Budget Family Vacation Ideas

These tips and trips are frugal favorites the whole family can enjoy


Don't want to spend another "staycation" doing things around your home? Don’t worry! Affordable family vacations take you to places where the whole family can relax and have fun without taking a big bite out of your wallet.

The Best Deals for Meals

Preparing your own meals instead of eating in restaurants can save you some dough. Opt for vacation rentals with full kitchens or hotel rooms with small kitchenettes. If you don't have a fridge in your room, keep a cooler on hand and stock it with snacks from a local grocery store. Hotels that offer free hot breakfasts can also slash your food budget. Eating out? Look for local restaurants where kids eat free.

Delve for Discounts

Do a little detective work when researching your budget family vacation and see what discounts are available for attractions you're planning to visit.. Besides searching for coupons online, check for local coupon books, such as Entertainment or Enjoy the City. You can also contact the local chamber of commerce or visitor’s center ahead of time to ask about discount coupons. If national parks are on your wish list, buy an annual pass that admits the whole family to as many parks as you want to visit.

Find the Freebies

Head to major cities to find free activities to round out your vacation plans. For example, in St. Louis, the city's zoo, Science Center and Grant's Farm all offer free admission, although you'll find additional pay-to-participate attractions at each. Washington, D.C. offers an impressive menu of free museums, parks and monuments.

Get into the Swim of Things

Kids love splashing in water, and free aquatic attractions are easy to find in most cities. Splash through 7,000 feet of musical water fountains at Cincinnati’s Washington Park from April through October—it's one of many fun and free things to do in Cincinnati. If you prefer to slip down a natural water slide, head to Cashiers, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains for wet, slippery fun at Sliding Rock. A natural pool at the base of the slide is perfect for swimming, and you can also try your luck hooking brown trout from the river.

Amuse 'em at a Museum

Museums offer great family fun during hot or rainy weather. Many of them are inexpensive or free and have exhibits geared toward kids. Ready to go bananas? Head to the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California. Wandering among more than 20,000 quirky items related to the brightly colored fruit is sure to "a-peel" to every family member. Belly up to the banana bar for a cool treat: The museum sells banana soda ice cream floats, banana shakes, banana splits and chocolate-covered bananas.


Ready to plan your wallet-friendly family vacation? Find hotels in St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Cashiers, Mecca.


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