Affordable, Fun Family Vacation Ideas

By Allison O'Connor

Moms, if you are still looking for summer family vacation ideas, don’t fret. Travel editor Melanie Nayer had chosen a variety of family vacations that are fun, educational, and won’t break the bank. Think outside the box! When the kids are out of school and the summer days are dragging on, consider a kid-friendly vacation that combines the great outdoors with a bit of rest and relaxation.


Topping off the list is Kid Friendly Family Travel in Wisconsin. If you’re looking for a destination that has hiking, biking, camping, boating, sporting events, museums and amusement parks, look no further. Wisconsin has it all, including the largest indoor water park at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, the Tall Ships Festival in Green Bay and some of the most beautiful campgrounds you will find anywhere.

New York City, NY

Do the big city lights call you? Then New York is your city this summer. You and your kids will never be bored in the city that never sleeps. Home to some of the world’s most famous museums; including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum, American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium, education, history and culture abound in NYC.

Take in a play, walk around Times Square, cruise Manhattan on the Circle Line, shop, or visit one of the many playgrounds in Central Park then top it off with an authentic family style dinner in Little Italy. This is our all-time favorite family destination.

Tip: See Manhattan in a whole new light. The Statue of Liberty is now open. Plan an afternoon and take the ferry to Liberty Island and climb to the top of the crown.

Montauk, NY

Moms, if you’re in Manhattan and have a yearning to be by the ocean, you can always hop on the Hampton Jitney or the Long Island Rail Road and head to the Hamptons. Summer home to the rich and famous, there are plenty of family friendly motels in Montauk that are walking distance to beautiful beaches. But don’t leave the island without visiting the lighthouse and having one of Montauk’s famous lobster rolls at Gosman’s Dock.


If you and your kids are looking for adventure, consider an escape somewhere different and enjoy some of the most spectacular views in the world. Destination: Alaska. Mode of transportation: Boat. Cruising is the best way to see Alaska, which offers experiences on land and by sea. In addition to those breathtakingly beautiful icebergs, Alaska has wildlife, culture, sport fishing, Denali National Park, gold, that pipeline, and Mt. McKinley. There’s also plenty to keep the kids occupied. For example, when was the last time your kids were bored river rafting or sliding around on a glacier?

Head down the river on the Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler and visit Athabascan Indian village, where they train the Iditarod dogs. There is a petting area for caribou and new born Iditarod pups. After this adventure, you can end your day by taking a train to the El Dorado Gold Mine and pan for gold.

San Diego, CA

If you haven’t taken your kids to this popular Southern California destination, now’s the time. San Diego is designed for kids. Warm sunny days and cool ocean breezes at night make this one of the most popular family vacation spots in the country. The days will evaporate as you explore San Diego’s  historic missions, lounge on beautiful beaches, shop in downtown Coronado, walk on an aircraft carrier, learn to surf and eat some of the best seafood on the West Coast.

If amusement parks and zoos are on your agenda, no worries, San Diego is home to the famous San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld and LEGOLAND. Many of these attractions even have day camps where kids can go behind the scenes and participate in the care and feeding of the animals. Visit The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau for information on hotels and family packages.

Grand Canyon, AZ

Here’s a great volunteer opportunity to make an already planned trip to the Grand Canyon even more meaningful.  Don’t just visit the Grand Canyon – be part of the drive that returns wolves to their natural habitat along the North and South rims of the canyon. The Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project is a grassroots, nonprofit group working to educate people and garner support to reintroduce the wolf into its natural habitat on both the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon, where it once thrived before being hunted to extinction. With this volunteer opportunity, you can visit the Grand Canyon and take an active part in preserving its future.

U.S. National Parks

If you want to break up the last days of summer with a quick trip, then consider one of these national parks. The U.S. National Park Service is hosting free park weekends at national parks nationwide, but many parks have free admission daily. Camping, fishing boating, biking, hiking and nature walks will give you and your family a taste of the great outdoors for next to nothing.

Staycation Ideas

Okay, so the budget doesn’t allow for an overnight trip this summer. But there are plenty of  things to do right in your own backyard. So, get your camera and act like a tourist and enjoy all your city has to offer. You’ll create memories that will last a lifetime for you and your family. Isn’t that what it’s all about?  Here are some ideas to get your started.

More Family Friendly Vacations and Hotels

Rhode Island: Family Island Getaway

Family Fun at One Bal Harbor Resort and Spa

Boston’s Renaissance Waterfront Hotel