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14 Best Family Vacations on a Budget

If you’re starting to plan your next family vacation but aren’t sure where to start, it’s not always easy without a budget that will allow you to jet off to a luxury resort in the Maldives. Fortunately, you still have plenty of budget-friendly options around the world that won’t break the bank. You might even be able to spend your getaway enjoying unspoiled white sands in a tropical paradise. Or, book a classic family escape that will allow everyone to reconnect while taking part in outdoor adventures. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider one of these fantastic destinations.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
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Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

While Cabo San Lucas offers many luxurious properties there are also more budget-friendly accommodations with everything from hotels and resorts to vacation rentals. Thanks to the favorable exchange rates, it’s even more affordable. If you go in the summer, you’ll often find significantly discounted room prices due to the warmer weather that keeps many tourists away. It’s easy to find a place to cool off, whether it’s a gorgeous pool or splashing around the sea. There are also cheap glass-bottom boat tours that will take you out to Lovers Beach to snorkel in what ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau called the “world’s aquarium.”

Yellowstone National Park, Montana/Wyoming/Idaho Yellowstone National Park
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Yellowstone National Park, Montana/Wyoming/Idaho

From Yellowstone’s remarkable array of wildlife like buffalo, bears, elk, and moose to the geysers and geothermal wonders like Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs, there is much to awe visitors of all ages here. Accommodation runs the gamut, from campgrounds in and near the park to budget-friendly mom-and-pop hotels, affordable vacation rentals and luxurious lodges, making this a doable vacation for just about every family with enough to please everyone.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Wisconsin Dells, WI
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Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

“The Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Midwest. While it was once relegated to summertime fun, it offers a fun escape all year-round with its many indoor water parks and opportunity for affordable amusements. Among its numerous theme parks are the Noah’s Art Waterpark which hosts an incredible array of aquatic rides, including 51 slides, a surfing simulator, and two wave pools, along with heart-pounding thrills like the Scorpion’s Tail. The Mt. Olympus Water plus Theme Park is a resort complex with an ancient Greece theme, complete with amusement park rides and an indoor/outdoor water park. You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options too, including affordable family-friendly hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Enjoy the shops, nightlife, and amusement park rides at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Credit: Enjoy the shops, nightlife, and amusement park rides at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by Bigstockphoto.com

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

A rare vacation destination that appeals to all ages, Myrtle Beach is budget-friendly and offers something for everyone. While the long stretch of sandy beaches is what most come for, with the chance to soak up the sun and play out in and on the water, there are many other things to do at a relatively low cost. Take a spin on the Ferris wheel at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park for a jaw-dropping view over the coast or head to the Myrtle Waves Water Park to take advantage of the thrilling slides. Golfing enthusiasts can tee off at more than 100 courses, and there are multiple putt-putt courses where the whole family can get in on the game.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee Gatlinburg
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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg offers the quintessential family vacation as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located just north. Admission to the park is free and you’ll find miles and miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking along with great wildlife watching. Festivals celebrating the arts, music, nature, and more can be enjoyed throughout the year, and if you can spend a little, ride the Gatlinburg Sky Lift up Crocket Mountain for a spectacular bird’s-eye view. It’s also the perfect destination to snag a cozy cabin rental.

Ocean City, Maryland Ocean City, Maryland
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Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City is a popular Maryland beach town that offers plenty of affordable family-friendly fun. Spend time soaking up the sun at the beaches, watching for dolphins, and strolling through the parks. During the summer, you’ll find free activities for the family on most nights., including movies and concerts on the beach. The world-class boardwalk is often named among the best in the country, lined with all types of eateries, shops, and arcades, and, just a few miles down the road are the famous wild horses of Assateague.

Seaside, Oregon Home of the final stop on the Lewis and Clark expedition
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Seaside, Oregon

Located on the northern Oregon coast less than a 90-minute drive from Portland, Seaside is ideal for a budget-friendly family getaway with multiple low-cost/high-value hotels, including some that sit right along the popular promenade and a three-mile stretch of sandy beach. Admission to the Seaside Aquarium is cheap and you can even feed fish to the sea lions who’ve learned to perform tricks for their favorite food on their own. There’s the Funland Arcade with pinball, video games, skee ball, bumper cars, and other inexpensive carnival-type amusements, and you’ll find all sorts of bike rentals, including options for riding on the sand.

