Explore The United States On A Budget: 21 Affordable Summer Vacation Destinations With Kids

A family of five stands together posing in front of the iconic arches of Arches National Park near Moab, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

The United States is a huge country that’s full of amazing and affordable summer destinations for families with kids. From the East Coast to the West Coast, and everywhere in between, when the temperatures start to rise and the days get longer, it can only mean one thing: summer is on its way! And nothing says ‘fun summer vacation’ quite like spending time with loved ones. Luckily, there are so many options for things to do this summer with kids that won’t strain your wallet. Though it can be tough to narrow down where to go on vacation, especially if you’re traveling on a budget, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this list of 21 Affordable Summer Vacation Destinations with Kids in the United States, which includes things to do, where to stay, and some tips. Keep reading to learn more! 

Affordable Summer Vacations on the East Coast with Kids

The East Coast is home to some of the most affordable summer vacation spots in the country. From sandy beaches and boardwalks to historic landmarks and amusement parks, many of these destinations are perfect for families with kids. Here are some family vacation ideas for those on a budget! 

Niagara Falls, NY

Father and daughter smile with a view of Niagara Falls behind them as they await the Journey Behind the Falls Tour.
Photo Courtesy: Chris Fiebrandt Zaremby

What could be more exciting for kids than visiting one of the most famous natural wonders of the world – Niagara Falls? Families looking for an affordable vacation in the United States could consider saving money by staying in nearby Niagara Falls, New York, then driving over the Canadian border to visit the iconic waterfalls. Either way, there’s plenty to do on both sides for kids and adults, and the summer weather usually reaches around 75-85 degrees!

Fun Things to Do in Niagara Falls with Kids

A rainbow arches toward Niagara Falls, while a a boat steers near the base of the falls, seen from the Canadian side.
Photo Courtesy: Tina Roberts

​​There are dozens of kid-friendly attractions in Niagara Falls, New York, to enjoy this summer, such as the Aquarium of Niagara, Cave of the Winds inside Niagara Falls State Park, and Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours (great for adventurous teens!). And don’t forget about all the fun to be had on the water! Boat tours, jet skiing, and swimming are all great ways to beat the heat and make some lifelong memories. For an up-close view of Niagara Falls from the American side, families can also take a Maid of the Mist Boat Ride, which starts on the New York side and briefly crosses into Canada.

Just a short drive away in Niagara Falls, Canada, The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is a must-see for any nature lover. And, thrill-seekers can visit Clifton Hill Amusements. Remember to see Horseshoe Falls by walking alongside the strip or check out Journey Behind the Falls. Take the elevator up Skylon Tower, which has an arcade, restaurant, and fun shop at the top. Need a break from all the tourist activities? Stop for a spell in Queen Victoria Park. Remember to purchase Wonder Passes for access to multiple attractions at a discounted rate!

Looking for more things to do in Niagara Falls with kids? Check out the ​​9 Best Things To Do In Niagara Falls With Kids

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls with Kids

Looking for the best places to stay in Niagara Falls with kids? There are plenty of affordable summer accommodations. First, consider checking Vrbo or Airbnb, which tend to have cheaper options than hotels. Or, families can stay at one of the many hotels or motels in Niagara Falls, New York, for example. There are also RV parks and campgrounds nearby if you’re looking for a more rustic experience.

If you’re taking a day trip to the Canadian side and want somewhere to stay for the night, you can consider hotels like Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, which has an indoor water park. Or, Niagara Falls Marriott On the Falls, which is super close to the falls. Families also love Hilton Niagara Falls/Fallsview Hotel & Suites or the Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls

For more activities and tours in Niagara Falls, NY, look here with Getyourguide.com!

The Pocono Mountains, PA

A family enjoys feeding the ducks from a dock at sunset on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains, one of the most affordable destinations in the US for families.
Photo Courtesy: PoconoMountains.com

The Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania are the perfect place to visit with kids this summer! From exploring the great outdoors to splashing in shallow waters, the area is full of affordable summer vacation options that will keep the whole family happy. Not to mention sunny weather of around 75-80 degrees! And, of course, no trip to the Pocono Mountains would be complete without a visit to one of the many charming towns that dot the landscape. 

