Everybody loves a bargain, especially when it comes to family travel. The good news: if you plan with a keen eye and pay attention to packages and deals, you won’t have to sacrifice important amenities or awesome adventures. In order to help you make it happen, we’ve rounded up 12 cheap places to travel with kids. Scroll down to see them all.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio celebrates its 300 year anniversary this year, and the countless budget-friendly activities make it a hot spot for families in 2018.

What to Do
You can stroll the Riverwalk (eating at the restaurants is the splurge.), explore the Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, among other things—all for free. And of course, don’t forget the Alamo. If you want to go all out and do Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Natural Bridge Caverns and other hot spots, be sure to book a San Antonio Explorer Pass, where you can pick and choose your favorite activities and create an entertainment package at discounted prices.

Where to Stay
Avoid hotels on the Riverwalk and look in other areas for budget-friendly lodging. The Hyatt Residence Club Wild Oak Ranch has multi-room suites, an indoor pool, lazy river, hiking trails, a shuttle to SeaWorld and other awesome family amenities. Prices start at $139 per night.

Find out more: visitsanantonio.com

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Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota

Sure, most people would cringe at the low temps that rule during winter months, but Minnesotans know that the Twin Cities offer winter magic that is rare, indeed.

What to Do
If you visit the Twin Cities during the winter, be prepared for frigid temps, but still plenty to do. Check out the Family Center at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which is always free. You can hit up the biggest indoor mall in the country, and ride a roller coaster or two. A visit to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is a must in good or bad weather. It’s free, the conservatory is a winter oasis, plus there are a ton of events happening all year long. Grab a cheap bite to eat and expand palates all at once with a trip to Midtown Global Market and sample local craft brews at one of the area’s most kid-friendly breweries.

Where to Stay
Check out budget-friendly Airbnb options, where some spots start as low as $40 a night.

Find out more: minneapolis.org

Sacramento, California

The golden state’s capital flies under the radar when compared to tourist hot spots like San Francisco and Los Angeles, but there’s plenty of fun to be had year-round at bargain prices.

What to Do
The capitol building itself is rich in history and architectural splendor, you can take a free tour and then wander the urban green space known as Capital Park. The city proudly claims to be America’s Farm to Fork capital, and there are dozens of free farmers markets that showcase over 8000 acres of boutique farms that flourish in the surrounding counties. Old Town Sacramento, a 28-acre State Historical Park, is a peek into the past, with old buildings from the Gold Rush era still intact and housing everything from restaurants to wacky gift shops and the free Wells Fargo History Museum. Rent a bike and explore the American River on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail—over 32 miles of pathway that goes from Discovery Park to Folsom Lake.

Where to Stay
The Hilton Garden Inn is just a few minutes away from downtown—which means cheaper rates. It offers adjoining rooms for families of more than four. It also has an outdoor pool that is kept warm well into the chilly winter months.

Find out more: visitsacramento.com

Pensacola - Florida

Located on the Florida panhandle, this small beach town lays claim to being home to "the World's Whitest Beaches."

What to Do
After spending plenty of time on the white sand beaches, be sure to stop by the National Naval Aviation Museum. Not only is it the world’s largest aviation museum in the country, but it offers free admission daily. Don’t miss Bands on the Beach, which occurs every Tuesday from Apr.-October. Pack a picnic, bring the kids and relax to free music as you watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Explore the 8.5 mile Pensacola eco-trail, where the whole family can learn about local plant life, look for and collect seashells, and even keep an eye out for a sea turtle or two! For fresh and local eats and goods, wander through the Palafox Market on Saturday mornings.

Where to Stay
There are plenty of budget-friendly offerings, from KOA campsites to VRBO homes and hotels like the Hilton Pensacola Beach Hotel, which has family-friendly suites with kitchen and bunk beds available. Rates start at $135 a night.

Find out more: visitpensacola.com

Wells, Maine

This friendly beach town has a much more laid-back vibe (and cheaper prices) than nearby Kennebunkport.

What to Do
In Wells, the seven miles that are knowns as Crescent Beach and Drake’s Island Beach is always a popular tourist attraction, but there are plenty of other cheap activities for families. Head to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and walk the one-mile trail that’ll take you through salt marshes. Go to the world-famous Maine Diner and order a bowl of the clam chowder, and if you are headed there during the winter, Harris Farm is just over 30 minutes away and offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat bike rides for reasonable prices (kids 6 & under are free on the weekends, adults are only $15.).

Where to Stay
The Misty Harbor Resort is open year-round and offers lots of family-friendly amenities like an indoor pool, playground, in-unit kitchen, a prime location on the trolley route and proximity to markets and the beach. Current rates start at $75 per night.

Find out more: visitmaine.com/wells

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Visit this charming tourist city at the base of the Smoky Mountains in the springtime, before the staggering summer crowds show up.

What to Do
The city is very walkable, there’s a low-cost trolley, mountain access via the Ober Aerial Tramway, and there are plenty of free activities including miles of hiking, fishing, the 8-mile Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community Loop, walking along the Little Pigeon River, visiting Cades Cove for breathtaking views and more.

Where to Stay
There’s no shortage of lodging in Gatlinburg, and in the off-season, deals abound. Take advantage of the prices and book a cozy cabin via VRBO, where some of their top cabin rentals start as low as $93 a night.

Find out more: gatlinburg.com

Albuquerque - New Mexico

One of the most cost-effective vacations can be had in Albuquerque—this city was awarded a spot in the “Top 10 U.S. Value Destinations” by Hotwire.

