I was reading an article recently that listed Orlando theme parks as an affordable destination for a summer vacation and I had to chuckle. When I think of cheap vacation spots, a trip to Disney is not what comes to mind. So I started to noodle on budget friendly destinations that would make for a great family vacation.
Just like in my suggestions for affordable spring break destinations, the costs can vary based on where you are coming from and the size and make up of your family. To create an even playing field, I did some research on the cost of these vacation spots based on a family of four with two adults and two children under twelve sharing one room.
For destinations within the North American continent, I did not include the transportation costs, since many of these can make great road trips depending on where you are starting. However, for places to visit that require a flight, I did include the cost of airfare for a family of four flying from New York City in June.
I also based these costs on a trip of four to nine days, depending on the destination, recognizing that families have limited vacation time and not every destination requires a full week. Also, based on the idea that the average vacation cost is between $4,000-5,000, I’ve tried to keep all of these ideas within that range (or lower if I could), with a couple of “splurge” ideas. This includes accommodations, food, and activities. In destinations that offer cabins or vacation rentals with kitchens, the cost of food was reduced to reflect cooking some meals versus eating out every day. I typically included a few basic activities (e.g. bike riding, museums), a few free activities (e.g. hikes), and one splurge (e.g. hot air balloon ride.) I’ve also tried to suggest hotels that include breakfast to offer greater cost savings.
Keep in mind that prices vary and this was written in spring of 2018 as a guideline. Be sure to check pricing before booking a trip.
15 Cheap Vacation Spots
Northern New Hampshire
If you love mountains and lakes and enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, and off-roading, then head to northern New Hampshire. Things will still be pricey around the touristy lake region and White Mountains, but if you keep going up to the Great North Woods, nestled against the Canadian border, you will find the pristine moose country of Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
Family-size cabins at the Lopstick Lodge, overlooking First Connecticut Lake, start at $125 per night. That leaves you plenty of room to splurge on a day off-roading on 1,000 miles of trails that are part of the “Ride the Wilds.” The four-person Polaris RZR rents for $525 for a full-day from Bear Rock Adventures.
Estimated cost of a seven-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $2,500
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes are simply beautiful and perfect for a family that likes the outdoors, but doesn’t want to be too far off-the-grid. They offer the perfect blend of outdoor activity and world-famous wine tasting to keep parents and kids happy. Lake sports include boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.
You can even arrange a water taxi to take you wine tasting! Nearby there are gorgeous state parks, like Stony Brook State Park, which offers a fabulous waterfall hike. The nearby town of Corning offers a charming downtown and an excellent Museum of Glass (free for kids!) that will keep you busy all day with hands on activities and hot glass demonstrations.
There are plenty of affordable lake house rentals and free or inexpensive activities to enjoy, making this an affordable destination too!
Estimated cost of a seven-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $3,000
Learn more: Wine tasting in the Finger Lakes
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
If you are fan of beautiful beaches and family-friendly boardwalks, then head to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The beaches of Southern Delaware are such a gem wide, soft-sand beaches and wave just perfect for body surfing. You can also kayak and try stand up paddleboarding on the bay, or take a dolphin watching or sunset cruise from nearby Lewes. This historic downtown of Lewes is also perfect for getting a break from the beach.
Delaware also has a surprisingly robust beer and wine scene and you can easily schedule a day touring nearby breweries like the popular Dogfish Brewery. Whatever you do, you won’t be bored or too broke. Two-bedroom beach houses or condos start around $300 per night. I would leave some room in the budget for a few fun outings and plenty of Kohr’s frozen custard treats!
Estimated cost of a seven-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $3,200
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Adventure and history lovers have met their match at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Set at the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail, you will encounter plenty of day hikers and thru-hikers. In addition to the National Park, which serves up the history of John Brown and the build up to the Civil War, the downtown offers cute shops and restaurants.
Nearby, adrenaline junkies can get their fix with white water rafting, tubing, ziplining, and a ropes course at the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. If you are ready to rough it a bit, camping cabins that sleep five start at just $109 per night.
Estimated cost of a five-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $1,600
Music lovers flock to Memphis to see Elvis’ Graceland, the Blues clubs on Beale Street, the Gibson Guitar Factory, and landmarks like Sun Studio and the STAX Museum of American Soul Music. The city also played an important role in the Civil Rights movement, and is home to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where MLK Jr. was assassinated.
Unlike trendy Nashville, where hotel prices are getting outrageous, Memphis is still quite affordable. The brand new La Quinta downtown is perfectly placed in walking distance to downtown, Beale Street, and the minor league baseball stadium and starts at just $187 per night. Just be sure to leave room in the budget for some delicious BBQ and soul food.
Estimated cost of a four-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $1,500
Learn more: Three Days in Memphis, TN
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Caribbean needs our tourism dollars right now, especially Puerto Rico, as they struggle to recover from the massive damage inflicted by the hurricanes in the fall of 2017. While much of the island is still working to repair its infrastructure, the town of San Juan offers beaches, history, culture and entertainment and hotel prices are low.
Plan on visiting early in the summer to avoid hurricane season and you may encounter some rain, but these usually pass through fairly quickly. The Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel and Casino offers a great option for families. Just two blocks from the beach with a nice on-site pool, this all-suite hotel offers space to spread out, along with free breakfast and a complimentary reception in the evening to kick off your happy hour. Plus, rooms start at only $199 per night.
Estimated cost of a five-day vacation including flights, accommodations, food, and activities: $3,750
Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills offer days of outdoor adventure, history, and culture, making it a perfect trip for families. If you make a reservation early enough, you can stay within Custer State Park, in the center of it all. The Blue Bell Lodge offers cabins that fit up to families of six and a cabin with two queen beds starts at $200 per night. Plus, the cabin’s small kitchenette allows you to prepare a few simple meals to reduce meal costs.
