10 cheap, fun summer family vacations

Whether your family enjoys the great outdoors or prefers the air-conditioned indoors, we've got you covered with a list of inexpensive summer vacations.

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75Comments
Apr 6, 2014 5:39AM
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These places are only cheap if you don't have to fly to get to them
Apr 6, 2014 11:08AM
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Really? A family camp in Maine that costs $3100 bucks a week per family is considered "affordable'? To who, Donald Trump? I live in Maine. You can find plenty of vacation options here that cost half of that or less.
Apr 4, 2014 6:43PM
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There are many ways to enjoy life without getting far from the house, get some friends and go to the local park with a picnic basket some fishing poles and a few games and kick back and enjoy!
Apr 6, 2014 11:05AM
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Really?  These are cheap?  If you live on the east coast the only one that would be marginally cheap is DC, and that's if you only stay a couple of days. The hotels are very expensive.
Apr 4, 2014 6:07PM
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Me, my Wife and our 2 Boys, Now 20 and 17...take a yearly trip in August to Greer, AZ. in the White Mountains. We camp...in a trailer now, fish, hike and ride quads...we all still love it...for 20 years, with a few missed in there...not very expensive...It's 115 degrees in Phoenix and about 80 degrees up there with rain nearly every afternoon...which cools it down to 60ish...
Apr 6, 2014 10:15AM
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The Black Hills is such a wonderful and very affordable vacation with several free attractions or very low cost. Have been there a few times with my 6 kids and spent 1 week each time we went. The kids love it up there and there is something for everyone to do.
Apr 6, 2014 10:51AM
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Half these places are cheap only if you plan on being homeless while you are there. D.C., Boston, Vancouver? Sure, seeing all the sites might be cheap, but finding a cheap place to stay in these areas is impossible.

My favorite cheap vacation that I have taken my family on was renting a houseboat on the Mississippi. It was inexpensive and a fun family adventure. I would recommend it to anyone.
Apr 7, 2014 10:33AM
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I'll be going on an "all expenses paid" trip to my back yard.
Apr 6, 2014 10:21AM
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So the photo shows a man and woman rock climbing on a cliff and the caption says: Family fun for the kids???
Apr 6, 2014 8:33AM
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Don't know what decade these camping prices for Huntington Beach State Park came from, but I just checked the park website and they are REALLY wrong!  Tent camping (walk-in with central water) starts at $17/night.  Still not expensive, but someone needs to check their facts.
Apr 6, 2014 9:39AM
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Yeah, just have your limo driver drop you off at the neighborhood airport.
Apr 6, 2014 7:07PM
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When we were young, starting out our vacations consisted of a tent, sleeping bags and camping equipment strapped on top of our old car. We enjoyed every minute fishing, hiking and sight seeing. We would drive thousands of miles to national parks or just out in the wilderness away from other campers. The family bonded as the children learned and had fun.

 

As we grew older and more financially mature, the vacations became more extended and the tent was exchanged for hotels and the activities became more touristy and expensive.

 

We have seen every part of this great country and much of Canada, my wife and I only drive, we hate flying. We have been to everyplace mentioned in this article with the exception of Medomak Camp, Main.

 

My personal favorites are the Black Hills and surroundings, Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, Washington D.C., Yosemite NP, Grand Canyons, Zion and Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonland, UT, Redwoods and the California and Oregon Cost, Boston and area in the fall. Vancouver and driving thru BC and AB along the Trans Canada Hwy up to Jasper and the Icefeilds, Lake Louise and Banff.

Apr 6, 2014 9:52AM
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For me, camping/backpacking are the ultimate low-cost vacations.  It seems more and more people have that idea.  

Unfortunately, the local and federal politicians have cut the funding and let the parks fall to pieces.  I have a pretty good idea who to blame, but I would rather not state them.  Suffice to say, please consider the park system funding and protecting the environment next time you vote at all levels. I've seen a ton of waste at the state level whereby functioning structures and facilities were left to rot and then torn down or closed because of draconian funding cuts.  Replacing them will cost a fortune when the economy is humming again. 