Fun Things to Do in the Poconos with Kids

A mom and her four kids swim in the Lehigh River in the Pocono Mountains.
Photo Courtesy: PoconoMountains.com

First, there’s Jim Thorpe, a town rich in history and culture. It’s home to many historic buildings, including the Asa Packer Mansion and the Mauch Chunk Opera House. There are also plenty of museums, like the No. 9 Mine and Museum. Families can learn more about the area’s history while descending into a real-life mine! Jim Thorpe is also a great place for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and fun on the water. Rent a boat on Lake Wallenpaupack and embark from the scenic Mauch Chunk Lake Park. Don’t forget about Lehigh Gorge State Park in nearby Weatherly and riding the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway for breathtaking views! 

In the town of Stroudsburg, families can explore the shops, restaurants, and art galleries in historic downtown Stroudsburg. Kids will love also visiting the Pocono Snake and Wildlife Farm, where they can learn about native animals. For a more adventurous activity, take a zip line tour through the treetops at Pocono Tree Ventures. Just outside of town, there’s also the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, and spotting wildlife in their natural habitat.

Looking to take a summer road trip in the Poconos with kids? Pass through multiple kid-friendly towns like Honesdale, Hawley, and Milford on Route 6, another popular choice for families with young children. 

Where to Stay in the Poconos with Kids

Looking for somewhere to stay in the Poconos with kids? We have plenty of suggestions. One popular option to save money is to rent a cabin or lakeside house from Airbnb or Vrbo. If you’re willing to spend a little more, there are also some more hotel options in the area with amenities like an on-site water park that may make the price worth it, including the Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Poconos

Acadia National Park, ME

Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful and affordable summer vacation destinations on the East Coast for families! Located near Bar Harbor in Maine, it features over 50 miles of incredible hiking trails, a pristine coastline, and unique rock formations. Plus, there are mild summer temperatures of about 70-75 degrees, making it ideal for avoiding the heat and soaking up the scenery. And, if you’re visiting with a fourth grader, be sure to take advantage of free national park passes for fourth graders!

Fun Things to Do in Acadia National Park with Kids

A mom smiles on at her two children as they enjoy a meal at Jordan's Pond House inside Acadia National Park, one of the best things to do in Bar Harbor with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Natasha Dillinger

During the summer months, families can hike to waterfalls and lakes, explore beaches and tide pools, go whale watching, or take a boat tour. First, stop by the visitor’s center to get Junior Ranger packets for the kids and to learn more about park programs like Stars Over Sand Beach. Need an easy hike for young kids? Try the Ocean Path near Sand Beach.

Or, drive The Park Loop Road, winding through stunning views of mountains, rugged coastline, and forests. The road is paved for most of its length, but prepare for significant changes in elevation as you drive. Families can also drive or hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain or walk along the path to Bar Island for tide-pooling. Kids will love spotting colorful algae and marine animals at low tide! Just take care not to disturb the many creatures who call these tide pools home.

Looking for things to do in nearby Bar Harbor with kids? Take a whale-watching adventure with Bar Harbor Whale Watching Co, or learn about the local marine life at the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History. Then, treat kids to a tour made just for them through Bar Harbor Kids Tours! Don’t miss the chance to try iconic Maine cuisine at Beal’s Lobster Pier, Jordan Pond House (inside the park), or Thurston’s Lobster Pound. For more things to do, check out our list of Amazing Things to Do in Bar Harbor with Kids!

Where to Stay in Bar Harbor with Kids

Bar Harbor has a lot of kid-friendly accommodations, especially affordable options. If you want to stay near Acadia National Park, there are several campsites located within the park, offering families a chance to experience camping in a truly breathtaking setting. There are also many mid-range hotels located nearby, like the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center, the West Street Hotel, Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina, Balance Rock Inn, and Hutchins Cottages at Acadia.

Reserve a homestay in Bar Harbor with Vrbo!

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. i,s an excellent destination if you’re looking for family vacation ideas on a budget! The nation’s capital offers plenty of low-cost activities that are perfect for kids of all ages, from exploring world-renowned museums to picnicking in one of the many scenic parks. Best of all, many of the city’s most popular attractions are free to visit, making it easy to stick to a tight budget. And the summer weather usually averages around 85-90 degrees! 

