Family Vacations on a Budget

Everyone loves to get away from time to time.

But here’s the problem: Vacations can be expensive, especially for a family on a budget. To drive this home, it’s estimated that 212 vacation days are forfeited annually in America, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Do you want to let your vacation days go unused this year? I bet not. And, believe it or not, it’s possible to save money and create a family budget that will allow you to take that much-needed vacation.

To help you plan your family trip on a budget, we’ve put together a list of six fabulous places to go that won’t bust your bank account. Some of these U.S. destinations may surprise you. Take a look:

1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is one of my favorite American cities. It’s pro-green with a bit of a hipster vibe and wonderful art. It also boasts The Mall of America, the world’s largest mall. This is ideal for the kiddos, especially if it’s pouring rain.

Besides every store imaginable, the mall has an aquarium and an amusement park. Yet, if you don’t want to pay for these attractions, you can spend days simply window shopping or going back-to-school shopping.

Minneapolis also has plenty of other free things to do, like the Weisman Art Museum, Basilica of Saint Mary Tours, Como Zoo, and Minnehaha Park.

2. Washington, D.C.

If you think Minneapolis has lots of free activities, you’re in for a real treat if you go to Washington, D.C.!

It’s almost hard to find activities that you have to pay for as most attractions are free for U.S. citizens. Smithsonian museums (yes, plural)? Free. U.S Capitol tours? Free. White House tours? Free. National Mall? Free.

Just be sure to request tickets for certain things like the Capitol and White House well ahead of time – you do need tickets in advance for security reasons.

Most of the attractions in the nation’s capitol are clumped together, but if you need to travel around the city, you can hop on the train. And, there are plenty of affordable places to stay in D.C., including The Arc Hotel. Another option is to stay in a nearby city, like Alexandria, Virginia.

3. Daytona Beach, Florida

There’s just something about a beach vacation that unravels a world of stress. Daytona Beach is a perfect place to let the worries of the world melt away.

A great and affordable place to stay is the Holiday Inn Resort. Kids under 12 eat free at the restaurant, which will save you tons of money on dining. Plus, it’s right on the ocean, but also has a pool onsite if you want to avoid all that sand.

Daytona Beach itself is 23 miles long and offers many different activities. Aside from the beach, other attractions in Daytona include the Ponce Inlet where Florida’s tallest lighthouse stands and the Daytona Boardwalk and Pier.

4. Lake Tahoe, California

This time we’re headed over to the West Coast.

Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for a family vacation. The beauty alone is worth the trip (and free). The beaches, such as Kings Beach State Recreation Area, are generally free to access or in some cases, there is a small fee. The must-do activity in Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park, which is free to access, although you can pay for add-on tours.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, The 7 Seas Inn has free WiFi, breakfast, and parking. You can even bring your pet if you’d like. It also offers a free private beach. Another budget friendly option is the Tahoe Resort Hotel. This hotel has a “deals” tab on the website so that  you can check out promo rates. If you take advantage of the midweek savings deal, you can save 15%!

5. Yellowstone, Wyoming

Yellowstone is massive and you can spend plenty of time just exploring the national park itself. It’s actually in three states, though the majority is located in Wyoming.

Yellowstone, the first national park in the United States, is free to enter and explore on your own – just make sure to visit the eruption of Old Faithful. You can also fish, bicycle, and discover Yellowstone via water. The park even features special activities for kids!

While there are plenty of hotels options near Yellowstone, the most popular and cost-effective way to lodge is by camping!

6. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Rounding out our list of family vacations on a budget is Wisconsin Dells, also known as the Waterpark Capital of the World.

The Dells offer both indoor and outdoor water parks so you can enjoy them any time of the year. There are several waterpark resorts to stay at as well, including Great Wolf Lodge. Free kids’ activities at Great Wolf include character appearances, a pajama party, and morning activities before the water park opens. Other resorts, such as Kalahari Resort, also include an array of free and low-cost family activities.

Research is Key

Something to remember when searching for a budget-friendly family vacation: Always do your research. Make sure you compare your options to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Familiarize yourself with the cheapest time of the year to travel so that you can maximize your savings, and be on a lookout for sales or Groupons for hotels and activities at your destination.

Are you ready to start planning a family vacation on a budget? Summer fun is waiting!

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