A coastal town with a bay full of numerous boats coming back just before sunset
Portugal is known to be one of the cheapest holiday destinations in western Europe to visit. It happens to be a stunningly beautiful country, with a string of soft-sanded beaches, golden cliffs, and turquoise water.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / sack

14 Budget-Friendly Family Vacations You Can't Afford to Miss

Picture Perfect Vacations That Won’t Break the Bank

Memories of vacations with your family are priceless, but the trips themselves are anything but. When you have to multiply the cost of airfare, accommodation and activities by the number children you have, family trips start to seem out of reach.

Believe it or not though, there are some places that have enough activities to keep all ages happy, have accommodation options for groups and are inexpensive to boot. The trick is to know where to go and how to plan a family vacation.

To help you out, we’ve put together this list of ideas for cheap family vacations.

Portugal

One of the cheapest holiday destinations in Western Europe to visit, Portugal certainly fits the bill for affordable family vacations. It also happens to be a stunningly beautiful country, with the Algarve Coast offering up a string of soft-sanded beaches, golden cliffs and turquoise water.

The small beach towns along the coast are all ideal for families, so you could pick any one of them and end up in the perfect spot. The villages perk up in the summer months but still manage to retain calm, small beach town vibes.

There are cobblestone streets and markets to explore, ice cream cones to devour and of course endless sunny days to spend splashing around at the beach.

Pack the beach towels and sunscreen — when it comes to family vacations on a budget, Portugal has the goods.

The sun is setting on a beach resort making the sky a brilliant orangeThe Dominican Republic is the adventure capital of the country with dozens of outdoor activity options and places to explore within two hours of the town.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / thepalmer

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is an affordable place to enjoy a slice of the Caribbean with your family. While prices go up during spring break, during the rest of the year you can find accommodations that suit both families and lower budgets.

Some hotels will even let children stay for free, or at heavily discounted rates.

Cabarete in particular is great for inexpensive vacations for families, as there are many inexpensive hotels, plus miles of beaches that you can access for free. It’s also the adventure-capital of the country, so it is an ideal base for exploring more of the area. There are dozens of outdoor activity options and places to explore within two hours of the town.

The coral reef protecting the beach makes the water calm and safe for children to swim in. Then there are short jungle walks, nature parks and horse rides. ¡Que bueno!

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Three boats are drifting along the stunning Thailand waters during the sunsetThailand is known to offer fantastic value for your money, many Thailand resorts include on-site swimming pools, organized day trips and tours, and restaurants. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / primeimages

Thailand

Thailand is famous for being cheap, so it is perfect for inexpensive family vacations. Move over backpackers — there are a lot of seaside resorts where you can stay comfortably with your family.

They offer fantastic value for your money, and they usually have facilities such as swimming pools and restaurants on site. To make things even easier, many resorts will be able to organize day trips and excursions for you, so that takes the hassle out of organizing the whole family — you just have to get everyone to show up!

Aside from the beaches where the famous full moon parties are held, many of Thailand’s beaches are family-friendly. You and yours can enjoy Thailand’s luscious beaches, and activities such as snorkeling, sea kayaking and lounging on beach chairs.

A net-style hammock is tied onto two palm trees by the beach with the sunset in the backgroundThere is an abundance of resorts in Fiji with many of them tailored toward families. If parents wish for some time alone there are some resorts which offer to babysit your children.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / zstockphotos

Fiji

The island nation of Fiji is a sun and sand playground for all ages. There is plenty to keep children entertained here, with jungles, caves and waterfalls enticing you out for day trips.

Then there is the warm local culture; Fiji is a wonderful place to travel with kids because of the gentle and open nature of Fijian people. They have a great fondness for children and will happily invite them (and you) to join in various activities and games, allowing you to forge connections that will make your vacation unforgettable.

There are an abundance of resorts in Fiji, many of them tailored toward families. Kids’ clubs are common, as are child-friendly pools and play areas.

Resorts that welcome children usually also offer babysitting, so you can enjoy an evening out with your significant other, indulging in local restaurants and bars. To top everything off, Fiji is an affordable family vacation destination — you will be able to enjoy the lush Pacific Island paradise without breaking the bank.

River and mountainsThere are tons of fun opportunities for physical activity in the Bozeman area.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bozeman, MT

This Southern Montana city has much to offer the family traveler, and without the high price tag that comes with some of the more flashy resort cities in the Western U.S. If you are looking to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and spend time together as a family, Bozeman is where it’s at. Here, your kids will be able to run free and enjoy a variety of experiences in the mountains, all while everyone is soaking in the beautiful views on every side.

Your days will be full of hiking, camping, mountain biking, rafting and fly fishing in the mountains around Bozeman. You’ll be just 80 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, so you’ll likely want to spend at least a day or two exploring the park during your visit.

