Now is the perfect time to plan a summer family vacation, but if your budget is tight this year, you might be wondering if you can even pull it off. But trips with the family are a great way to bond, and you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to make it happen. There are lots of budget-friendly destinations, near and far, that just might be affordable enough to make it work.
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Cape Hatteras Island, North Carolina
You can enjoy a budget-friendly beach escape on Cape Hatteras Island. There are lots of things to do here for free, including searching for seashells and enjoying strolls on the stand. Paddleboarding, surfing, diving and fishing are all popular here too. And, it doesn’t cost much to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to take in dazzling views from North America’s tallest brick lighthouse. You’ll find a surprising number of cheap hotels here as well, starting at only $65 a night.
Denver has been ranked by WalletHub and other sites as one of the best places to visit in the summer at a more budget-friendly price tag. Airfare tends to be inexpensive from many spots throughout the country, typically less than $200 round trip from New York City and $150 from L.A. Plus, there are a ton of free and inexpensive things to do. Pick up a CityPASS which will get you big savings on attractions like the Denver Zoo and Downtown Aquarium, and be sure to put Lakeside Amusement Park on your agenda. The old-school park offers a cheap evening of rides, like an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster, bumper cars, a merry-go-round, all sorts of spinning rides and a miniature steam-engine train.
Most people think about going to the Bahamas in the winter, but if you visit in the summer you’ll find much cheaper airfare because there’s less demand, along with great bargains at beachfront resorts. Plus the water will be warmer so you can jump right into those enticing clear blue seas. While it will be a few degrees warmer than what you’d find in the winter, it doesn’t get unbearably hot with the sea breezes providing natural air conditioning. If you plan your visit earlier in the summer, June or July, the risk of a hurricane will be minimal, most big storms don’t arrive until late August or September.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There are lots of ways to do an inexpensive family vacation in Mexico thanks to favorable exchange rates and a long list of hotels and resorts. But summer is a real bargain, with properties dropping rates significantly due to the warm weather that keeps many tourists away. That also means enjoying Cabo’s most famous sights without the hordes of tourists. There are cheap glass bottom boat tours that will drop you off at Lover’s Beach to snorkel in the Sea of Cortez, known as the “World’s Aquarium” with its incredible biodiversity, supporting more than 800 species of fish. Or, you can always just kick back and take advantage of all the amenities at your resort.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Chincoteague Island offers laid-back vibes and inexpensive inns starting at under $100 a night. The island is famous for its wild ponies, and it’s also home to fox and over 320 species of birds. If you time your visit right, you can even watch the wild horses swim across the channel during the annual Pony Swim, which typically occurs in late July. Even if you can’t be here then, you’re sure to catch sightings of the animals as you walk, bike or drive around the island.
For close encounters, you might want to book the inexpensive Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Bus Tour which is hosted by the Chincoteague National History Association.
Williamsburg offers a fun and educational option with fascinating lessons from American history.
Gatlinburg seems perfectly made for a family vacation. It makes the ideal base for exploring nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with three park entrances right downtown. There is no admission fee at this park that offers miles and miles of hiking trails, some of which lead to stunning waterfalls. The town itself offers a host of activities like the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway and Amusement Park which features an alpine slide, chair swings, miniature golf and a maze.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
While a trip to Europe may not be workable for all budgets, if that’s what you’ve got your heart set on, consider heading to Lisbon. This magnificent city is much more affordable than most. It’s home to colorful, centuries-old buildings highlighted by the elegant St. George’s Castle – and it also offers magnificent Cascais beaches. There are well-priced hotels, cheap and delicious eats, and inexpensive souvenirs at the historic Feira da Ladra flea market.