If you’re constantly on the lookout for the perfect family getaway—somewhere that promises lasting family memories with smiles and laughter, but your budget seems too small to deliver- we’ve got good news! We’ve done the research for your and found some great truly budget friendly family vacation destinations.
To make sure your vacation ends with cries of “Wow, this is amazing!” not “Wow, we spent so much!” Because family vacations are about creating memories, not financial headaches. And to do that, you’ll want to make sure you understand the whole cost of your vacation-daily activities, dining, transportation, etc. and keeping everything within your budget.
That’s where we come in. We’ve done all the work for you to plan a family vacation on a budget. We’ve come up with some basic itineraries at a variety of destinations to show you how you can make some amazing family memories within your budget.
For this article, we’ve assumed budget is around $2500 per week for a family of four, not including airfare (if required). But we have looked for destinations that aren’t difficult to get to, so airfare deals are common. And if that still sounds like a lot of money, the cost includes EVERYTHING – dining, daily activities, lodging, a rental car or transportation while on vacation to make sure these vacations are really attainable for you!
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St. George Utah is a surprising great spring and fall destination. We love going down to get some spring sunshine and warmer temperatures! Its one of our favorite spring break destinations!
If you are flying, the airport in St. George can be expensive and might not be a good option. Instead, fly into Las Vegas. There are often great deals on flights especially if you are flying in any day other than Friday.
You are definitely going to want a rental car for your vacation in St. George. You can often get a rental car in Las Vegas for about $300 for the week.
Lodging and food
Probably the best option for lodging in St. George are vacation rentals on VRBO or Utah’s Best Vacation Rentals. There are some fantastic options for condos or small houses with pool access for around $1200/week. This gives you and your family lots of extra space to spread out, and a full kitchen to easily make meals. Because you’ll have a kitchen, we’ve assumed you’ll spend about $500 on food, which allows for groceries (and we find that it costs us extra to buy groceries away from home since we have to buy some of the staples we’d already have at home), plus some enough to go out to dinner a few times.
Check out some of our favorite things to do in St. George, Utah
- Day 1: Do some super fun and kid friendly hikes in Snow Canyon State Park. You’ll pay only $15 per car with up to 8 people.
- Day 2: Spend a day swimming or playing at the beach at Sand Hollow Reservoir, Quail Lake, Ivins Reservoir, or Gunlock Reservoir for free! If you want, add a kayak rentals for about $100.
- Day 3: Take a day trip to Zion National Park, and spend the day exploring the park. Park admission is $35/day.
- Day 4: Spend a day exploring the Pioneer Park, and checking out the Red Hills Desert Garden- both are free and amazing!
- Day 5: Splurge on an ATV rental for a day! It’s SUCH a fun activity- read more about how much fun we had in this article. But it will cost about $500.
This gets us to a grand total of $2650 for a pretty great vacation in St. George, Utah!
2. Clearwater Beach, Fl
Clearwater Beach is a perfect Florida beach with soft sugar-white sand, warm water, and a great family-beach vibe. Even better- you can visit even on a budget!
If you are flying, fly into the Tampa International. Its a bigger airport with plenty of deals to find if you book early.
No need for a rental car in highly-walkable Clearwater Beach. Instead, Uber to and from the Tampa Airport for about $50 each way, or $100 total.
Springhill Suites by Marriott Clearwater Beach is a great option for families because it includes breakfast, and has a great outdoor pool. It’ll cost around $1400 for the week.
Spend your days playing at the beach, looking for sea shells, building sand castles in the sugary sand, splashing in the warm water, wandering around town, checking out the pier, and swimming in the hotel pool- all for free!
You’ll also want to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium – it’ll cost $40/person or $160 total.
Breakfast is included at the Springhill Suites. But you’ll go out for lunch and dinner. Dining is a little bit more expensive close to the beach, so we’ve budgeted $900 for the week for lunch and dinner.
For a week vacation relaxing on the beach in Clearwater Beach, the total comes to ~$2560.
Cancun is a popular destination because its a great, budget friendly destination with sun, sand, and entertainment!
