8 Budget-friendly family vacations
The kids are complaining about being back in school, you and your spouse are in dire need of a getaway -- sounds like you need a family vacation. But what if your budget is tight and you can’t splurge on a pricey family destination? Don’t worry -- we’ve got eight great family vacation ideas that you can afford.
Rules for cheap family travel
Think first about traveling on weekdays. Any time is better than Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when airfare is at a premium. Scout vacation spots close to your home. State parks, and local or regional resorts frequently offer tantalizing deals during the winter months. For example, kids stay free at many Best Western and Hilton Inns. National travel expert Eileen Ogintz also says that it's not too late to get in on travel specials to the tropics this winter!
Try San Francisco in March, when you can save 40 percent off hotels and other attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Exploratorium, and the Discovery Museum.
In June, set off for Portland, Oregon, recently named America's "Best Big City." Famous for its nightlife and art scene, Portland offers family attractions like the Oregon Zoo, the annual Rose Festival and the Enchanted Forest.
Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota
In October, travel to the Badlands/Black Hills area of South Dakota, which is the home of Mount Rushmore. Make it an educational trip for the kids!
October in Denver means great hotel deals. Autumn in Colorado features golden quaking aspens as a backdrop for family attractions that include the Denver Botanic Gardens and pumpkin patches, corn mazes, the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, and Tiny Town Railroad.
Branson is one of the top family destinations in the Midwest. Famous for live music, theme parks and outdoor recreation, Branson attracts millions of visitors each year. The top family attraction is Silver Dollar City, which includes a new $7 million ride called Tom and Huck's RiverBlast. Branson is also known for its beautiful area lakes, Taneycomo, Table Rock and Bull Shoals.
Ogintz also suggests a visit to our nation's capital as an affordable, budget- and family-friendly trip. All 19 Smithsonian museums have free admission (including the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art and national monuments). The D.C. area's public transportation system affords easier access to budget-friendly lodging. Interesting day trips include Civil War battlefields such as Bull Run and Mount Vernon, George Washington's peaceful home.
Williamsburg, Virginia, and surroundings
Also on the East Coast, this area offers your family some of the nation's best "living history" towns including Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center. This site provides a fascinating glimpse into the early days of our country, enacted by full-time costumed guides, teachers and actors.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
If you hanker for a trip to the beautiful state of Florida, the best time to book a trip to Fort Lauderdale is in August, when off-peak three-star hotels are 30 to 40 percent off their normal prices. While you're there you can check out Dolphin World, the Museum of Discovery and Science, or Butterfly World in the southern Florida area.
The key to cheap family travel is planning ahead
As long as you plan ahead, keep tabs on prices and consider staying in lodging where you can cook your own meals some of the time, your budget can allow you a bountiful and enjoyable stay at any of these recommended destinations. Happy family traveling!