Disclosure: We experienced some of these destinations at no cost for review (or at a media rate). Posts may include affiliate links – when you click on or purchase through one of these links, we may receive a small commission. All opinions are our own.
Family travel can be expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of airfare, airport parking, and hotels. With many national attractions raising prices in the past year, it’s certainly put a strain on families that are looking to enjoy an affordable family vacation. But, there are still many affordable travel destinations in the US – here are eleven of the best family vacations on a budget across the country.
11 Best Affordable Vacations for Families in the US
There are lots of family-friendly, affordable things to do in Oklahoma City, making it one of the best affordable vacations for families. Kids love the Bricktown area, which features a variety of restaurants, a movie theater, a water taxi, and the AAA baseball team – the Oklahoma City Redhawks. In the summer, the Boathouse District offers a free movie night on Friday nights called the FAA Credit Union Summer Movie Series. On Wednesdays, catch another free movie at the Sonic Summer Movies which occur each Wednesday in the summer on the great lawn of the Myriad Botanical Gardens which is a 17-acre natural escape in the heart of downtown OKC. The Myriad Botanical Gardens also offer a free Twilight Concert Series each Sunday night.
While you are there, be sure to visit the Oklahoma City Zoo, which is rated one of the top 10 in the US, as well as the Museum of Osteology, which features more than 300 skeletons.
Check out hotel reviews on Oklahoma City.
St. Louis offers dozens of free activities for families, including free admission to the science center, the zoo, the history museum, and the art museum. There are numerous hotel options, ranging from budget hotels to boutique hotels, and St. Louis is very accessible to much of the country. For sports fans, St. Louis boasts several popular teams, including the St. Louis Rams (football), the St. Louis Cardinals (baseball), and college teams.
Find hotel reviews on St. Louis.
The state capital of New York offers numerous family-friendly activities that are affordable. The New York State Museum, which is the largest state museum in the US, offers free admission. There’s also the Pine Bush Discovery Center which hosts programs and free events for families. There are also several family-friendly options just a short drive away, including the Children’s Museum of Science & Technology in nearby Troy, the Museum of Innovation & Science (MiSci) in Schenectady, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
Find hotels in Albany.
While Washington, DC is a major city with some major city prices on hotels, there are still plenty of affordable places to stay in the outskirts. Washington, DC also offers dozens of free museums (see a comprehensive list here), including the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo. Served by several airports, an Amtrak station, and bus stations, Washington, DC is also very accessible. You can read our review of things to do in Washington DC with kids, and see hotel reviews of Washington DC on TripAdvisor (we liked the Gaylord National in National Harbor).
The White Mountains, NH
The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer world-class skiing and loads of kids attractions, but many things to do with kids are free or very affordable. With 1,200 miles of trails in the White Mountain National Forest, hiking is a great affordable family activity in New Hampshire. There are many lodging options available, including vacation home rentals, moderate chain hotels, quaint cabins, independent motels, and bed and breakfasts – see reviews here.
Stillwater, OK is home to many different kids eat free/cheap promotions. Kids eat free on Tuesdays at Mexico Joe’s (311 E. Hall of Fame Ave). In addition, Thursdays are Kids’ Night in the Joe Dome at the world-famous Eskimo Joe’s (507 W. Elm St, Stillwater, OK), where Buffy Kids’ meals are $1! (limit 2 per one adult entree), and are served with a frisbee for kids to take home.
While you are there, visit the Oklahoma WONDERtorium children’s museum, which is just $7 per person including tax, and the Lost Creek Safari, which is only $5 per person. There’s also the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History, which offers free admission. See hotel options on TripAdvisor.
DuPage County, IL
DuPage County, Illinois, located a few miles west of Chicago, offers an abundance of family-friendly affordable vacation options. Cantigny Park costs just $5 to park per car, and offers gardens, picnic grounds, a public golf course, the Robert R. McCormick Museum and First Division Museum.
The DuPage Children’s Museum is $11 per person (with a $2 off discount available on Tuesdays) and offers hands-on exhibits for kids to learn and play. DuPage County also offers two documented Underground Railroad stops – at the Sheldon Peck Homestead and the Graue Mill & Museum. See hotel options on TripAdvisor.
Featuring a collection of several parks designed by the world-famous Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of NYC’s Central Park), Rochester, NY offers lots of affordable, family-friendly activities. From the popular Lilac Festival held each spring to the can’t miss Strong National Museum of Play, there are plenty of things for families to do. To save on meals, be sure to visit one of the massive locations of the beloved Wegman’s grocery store chain, where you can choose from a huge selection of prepared meals. See hotel options here on TripAdvisor.
We’re already talked about why Detroit is a must-visit with kids. In addition to the family-friendly attractions, Detroit is also very affordable. We especially like the vacation packages that include both overnight accommodations and two tickets to two attractions (Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village or Ford Rouge Factory Tour). Rates start at just $130 – check out the Henry Ford’s website for details. I enjoyed my stay at the Westin Book Cadillac – you can see reviews on TripAdvisor.
Pittsburgh has consistently been ranked one of the most affordable cities in the United States, with a number of free (or almost free) things to do. The Visit Pittsburgh site includes a handful of them, but don’t miss a few other family-friendly things to do in Pittsburgh, including the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center & SportsWorks, and the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. If you are interested in visiting a Pittsburgh Pirates game, consider purchasing the “all-you-can eat seats”, where kid-friendly food is included in the price of the game. We recommend staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites – Downtown Pittsburgh. They offer a free hot breakfast buffet in the morning, along with free parking and free WiFi. You can see hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.
For an authentic Texas experience, Amarillo is a great, affordable option for a family vacation. Popular attractions include the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (the largest history museum in Texas), the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum (tells the story of the horse that settled the West), the free RV Museum, and the free Amarillo Museum of Art (free). Hungry families will love the local restaurants along historic Route 66, like Cowboy Gelato, pictured above. Staying the night? Amarillo offers 6,000 hotel rooms at a variety of prices that will fit any budget. See hotel reviews here.