Ten Top Budget Travel Destinations for Families

When the budget gets tighter, families still need a getaway -- perhaps more than ever. Below are some affordable destination ideas.

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Page Arizona: Lots to Do!

Glen Canyon Dam

 Adbar / Wikimedia Commons

Page is a budget-friendly town that can be home base for some great sightseeing and recreation. Such as: visiting the Glen Canyon Dam, that created Lake Powell; houseboating on Lake Powell; visiting the famously beautiful Antelope Slot Canyons, or the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. At the small but interesting Powell Museum, you can learn about the wild river rides of John Powell and his men, adventuring through the Grand Canyon in the 1860's.

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Washington DC

National Air and Space Museum, just one of the Smithsonian museums.
National Air and Space Museum, just one of the Smithsonian museums.

Washington DC can be an affordable family vacation thanks in part to the many free things to do: The National Mall and Monuments, The US Capital, The White House, the Smithsonian museums ( National Museum of Natural History, National Air & Space Museum, National Museum of American History, and more) and the National Zoo are all free of charge. And accommodations can be found for any budget.

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Acadiana - Cajun Country, Louisiana

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Take a side trip west of New Orleans to French Louisiana: "Acadiana", or Cajun Country, with its own fascinating history, fab music, and delicious dishes, is just a short drive from NOLA. Check above for Cajun Country highlights that suit families, such as heritage villages, swamp tours, or Lafayette's free music festival that takes over the whole town.

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in Summer

Giant Canyon Swing, at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Giant Canyon Swing, at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

Glenwood Springs is a magnet for families who live in Denver and Colorado's "Front Range", who drive to good times in the rivers and mountains. Fun in the town itself includes the giant Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (with waterslide) and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which has an alpine coaster, Giant Canyon Swing, the Glenwood Caverns, and more. Glenwood Springs is also a launching point for whitewater rafting, river kayaking, ziplining across a rushing river, playing in a giant artificial wave at a river park.... Fly into Denver, rent a car, and get into the act.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

affordable vacation destination - Myrtle Beach
Photos courtesy of The Myrtle Beach Area CVB.

Myrtle Beach -- named for the myrtle trees in the area-- is on the coast of South Carolina, 98 miles north of Charleston; South Carolina is the #2 state for tourism after Florida.

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Wisconsin Dells

Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge.
Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge.

With a population of about 2500, this town lays claim to being "the indoor water park capital of the world." Families can choose from many resorts that have their own indoor water parks, including Great Wolf Lodge, which got its start in "the Dells", and the Kalahari Resort. Several places have outdoor water parks in summer, as well. Some resorts sell day passes to outside guests.

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Branson Missouri

Branson Landing: night view, with boats and fountains. Photo courtesy of Branson CVB.
Branson Landing: night view, with boats and fountains. Photo courtesy of Branson CVB.

Attractions for families include: Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed park; Celebration City family amusement park with wooden roller coaster; IMAX; Showboat Branson Belle paddleboat; Ride the Ducks (amphibious military landing vehicles), Branson Scenic Railway; Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show; Family Fun Centers, and more. Branson Landing, left, has a boardwalk along the 1.5-mile lakefront and a water attraction with fountains, fire, light and music.

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Ohio State Park Lodges

affordable vacation destination: Ohio State Park Resorts
Photo courtesy of Salt Fort State Park Resort.

Ohio has some very cool state park lodges with resort-like features, and they're an easy drive from some cities in southern MI and western PA. Salt Fork State Park Resort, for instance, is two hours from Pittsburgh, and has cabins with lake fiews, indoor and outdoor pools, family programs, volleyball, paintballing, and more. Some of these state park lodges are near amusement parks and other fun activities.

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Cody, Wyoming

Photo courtesy of Cody, Wyoming.
Photo courtesy of Cody, Wyoming.

This town is located about 50 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park and offers many free and low-budget fun things to do.

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Gatlinburg Tennessee

affordable vacation idea - Gatlinburg Tennessee
Photo courtesy of Gatlinburg Tourism and Convention Bureau.

Gatlinburg's location is near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and the big draw is to see some of the many black bears that live in the Park (and occasionally visit the town.) Other family activities include the Space Needle, Ripley’s Aquarium, white river rafting, and fly fishing and river fishing.

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Quebec City, Canada (Visit Europe in North America)

Affordable vacation idea - Quebec City
Photo courtesy of Quebec City Tourism.

"I took my kids to Europe last weekend". That's how it felt when we visited Quebec City during winter Carnival. Four hundred years of history; charming lanes to explore; a terrific (bilingual) museum for kids. Also in winter: spend a day skiing at a nearby ski resort. Quebec City is great in summer, too. (And depending on the exchange rate, a destination in Canada may be a bargain for those with US dollars.) Note about language: Quebec City is French-speaking, but people working in tourism speak English too.

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Lots More Ideas for Affordable Family Vacations

Affordable vacation idea - an all inclusive resort in the US
Photo © Teresa Plowright

Water park resorts, family camps, family camping, "staycations", a Caribbean-style all inclusive resort in Florida, and more.

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