What to Do
You’ll only pay between $4-$8 for admission at one of the 19 museums in the city. And, if you visit the Rio Grande Nature Center you can enjoy a free walk and birdwatching along the stunning Rio Grande Bosque Trail. This lovely family-first city boasts 310 days of sunshine and blue skies per year, which is probably why it’s the ballooning capital of the world. Additionally, families can enjoy hiking, jeep tours, bike outings, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and horseback riding.

Where to Stay
From campgrounds to Bed and Breakfasts to hotels to ranches, Albuquerque has it all. Visit their website to find the accommodations that are ideal for your family’s budget and needs.

Find out more: visitalbuquerque.org

 

Atlanta, Georgia

If you haven’t visited The ATL with your family yet, you should most definitely add it to your vacation to-do list.

What to Do
There’s a ton to see here for everyone in your family, including the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for younger kids; Centennial Olympic Park, where you can watch a synchronized water show; the Center for the Puppetry Arts, where you can see Jim Henson’s Muppet collection; the World of Coca-Cola and Stone Mountain Park. To soak up some culture, visit the Atlanta History Center, where 33 acres are waiting to be explored (military is free and Bank of America customers have free admission the first weekend of every month). 

Where to Stay
If you’re looking for a straightforward hotel to rest your heads, take a look at colorful The Inn at the Peachtrees. Here you’ll find free WiFi and breakfast and, most importantly, you’ll be located near the CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Zoo. Plus, Piedmont Park is not too far away. Room rates start at around $100 per night.

Find out more: atlanta.com

Orlando, Florida

There's more to this city in Central Florida than Disney. Plus, there are some off-season perks, too.  Flights and hotel deals tend to be cheaper this time of year, and the weather is moderate.

What to Do
For nature-lovers, Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens has a splash park, aerial adventure course, and over 500 animals, and the Dickson-Azalea Park is a hidden urban oasis with shady trails to explore and massive trees to climb.

If a theme park experience is must, there are plenty of options. Enjoy over 50 rides, shows and attractions at LEGOLAND Florida Resort and Waterpark, or bring little ones to the Crayola Experience for a colorful adventure with 25 hands-on activities (look for pre-purchase and military veteran ticket discounts). For history buffs and multigenerational families, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where they'll learn about NASA’s amazing history, is a best-bet.

Where to Stay
The Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate has a new wave pool, a lazy river that winds around a lush garden, a family pool with waterslides and an adults-only pool. Should parents want to enjoy a nice dinner alone at Zen or David’s Club, or enjoy a side-by-side massage treatment, kids can hang out in the Camp Omni Kids Escape for only $12 per hour, which includes dinner (dining parents receive 50% off first two hours!). Room rates start at $119 per night.

Find out more: visitorlando.com

Portland, Oregon

Portland has long been a haven for families looking for good food and outdoor fun at a cheap price. 

What to Do
From hands-on science activities at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to loads of beautiful parks (hello, Washington Park!), public fountains and open-air weekend markets—Portland has it all. Young kiddos under five will love Portland Children's Museum, and kids ages six to ten will find the Portland Art Museum, Oaks Amusement Park, and Children's Theater interesting. A bike ride along the riverfront is perfect if you want to explore by water.

If your family wants to "Keep Portland Weird," you may want to check out Voodoo Doughnuts or make your own pancakes at Slappy Cakes. And, if you're trying to save a penny, check out the Chinook Book app, which has discounts at 145 restaurants and attractions around the city.

Where to Stay
One of the best travel planning resources is the Travel Portland website. Here, you can find up-to-date scheduling info for concerts, family-friendly events and fun happenings around the city. Also, you can book lodging based on a specific neighborhood or level of "alternativeness."

Find out more: travelportland.com

Memphis, Tennessee

Elvis' hometown has been ranked a top budget-friendly family vacation spot for several years. The recently completed 137-million-dollar expansion means there's even more to do.

What to Do
Go on a tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion, explore the Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park, watch the Peabody ducks make their daily trek and don't forget to take the monorail to the free Mud Island River Park, where the popular Riverwalk—an exact scale model of the lower Mississippi—will give kids a bird's eye view of the famous river.

Where to Stay
A great Memphis lodging option is Hyatt Place Memphis Primacy Parkway, located near the Memphis Botanic Garden and Memphis Zoo. Here you can park for free, hop on the included WiFi, splash in the outdoor pool and enjoy complimentary daily breakfast. 

Find out more: memphistn.gov/visitingmemphis

 

photo: CityPass 360 Chicago

Chicago has loads of family-friendly (free or nearly free) activities that will light up your vacation.

What to Do
Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, a free zoo with an interactive farm. Chicago also has free and discounted days at many of their world-class museums: Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago History Museum, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, and more.

Visit Millennium Park, which has countless fun free events and activities for families such as live music and yoga at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, art exhibitions throughout the park, a huge playground with views of Chicago’s skyline, Crown Fountain (kids can splash and run through this art installation), and of course, the ever-popular Cloud Gate aka “The Bean.” Be sure to check out the official Chicago CityPass to book admission to top attractions at a fraction of the cost. 

Where to Stay
Built in 1929, the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile is like walking into a slice of Chicago’s rich past. It's also located right on the Mag Mile, making it easy to get your family to all that Chicago has to offer. If you book their Parking Package, you’ll get free valet parking. The little girls in your crew will love The American Girl Experience package, which includes a tiara at check-in, American Girl accessories, turn-down service with cupcakes and milk, and a specialty breakfast for two girls. Prices start at $169 per night.

Find out more: chooseschicago.com

 

What’s your favorite cheap place to travel? Share with us in a comment below. 

— Gabby Cullen & Wendy Altschuler

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Editor’s Note: Rates were current upon publication.