Planning a summer family vacation can be exciting, but it’s important to find destinations that won’t break the bank. Fortunately, there are plenty of budget-friendly options in the U.S. that offer memorable experiences without draining your savings. From stunning beaches to captivating national parks, this guide presents cheap family vacations that don’t skimp out on the fun. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a combination of both, these affordable destinations have got you covered.

Our Favorite Affordable Family Vacations

Ready to embark on an unforgettable vacation this summer without breaking the bank? Look no further! We’ve scoured the United States to bring you the 16 best family vacations on a budget that offer a perfect blend activities for everyone. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for an epic summer getaway!

1. Orlando, Florida

Disney castle at night with fireworks exploding around it.

Known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” Orlando offers an array of affordable attractions that doesn’t exactly scream cheap vacations for families. But it’s true that you can enjoy discounted tickets to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, depending on when you book. Accommodations in the area, such as Orlando vacation rentals, also provide affordable options for families, allowing you to stay comfortably within your budget.

Ways to Save in Orlando

  • Discover the wonders of the universe at the Crosby Observatory, where you can stargaze for free on select evenings.
  • Immerse yourselves in the vibrant energy of Orlando’s local festivals and events, many of which offer free admission or low-cost tickets.
  • Don’t forget to check out the discount ticket options available for theme parks, shows, and attractions, allowing you to save even more on your Orlando adventures!

2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The Ferris wheel at Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach boasts miles of sandy beaches and amusement parks, which can be enjoyed as an inexpensive family vacation. Take advantage of budget-friendly resorts and hotels, or consider Myrtle Beach vacation rentals for even more cost-effective options.

Ways to Save in Myrtle Beach

  • Save your dough and soak up the sun at Myrtle Beach’s beautiful public beaches.
  • Take a leisurely stroll down the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk for free entertainment, street performers, and picturesque views.
  • Explore the Myrtle Beach Art Museum on its free admission days and get inspired by local and international artists.

3. Williamsburg, Virginia

Loch Ness Monster rollercoaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Step back in time and visit Colonial Williamsburg, perfect for family travel on a budget, since affordable combination tickets include attractions like Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. Choose from a variety of accommodations in the area, including Williamsburg vacation rentals, for a budget-friendly stay.

Ways to Save in Williamsburg, VA

  • Immerse yourselves in the rich history of Williamsburg with a stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street, where you’ll find costumed interpreters, historic buildings, and engaging exhibits — all for free!
  • Explore the darker side of Williamsburg’s history with a spooky ghost tour. Wander through haunted streets and hear spine-chilling tales of the city’s past. It’s an entertaining and affordable way to get your adrenaline pumping.
  • Check out the local events calendar for free outdoor concerts happening in Williamsburg. From jazz to classical to rock, there’s something for everyone.

4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

A drone shot of Gatlinburg from up high.

Gatlinburg offers stunning natural beauty and affordable family fun for a budget vacation. Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and enjoy the bustling atmosphere of downtown Gatlinburg. Consider Gatlinburg cabin rentals for an affordable and cozy retreat amidst the mountains.

Ways to Save in Gatlinburg

  • Dive into the history of Gatlinburg with a visit to the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a quirky and affordable attraction that’s sure to spice up your day.
  • Indulge your sweet tooth at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, where you can watch delicious treats being made and sample some of Gatlinburg’s tastiest homemade candies without breaking the bank.
  • Soak up the local charm at the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Loop, a scenic 8-mile trail dotted with affordable galleries, studios, and shops showcasing the talents of local artists and craftsmen.

5. Branson, Missouri

Elk found in Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Branson Missouri in the Ozarks.

Branson is known for its live music shows and entertainment. Enjoy affordable attractions such as the Branson Landing Fountain Show, the interactive exhibits at the Titanic Museum, and the thrills of Silver Dollar City amusement park. Stay at one of the many Branson vacation rentals for a comfortable and economical accommodation option.

Ways to Save in Branson

  • Take a scenic drive along Highway 76, also known as the “Strip,” and marvel at the colorful neon signs, unique attractions, and lively atmosphere that make Branson famous.
  • Discover the city’s history at the Branson Centennial Museum, which offers free admission and showcases the town’s fascinating past through interactive exhibits.
  • Enjoy a relaxing day by the water at Moonshine Beach, a free public beach located on Table Rock Lake, where you can swim, picnic, and soak up the sun without spending a dime.

6. San Antonio, Texas

The River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

Discover the vibrant culture of San Antonio! Explore the scenic River Walk, visit the historic Alamo, and enjoy the family-friendly exhibits at the Witte Museum. Consider San Antonio vacation rentals for budget-friendly lodging options that offer more space and amenities than traditional hotels.