And booking a vacation in Cancun is easy because many of the resorts are all inclusive, meaning dining, and many amenities, are included in the price of the hotel.
One fantastic option is Cancun is the Hilton Cancun All Inclusive. It has 8 restaurants, multiple pools including a kids pool and splash park, kids and teens club, evening entertainment, and more and it’ll cost you around $2500 for the week for a family of 4.
4. San Diego in October
If you can get away during the month of October, it is a great time to visit San Diego. Tons of San Diego museums and attractions offer free kids admission, making it a much more budget friendly destination! And San Diego still has great weather in October with average highs around 75°F.
The Hyatt House San Diego/Sorrento Mesa or SpringHill Suites by Marriott San Diego Rancho Bernardo are great options for families because both modern, clean rooms, free breakfast and a pool. The Springhill Suites rooms are a bit more spacious, which can really make a hotel stay more comfortable. During the month of October, you can expect to pay around $1000/week for either hotels, so its also a great value.
We recommend renting a car in San Diego, since there is quite a bit of driving. You can get a rental car for a week for about $350.
- Day 1: San Diego Zoo. With the kids free October deal, 2 adults and 2 kids under 11 can visit for $144. Since you’ll be at the zoo all day, you’ll want to pick up lunch, and can expect to pay around $80 for lunch.
- Day 2: San Diego Safari Park. Pricing is the same as the San Diego Zoo- $144 for two paying adults. And once again, you can expect to pay around $80 for lunch
- Day 3 (and maybe 4): Check out some of the great discounted museums. Fleet Museum – $50 for two adults and 2 kids under 13, and the New Children’s Museum- $48 for two adults and 2 kids under 18. If you are a member of an ASTC museum, the Fleet Museum will be free. If you aren’t- look into joining an ASTC Passport Museum in your area. As long as you are a member of one of them, you’ll get free or reduced cost entry to all!
- Spend the rest of your days exploring some of San Diego’s amazing free activities: visit Coronado Island– hang out at the beach and check out Hotel Del Coronado, visit La Jolla and see the sea lions, do some hiking in Torrey Pines, wander around Balboa park, and so much more!
Alternatives: If prefer one of San Diego’s other attractions, we’ve listed a few other options you could do instead. We budgeted for around $400 in daily activities.
- Legoland California and Sealife aquarium OR waterpark combo: $300 for 2 adults and 2 kids under 13
- Sesame Place San Diego: $180 for 2 adults and 2 kids under 10.
- SeaWorld: $180 for 2 adults and 2 kids under 10
- Belmont Park: $110 for 2 adults and 2 kids under 48″ and 12 years old
- Or many other San Diego attractions
Breakfast is included in our hotel picks, and we assumed a mix of kid-friendly restaurants and budget-friendly quick serve meals. So for the remaining meals (aside from dining at the zoo, mentioned above), we expect you’ll spend around $600. Note that foodies will likely want to increase the food budget as we’ve not included enough for nice dinners out.
San Diego, not in October?
Can’t go to San Diego in October? That’s ok. The discounts are big, but you can plan a great trip on a budget any time.
You’ll want a rental car and can expect the pay around the same in peak season as October, as long as you book early and shop for a deal- $350/week
The price for a hotel will likely be higher during peak summer season, but there are deals to be found. The Hyatt House San Diego/Sorrento Mesa is around $1200/week during peak season and has free breakfast and a pool! There are deals to be found on vacation rentals if you book early as well.
Peak season is peak season because its a wonderful time of year to play at the beach, splash in the waves, wander around town, and do all the wonder free things we mentioned above.
But, you may still want to add in at least one special outing, like the San Diego Zoo, for $268 for two adults and two kids.
Dining costs, if you are budget-conscious, would be similar- around $600-700 for the week, assuming breakfast is included at the hotel OR you are cooking a few meals at a vacation rental. Note that foodies will probably need to increase this budget- this is assuming just quick, inexpensive meals.