Fun Things to Do in Washington, D.C., with Kids

Four kids sit among a sign reading "ZOO" at the Smithsonian Zoo in DC, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Steph Yu

Start your trip by visiting some of DC’s most famous landmarks on the National Mall, like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Then, head over to one of the countless free Smithsonian Institution museums – there are 19 in total, ranging from the National Museum of American History to the National Postal Museum. Or, tour the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House! The National Zoo is also a great place for animal lovers to spend an afternoon.

Looking for more affordable things to do in Washington DC with kids? Washington DC’s parks and gardens, such as Rock Creek Park or the United States Botanic Garden, are a lovely way to spend a summer day. Or, rent a paddleboat and explore the Tidal Basin in Washington’s Southwest Waterfront neighborhood – you’ll get incredible views of the city from the water!

Reserve your tours and activities in Washington DC with Getyourguide now!

Where to Stay in DC with Kids

Washington, D.C., is home to an array of family-friendly accommodations, most of which are very affordable. For a budget-friendly home and apartment rental, check out our Airbnb, Vrbo, and our recommendations for the best neighborhoods to stay in while visiting DC. Or, for more mid-range hotel suggestions, check out our list of kid-friendly hotels in DC.

Rehoboth Beach, DE

Rehoboth Beach filled with visitors and beach umbrellas on a sunny day at one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Pafotofan

Rehoboth Beach is the perfect spot for a summer vacation on a budget! Just a short drive from major cities like Philadelphia (two hours), Baltimore (two and a half hours), and Washington, D.C. (2 hours and 45 minutes), this laidback and charming beach town is easy to get to but still feels like a getaway. And with many hotels located within a 5-minute walk of the beach and boardwalk, you won’t have to spend a fortune on accommodations. Plus, most hotels offer complimentary beach gear, pools, and other amenities that will keep the whole family entertained. Not to mention, it’s the perfect place to soak up the sun and cool off in the water from temperatures of around 85-90 degrees!

Fun Things to Do in Rehoboth Beach with Kids

Three kids ride along in a pontoon of Rehoboth Beach.
Photo Courtesy: Adrianna Ross Berk

Spend time playing in the sand or relaxing on the city’s main beach, which is free to enter. Families can take a swim and then stroll the mile-long boardwalk lined with local shops and restaurants. Grab a slice of pizza from Grotto’s, a bucket of beach fries at Thrashers, and soft-serve ice cream at Kohr Brothers. Or, if kids want to play in the water longer, then take them to Jungle Jim’s Waterpark. They’ll love the waterslides as well as the lazy river! Of course, don’t forget about the rides at Funland. This amusement park has been delighting kids since the 1960s, and although small, there are rides for every age.

If you’re looking to explore beyond the beach, the nearby area is also home to several state parks where families can hike, bike, picnic, or even camp. This includes Cape Henlopen State Park, a stunning 3,000-acre park near Lewes. 

Where to Stay in Rehoboth Beach with Kids

Families have seemingly unlimited options when it comes to lodging in Rehoboth Beach! Consider a spot like the Atlantic Sand & Conference Center if you want something located right on the boardwalk and beach. If you prefer to be a couple of blocks off the beach, then stay at the Bellmoor Inn and Spa. It offers large rooms, a pool for the kids, and a magnificent spa for parents. Avenue Inn & Spa, with cozy rooms and suites and on-site dining options just a block from the beach! 

Book your family’s Rehoboth Beach home here with Vrbo!

The Finger Lakes, NY

A setting sun over the pier on the lake in Skaneateles, NY, as part of the Finger Lakes region, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: John Hoey

There’s no need to spend a fortune on summer vacation! The Finger Lakes region of New York State is a beautiful destination that won’t break the bank. With 11 lakes to explore, there’s plenty of opportunity for boating, fishing, swimming, and other water sports. Hiking trails also wind through the scenic area between the lakes, making it a great place to explore on foot as well. And with many hotels and campgrounds offering affordable rates, it’s easy to find a comfortable place to stay! Plus, the weather is usually warm and sunny, around 85-90 degrees. 

Fun Things to Do in the Finger Lakes Region with Kids

A gorge with a river flowing through from the Lower Falls inside Letchworth State Park, within the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Hallock

The Finger Lakes region is home to a number of national and state parks, including Letchworth State Park, Fillmore Glen State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, and Watkins Glen State Park. Each one offers something unique for families to enjoy. If you’re looking to visit one of the many waterfalls in the area, we recommend Taughannock Falls (taller than Niagara Falls!), Watkins Glen State Park, and Buttermilk Falls State Park. Both offer hiking trails, swimming areas, and picnic spots. Kids will also love cooling off on a hot summer day by visiting one of the many parks in the area, like Roseland Waterpark. Alternatively, there are also some great national lands, including  Finger Lakes National ForestHarriet Tubman Home National Historical Park, and Women’s Right’s National Historical Park.