However, just because you are enjoying nature all day long doesn’t mean you’ll have to leave behind all creature comforts. As Bozeman’s popularity as a tourist destination has grown, more and more great hotels and restaurants have come to town. There are several hotels that have pools the kids will enjoy at the end of the day. Check out the Best Western, Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn or other big name chain hotels in Bozeman if a pool is important to your group.

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Boats are placed alongside a Croatian sidewalkThe small country of Croatia offers white-walled and red-roofed towns line pebbly beaches, with warm weather and sunshine all-around. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / letty17

Croatia

The length of the Croatian Coast inspires cheap family vacation ideas. White-walled and red-roofed towns line pebbly beaches, thrumming with a sunshine-fueled buzz. The warm weather and unique culture of Croatia make this an inviting destination for family holidays.

Croatia is a friendly country and easy to travel with the tribe. There is a great bus network and English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

It’s also a relatively small country, so it’s a good idea to base yourself in one spot and explore from there. Zadar is a great place to set up camp while you venture further afield. It’s slightly smaller and quieter than Dubrovnik or Split, but still has lots to keep you busy.

You can visit nearby islands, eat fresh cherries from the market or visit Plitvice National Park, a surreal locale and one of the best places to swim in Croatia. The kids will be enthralled with the Sea Organ and disco lights of the Sun Salutation that light up at sunset.

While you’re watching the sun go down, you might even get lucky and spot dolphins.

A resort in Mexico contains miles of white sand beaches and beautiful turquoise ocean watersMany resorts in Mexico focus on catering to families with an array of amenities. Guests can expect nanny services, shuttle services to water parks, on-site restaurants and more. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / javarman3

Mexico

Mexico is the queen of all-inclusive resorts. Booking your family into accommodations that provide everything you could possibly need takes the effort out of planning and executing your trip, and it is surprisingly affordable as well.

Family-friendly resorts along the coast near Cancun and the Riviera Maya offer reasonable rates and promotions that make for cheap vacation ideas for families.

The resorts catering to families have an impressive array of amenities, with nanny services, kids’ menus, kids’ clubs, nightly entertainment and sometimes free shuttle services to water parks or other child-friendly attractions.

What’s more, thanks to the glorious nature of the Yucatan coastline, no matter where you stay you are almost guaranteed to be close to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, with many resorts opening directly out onto the white sand.

Beach with lots of colorful shacksPalolem Beach has lots of excitement for the whole family.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Goa, India

If India’s on your bucket list, you might consider booking a family holiday to Goa. Your trip highlights will include an array of places to explore, rich cultural sites, wildlife sanctuaries and gorgeous beaches — so there’s sure to never be a dull moment.

In the past, it was solidly a backpacker destination, but nowadays hotels and restaurants in Goa are quite welcoming to families. You’ll see plenty of kids and teenagers splashing in the waves and relaxing on the beach with their family.

For a quieter time with the kids, head to Ashwem and Morjim, both of which offer surf board rentals and other water activities. However, if you are looking for more excitement, beaches such as Palolem and Anjuna have more going on. If your kids are animal lovers, book a dolphin sighting cruise or head to one of the area’s wildlife sanctuaries such as the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary or Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary.

Travelers to Goa will find accommodations, food and tours at very attractive prices, so this gem makes for a great and affordable family vacation.

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City skyline over water with Ferris wheelThe city's playful atmosphere make it perfect for children and teens.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Montreal, Canada

If a dream vacation to Paris is out of the range of your budget, but you’d still like to channel a bit of France into your vacation, then perhaps a trip to Montreal is in order. You won’t have to leave North America to live the French life for a few days, which will save you tons in airfare when compared to a Transatlantic trip.

Montreal offers something for everyone and the city’s playful atmosphere makes it a perfect for children and teens. Whether you are watching the street performers at the Just For Laughs festival, taking in the thrills at La Ronde amusement park, or playing pirate at Pointe-a-Calliere, the kids are sure to spend their vacation with lots of smiles on their faces.

Adults in your group will appreciate the wealth of museums and galleries in the city. There’s nearly always a special cultural event going on. To top it off, many of the main attractions are within walking distance from one another or easily accessible by a short ride on the city’s subway system. Easy transport always makes travel with kids easier!

Make sure you indulge in plenty of French food while visiting the city. The bakeries and fine dining are top notch.


Boardwalk leading out to waterTake in the unspoilt beauty of Chincoteague Island.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Chincoteague Island, VA

Famous for a herd of wild ponies that call it home, Chincoteague is a peaceful island destination just off the coast of Virginia. Arguably one of the most beautiful beach towns on the East Coast, Chincoteague offers small town charm and plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature.

