Cheap Vacation Ideas for Your Family

Hitting the road for a family vacation doesn’t have to hit your bank account hard. Here are a bunch of cheap vacation ideas that are sure to score you loads of cool parent points.

  • 01 of 06

    Have an Extreme Outdoor Adventure

    Family biking on a wooded trail
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    Trade in the long car ride and unhealthy foods that are typically associated with vacation, and head out on an extended family bike ride or hike. With all the family-friendly bike trails and hiking trails that are spread out across the country, it’s really easy to hit the trails and just go for miles. While this type of trip takes more planning and commitment than most, it couldn’t be more budget-friendly. Pack food and camping gear, and you won’t have to pay for much more than a nightly camping fee. And just think how cool it would be to say that your family hiked 25 miles or biked 100 miles. Showing your kids that they can accomplish big things is a very good use of vacation time.

  • 02 of 06

    Go on a Grand Tour

    Jelly Belly Factory
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    Lots of factories will allow you to tour their facilities for free or a nominal fee. These behind-the-scenes tours allow kids to see how everything from tractors to jelly beans are made, and often come with free samples and swag. Line up a route of factory tours in an area that you’d like to explore. Then, add in a free walking tour at each stop along the way. Most mid-to-large size cities have self-guide tours that you can download to your phone, as well as guided tours run by freelancers, who work for tips. They can be a really interesting way to explore a city, and often lead to discovering hidden gems that you’d normally miss.

  • 03 of 06

    Take a Learning Vacation

    Digging for fossils
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    Everyone has things they wish they knew how to do. Start a conversation with your family to find out what those things are. Then, plan a trip around making some of them happen. You could learn how to ride horses, dig for fossils or sign up for a basketmaking workshop. There are so many possibilities, and since you'll be coming home with a new skill, you're sure to get your money's worth.

  • 04 of 06

    Give Voluntourism a Shot

    Family helping to frame a house
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    Use your family vacation time to do for others, instead of doing for yourself. Research volunteer vacation opportunities, until you find something that excites your whole family. Then, find out what you need to do to get accepted into the program. You could help build a Habitat house, clean up hiking trailswork on a farm or tackle a project overseas. There are so many fun possibilities. These types of vacations often come with free room and board, but spots fill up fast, so you need to plan far in advance. Be sure to check age requirements before you apply, so you don’t waste time going after opportunities that aren’t open to your family.

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  • 05 of 06

    Visit a Big City

    U.S. Capitol Building
    Allan Baxter/DigitalVision/Getty Images

    You may pay more for a hotel room in a metropolitan area, like New York City or Washington, D.C., but all the free activities, cheap eats and affordable transportation options more than make up for it. Take in a bunch of free museums and historical sites; use an app to locate food trucks when you get hungry; and bounce around town on the subway. Just do a search for “free things to do in (insert city)”, and you’re bound to uncover more activities than you have time for. Who knows? You may even uncover cool things, like free outdoor movies, that only the locals are privy to.

  • 06 of 06

    Attend One of the Longest Yard Sales in the U.S.

    Family Shopping at a Yard Sale
    Ariel Skelley/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Take your family on an epic shopping spree without blowing your budget. Nearly every state hosts an annual miles-long yard sale where thousands upon thousands of vendors come out to sell their wares. You'll find antiques and designer goods for the grown ups, as well as plenty of toys and clothes for the kids. There's truly something for everyone, and since the prices are negotiable, you won't have to worry about overspending on souvenirs. Find campgrounds along the route to keep costs down, and get your fill of local fare from all the diners and food vendors you encounter along the way.