My wife and I have camped in PA, MD, CT, RI, NH  and MA.  NH has the most spectacular views and trails of the bunch (we know it is not like those western parks on our to-do list, but it is really, really nice) and the best placed we camped for just camping was in R.I., of all places, with a nice clean pond for swimming/fishing/canoeing.  (BTW, RI probably has the best all around canoeing of any Northeastern state we've tried.  It is really surprising to most locals, but there are just so many places to got with so many different types of canoeing to do.  For instance, NH has great lake canoeing and river canoeing, but not the salt water canoeing.   RI has all three. ) 

Most private and  public places charge about $20-35 per night for a tent site.  Public sites are a better value, and every bit as nice as the private places.  In fact, often better. 

We have a lot of really good gear, like our Nemo Losi 3-man tent (the best in the world, for a great price of about $400), but if you have an ALDI supermarket near you, they sell really decent gear for incredible prices.  At ALDI, I bought a 6-person tent for only $69 last year.  I water-proofed the seams for about $10 more. Heavy as heck, but it will fit four people very comfortably.  You can buy inflating pillows, inflating bed mats, sleeping bags, etc. super, super cheap, and some of it is really, really good stuff.  Or you can get all really good gear at REI, EMS or Sports Chalet. (Stay away from that famous camping/outdoor supply co. based in ME unless you want to pay double the going rate for gear.)  If you become an REI member and don't like something you bought, you can return it for a full credit, for life.   Tough to beat that deal. 

At some point within the next several years I want to realize my dream of bicycling touring, which is the ultimate in low-cost vacationing.  I have everything I need except for a willing tour partner. 
Apr 6, 2014 10:50AM
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I would like to know where the $1.60 per night for camping and $3.80 for a cabin came from.  Certainly not from the booking website for Huntington Beach State Park. Cabins start at $50 per night.   
Apr 6, 2014 11:53AM
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Washington DC, Boston and such, nope, cheap is not in the vocabulary, not even reasonable, especially in the summer non-school seasons. Anything tourist-y the prices get hiked way up in the season, out of the budget for average families. In the Northeast, try Maine, especially mid-coast over to Acadia National Park and up to Coast, or way up into the Aroostock back country far up as Canada. Small Mom & Pop lodging or lots of campgrounds won't cost you even half the $3100 this article suggests even with the gas prices, fishing, hiking, lots of freebie outdoor activity, antiques, fresh air, peace and quiet. But if you want glitz and The Ritz go to NYC or DC, you won't see us average folks there. 
Apr 6, 2014 1:36PM
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A very majestic place, Yosemite.  Knew it right away from the picture and you just cannot explain to someone who has never been there what it is like.  I will never forget it and want to go back.  Just one of those things that should be on your bucket list.  Drive there, camp or just spend a day looking around, have a bottle of wine and lunch, nap and leave or stay...up to you.  One day that you will never forget.  Stop whining and go.......those yesterdays become tomorrows so fast you just need to live life.    
Apr 6, 2014 3:35PM
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Myrtle Beach is nice as long as you go off-season. We went three weeks after Labor Day, and there was almost no traffic. Our rooms were less than $50 a night. Water was still warm enough to swim, and the weather was great, with the exception of an occasional rain shower. No lines anywhere.
Apr 7, 2014 11:26AM
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Affordable vacations? You have to be kidding. Who can afford vacations anymore? All our money is going to pay increased healthcare premiums and higher deductibles. I don't know anyone who is planning on a vacation this year or any year unless they make a whole lot of money or spend a lot and does not have much in savings. I know only two people who fit this category. They are both in debt and both retired and live only for today. They both think, why not? They aren't going to be around to pay for it later anyway. 
Apr 6, 2014 12:13PM
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Do not go to Vancouver Canada. it is the number one on petty crime.
We went to that park. My family stepped out for a quick photo and when we got back
in 5 minutes. My Tahoe window was broken into. Reported it to the local police
and they said to me welcome to Canada with a smile. Really wanted to punch him in the face.
We got stuck at the border for 5 hours.

Apr 6, 2014 2:41PM
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Thailand?  Do they know how much it costs to fly to Thailand?!!  Airfares have gotten out of hand  crazy expensive for two people, let alone parents and children.  Also, most of these places do not seem very safe to me.  If a family can afford those places, why not just go the Wally World?
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