The best vacations are the ones that you remember, and not because of what they cost. A great trip shouldn't be a financial hardship, but finding the right destination to maximize your travel dollars can be a real chore. We've done the hard work for you and picked the best cities for affordable vacations. These are places where friends and families can come together in the pursuit of fun and relaxation without the worry of busting budgets.
Cities were ranked by their offering of unique, free activities, both indoors and out, and by the availability of discounts on otherwise pricey attractions. For example, visitors will typically pay $15 or more for admission to a major zoo, while those on our list offer admission at less than half that. Package discounts to major attractions grabbed our attention as well. Whether your ideal getaway is hiking a snow-capped mountain, milling around museums or downing cheesy concessions at a minor league park, our list of affordable family-friendly cities gives you plenty of choices.
The good folks at the Family Travel Network helped us determine what makes a great vacation destination and also provided a wealth of penny-pinching travel tips that we just had to pass along.
“Great family vacations don't have to be expensive,” says Nancy Schretter, managing editor of the Family Travel Network. ”Get the whole family together to help plan the vacation and decide on your own definition of family fun. Then enlist the kids' help (if they're old enough) in searching the Internet for cities that have attractions that match your family's interests.”
Here are a few travel planning tips:
• Larger cities typically offer more free attractions and festivals
• Traveling off season can mean serious price breaks
• Take advantage of city-specific coupon books or family fun passes available online
• Look for Kids Eat Free deals at hotels and restaurants, and stay in a suites property that offers free breakfast, kitchens and more room to spread out
• Consider vacation rental-type properties, even in a city. Schretter says owners often rent homes for up to 50 percent less than nearby hotels and offer much more space
Ready to start packing? Here's our Top 10 Cities for Affordable Vacations.