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Summer vacation ideas the whole family will enjoy

Ami is a writer who is also a childbirth educator and former doula. In addition to her love of all things birth and babies, she is addicted to celebrity news and isn't ashamed to admit it. Ami lives in Chicago with her husband and her te...

Need a vacation?

Summer is the ideal time of year for family vacations and with some planning you can find activities for everyone to enjoy without breaking your budget.

Plan ahead

The economy is challenging for everyone and airlines are no exception. Check with your travel agent or search for current internet specials — many airlines offer special web-only discounts. Even if you don't plan to travel until late summer, you can save money by purchasing airfare now.

All-inclusive destinations

Many families enjoy the convenience of all-inclusive vacations like cruising or resorts. Destinations like these typically include food and beverages (alcohol for mom and dad usually costs extra) and host an array of activities just for the kids while parents get spa treatments or relax by the pool. Specialized activities like waterskiing, snorkeling, hikes and more may be included, too.

A budget-friendly vacation option is visiting a water park. Outdoor parks are ideal for summer travel but splashing inside is fun, too — and no worries about sun protection. Many parks are connected to hotels and offer special rates that may include free kids' meals or guests-only rates for passes to the park.

On the road again

A great way to spend quality time together and save money is to take a trip in a recreational vehicle (RV). You can rent or purchase an RV and have the comforts of home with you during your journey. Kathryn Marion, a mom of four from Erie, Colorado, wouldn't travel any other way. Marion loves the benefits of RVing like eating her own food, not having to cart luggage around and being able to continue her daughters' routine while on the road.

RV travel and camping is also a great way for the kids to meet other families. "We meet interesting people and make friends from all over the country - campers are known for being a friendly bunch, so the kids are never without playmates wherever we stop," says Marion. Each year she picks a new stop for the Fourth of July which last year included watching fireworks from a top her RV within Mt. Rushmore park."

Day trips and staycations

A vacation doesn't mean you have to go away for a week or even days. Sometimes a great day trip is all you need to spend time together. How about taking a drive to a destination an hour or two from home? Try a new restaurant, shop, and visit a museum or the zoo. If you live in a big city, the possibilities are endless — go to a Red Sox baseball game or walk the Freedom Trail in Boston. Kids will love the hands-on Museum of Science and Industry or Lincoln Park Zoo (free!) in Chicago. And of course, there are plenty of family-friendly Broadway shows to see— many which offer free tickets for kids with a paying adult — in New York City.

If you live in a smaller community — or simply prefer a quieter day trip — pack a picnic and have lunch at a local park or beach. Making sandwiches and homemade lemonade is a great way to spend time together without spending a lot of money.

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