South Padre Island, Texas South Padre Island
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South Padre Island, Texas

With the exception of spring break, South Padre Island offers a fabulous beach oasis for families looking for a low-cost escape. There are miles of sandy beach to play on and it includes about 30 miles of drivable beach. Enjoy a wealth of other attractions too, such as Beach Park at Isla Blanca and South Padre Island Adventure Park. Learn all about sea turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc., visit the Point Isabel Lighthouse Complex, or enjoy a Dolphin Watch Eco-Tour with The Original Dolphin Watch.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Most of Canada’s big cities are very expensive to visit, but Halifax is not only incredibly picturesque it comes at a fraction of the cost. Enjoy fantastic markets, festivals, fresh seafood, and beautiful beaches, not to mention famously friendly hospitality. While there are more expensive cruise options you can save by taking North America’s oldest continuous saltwater passage ferry, the Halifax-Dartmouth Transit ferry, and capture a postcard-perfect photo of the city skyline from the water. Explore the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax Gardens, and stroll the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk. Just a short drive away is Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in the province.

Isla Verde, Carolina, Puerto Rico Isla Verde, Carolina, Puerto Rico
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Isla Verde, Carolina, Puerto Rico

If you don’t have your passports, it can be pricey to get them for your entire family, but the good news is that you can experience the Caribbean without that cost and hassle by heading to Puerto Rico. Plus there are carriers offering affordable non-stop flights to the capital city of San Juan, making it easier and more affordable to reach those beautiful clear blue waters and pristine white sands. Isla Verde Beach, the popular resort strip, offers a wide range of hotels, bars, and eateries, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy watersports like snorkeling. Most of the accommodation options here are right along the beach and won’t break the bank.

Atlanta, Georgia Atlanta
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Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta offers big-city attractions at a far more budget-friendly price than most of its size. Take a free tour of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth home at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, learn about local history at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and visit waterfalls in nearby state parks. Splurge a little by viewing the marine life at the Georgia Aquarium or riding the SkyView Ferris wheel for views of Centennial Olympic Park and beyond.

Williamsburg, Virginia Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living history museum.
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Williamsburg, Virginia

A fun and entertaining way for the kids to learn about history can be enjoyed in Colonial Williamsburg, providing the chance to step back into 18th-century life, walking in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers of the country. There are carriage rides and other guided tours, many hands-on interactive attractions, and opportunities to meet historical townspeople, including iconic figures like George Washington. Once you’ve had your fill of history, Water Country USA and Busch Gardens Williamsburg are nearby providing even more appeal for the younger ones. If you want to visit both, choose combo tickets to help cut the costs.

Denver, Colorado downtown Denver, Colorado
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Denver, Colorado

There are many free and cheap things to do in Denver, including lots of great city parks, walking tours, festivals, and museums. The Denver Zoo is always a treat with over 4,000 animals and a variety of attractions at a relatively low cost of admission. At the Children’s Museum of Denver, the little ones can play on the three-and-a-half-story climber, step inside a 6-foot bubble, sculpt a clay masterpiece, power a hot balloon, and much more. There are cheap rides at Lakeside Amusement Park, and with the Rocky Mountains just a short drive away, it’s easy to take advantage of the myriad of hiking trails that bring jaw-dropping views.

Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic Beach in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic
Credit: Beach in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic by Wikimedia Commons

Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic offers an ideal mix of affordability and fun in the sun on the sand and in clear blue waters. Juan Dolio on the southern coast is where you’ll find more budget-friendly accommodation with everything from small beachside hotels with pools and tiki bars to all-inclusive resorts. A fishing village turned coastal resort town, will you find beautiful beaches but amusement parks and opportunities for fishing trips. There are plenty of unique experiences beyond the sand too, including the Damajagua Waterfalls. If you want to splurge just a bit, Crazy Horse Ranch offers an authentic guided experience on horseback to San Pedro de Macoris where you’ll get a glimpse of local village life, enjoy some of the local foods, and perhaps pick up some locally made items.

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