For a fun filled vacation in San Diego, the total comes to around $2500
5. Las Vegas
Las Vegas may seem like an unexpected family vacation destinations, but with low mid-week prices, sunshine, tons of free things to do, and beautiful pools galore, it’s actually a great place to take a family vacation!
The Excalibur is a great option because its themed like a castle, and there is a free kid-friendly show outside every night. Even when Excalibur’s pools are closed, you can use the MGM Grand’s year round pool. Plus its right on the strip, so you can access tons without having a car. Prices vary widely by week (sometimes as low as $500 for the week), but we’ve assumed $900 for the week based on spring pricing, when temperatures are perfect!
Another great option is Tahiti Village. It has a fantastic sandy beach, pool, and lazy river. Plus the rooms are bigger suites with kitchenettes allowing you make some simple meals or snacks in the room. It is off the strip, and will also cost around $900 for the week.
Renting a car in Las Vegas is a totally unnecessary expense. Instead, take a cab or Uber from the airport to your hotel for less than $100 round trip. If you stay at off the strip, you’ll need to pay for some extra rides as well.
There are tons of free activities in Las Vegas, including just exploring all the themed hotels, water and light show at the Bellagio, Conservatory and Garden at the Bellagio, the Flamigo Wildlife Habitat, the Mirage Volcano, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, and of course, spending tons of time in the pool!
There are a number of things in Las Vegas that are worth paying for as well.
Check out the Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings dinner show with horses, knights, and battles. and even better, you get to eat with your hands. It costs $65/person so $260 for four and includes dinner.
Another great option is the Discovery Children’s Museum, which a great, all-ages, interactive museum. Cost is $16/each or $64 for four.
Older kids may love some of the rides at New York, New York, Circus Circus, or the Strat. But we haven’t included them here because they are too scary for many kids, and most of height requirements that would exclude most children.
Dining is notoriously expensive in Las Vegas. But let’s be honest- most of us don’t love fine dining with our kids. We’ve assumed you’ll opt for casual dining rather and, if you are careful, you’ll spend $1200 for the week.
So adding up all the expenses for your week of fun in the sun in Las Vegas, the total is around ~$2525!
The Oregon Coast is a favorite vacation destination for my family. In fact, the most relaxed I’ve ever felt on vacation is on the Oregon coast, and my kids love it too! And it’s a super budget friendly choice!
The Oregon coast is a little more difficult to get to than most of the destinations we’ve recommended. If you are flying, we recommend flying into Portland International Airport, then renting a car. You’ll definitely need a car for this trip! It’ll cost about $500 for the week.
We recommend renting a vacation rental for the Oregon Coast. There aren’t a ton of hotels available anyway, but we love the extra space of a vacation rental, and having our own quiet little spot on the beach away from the crowds.
We just keep waiting for this little gem to be discovered by the masses. Until then, Happy Camp Hideaway is a super budget friendly, wonder spot! They have rental houses and condos for groups large and small. For a family of four, you’ll be able to get a great place for about $1200 for the week.
Because you’ll have a full kitchen available, we’ve assumed you’ll make a lot of your meals at your rental. We love eating at ‘home’ because it makes meals way easier with kids. However, there are some great restaurants along the coast that you won’t want to miss, so we’ve budgeted enough for dining out several times throughout the week. Our total expected cost for food for the week is $500.
Vacationing on the Oregon Coast is best enjoyed just relaxing on the beach, building sand castles, watching for whales and other sea life, and exploring tide pools. Its definitely worth taking day trips to visit some of the other beaches and sites like Yaquina Head, Haystack Rock, the Sea Lion Caves, Nye Beach, Arcadia Beach, and more.
We also recommend a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which will cost $84 for 2 kids and 2 adults.
The kids will love the Funland Arcade in Seaside. $100 there will provide hours of fun!
This super relaxing, and super fun Oregon Coast will coast you around under $2400 for the week
7. New Orleans
New Orleans is such a special place- the type of place that you have to experience at least once in your life. Visiting is a wonderful experience for families for a million different reasons. And because so much of the experience of visiting New Orleans is just being there- wondering around, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds- its easy to visit on a budget. But we’ve included plenty of activities in the itinerary to keep you and your family busy.