Nearby Assateague Island, which is connected to Chincoteague by a bridge, is home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge with its unspoilt beach that is famous for its beauty. While here, you’ll certainly want to get close to some ponies. You can see them by taking a bike ride through the refuge or by booking a bus tour with the Chincoteague National History Association, which visits more far-reaching parts of the refuge. Bird-watching is also top notch in the refuge.

Another fun thing to do with kids in Chincoteague is to take a boat tour of the bays and salt marshes. Several companies offer tours of the waterways around Chincoteague in a variety of vessels.

All in all, you’ll come away with just the kind of memories we love to make on our family vacations — lots of time spent together, enjoying the great outdoors. Better yet, you won’t have to break the bank to do so as Chincoteague is easily accessible from much of the Eastern United States, and accommodation is reasonable especially when compared to some of the larger resort cities along the coast.

The Washington MonumentThe whole family will enjoy learning about the nation's heritage in Washington.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Washington, D.C.

While the nation’s capital may not have the cheapest room rates on our list, tons of free attractions make it one of the most affordable family vacation destinations in the United States. All of the Smithsonian museums are free to enter, as is the National Gallery of Art and the National Zoo.

On top of that, most of the iconic monuments that Washington, D.C. is known for are free to enjoy. With all of that money you are saving on attraction costs, you’ll have plenty leftover to splurge on a nice hotel or dinner out for the whole family.

Mom and dad will be happy that the kids are learning a bit about our nation’s heritage during their vacation and the kids will enjoy seeing the epic sights they’ve learned about in school. To top it off, the city has an efficient subway system, so you don’t have to blow your budget on a high-dollar hotel near the main attractions. Rather, you can stay a bit further out, where budget-friendly hotels are easier to come by.

If you are planning to travel by plane, several major airports are conveniently located near Washington, D.C., so you’ll have your choice of flights. There are direct flights from many cities around the country and it pays to shop around to see which route and flight is the best option to save your family some money.

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Old European buildings in a townYou can spend hours wandering the picturesque streets of Talinn, Estonia.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Estonia

If you’re heart is set on visiting the Scandinavian countries of Northern Europe, you may be shocked by the price tag. However, just a short ferry ride away from Helsinki is a much more budget-friendly territory. Estonia offers a cheap alternative to those other cities with all of the charm and interesting sites that you’d hope to make a part of your European vacation.

Make time to explore the UNESCO-protected medieval old town in the country’s capital city, Talinn. There is a well-preserved walled area where you can spend hours exploring the various shops and dining in charming cafes and restaurants.

For a fun experience of medieval times for the whole family, book a table at the Olde Hansa restaurant for dinner. You’ll enjoy a 15th-century-style meal served by staff in medieval attire while listening to nightly live performances by medieval musicians.

If you are craving a bit of nature on your family vacation, Estonia won’t disappoint. Outside of the capital, you’ll find a pristine natural environment waiting to be explored such as the forested Lahermaa National Park, the Jagala Waterfall and the protected wetlands of Soomaa National Park.


Desert with rocksArches National Park is located 15 minutes outside of Moab.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Moab, Utah

For those budding outdoorsmen and adventuresses in your family, you’ll want to take note of this one. A trip to Moab puts you right in the middle of some of the most inspiring and enchanting natural sites in the United States.

Within seven hours of Moab you’ll find six U.S. National Parks — Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reed, Mesa Verde and Canyonlands — so your options for exploring are nearly endless. Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80 and your family will have a year of access to all of the parks in the U.S. National Parks system. The pass is free to active military members and fourth graders, so if that applies to someone in your family, you are looking at an even cheaper family vacation!

With your park pass in hand, you can set off to explore the wilderness that characterizes these parks. Hiking trails, mountain biking, rafting, horseback riding, camping and much more await.

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Forested mountainsEl Yunque National Forest makes for a great day trip from San Juan.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a beautiful tropical destination in the Caribbean with a unique Spanish-Colonial culture and is an ideal destination for families traveling on a budget. The island is easily reachable by plane from several hub cities in the United States and there are limited hassles for U.S. citizens as the island is a U.S. commonwealth.

Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, is one of the first cities to have been founded in the Caribbean. Here you’ll have a chance to learn about the history of Puerto Rico and the region through sites such as Fort San Cristobol and El Morro. The capital also has numerous examples of colonial architecture and restored ancient buildings along its cobblestone streets.

The natural surroundings won’t disappoint either. El Yunque National Forest is a tropical rainforest in the Luquillo Mountains. Easily accessible from San Juan, the stunning national park is a nice day-trip destination.

No one visits Puerto Rico without spending at least some time on the beach. Most of the beaches around San Juan are open to the public. Some of the top picks for family travelers include the beaches of Isla Verde and Luquillo. Of course, spending time playing in the sand and relaxing in the sun are completely free — a nice way for the whole family to spend the day when traveling on a budget.

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