For something a bit more adventurous, take a boat tour on one of the Finger Lakes. There are several companies that offer tours on Canandaigua Lake, Skaneateles Lake, Seneca Lake, and Cayuga Lake, as well as the Erie Canal

Families who want to visit a museum can check out the Glenn H Curtiss Museum near Keuka Lake (great for motorcycle or airplane lovers) or the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca (for science and nature lovers). Further family-friendly museum suggestions include The Strong Museum of Play (Rochester), Finger Lakes Museum (Branchport), and the Finger Lakes Boating Museum (Hammondsport). Finally, the region is also home to many wineries, so it’s the perfect place for a family-friendly wine-tasting tour!

Affordable Summer Vacations on the South East with Kids

If you’re looking for an exciting, yet affordable summer vacation with the kids, look no further than the southeastern United States. From the beaches of Georgia to the mountains of Tennessee, there are lots of fun ways to plan cheap family vacations. Keep reading to learn more!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of many cheap family vacations for those who want to enjoy the outdoors without straining their wallet! Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, this national park reaches around 75-80 degrees in the summer. That means it’s a perfect place to explore beautiful waterfalls, mountains, and lakes! Not to mention, families with a fourth grader can save on free national park passes for fourth graders!

Fun Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

Father and daughter posing for picture in forest at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Jessica Prechtl

There are many activities for families to enjoy in the summer throughout the park, such as hiking, camping, and fishing. Kids will love strolling through the forests and spotting wildlife like elk, deer, and black bears! Go wading in Deep Creek, try tubing, or take a short hike to scenic overlooks like Juney Whank Falls.

Some other kid-friendly trails include Grotto Falls and Laurel Falls. Both are about 2.5 miles roundtrip, with a waterfall at the end. Clingman’s Dome is a brief, ½-mile hike for little kids. Meanwhile, Cove Mountain Trail to Cataract Falls is ¾ of a mile with flat ground. This is also an excellent spot for bird-watching. There are also plenty of kid-friendly ranger programs available throughout the summer months. To explore the historic area, hop on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and travel back in time through charming rustic towns! 

Consider the Sightseeing Pass to save money on Great Smoky Mountain attractions!

Where to Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

Families visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park often choose to stay in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. Renting a cabin is a popular choice, since some have outdoor pools, hot tubs, and more family-friendly amenities. Families who want a more affordable option can also consider camping. For the comforts of a hotel stay, choose the Country Cascades Waterpark Resort or Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park, which both offer water parks to enjoy after a day of exploring the area. 

READ NEXT: 20 Best Destinations In The United States To Visit With Young Kids

Gatlinburg, TN

Looking for an affordable summer vacation destination that the whole family will enjoy? Look no further than Gatlinburg, Tennessee! Just a short drive from major cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga, Gatlinburg is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. This scenic town is brimming with kid-friendly activities, from hiking and biking trails to splash pads and picnicking in the park. Plus, even though the weather is around 85-90 degrees, you’ll still find plenty of water parks and nearby lakes/streams to cool down in! 

Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg with Kids

People walk across the large pedestrian swing bridge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Photo Courtesy: Amy Baugess

Gatlinburg is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, there are lots more to do beyond that! To experience new heights, check out SkyBridge at Gatlinburg Skylift Park. The bridge is nearly 700 feet long and more than 500 feet in the air, with glass flooring at the very middle.

Families will also love the mountaintop views from Ober Mountain Amusement and Activity Park, accessible by aerial tram. This year-round destination includes a wide variety of family-friendly fun, including a rock wall, chair swings, a mountain coaster, a carousel, mini-golf, wildlife encounters, and three water raft rides in the summer. Animal lovers can’t miss the 11-mile, one-way loop around Cades Cove, home to an abundance of wildlife, including deer, bears, turkeys, and even coyotes. Or, pack a picnic and walk the trails along the way

Looking for an indoor activity in Gatlinburg? Kids will also love seeing the various sea creatures up close at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies or visiting Ripley’s Believe It or Not to get up close with some of the world’s greatest oddities. For more suggestions, read our article to plan an Exciting Family Itinerary For Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge!