Residence Inn by Marriott New Orleans French Quarter Area is a great option for families because its in a fantastic location and has free breakfast. Plus the rooms are huge and have a small kitchen for a cost of only around $1100 for a week.
For families with kids, we recommend renting a car just to make things easier. There are TONS of walkable things to do in New Orleans, but we’ve listed a number of activities that will require driving. A rental car will cost around $400 for the week.
If your kids are out of car seats, you can easily use Uber or taxis instead, and will likely save yourself some money, and the hassle of dealing with renting a car and parking.
New Orleans is a wonderful place to just wander around- explore the French Quarter, window shop and look for interesting restaurants, listen to street performers, walkaround Audubon Park, and of course, eat Beignets at Cafe Du Monde. But we’ve also scheduled in some super fun, kid-friendly activities.
- Day 1: Visit the Audubon Zoo. Buy the three attraction combo ticket for the Zoo, Aquarium/Insectarium for $230 for a family of 4. Remember to use all the passes from the combo ticket within 3 days.
- Day 2: Visit the Aquarium and Insectarium.
- Day 3: Spent the morning at the City Park Botanical Garden– $12 for adults, $6 for kids = $36 for a family of four. Then head to the Louisiana Children’s Museum- $18/person = $72
- Day 4: Visit the City Park Carousel Gardens Amusement Park (which includes Storyland): $25/person (under 36″ free) = $100
- Day 5: Mardi Gras Museum: $22 for adults, $17 for kids so a total of $78 for a family of four.
The food in New Orleans is fantastic. Basically anywhere you eat is going to be tasty, and, often prices are pretty reasonable. Breakfast is included at the Residence Inn we’ve recommended. For lunch and dinner every day for a family of four, we’re guessing you’ll spend about $1000 for the week, and that’ll get you plenty of really great meals!
For a total of about $3000, you and your family can spend a fantastic, fun filled week in New Orleans! But if that price is a big high, you can easily cut out some of the activities and just enjoy New Orleans for free, and/or eat a little cheaper and reduce your dining costs.
The mile high city has such an unexpectedly fun vibe that families love. I’ve always had fun in Denver no matter what I’m doing and I know you and your family will as well!
We recommend getting a rental car in Denver for a family. It’ll cost around $400 for the week.
Save money by booking a hotel just a little farther out in downtown Denver and with breakfast included. We love the Residence Inn by Marriott Denver Downtown because it has huge (850 sq ft) suites with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a full kitchen, plus a pool. It has pretty much everything a family needs and for a great price of $1200 for the week during peak summer time.
Fill your week with amazing activities with the CityPass – $226 for 5 activities, including Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Downtown Aquarium, Denver Botanical Gardens, Wings over the Rockies, and the Children’s Museum of Marsico Campus.
Then add on one of the following Denver attractions:
- Denver Zoo = $54 for a family of four
- The Butterfly Pavilion= $54 for a family of four
- Lakeside Amusement Park (visit on Mon, Wed, Thurs, or Friday for reduced price): $15 for anyone under 48in, $20 for everyone else. Assumed $80/day for a family
If you take advantage of free breakfast at the Residence Inn, and use the hotel kitchen to prepare a few snacks and light lunches, you can reduce the weekly food budget to around $600 for the week.
Your family’s fun filled week will cost around $2500 including a great hotel, tons of activities, and dining, .
What We didn’t include
We certainly didn’t include every single budget-friendly family destination out there. But there were a few destinations that we intentionally left off this list.
The first is National Parks- many of our favorite parks have become super crowded and expensive to visit in the last few years. And while National Parks can still be a great, budget friendly destination for families, right now it seems many of have higher prices and require reservations 12 months out.
The second is super popular vacation destinations, like Maui, Disneyland, and Miami because these destinations just give you less bang for your buck and can be really frustrating to plan on a tight budget. Plus, there are plenty of other destinations that can be just as fun for less money.
The third is destinations that we haven’t visited and are not familiar with. We have a hard time recommending destinations that we don’t know.