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15 Affordable Family Summer Vacation Ideas for 2024

June 9, 2024

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Summer is approaching, and it’s time to plan activities for the warm season. However, you might be worried about the cost and are looking for family summer vacation ideas on a budget. Look no further! We’ve compiled a list of the best family vacations on a budget for summer 2024, so you can explore the country without breaking the bank. 


Let’s dive into these adventures that promise both fun and affordability, so you can focus on what truly matters — creating priceless memories with your family.

1. Camp at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an incredible destination for families who love the great outdoors and are searching for a cheap summer vacation. With over 800 miles of hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, this park offers endless opportunities for adventure. Don’t miss the chance to explore Cades Cove, a scenic valley with historic buildings and abundant wildlife. Affordable camping options like Elkmont Campground are available for overnight stays, starting at $30 per night.

2. Take a Scenic Roadtrip Along Blue Ridge Parkway

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

A road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best summer family vacations 2024 has to offer. Spanning 469 miles, this scenic highway winds through the Appalachian Mountains, offering picturesque views and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Take time to pause at the numerous overlooks to soak in the breathtaking scenery, trek invigorating hikes to discover stunning waterfalls, and explore the quaint and delightful mountain communities nestled along the route. We recommend staying at the Peaks of Otter Lodge.

3. Beach Vacation at Myrtle Beach

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Myrtle Beach is a classic summer destination that offers plenty of affordable and fun summer vacation ideas for families. With 60 miles of sandy beaches, a bustling boardwalk, and numerous attractions, there’s something for everyone. Take advantage of free activities like watching the sunrise over the ocean, playing in the sand, and exploring the many parks and green spaces. Visit the Family Kingdom Amusement Park for thrilling rides or enjoy mini-golf at one of the many courses in the area. Consider budget-friendly hotels like the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort for an affordable stay.

4. Wildlife Viewing at the Yellowstone National Park

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Yellowstone National Park is the best family summer vacation destination for families who love nature and wildlife. The park boasts geysers, hot springs, and stunning landscapes that are unlike anywhere else on Earth. You can enjoy a scenic drive through the park, making stops at iconic landmarks like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Keep an eye out for bison, elk, and even grizzly bears. Camping is a great option for affordable lodging, with campsites like Madison Campground available starting at just $33 per night.

5. Discover History, Culture, and Nature in St. Louis, Missouri

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

St. Louis, Missouri, is a fantastic destination for a budget-friendly summer family vacation idea. Start your visit at the Gateway Arch, the city’s iconic 630-foot monument, where you can take a tram ride to the top for stunning views of the city. Explore Forest Park, a sprawling urban park that offers free admission to many of its attractions, including the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Missouri History Museum. Consider one of the city’s many budget-friendly hotels, like Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch for an affordable stay.

6. Volunteer at the Appalachian Trail

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

If you’re looking for summer vacation ideas that combine your love for the outdoors with a meaningful volunteer experience, consider volunteering along the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy allows individuals and families with older kids to help maintain and protect this iconic hiking trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Volunteer tasks may include trail maintenance, shelter repair, and invasive species removal. These typically last a week, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy offers tools, training, and campsites for volunteers.

7. Experience Farm Life at Billings Farm & Museum

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

The Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont, provides an enriching and educational experience for families who want to learn about agriculture and history. This operational dairy farm not only offers insightful tours but also boasts engaging exhibits and hands-on activities that teach you about life on a 19th-century farm. With admission set at a reasonable $19 for adults and $12 for children, the Billings Farm & Museum presents an affordable summer vacation idea for families. Stay at The Vesper Woodstock, a 15-minute walk from Billings Farm & Museum.

8. City Sightseeing the Iconic Attractions of Chicago

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

With its mix of iconic attractions, free activities, and diverse neighborhoods, Chicago is a perfect destination for the best family summer vacation. Kick off your trip with a stop at Millennium Park, where you’ll find “The Bean” and catch a free outdoor concert or event. From there, make your way to the Chicago Riverwalk, featuring an array of restaurants, bars, and public art displays. Nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the country’s oldest zoos, which offers free admission throughout the year. Check out The Chicago Hotel Collection Magnificent Mile Hotel & Suites to stay within the Central area.