Savannah, GA

Summer is a wonderful time to experience the best of Savannah, Georgia, with your kids! From exploring the city’s historic squares to playing on the waterfront, there are so many fun things to do and see in this beautiful destination. Not to mention, it’s extremely easy to navigate on foot and features summer weather of around 90 degrees. No wonder it’s one of the most affordable summer vacation destinations in the United States to visit with kids! 

Fun Things to Do in Savannah with Kids

Left Image: A teenage girl throws her hands high in the air while standing under Wormsloe sign in Savannah, GA. Right Image: A historic brick home stands behind a immaculately manicured yard.
Photo Courtesy (L-R): Kimberly Cardentey, Emma Kendall

Start by exploring Savannah’s Historic District, which is full of charming 18th and 19th-century architecture. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride, tour one of the old plantation houses, or just wander around and soak up all the southern charm. Or, combine a visit to some of the best landmarks in the city, like the Davenport House, on an Old Town Trolley Tour. You can also save money by walking or biking to see the sights instead of taking tours.

Another popular thing to do on a hot day is visiting one of the city’s many parks, like Forsyth Park. Or, check out some splash pads. The Ellis Square Splash Pads, located in the popular Ellis Square, offer kids the perfect respite from the sun. Then, enjoy calm waters and soft sands on one of the nearby beaches on Tybee Island

Don’t forget about Savannah’s wonderful museums too, from Savannah’s History Museum to the Children’s Museum in Tricentennial Park. End your day with a sweet treat from Leopold’s Ice Cream or River Sweet Treats! And check out our list of the best things to do in Savannah with kids for more suggestions. 

Where to Stay in Savannah with Kids

Visiting Savannah with kids? We’re sure you’ll find accommodations for your family! Many people who travel in larger groups also choose to rent homes from Airbnb or Vrbo in Savannah’s surrounding areas for more space. For a hotel stay, you can also select from more affordable boutique options like the Olde Harbour Inn or the Kimpton Brice Hotel. Or, for more suggestions, check out our list of the best hotels in Savannah for families

Affordable Summer Vacations in the Midwest with Kids

There are plenty of affordable options in the Midwest. From camping and hiking in the great outdoors to spending a few days at one of the region’s many lakes, families can enjoy the summer sun without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions for affordable summer vacation destinations in the United States to visit with kids!

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Few places in the United States offer such a wealth of natural beauty and outdoor adventure as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula! In the summer, families can enjoy temperatures of around 70-75 degrees, perfect for hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and swimming in the many lakes and rivers. For those looking for a more relaxing vacation, there are also many scenic drives and lovely towns to explore. And best of all, the UP is very affordable! 

Fun Things to Do in the UP with Kids

A beautiful bay, with limestone cliffs in Fayette Historic State Park.
Photo Courtesy: Rachel Kramer

Across the UP, you’ll find beautiful lakes (including two Great Lakes!) and rivers, which offer some of the best fishing opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. For the best hiking recommendations across the UP, like Kitch-iti-kipi and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, read this article on the best UP hikes for families.

Families can also visit Fayette Historic State Park to enjoy a historic townsite, a harbor, a beach, and hiking trails. Or, check out the charming town of Marquette to visit the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Marquette Maritime Museum. Other kid-friendly activities in the UP include great lake cruises, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Finally, just off the tip of Michigan’s “mitten,” charming Mackinac Island is a great place for kids. This scenic island, only accessible by boat, ferry, or plane, features plenty of kid-friendly activities, like riding horse-drawn trolleys or visiting Fort Mackinac.

Where to Stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with Kids

Need somewhere to stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with kids? One great option for families to save money is by staying at one of the many campgrounds in the area. There are dozens of public campgrounds to choose from, as well as many private ones. Plus, it’s a great way for kids to experience nature and get away from technology for a while!

If you’d prefer hotels, there are a number of mid-range options. Families staying near Munising will find an array of options, including AmericInn by Wyndham Wetmore Munising (featuring an indoor pool and waterslide) and Northwoods Resort, offering cabins and cottages located on the sandy north shore of Au Train Lake. Then, in Marquette, consider Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Marquette. Want to be near the Porcupine Mountains? Kids will adore The Konteka Black Bear Resort

Reserve a home stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with Vrbo here!

