With an eco-friendly and laid-back vibe, Portland provides an unforgettable family adventure. Renowned for its hipster culture, food carts, and craft breweries, Portland invites visitors to explore its eclectic neighborhoods before browsing Powell's City of Books shelves or discovering breathtaking natural wonders like Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood nearby attractions.
- Discover Washington Park: Visit Washington Park and experience its International Rose Test Garden, where over 10,000 roses bloom each summer!
- Exploring Powell's City of Books: Explore one of the world's largest independent bookstores, Powell's City of Books, where you'll discover an extensive collection of new and pre-loved books spanning all subjects.
- Experience the Natural Beauty of Willamette River: Take a stroll or bike ride along this picturesque river, taking in its peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking city views.
4. Savannah, Georgia
With its charming antebellum architecture, moss-draped oak trees, and hospitality, Savannah exudes old-world charm. Take a stroll through its historic squares or visit stunning mansions-turned-museums before experiencing the lively art scene and delectable Southern cuisine.
- Explore Savannah's Historic District: Take an independent walking tour through Savannah's historic district, featuring magnificent architecture, charming squares, and rich history.
- Visit Forsyth Park: Take time out for relaxation in Forsyth Park, an idyllic green space full of majestic oak trees, a picturesque fountain, and plenty of space for picnics and strolls.
- Explore the vibrant art scene: Visit Telfair Museums for free admission for children and discounted rates for adults, then venture out into the vibrant galleries and studios scattered throughout the city.
5. Denver, Colorado
Surrounded by stunning mountains, Denver offers the ideal blend of urban sophistication and outdoor adventure. Boasting an exciting arts and culture scene with several galleries and museums to visit, there’s no shortage of family-friendly activities to choose from. Take part in outdoor adventures within its Rocky Mountain peaks, catch a game at Coors Field, or discover trendy shops and restaurants within Denver neighborhoods such as LoDo and RiNo.
- Visit the Denver Art Museum: Take advantage of free admission day at the Denver Art Museum to explore its world-class collection of artwork from all corners.
- Visit RiNo (River North) Neighborhood: Step inside RiNo and discover an energetic street art scene, complete with colorful murals adorning walls of buildings like an open-air art gallery.
- Explore nature: Go on an amazing hike through Red Rocks Park or travel further afield to Rocky Mountain National Park for affordable entrance fees and various outdoor activities.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Celebrated for its lively music, exciting festivals, and delectable Creole cuisine, New Orleans stands apart as an unparalleled city. Discover its historic French Quarter with colorful buildings, jazz clubs, delectable beignets, and more. There are plenty of budget-friendly attractions in the city for families, from historic architecture to its unique blend of musical genres.
- Immerse Yourself in the French Quarter: Discover its vibrant atmosphere by strolling through this historic district brimming with historic architecture, live music performances, and delicious cuisine.
- Experience Jackson Square: Jackson Square offers an energetic experience with street performers, artists, and stunning views of the Mississippi River.
- Sample Local Dishes: Treat your palate to delectable beignets and delicious po'boys from iconic New Orleans eateries such as Cafe du Monde or Parkway Bakery & Tavern for an unforgettable taste experience!
7. Nashville, Tennessee
Dubbed the "Music City," Nashville is an ideal getaway for music enthusiasts and Southern hospitality seekers. Immerse yourself in country music's rich tradition at iconic institutions such as the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame, enjoy lively honky-tonks and live music venues on Broadway, and more!
- Visit Lower Broadway: Lower Broadway offers a lively environment to experience live music performances for free at various venues on Lower Broadway.
- Centennial Park: Stroll through Centennial Park and snap a photo with its iconic Parthenon replica, set against gorgeous green spaces and serene walking paths.
- Discover vibrant neighborhoods: Come discover East Nashville and 12 South, known for their artistic flair and cultural diversity, to experience unique shops, local eateries, and vibrant neighborhoods with vibrancy and cultural diversity.
8. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe boasts beautiful adobe architecture, rich Native American culture, and an exciting art scene, creating an engaging combination of culture and natural beauty for families on vacation. Travel here to discover exciting art galleries, historic landmarks like the Palace of Governors, and its blend of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cuisine and crafts.
- Take in the local art scene: Visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which offers free admission for children and reduced rates for adults alike, or discover its various galleries and studios throughout the city.
- Experience the natural splendors of Bandelier National Monument: Take a scenic drive along the Turquoise Trail or hike among the ancient cliff dwellings of Bandelier National Monument.
- Explore Santa Fe's Historic Plaza: Marvel at its beautiful historic Plaza, filled with charming adobe buildings, unique shops, and an exciting atmosphere.
9. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is an idyllic city that captures the essence of Southern hospitality with its history and charm. Enjoy leisurely strolling through cobblestone streets in Charleston's historic district, marveling at the exquisite antebellum architecture, visiting plantation houses that provide glimpses into Charleston's past, tasting its world-famous cuisine, or relaxing on beautiful beaches!
- Stroll along the Battery: Take a relaxing walk here for stunning views of Charleston Harbor and Ravenel Bridge.
- Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens: Enjoy exploring this breathtaking garden at Magnolia Plantation, featuring blooming flowers, peaceful ponds, and incredible history.
- Experience Charleston City Market: As you navigate this vibrant market, discover local crafts, souvenirs, and delicious treats!
- Lounge on the Beach: South Carolina is known for its beautiful beaches, many of which you can visit for free!
10. Chicago, Illinois
As one of America's vibrant and cosmopolitan cities, you may not immediately think of Chicago for a budget-friendly vacation. However, this city offers families plenty of attractions and experiences that will fit your budget! From parks and sculptures to museums and deep-dish pizza, Chicago is a memorable destination for your next family trip!
- Explore Millennium Park: Visit Millennium Park and wonder at its iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, known fondly by some as "The Bean." Additionally, enjoy free concerts and events during the summer months!
- Visit Lincoln Park Zoo: For an engaging wildlife experience in your city, head to Lincoln Park Zoo, a free zoo that allows visitors to observe various animals while experiencing educational exhibits.
- Experience Chicago's lively cultural scene: Attend free concerts and performances at the Chicago Cultural Center to witness an abundance of artistic talent first-hand.
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Planning an economical family vacation doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality or fun. By considering free attractions, taking advantage of low-cost transportation options, and choosing budget destinations like Asheville or New Orleans, you can give your family unforgettable adventures without breaking the bank!
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