Plan to spend at least six days visiting Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and taking drives through the scenic Black Hills. You may also want to bike portions of the Mickelson Trail or splurge on a buffalo jeep safari and cowboy cookout.
Estimated cost of a six-day vacation including flights, accommodations, food, and activities: $2,500
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Summer may be hot in Albuquerque, but that means that you can find a good deal. The Embassy Suites, which offers a pool and free breakfast starts at only $109 per night in the summer! You can also start in Albuquerque, but then head to higher elevations in Ruidoso to get away from the heat.
While in Albuquerque, you can explore petroglyphs, take a desert jeep tour, ride the tramway, and visit some of their many museums. If you really want to splurge, try a hot air balloon ride! In Ruidoso, you can zipline, bike, or hit the lake to cool off. Don’t miss the chance to add on a day at White Sands National Monument for a little dune surfing.
Estimated cost of a one-week vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $3,000
Learn more: Beat the Heat in Ruidoso, New Mexico
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
If you are looking for a city break that is steeped in cowboy culture, Oklahoma City is packed with budget-friendly family fun. As the Olympic and Paralympic training center for kayaking and canoeing, it is the only urban white water rafting and canoeing center. Get your kicks on Route 66, but then check out the science museum, zoo, botanical gardens, Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and even the skeleton museum.
Adventurers of all ages also love the Boathouse District, with ziplines, a ropes course, and kayak/canoe and stand up paddle board rentals. Horse lovers will appreciate that Oklahoma City is also the horse show capital of the world. The Aloft Hotel offers a convenient location and family-friendly room configurations starting at $139 per night. You can also save on family attractions with the OKC Venture Pass.
Estimated cost of a five-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $1,800
Learn more: Things to do with kids in Oklahoma City
National Parks RV Trip
A National Parks trip is a bucket list vacation for many families. Yet moving from park to park and securing accommodations in and around parks can require a lot of advance planning. You can make it a lot easier by taking your hotel with you (aka renting a recreational vehicle.) While there are many rental options, I’m impressed with the offerings from Tracks & Trails, which take the hassle out of planning an RV vacation.
Tracks & Trails plans the itinerary, pre-books the campsites, and even stocks your RV with supplies. They offer many trip options starting around $6,000 per RV, including the nine-night Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon trip, which starts at $6,400.
Total cost of nine-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $7,500
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas may not seem family-friendly, but it is certainly packed with entertainment. Just walking the strip and looking at the lights, fountains, volcanoes, and other wonders is enough to make little eyes bulge. It is also the kind of place where you can spend like a high-roller or find incredible deals from all-you-can-eat buffets to $50 hotel rooms.
I’d suggest picking a hotel with a good pool, like the MGM Grand’s lazy river, which has rooms starting at $179 per night. Be sure to budget for at least one splurge meal and a special show, and take a day trip out to the Red Rocks or Hoover Dam.
Total cost of a four-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $1,800
Sunriver, a resort community in Central Oregon near Bend is a family friendly destination. There is an on-site observatory, waterpark, bike trails, and countless activities nearby. You can hike, explore lava fields, visit the High Desert Museum, spend a day at Crater Lake, and go tubing or white water rafting.
Rental homes are available starting at $200 per night. Look for options that include passes to the SHARC water park.
Total cost of a seven-day vacation including accommodations, food, and activities: $2,700
Learn more: Discovering Central Oregon from Sunriver
An Alaskan cruise seems like a dream trip, but also an expensive one. But it doesn’t need to be. Yes, getting up to Vancouver or Anchorage can be pricey. And adding on land packages can make it even more expensive. Yet, if you leave from Seattle and take an inside cabin, you can take a one-week Alaskan cruise on the brand-new Norwegian Bliss for only $924 per person. The brand new Bliss offers laser tag, water slides, and even on-board go karts.
Of course, you will need to budget for shore excursions, tips, and any special dining or drink packages.
Total cost of a seven-day vacation including cruise, tips, drinks, and activities: $5,500
Whistler, British Columbia
There are many luxury resorts in Whistler, but there are also many deals to be found (especially as the Canadian dollar remains weak against the U.S. dollar.) The Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre starts at only $180 per night.
Families will not be bored in Whistler. There are ziplines, hiking trails, off roading, bear watching, and even helicopter rides that land on glaciers and sea plane tours. It is the perfect affordable vacation for outdoor lovers.
Total cost of a seven-day vacation including accommodations, meals, and activities: $4,500
There is always something going on in Montreal in the summer, and that is what makes it such a fun city to visit. Whether it is a music festival, food truck fest, or some crazy Red Bull street competition, Montreal loves its festivals. We love to stay in Old Montreal, within easy walking distance to the Old Port district. In this area you can visit museum, zipline, do a ropes course, rent pedal boats, visit the Science Center, ride the ferris wheel, and so much more.
To get away from the crowds, you can also bike along the canals or take the metro out to Parc Jean-Drapeau for a swim. Hotels can get pricey but here is where the exchange rate benefits Americans. Look for hotels like the SpringHill Suites in Old Montreal, which offer free wifi and breakfast to save some cash.
Total cost of a four-day vacation including accommodations, meals, and activities: $2,200
Learn more: What to do in Montreal in the Summer
If you want to know the costs of other destinations, be sure to check out these posts:
- How much does a trip to Universal Orlando cost?
- How much does a trip to Italy cost?
- How much does a trip to London cost?
- How much does a trip to Paris cost?
- Get more family vacation ideas
Do you have a cheap vacation spot to recommend? I’d love to hear your recommendations on places to go on a budget in the comments below.
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