Madison, WI

Nothing says ‘affordable summer destinations in the United States with kids’ quite like a visit to Madison, Wisconsin! From museums and zoos to parks and lakes, this laidback Midwest city has plenty to offer families looking to explore on a budget. Especially in the summer, when temperatures are around a temperate 75-80 degrees! It’s also a convenient distance from Minneapolis (four hours) and Chicago (2 hours and 15 minutes), making it ideal for a weekend getaway

Fun Things to Do in Madison with Kids

A teen boy holds out food for a bison while a staff member speaks at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison.
Photo Courtesy: Henry Vilas Zoo

One free way for families to take advantage of the sunny summer weather is by hiking in one of Madison’s nearby parks or nature trails. Devil’s Lake State Park is a popular spot for hiking, picnicking, and swimming, around a half hour north of Madison. There are also five lakes in proximity to the city, where families can enjoy boat rides, kayaking, and other water fun. Of course, nature and animal enthusiasts can also visit Henry Villas Zoo, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Vilas Park, and the UW-Madison Arboretum.

Then, walk down State Street, a half-mile-long pedestrian mall, see a performance at the Overture Center for the Arts, and visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market, held from April to November on Saturday mornings on Capitol Square. 

When you want an indoor activity, check out the various museums, including the Madison Children’s Museum, Wisconsin Historical Museum, or the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. After, grab dinner at Memorial Union Terrace for incredible views and then campus-made ice cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Where to Stay in Madison with Kids

It won’t be hard to find affordable accommodations in Madison! One convenient hotel in the downtown area is The Madison Concourse Hotel. If you’re up for taking a long road trip from Chicago, Wisconsin Dells is just another hour away and boasts many waterpark resorts like the Wilderness Resort and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells, which are guaranteed to be a blast for your family. 

South Dakota 

South Dakota is another affordable summer vacation destination that is perfect for exploring with kids! This Midwestern state is home to a variety of attractions and activities that the whole family will enjoy, from hiking and camping in the Black Hills to visiting one of the many amazing national parks. Plus, many of the state’s attractions are very budget-friendly, so you can explore without breaking the bank. Summers can be somewhat humid here, but temperatures usually range between 80-90 degrees. 

Fun Things to Do in South Dakota with Kids

A young boy holds a fishing pole at the edge of a large lake.
Photo Courtesy: Melissa Bourgeois

Any vacation to South Dakota should include a visit to Mount Rushmore National Monument! Kids will love seeing the faces of four former presidents carved into a mountainside and learning more about the history at the on-site museum. Then, check out The Crazy Horse Memorial, a massive sculpture depicting Native American leader Crazy Horse.

For outdoor adventures, Custer State Park is home to beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes for hiking, camping, fishing, and more. Or, head a little further to Badlands National Park for stunning landscapes and wildlife. Go hiking or horseback riding on one of the many trails, or take a scenic drive through the park.

For more of a city experience, Rapid City has a cute downtown with restaurants and shops on Main Street.

Where to Stay in South Dakota with Kids

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option to plan an affordable summer vacation in the United States with kids, consider camping at one of the many campgrounds located within South Dakota’s state or national parks. Families can also consider renting a house or apartment on Airbnb and Vrbo

Omaha, NE

An infant and a dad look at the blue troll statue under the pedestrian bridge in Omaha, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Omaha

This summer, take your kids to Omaha, Nebraska, to enjoy all the affordable, fun things the city has to offer! From zoos and museums to parks and playgrounds, this Midwestern gem is especially great for families traveling with young kids. And, summer weather is usually around 85, so it’s just sunny enough to explore!

Fun Things to Do in Omaha with Kids

A mom and her son marvel with excitment at animals inside the iconic red tram at the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, one of the best Midwest zoos for families.
Photo Courtesy: Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Start your trip at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, where your kids can see lions, tigers, and elephants up close. Then, explore the exhibits about Omaha’s history at the Durham Museum. Or, take younger kids to the Omaha Children’s Museum to learn about science, history, and art through interactive exhibits.

