Great ideas for family vacations, from laid-back islands to bustling cities to charming small towns. 

By Talia Avakian
Updated: June 25, 2019
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Summer is right around the corner, and for thinking of where to plan their next getaway, there are plenty of destinations that won't break the bank.

Picking the right location to travel to during the busy summer season can make all the difference when it comes to saving money. (There are also while on your trip, like pre-packing snacks and making a stop at a local grocery store so you can make some of your own meals.)

We've rounded up destinations where you can have a great vacation at a great price, whether you want a relaxing beach vacation, a bustling city excursion, or a trip that combines both. There are domestic and international options, so you're sure to find something right for your family whether you want a long weekend away or an all-out adventure. As for what makes these so great, the key is having great free and cheap attractions, while also having properties that welcome kids with complimentary amenities, from unlimited water park access to mermaid lessons right on the beach.

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San Diego, California

California’s sunny has tons of activities for families, with theme parks, water parks, kid-friendly museums, and 70 miles of beaches. The can be used for top attractions like the , the nearby , harbor cruises, and museums in at a discount of up to 50 percent. Passes, which range from one to seven days, also include unlimited access to SeaWorld San Diego.

Hotels in the area are also known to provide activities and amenities specifically for kids. The Hotel Del Coronado has a where children can take part in art and crafts, mermaid lessons, and treasure hunts on the beach.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor offers swimming, like the freshwater beach at Echo Lake (with calm waves good for kids). Follow the signs labeled “Museum in the Streets” to take your own walking tour, and you can also find trails for hiking, walking, and cycling. At nearby Acadia National Park, enjoy hiking, camping, and coastline views.

From July 11 through August 15, you can also enjoy free popcorn and kid-friendly movie viewings at .

Winter Park, Colorado

While you might think of Colorado's resort town of Winter Park as a winter destination, it's also great in the summer. Rates start at at the Winter Park Resort, and families can enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting, zip lining, and .

The nearby has one of only three summer tubing hills in the United States, as well as miniature golf, swimming, and indoor and outdoor climbing walls. Every Thursday in the summer from June 14 through August 13, there are free concerts at Hideaway Park.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“” has tons of great activities for families, from the to the . In the summer, there's a with vintage cars, and for enjoying the city and getting some exercise. You’ll also find , and the subway line offers free rides along the Golden Triangle, taking you around downtown.

If you're looking to spend some time outdoors, consider biking along the , which provides a scenic way to explore the city's many bridges and tunnels along a 150-mile-trail.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

If you and your kids love the beach, head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At properties like , guests can enjoy five new water slides, several on-property pools, and one of the longest lazy rivers in Myrtle Beach. There’s also shuffleboard, life-size chess, cornhole, and a Sno-Cone stand on the pool deck. Families can also have snacks and drinks delivered poolside from the Rusty Reel Bar and Grill. Upon check in, guests receive one complimentary ticket to either Myrtle Waves or Wild Water & Wheel, and one complimentary round at Paradise Adventure Mini Golf. And, if your family is into mini golf, look no further than this seaside town, which boasts more than 50 miniature courses.

This summer, the property is offering a 25-percent Summer Sale discount. Depending on when you’re planning to go, The Breakers also offers Summer Value Weeks promotion, which saves you 35-percent off and also provides two free breakfast vouchers for each day of your stay. If you arrive on a Sunday — the day with the most availability — there’s an additional discount.

St. Louis, Missouri

Free attractions in St. Louis include , where children can enjoy dog agility shows and animal barnyards, and the , where there are art activities and free 30-minute tours. Admission to the City Museum, with its 10-story slide, huge ball bit, and 30-foot high Ferris wheel, is $14 for ages three and up. Afterwards, stop by at , which its popular custard shakes that are so thick, they can be served upside down.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Right by , is for the adventurous outdoor lover, with whitewater rafting, 900 miles of hiking trails, biking, and horseback riding. Visit the to get lost in a sea of kaleidoscopic mirrors (admission: $9), or wander through Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts community, which features handmade goods from local artisans.

There are a variety of lodging options to choose from here, from resorts to . Some accommodations are offering for this year.

Lisbon, Portugal

Ready to explore the world with your kids? In , families can enjoy and a city and beach vacation in one. Explore the different neighborhoods, castles, and palaces, or hop onboard a funicular to climb the city's steep hills. The trams cost less than $4, giving you a cheap and scenic tour of the city.

Vienna, Austria

The walkability of Austria’s capital city is part of what makes it an affordable stop for families, and there are many free and tours. Through the , travelers can get free access to more than 60 of the city’s top attractions, including museums, a giant Ferris wheel, and attractions like Madame Tussauds and the world's oldest zoo, , which dates back to 1752. The pass comes with multi-day options, from single day (about $72 for adults and $27 for kids) to six-day passes ($189 for adults and $95 for kids).

The Domincan Republic

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The Dominican Republic is an ideal beach getaway, with and starting as cheap as $100 a night. Punta Cana is a popular destination for beach and golf lovers, and its airport is also the in the Caribbean, with flights to and from 26 countries.

Bali, Indonesia

If you can , Bali is a budget-friendly destination. Summer is one of the best times to visit, as it is in the island’s dry season, which runs from April through October. Visiting during this time means you’ll avoid regular thunderstorms, and can enjoy the beaches and outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, snorkeling, glass bottom boat rides, and rice paddy walks.

The island is home to attractions like the Waterbom Bali, voted the , while some of the as low as $23 per night.

Taipei, Taiwan

The city’s numerous streets make for attractions all in their own, from the restaurants and shops that line Yongkang Street to the night markets that provide an open-air buffet to explore. make them all the easier to explore. The offers a relaxing escape to soak in natural hot springs. In Maokong, families heading to the Taipei Zoo can hop aboard a gondola ride from the zoo up into the hills to enjoy the gorgeous views.

There are plenty of affordable hotels in the area, with rates starting at .

Phuket, Thailand

As the biggest island in Thailand, offers tons of great beaches. Besides its clear waters and prime snorkeling stops, Phuket is also home to attractions like the , a cable wakeboarding water park. Family-friendly accommodations can be found for .

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