Growing up, my dad regularly took our family on summer vacations and instilled in us the joy of exploring new places. There were five kids, so he had to be pretty good at finding affordable places to go. Based on the places he brought us, combined with what I’ve learned in traveling myself and with my students, here are my top five suggestions for affordable family vacations.
- Camping. Staying at hotels or motels was out of reach financially for many of the trips we took as a family, so we invested in tents and later on a pop-up camper that allowed us to travel all over the country and stay at campgrounds overnight or for a couple of days. It was great fun setting up camp, cooking, and learning about the outdoors.
- State and National Parks. Parks maintained by the federal and state governments are a great, affordable, and local option. Near Chicago, where I live, there are many different places to visit, from Lincoln’s boyhood home to the Indiana Dunes. For more information, check out your state’s tourism board or the National Park Service.
- Washington D.C. I have taken students to Washington D.C. many times over the years and have found it to be a great place to visit for the following reasons:
- The D.C. Metro system is clean, inexpensive, and easy to navigate. Therefore you do not have to stay overnight near the main attractions, but can stay somewhere less expensive and hop on the Metro.
- Admission to all of the national museums and popular sights like the Washington Monument, White House, and Capitol Hill, are free.
- The main attractions are also centrally located on the National Mall, making it easy to plan a day of events without spending much time or money traveling.
- Visit Out-of-State Relatives. To save money on family vacations, my parents would have our family visit relatives and close friends who lived far away. It was a great idea because they often would coordinate activities and meals for the planned visit and we did not have the expense of staying at a hotel or campground. Plus, we were all glad to see each other.
- Caribbean. If you’re wishing to step out of the USA, I would suggest giving the Caribbean islands a look. Many of the hotels offer family and budget-friendly options with lots of activities, beaches, and relatively short flying times.