Planning a family vacation can be pretty difficult when you’re on a tight budget. However, there are a ton of great family vacation spots that are great for tight budgets located all across the United States and the world! Each one of these places has a unique experience for every family, no matter what you’re looking to do.
One of the biggest reasons people have for not traveling as a family, especially with young children, is that family travel is so expensive. “I’d love to go on a family vacation but we just can’t afford it,” is something I hear frequently. I completely understand the sentiment and frustration behind it but I’m here to tell you that family travel on a budget IS possible.
In fact, there are inexpensive family vacation spots all around the world, from the US to Asia to Europe and everywhere in between. There are even places in the world where you can travel on $30 per person, per day if you stay in basic accommodation, use local transportation, and stay away from tourist attractions.
However, not everyone wants to travel on an ultimate shoestring budget so the inexpensive family vacation spots I’ve included in this list are places where you can find affordable hotels and lots of free things to do as a family. When it comes to family travel on a budget, I find accommodation and activities to be the two most budget-destroying things so being somewhere with lots of free activities is important.
Another important thing to consider when looking at inexpensive family vacation spots is how expensive it is to GET there. A $1000 flight can quickly make a super budget destination very expensive while a cheap flight can make a slightly more expensive city an affordable trip. It all depends on where you’re beginning your trip and is something that will impact whether or not each of these destinations is an affordable family destination for your family. We use skyscanner’s anywhere feature to find the cheapest flights to a variety of destinations during our preferred time of travel.
Best Family Vacation Spots for Tight Budgets
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has a lot of fancy hotels such as the Omni Grove Park Inn, but they also have plenty of budget-friendly options too so don’t be discouraged! You don’t need a lot of money to enjoy all the culture and great eats that Asheville has to offer. Here are some activities I highly recommend:
- 1. Explore downtown Asheville
- 2. Visit the local art galleries (especially Biltmore Village, River Arts District, and the Folk Art Center)
- 3. Hike to a waterfall
- 4. Attend a festival (there are dozens of festivals happening all year)
★★★ Flying L Ranch Resort, Bandera, USA
This Texas resort is a one of a kind experience the whole family can enjoy! Enjoy a cowboy style experience that your family will never forget. Here are some of the great activities at the ranch:
1. The Lone Star Lagoon Water Park
- 2. Golf
- 3. Horseback Riding
- 4. Fishing
Gulf Shores 2019: Best of Gulf Shores, AL Tourism
If you’re looking for a fun beach trip, don’t lookover Gulf Shores, Alabama. Tucked away near the Gulf, you’ll find a beach full of activities for the whole family. Here are some activities you don’t want to miss:
- 1. Walk the Gulf State Pier
- 2. Adventure Island
- 3. Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
- 4. Gulf Shores Museum
★★★ Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, USA
If you’ve had your eyes set on going to Hawaii, this resort is going to be one of the best places to stay! The prices are really reasonable, and you are just steps from the beach! The island of Maui has so much to offer from The Road to Hana to the dormant volcano Haleakala to see. Here are some activities you don’t want to miss:
- 1. Visit the famous Black Sand Beach (Oneuli Beach)
- 2. Drive through the Road to Hana
- 3. Visit the Botanical Gardens of Iao Valley
- 4. Visit some of the many sites on the Lahaina Historic Trail
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas has a surprising amount of free and low-cost activities that the whole family can enjoy. While this might not come across as the most family-friendly option, there is a lot for families to do. Here are some ideas:
1. The saltwater aquarium at Caesar’s Palace
- 2. Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo
- 3. Circus shows and games at Circus Circus
- 4. Freemont Street Experience performances
San Diego, California
I know what you’re thinking - California is one of the most expensive states, how is San an Diego an inexpensive family vacation spot?
Two reasons - the Go San Diego Card and free activities. The Go San Diego Card gets you up to 55% off most major family attractions in San Diego, including the San Diego Zoo, LEGOland, Sea World (including multi-day passes), Safari Park, and many museums and other attractions for up to 7 days.
If the kids are old enough to want to be on the go and experiencing amusement parks and more, this is one of the best family travel on a budget secrets on the West Coast.
In addition, there are plenty of free things to do in San Diego with kids, including the beach, visiting sea lions at La Jolla, the Torrey Pines Nature Reserve, and much more!
Washington DC, much like San Diego, is not typically thought of as a budget city. However, one of the great things about Washington DC is just how much things are FREE. You can literally plan an entire day around family-friendly free activities. Free activities in Washington DC include many of the memorials, like the Franklin D Roosevelt and Lincoln Memorials, the museums on the National Mall and the National Air and Space Museum and others, along with many parks. Oh, and the Smithsonian National Zoo is free! That is one of the best deals for family travel on a budget in Washington DC because you can absolutely spend an entire day watching pandas at the zoo.
Here are some things you don’t want to miss:
1. Rock Creek Park hiking trails
- 2. Visit national monuments and memorials
- 3. The National Mall (this has a ton of free museums)
- 4. Free theatre performances
Pennsylvania may not automatically pop in your head as a family travel destination but for families on the East Coast, Pittsburgh is a great family budget travel destination. The city has transformed over the past several years, from the steel city it was known as into a modern up-and-coming, hip place to be that is still inexpensive compared to most other major East Coast cities.
For families, there are lots of places to explore. Check out Idlewild Splash Park, Kennywood, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, or one of the many playgrounds throughout the city. Pittsburgh is, of course, known for its sporting events so if you’ve got a sports-obsessed kid, stop by Heinz Field for a game of ball.
For European inexpensive family vacation spots, look past the obvious European cities and head straight to Lisbon, Portugal. Portugal is currently one of the best values in Europe and Lisbon is the place to base (or start) your family explorations. There are plenty of family-friendly activities and the city has not yet reached the prices of other popular Europe destinations.
Family-friendly activities in Lisbon include the Oceanario Aquarium (the biggest aquarium in Europe!), the science museum, Monstano National Park, or a tuk tuk sightseeing tour.
Manuel Antonio 2019: Best of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Tourism
For international family travel on a budget that’s closer than Europe, check out Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The entirety of Costa Rica is a family travel playground but if you’re looking to base in one place, Manuel Antonio is it. Manuel Antonio is home to one of the most beautiful and popular national parks in Costa Rica, which you can explore on your own or with a guide, as well as beautiful beaches. What more can you ask for on a tropical vacation?
To save money, avoid beachfront hotels and restaurants. You can save even more money by staying in nearby Quepos and taking the public bus to downtown Manuel Antonio but all accommodation and food prices drop significantly once you’re a few hundred meters from the beach.
As you can see, there are a bunch of great places to visit even when you’re on a tight budget. While there are a lot of pricey things to do in each of these cities, there is still a bunch of family-friendly fun for those on a budget.
Whether you want to stay near home or head abroad, family travel on a budget IS possible! Don’t let your belief that family travel must break the bank keep you at home.