Ways to Save in San Antonio

  • Take a stroll along San Antonio’s famous River Walk, admiring the charming architecture and upbeat atmosphere.
  • Catch a breathtaking view of the city from the Tower of the Americas, and don’t forget to take advantage of their happy hour specials for budget-friendly drinks with a view.
  • Dive into nature at the stunning San Antonio Botanical Garden, where you can explore beautiful trails, lush gardens, and even enjoy free admission on select days.

7. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Glacier Canyon Water Park in Wilderness Resort.

The “Waterpark Capital of the World” is a perfect destination for affordable family vacations seeking water-based fun. With numerous indoor and outdoor waterparks at your disposal, you’ll find plenty of entertainment options. Look for vacation rentals for cost-effective and convenient accommodations near the parks. Some might even offer cheap family vacation packages that include access to the parks themselves!

Ways to Save in Wisconsin Dells

  • Discover the hidden gems of downtown Wisconsin Dells, from quaint shops and boutiques to charming cafes and ice cream parlors.
  • Make a splash at the free water shows, featuring daring dives and mesmerizing stunts.
  • Take a scenic hike along the beautiful trails of Mirror Lake State Park, where nature’s wonders unfold at no extra cost.

8. St. Louis, Missouri

Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Louis offers a range of free attractions, including the iconic Gateway Arch and the Saint Louis Zoo, which are perfect for inexpensive family vacations. Take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River, cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals at Ballpark Village — where you can catch live outdoor screenings of games on the jumbo screen — and enjoy the nightly light show at the Gateway Arch grounds. Consider St. Louis vacation rentals for low-cost and comfortable lodging options in the city.

Ways to Save in St. Louis

  • Unleash your inner kid at the City Museum, a playground-turned-art installation filled with unique sculptures, secret tunnels, and even a rooftop Ferris wheel.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through Forest Park, where you can visit the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Zoo.
  • Delight your taste buds with a visit to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis institution famous for its mouthwatering frozen treats.

9. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Taken during golden hour at Bodie Island Lighthouse in Nags Head, North Carolina.

Escape to the picturesque beaches of the Outer Banks, where you can enjoy activities like fishing, kayaking, and exploring historic lighthouses during a cheap, fun family vacation. Consider Outer Banks vacation rentals for affordable accommodations that provide the comforts of home during your family vacation.

Ways to Save in the Outer Banks

  • From charming seafood shacks to casual beachside cafes, the Outer Banks is a treasure trove of tasty and affordable eats.
  • Visit the historic sites and museums that speak to the area’s past. Explore the Wright Brothers National Memorial or step back in time at the Roanoke Island Festival Park.
  • Pack a picnic, bring a frisbee, and spend a day frolicking in the sand. With miles of coastline to explore, you can find your own slice of paradise without spending a dime.

10. Nashville, Tennessee

A country singer singing onstage at a venue in Nashville.

Experience the music scene in Music City, USA. Enjoy live performances at venues like the Grand Ole Opry, visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, and explore the vibrant streets of downtown Nashville. The way to turn Nashville into a budget-friendly family vacation is to prioritize vacation rentals when searching for accommodations. These rentals offer flexibility and additional space for the whole family.

Ways to Save in Nashville

  • Take a stroll along the picturesque Cumberland River and enjoy scenic views of the city.
  • Indulge in delicious and budget-friendly Southern comfort food at local favorites like Prince’s Hot Chicken or Hattie B’s.
  • Experience the magic of the Bluebird Cafe, a renowned venue for singer-songwriters, with early shows at discounted prices.

11. Destin, Florida

Beach access along the shore in Destin.

Destin offers miles of beautiful beaches and affordable accommodations for a Florida beach destination. Relax on the beach, go fishing, or take a dolphin cruise for a memorable experience. Look for Destin vacation rentals to find reasonable beachfront properties and enjoy a comfortable stay without exceeding your budget.

Ways to Save in Destin

  • Capture stunning sunsets at the Okaloosa Island Pier, a budget-friendly spot for breathtaking views.
  • Rent bikes and explore the scenic coastal trails, an inexpensive way to experience the beauty of Destin.
  • Catch a free outdoor concert or movie screening at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village, where entertainment is affordable and fun for the whole family.

12. Charleston, South Carolina

Colorful houses along a busy road in Charleston, South Carolina.

Budget vacations to Charleston allow you and your family to immerse yourselves in the charm and history of this southern jewel. Take a carriage ride through the historic district, visit the South Carolina Aquarium, and explore the fascinating exhibits at the Charleston Museum. Consider vacation rentals for cost-effective options that provide a cozy and authentic experience.

