The arrival of summer evokes fond memories of ice cream trucks, long days at the pool, and of course, cross-country summer trips with the family. This year, why not make new memories with a cheap family vacation package to Florida, the Carolinas, Colorado, or California. The whole brood – including your usually indifferent teenager – will thank you one day.
The Best Cheap Family Vacations Start in Florida
The land of Disney-dreams-come-true is a precious childhood memory, so why not take your kids to Florida to enjoy the magic? Grab yourself a roundtrip flight on United Airlines for as little as $159.80 (from $160, a low by $22; expires May 31), then get pumped and ready to be slimed! A 3-night stay at the Nickelodeon Resort in Orlando (from $309, a low by $86; expires May 31) not only guarantees cameos from your kids' favorite friends including SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, but also boasts Nickolodeon-themed KidSuites, two wet and wild water parks, and of course, complimentary shuttle service to theme parks.
If you'd rather not risk sensory overload, kick back at the Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa for a 3-night stay in Orlando instead (from $195, a low by $73; expires May 10). Less than two miles from Universal Studios and SeaWorld, and just five miles from Walt Disney World, the resort offers just the right amount of serene relaxation after a theme park-filled day, not to mention spacious studios and villas, seven outdoor heated pools, hot tubs, and a fully equipped spa.
Been there, done that? If a trip to Disney World is no longer on your vacation bucket list, why not take the tots to a whole new part of Florida worth exploring: Cape Canaveral. Nicknamed Florida's "Space Coast," the area is both home to the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach's 72-mile expanse of sandy shoreline.
Settle in with a stay at the nearby Radisson Resort at the Port (from $70 per night, a low by $17; expires May 16); it's the closest hotel to the space station and the nearby cruise terminal, so aspiring kid astronauts can view rockets launch into orbit from right outside their windows. With an outdoor waterfall pool, a poolside Tiki bar, and access to nearby Cocoa Beach, you have the option to unwind or continue to play after a day of space exploration. For the perfect nightcap, parents can also head to Flamingo's Lounge Bar for live jazz and Caribbean music.
Beach Family Vacations and Foliage in the Carolinas
For a more nature-focused summer vacation, head to North Carolina and experience America's most visited national park. With forests straddling the entire border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll be able to take in plenty of plant and animal life, stunning scenery, and remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. Enjoy all that the Smoky Mountains has to offer with a 2-night stay for two adults and two children with breakfast at the Waynesville Inn (from $129, a low by $49; expires May 17). The inn offers mountain views from 115 guest rooms, 27-holes of championship golf, and food and drink at a lively tavern. Hike through winding trails to take in the breathtaking views, visit Mingo Falls (one of the largest falls in the Southern Appalachian), or scratch your adventure itch by rafting along the Nantahala River.
Had your fill of foliage? It might be time to wander to the other Carolina for an all-American beach-inspired vacation. Unpack your swim trunks and get acquainted with the family-friendly premises at the San Dunes Resort Hotel in Myrtle Beach (from $79, a low by $19; expires May 12). The hotel's got a whole range of freebies including free accommodations for kids, an on-site water park, a free catamaran sightseeing cruise, complimentary golf, and admission to Ocean Drive Pavilion Amusement Park, not to mention firework displays at the biggest public oceanfront pool bar on the Grand Strand: Ocean Annie's Beach Bar. No wonder Myrtle Beach is sometimes called the vacation capital of the nation.
Want to skip the seashore all together? Whether you and Ma want to recreate the Hey Dude dreams of your early teenage years, or would rather just let the kids roam free and create their own ranch sitcom, book your family a 3-night stay for two adults and one child at the all-inclusive Majestic Dude Ranch in Colorado (from $1,647, a low by $1,428; expires May 18). The full-on immersion into dude ranch life includes being paired with a horse and mountain bike for the duration of your stay. You'll then enjoy guided excursions through 200 acres of adjacent open land. What's more, all activities — which entails kayaking, mountain climbing, archery, and fly-fishing — are included. With local rodeos and 600 Pueblo cliff dwellings in nearby Mesa Verde, you'll also access unique Colorado experiences firsthand.
Go West for Cheap Family Vacation Ideas in California
The great state of California offers all of the vacation elements of the destinations we've mentioned already, so why not go all out and head west? First, enjoy the SoCal sun, laid-back beach towns, and surfing culture by calling the Wyndham Garden San Diego (from $61, a low by $17; expires May 11) your home base for a few days. Located just two miles from Sea World in Mission Bay, the hotel provides centrally located accommodations with free WiFi and parking. Don't pass up spending a day exploring Balboa Park, roaming the historic Gaslamp Quarter, touring the San Diego Zoo, or viewing rare birds just outside of town at the Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Much like its east coast counterpart, Disneyland is a kid mecca. Stay near by in Fullerton at the Howard Johnson Inn (from $52 per night, a low by $20; expires May 13) and you'll be just ten minutes away from the park. What's more, the hotel offers complimentary shuttles to and from the park and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. The best part of staying in Fullerton? Los Angeles is just 25 miles away. Be sure to check out the Walk of Fame, the Griffith Observatory, and the Getty Museum.
With these deals to family-friendly locales across the nation, your summer vacation plans are in the bag. But, if you've got different ideas for a getaway, be sure to check out our daily travel deals for other airfare, hotel, and vacation packages.
At the time of publication, these travel deals offered the lowest prices we could find. Deals may include blackout dates, additional taxes, and fees. Some of our prices may be based on mandatory double occupancy.
Summar Ghias is a contributor to Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared.