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10 Best Affordable Family Vacations to Plan This Summer

beach at nags head, outer banks, north carolina

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With life costing a fortune right now, it might be hard to imagine taking a week-long trip with the family. But what if we told you that there are actually a ton of affordable family vacations out there to explore? It’s true! There are beautiful sights to see all over the United States, from tiny houses in the mountains to tree houses in the woods, to relaxing family-friendly beaches, and so much more.

In fact, some of the best affordable (and beautiful) family vacations can be found in the most unlikely of places. One thing ties them all together, though: the wide variety of activities available that are almost or completely free, like hiking canyon trails, swimming in clear-water seas, adventuring through boardwalks, and exploring the town’s small businesses. Check out all our favorite finds here, and safe travels on your next adventure!


Outer Banks, North Carolina

beach at nags head, outer banks, north carolina

The Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, between the Pamlico Sound and Atlantic Ocean. Here, you’ll find a series of seaside villages, state parks, and ample swimming areas in the warm ocean waters. Apart from beachside vacation homes and small bed & breakfasts, there are also plenty of campgrounds and RV parks available to rent.


Grand Canyon, Arizona

havasu Falls, waterfall in the grand canyon, arizona

The Grand Canyon offers so much opportunity for exploration, especially as a family. Bike the rim of the canyon, hike the Bright Angel Trail, or even get the kids to earn their Junior Ranger Certification Badge. You can also tour the Geology Museum, go stargazing, and go on a rafting adventure through the Colorado River. Lots of activities will be free or almost free, with a bunch of affordable places to stay in and around the canyon, too.


Catskill Mountains, New York

catskill mountains new york waterfall

For those hoping to escape the hustle and bustle and head to the mountainside, look no further than the Catskill Mountains. This mountain belt through the Appalachian Mountain Range is known for its beautiful wildlife and hiking trails, large waterfalls, and nature preserves. Apart from the gorgeous natural areas, there are also plenty of outdoor art parks and history museums. The Catskill towns are chock-full of adventures, most of which are also entirely free.


Ocean City, Maryland

ocean city maryland boardwalk

Ocean City is a playful vacay spot that’s perfect for a family getaway. Not only can you explore the boardwalk for hours on end, but the town itself is also filled with fun. After a day catching rays at the beach, get some street tacos on the boardwalk and ride the ferris wheel just as the sun is setting. There’s a ton of mini golf, arcades, and parks to check out, too. It also has a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum, which is sure to be a fun exhibit for the kids.


Gatlinburg, Tennessee

gatlinburg tennessee mountain view

Gatlinburg has a seemingly endless supply of family attractions right in its town center. From water parks to mountaintop adventures, a sky park, ropes courses, as well as aquariums, you’re sure to find something new to do every day. And because it’s a mountain town, Gatlinburg also has quite a few natural areas to explore, like the 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Glacier National Park, Montana

glacier national park

Glacier’s summers are full of wildflowers, mountains, and endless opportunities to explore the natural land. But because summer is the busy season there, you’ll want to plan ahead as much as possible. However, with about two dozen named glaciers to see, as well as an array of passes, lakes, and forks to explore, you’re sure to have a full itinerary in no time.


Savannah, Georgia

savannah georgia walkway with fountain

Coastal Savannah, Georgia is home to beautiful landscapes, cobblestone squares, and southern post-war architecture. But the historic city is also filled with opportunities to explore. But there are some things you just can’t miss while you’re in town. For example, the iconic Forsyth Park, pictured here, is filled with 30 acres of lush trees and a gorgeous fountain. Savannah is also home to the oldest public art museum in the southeast, the Telfair Museum. Hop on a trolley tour and survey the whole town for just $30.


Newport, Rhode Island

cliffside rhode island lighthouse

There are a ton of free things to do in Newport, Rhode Island. Options include exploring the beautiful granite cliffsides at Fort Wetherill, visiting historic 18th century towns in the area, and even touring the Beaverton Lighthouse and Museum. But there are also so many more drives, hikes, trails, and bike paths to explore. Be sure to also grab a delicious bite at one of the waterfront restaurants while you’re there. There’s nothing like a Rhode Island lobster roll!


San Diego, California

san diego california beaches

That’s right—it is possible to visit the beautiful state of California on a budget. With many discount hotels and tons of affordable attractions, San Diego is your one-way ticket to chic budget travel. Swim, surf, or walk the gorgeous beaches, take a stroll through the downtown district, and tour historic and art museums all over town.


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

myrtle beach south carolina boardwalk

Welcome to the mini golf capital of the world (no, seriously!)—though Myrtle Beach does have more going for it than a plethora of fun put-put courses. White sand beaches line the warm water shores (and make for plenty of seafood buffets to try). There are also a ton of free live music shows, affordable hotels and lodges, gorgeous marinas, and dolphin tours to boot. Myrtle Beach is a unique, affordable destination that was made for family trips.

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