Ways to Save in Charleston

  • Take a scenic ferry ride to Sullivan’s Island, where you can soak up the sun on pristine beaches and enjoy a picnic with stunning ocean views.
  • Unleash your inner history buff at the Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in the United States, with a discounted admission fee.
  • Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes and explore the charming streets of Charleston’s historic district — where every corner reveals a new delightful surprise!

13. Portland, Oregon

Multnomah Falls outside of Portland, Oregon.

If you’re looking for cheap family vacation ideas, Portland and the Pacific Northwest offer a host of things to explore that won’t break the bank. Take your family to see the stunning landscapes of Forest Park, visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and enjoy tax-free shopping in the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. Look for Portland, Oregon, vacation rentals for affordable and convenient accommodations in this unique city.

Ways to Save in Portland, OR

  • Rent bikes and pedal your way through Portland’s bike-friendly streets. Cruise along the picturesque waterfront, zip through the bustling neighborhoods, and discover hidden gems at your own pace.
  • Washington Park offers free entry to its stunning rose garden, Japanese garden, and Hoyt Arboretum. Immerse yourselves in nature, marvel at breathtaking views, and unwind in the beauty of the great outdoors — all while keeping your wallet happy.
  • Escape the city buzz and venture into the lush wilderness of Forest Park. With over 80 miles of hiking trails, you can soak in the serenity of towering trees, spot wildlife, and revel in the beauty of Portland’s backyard.

14. Phoenix, Arizona

Sun setting on a theme park in Phoenix, Arizona.

Beat the summer heat in Phoenix with its numerous affordable attractions. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden, explore the interactive exhibits at the Arizona Science Center, and take a hike on Camelback Mountain for breathtaking views. Consider Phoenix vacation rentals for comfortable accommodations that offer a home-like atmosphere.

Ways to Save in Phoenix

  • Experience a classic movie night under the open sky at one of Phoenix’s free outdoor film screenings, complete with cozy blankets and delicious snacks.
  • Indulge in mouthwatering Mexican cuisine at local taco trucks and hole-in-the-wall eateries that won’t break the bank.
  • Immerse yourselves in the city’s rich heritage at free-admission museums, where you can learn about Native American art, history, and local traditions.

15. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Views of Emerald Lake near Lake Tahoe.

Escape to the crystal-clear waters and stunning mountains of Lake Tahoe! Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and boating. Look for Lake Tahoe vacation rentals to find reasonable options that allow you to experience the beauty of the lake without overspending on accommodations.

Ways to Save in Lake Tahoe

  • Rent kayaks or paddleboards and glide across the tranquil waters of Lake Tahoe for an exhilarating and affordable activity.
  • Don’t miss out on the free live music concerts and festivals happening during the summer months, offering a fun and budget-friendly way to enjoy the local culture.
  • Take advantage of discounted ski passes and equipment rentals during the winter months to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding without breaking your budget.

16. San Diego, California

A sunset at the beach in San Diego.

Experience the perfect blend of beaches, attractions, and outdoor beauty in San Diego. Visit the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and relax on the sandy shores of Mission Beach. Consider San Diego vacation rentals for budget-friendly accommodations that provide a comfortable base for exploring the city.

Ways to Save in San Diego

  • Chow down at food trucks and local eateries. From fish tacos to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, San Diego’s vibrant food scene offers delicious options that won’t break the bank.
  • Explore Balboa Park, a treasure trove of free and affordable attractions. Take a stroll through its lush gardens, visit the renowned museums, or catch a free outdoor concert or performance.
  • Discover the hidden gems of Old Town, where you can immerse yourself in the rich history of San Diego without spending a dime. Wander through its colorful streets, browse the quaint shops, and soak up the lively atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions

Parents and their daughter posing in a swimming pool.

As you plan your summer family vacation, you may have some questions about the best budget family travel destinations above. We’ve compiled a list of FAQs to provide you with more information to help you make informed decisions.

Can I have an affordable family vacation without compromising on fun?

Absolutely! The best family vacations on a budget listed here offer a fantastic mix of affordability and fun, ensuring that your family can have an unforgettable vacation without breaking the bank.

Are these destinations suitable for families with children of all ages?

Yes, these destinations cater to families with children of all ages. From theme parks to outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in the family.

Are there any free or low-cost activities in these destinations?

Many of these destinations offer free or low-cost activities, such as visiting public parks, exploring museums with discounted or free admission days, and enjoying the natural beauty of the surrounding areas.

Enjoy Some Budget Family Travel

By considering affordable accommodations such as vacation rentals, you can maximize your savings and create lasting memories with your loved ones. So pack your bags, gather the family, and get ready for an unforgettable summer adventure at one of these fantastic destinations!