If you haven’t planned your summer vacation yet, you may be wondering what to do and how much it will cost. You may even be wondering if you can afford a summer vacation at all, and that’s if you can get the time off work.
Fortunately, travel with kids doesn’t have to be expensive or far-flung. There are plenty of ways to make family memories without spending a bundle, and your kids probably won’t know the difference anyway. If you can’t get a full week off work, you could always plan a shorter trip over a weekend or with whatever time you have.
8 Summer Travel Ideas for Families
The point is, keep your mind - and your options - open. If you’re angling for a summer vacation with kids that won’t blow your budget out the window, consider these low-cost and mid-tier vacation ideas:
#1: Visit an all-inclusive resort.
While all-inclusive resorts may be on the higher end of what is considered affordable, they can still work well within a family budget. Because these resorts include your food, lodging, and entertainment in one low price, you can use them to plan an affordable vacation if you choose all-inclusive with a low nightly rate.
Also, don’t forget that some all-inclusive resorts are bookable with hotel points, meaning you can stay at them for free if you sign up for the right travel credit card. The Hyatt Zilara properties in Mexico and Jamaica are good examples of this since you can book stays with points and bring your kids along.
And, while most all-inclusive resorts are outside the U.S., you can hatch an airline miles strategy to get your family there for free. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards but also has its own co-branded credit cards. You can frequently find round-trip flights to the Caribbean and Mexico via Southwest for 25,000 miles per person or less.
#2: Take a cheap cruise!
Cruises offer another way to take the family somewhere new for less than you think. A low-cost cruise includes your lodging, all your food, plenty of entertainment, and a kid’s club, after all.
Consider MSC Cruises for your next cruise. They offer seven-night Caribbean cruises starting at $439 per night. Kids 11 and under also cruise free on select itineraries.
#3: Visit a theme park.
You don’t have to take your kids to Disney World to have a fun day at a theme park. Most states have at least a few parks that are easier to get to and a lot more affordable. Consider a Six Flags or Kings Island park that’s close enough you can drive to. You can stay in a cheap hotel with a pool or drive home at the end of the day.
Also, don’t rule out water parks during the hottest parts of the summer. Many theme parks have a water park attached, but there are plenty of freestanding water parks to consider as well.
#4: Go camping (not glamping).
Camping is another affordable way to spend time with your family, but you have to make sure your costs don’t get out of hand. Many higher end campgrounds do offer luxury cabins and luxury RV rentals. If you want to camp affordably, you should choose your campsite carefully and opt for cheaper digs.
Many state and national parks offer primitive camping spots for as little as $12 per night. If you can borrow a tent or two and pack a cooler of food, this option can make for a cheap summer trip. You could even string together several state parks so you have different scenery to enjoy over the course of a week.
#5: Plan active day trips close to home.
If you live in an area where there is a ton to do, you may be able to plan an active summer vacation and still spend your evenings at home. If you live in an area with hiking opportunities and state parks, for example, you could visit a new one each day of your break. If you live near the beach, you could plan several beach days that include water activities like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or surfing.
If you want to make it into more of a real vacation, you could even book a hotel in your area. To save even more money, consider picking up a hotel or travel rewards card to get your hotel covered for free.
#6: Book a vacation condo with a pool.
Depending on the age of your kids, their travel expectations could be extremely low. They may even be perfectly happy with a nice pool and a hot tub, a hotel room or rental condo, and your undivided attention.
Don’t feel like you have to go all out for a family trip if your kids are perfectly happy swimming and relaxing. Very often, the easiest trips are the most fun and the most affordable.
#7: Book a cheap beach condo.
Beaches are inherently frugal to visit since so much of their beauty can be experienced for free. If you have kids, chances are they can spend hours playing in the sand and surf with nothing more than a bucket or a cup from the kitchen.
Renting a beachfront condo can also be more affordable than you think through websites like VRBO.com and HomeAway.com. You can often find one or two-bedroom beachfront condos in destinations like Panama City, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama for less than $800 for the week.
#8: Plan a frugal road trip.
Since the United States has so many beautiful and diverse landscapes, you can also plan a frugal road trip to explore all our country has to offer. Consider stops like Yellowstone in Wyoming, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Black Hills of South Dakota, or the rocky deserts of Sedona.
During a frugal road trip, you could stay in inexpensive roadside motels to save some cash or dole out some hotel rewards to get nicer stays covered for free. You could also borrow or rent an RV, although gas would likely set you back more than you think.
The Bottom Line
With summer approaching and no travel planned, you may be in a panic. But, there’s still plenty of time to plan a family trip that’s frugal, fulfilling, and fun.
Your kids won’t care how much you spent, but they will care that you spent your time with them. So, spend your time where it counts and spend as little money as you can. No matter your travel budget, the memories you make will be priceless.
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