How to Have a Great Family Vacation on a Tight Budget

family vacation

Family vacation can mean different things to each member of a family, but for most of us, it’s about time away from the daily grind and enjoying quality time together. It can also be a chance to explore a new destination or experience something out of the ordinary. And while any vacation can cost you, it is possible to plan a getaway that doesn’t break the bank.

A quick look at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s tried-and-true list of the best budget-friendly family vacations will show you that, with a little planning, it is entirely possible to have a great time on a tight budget. The key is to pick the right destination that offers lots of kid-friendly activities, then find hotels and resorts with rates that fit your budget. From beaches to mountains, historic sites to city breaks, there’s a family vacation to suit any interest and budget.

In a place like the Outer Banks (or what locals call “the OBX”), a weekend away can cost you less than half of what a weeklong trip might cost. The area’s beautiful barrier islands offer plenty of affordable beach houses and a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for kids. And with easy access to many of the region’s most popular attractions, there’s no shortage of things to do for the entire family.

South Dakota’s spectacular Black Hills might be primarily known for Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorial, but there’s much more to do in this scenic state than just drive up and down the highway. In fact, there are several affordable historical attractions in the area, including the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg, as well as a variety of free and low-cost walking and hiking trails.

The island of Aruba is a top Caribbean destination for families, thanks to its mix of gorgeous beaches and easy-access family attractions. The most budget-friendly time to visit is spring or fall, when temperatures are cooler and you can escape the summer crowds. Plus, if you choose to stay at a resort that includes meals and other amenities in your room rate, it can make for a very affordable family vacation.

While any island in the Hawaiian chain will be amazing for a tropical escape, Hawaii’s Big Island and Maui are especially ideal for families. These two locations have some of the best kid-friendly hotels, as well as a wide range of outdoor adventures to appeal to all ages. Then there’s the food—a huge part of any Hawaiian vacation. The islands are home to some of the most renowned restaurants in the world, and the cost of dining is surprisingly affordable.

Even if your kids roll their eyes at the idea of a vacay to Los Angeles, this kid-friendly city has plenty to keep them happy, from out-of-this-world attractions at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the La Brea Tar Pits to In-N-Out Burger (you can always get it for yourself). Plus, there’s a ton of free things to do, and you can save money by purchasing a Go City Card to see the top attractions and do more for less.