9. Lake Getaway in Lake Tahoe

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Lake Tahoe is a spectacular destination offering plenty of summer vacation ideas on a budget. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this crystal-clear lake boasts panoramic views and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, including swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and fishing. Spend your days exploring the lake’s pristine waters and surrounding natural beauty and your evenings gathered around a campfire under the stars. Lake Tahoe offers a variety of affordable lodging options, including campgrounds and cabins in Lake Tahoe KOA that provide more space and privacy for families.

10. Bike Tour at Katy Trail State Park

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Katy Trail State Park in Missouri is an ideal destination for families who love cycling and the great outdoors, offering one of the best family vacations on a budget. Enjoy over 240 miles of scenic trails that you and the family can explore. Rent bikes from local outfitters and set foot on a self-guided tour, spotting historic landmarks, such as the impressive Missouri River bluffs, and visiting the quaint town of Rocheport, known for its antique shops and cozy cafes. When it’s time to rest, take advantage of the park’s affordable campsites, like Herman Hill Campground, starting at just $15 per night, complete with amenities like fire pits, picnic tables, and shower facilities.

11. Hiking Trip at Shenandoah National Park

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia would be a great summer vacation for families who love hiking and scenic drives. With over 500 miles of trails, including a section of the famous Appalachian Trail, this park offers endless opportunities for adventure. You can also go on a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, where you can make stops at various overlooks to marvel at the park’s stunning panoramic views. For those seeking affordable accommodation options, staying at one of the park’s cozy lodges, like Big Meadows Lodge, can be a fantastic choice.

12. Educational Trip to the Smithsonian Museums

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Washington, D.C., is a fantastic destination for families looking to combine education and fun, with the Smithsonian Museums being a must-visit attraction. This summer vacation idea for families offers 19 museums and galleries to cover everyone’s interests, including the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History. Best of all, admission is free, making it an affordable option. While in D.C., take advantage of the many other free attractions, such as the National Zoo, the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the numerous monuments and memorials throughout the city. Consider accommodations like Club Quarters Hotel White House, Washington, D.C., to stay near the museums.

13. Hit the Amusement Park with the Family at Hersheypark

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

Hersheypark in Pennsylvania is one of the best places to visit in summer in the USA with family, especially for those who love amusement parks. With over 70 rides and attractions, including thrilling roller coasters, refreshing water rides, and a variety of kid-friendly rides, the park offers entertainment for all ages. In addition, you can take a break and explore ZooAmerica, an 11-acre wildlife park home to over 200 animals. For those looking for affordable accommodation options, numerous budget-friendly hotels in the vicinity, like the Best Western Premier The Central Hotel & Conference Center, provide comfortable stays for families.

14. Historical Tour of San Antonio

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

San Antonio, Texas, is a great destination for families who want to combine history and fun, making it one of the best summer family vacation ideas. Visit the Alamo, take a stroll along the River Walk, and explore the many museums and attractions throughout the city. Take a guided tour of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park to learn about the city’s rich history. For affordable accommodation, check in at Drury Inn Suites San Antonio Riverwalk, a 3-star hotel with a rooftop pool so you can cool down after a day of exploring.

15. Treasure Hunting on Mackinac Island

Family Summer Vacation Ideas on a Budget

For a unique and exciting summer vacation idea, head to Mackinac Island in Michigan for a geocaching adventure. This family-friendly activity combines the thrill of a modern-day treasure hunt using GPS coordinates with the opportunity to explore the island’s car-free streets, historic charm, and stunning natural beauty. Rent bicycles to search for hidden caches along the island’s many trails and parks, take breaks to visit attractions like Fort Mackinac, or indulge in the famous local fudge. Mackinac Island offers affordable lodging options like the Lake View Hotel, making it a perfect choice for family summer vacation ideas on a budget.

No matter what your family summer vacation ideas are, there’s an affordable option waiting for you. From national parks to amusement parks, historical sites to scenic trails, you’re sure to find the perfect destination to create unforgettable memories with your loved ones.

Now that you’ve got your budget-friendly summer vacation ideas ready, it’s time to start planning your trip. Don’t forget to sign up for OneAir, your advanced AI travel companion that makes booking flights, accommodations, and activities a breeze.

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