If you’re looking to get outside, check out the playgrounds and vast green spaces in Memorial Park or Lauritzen Gardens/Kenefick Park (kids will love the model railroad garden!). Children can also cool down on a hot day at the waterfront Lewis and Clark Landing and at the splash pads near the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Or, go for a boat ride down the Elkhorn River! Either way, be sure to indulge in a sweet treat from Omaha’s many artisanal ice cream shops, including Coneflower Creamery, eCreamery, and Ted & Wally’s.

For more adventures, head to Fontenelle Forest, around 15 miles south of Omaha. This gorgeous natural area features miles of hiking trails, as well as canoe and kayak rentals for families to enjoy!

St. Louis, MO

A river boat cruises down the Missouri River past downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch.
Photo Courtesy: Gateway Arch

Families who want to make some fun memories this summer without breaking the bank can do so in St. Louis, Missouri! With its rich history and abundance of affordable attractions, there’s so much waiting to be discovered here, from great food to unique museums. Plus, summer weather usually only reaches around 85-90 degrees. 

Fun Things to Do in St. Louis with Kids

Kids watch a polar bear swim in an exhibit at the Saint Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the top affordable destinations for families in the US.
Photo Courtesy: Explore St. Louis

Start by checking out some of the city’s most popular parks, like Forest Park, which features a free zoo, two golf courses, an incredible nature center, and miles of trails perfect for exploring. Or, head to Tower Grove Park for a picnic lunch followed by a game of frisbee or soccer. If your kids are looking for a little more adventure, consider visiting The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, or discover amazing views from the top of the Gateway Arch.

Or, see the arch from a new perspective by taking a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River! With its many tunnels, slides, and climbing structures, the City Museum is also a great place to explore for kids of all ages. There’s also Grant’s Farm, a historic attraction with everything from animal shows and demonstrations to a carousel and train rides. Plus, admission is free! 

And if you’re looking for something truly unique, don’t miss a chance to drive across the border to Illinois and see the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. This site includes the remains of the largest pre-Columbian city north of Mexico.

Affordable Summer Vacations in the Mountain States with Kids

The Mountain States offer some of the most affordable summer vacations in the United States for families with kids. With so many great outdoor activities available in places like Colorado or Idaho, you’ll never be bored. And, best of all, the costs are relatively low compared to other vacation destinations. Stay tuned to learn more! 

Colorado Springs, CO

The United States is a vast and beautiful country, and there are many great places to explore on a budget. Colorado Springs is one of those places. This beautiful city is tucked away in the Rocky Mountains. It offers plenty of free activities to keep your little ones entertained, from hiking and camping in one of the many nearby parks to exploring the historic downtown area. And, with average temperatures in the mid-to-high 80s during the summer months, it’s a comfortable place to visit as well.

Fun Things to Do in Colorado Springs with Kids

A young boy climbs a ladder at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Patience Byers

One of the most popular attractions in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods, a large public park with numerous hiking trails and stunning rock formations. You can explore via a trail or take a Jeep, ATV, or segway tour. Young kids will also love a visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which is home to over 750 different animals from around the world. Colorado Springs is also situated near the base of one of the most famous mountains in North America – Pikes Peak. The mountain offers stunning vistas and is perfect for a family hike. There are also great options for other outdoor activities, such as ziplining, white water rafting, and rock climbing.

For an indoor or rainy activity, the Pioneers Museum, the National Museum of World War II Aviation, and the Money Museum are all fantastic options. 

For more suggestions, read our article on Things To Do in Colorado Springs Kids Will Love or our One-Week Colorado Itinerary For Families: Excellent for This Summer!

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs with Kids

Need an affordable place to stay in Colorado Springs? Consider staying at one of the many affordable campgrounds in the area. Or, for a mid-range hotel, try the Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs, A Dolce Resort, located on a private lake. Want to stay inside a private country club near the best sights in town? You’ll like the Gardens of the Gods Resort and Club. Of course, kids will love the indoor water park at the Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs! For more suggestions on where to stay, read this list of 7 Hotels in Colorado Springs that Families Will Love

Reserve a large homestay in Colorado Springs with Vrbo now!

Boise, ID

There’s no need to spend a fortune on a summer vacation with kids when there are so many amazing and affordable destinations right here in the United States. Boise, Idaho, is one of those hidden gems that offer families a chance to explore, learn, and have fun without breaking the bank. From hiking and biking in the scenic Boise foothills to exploring one of the many museums or historic sites, summer offers the perfect temperatures to explore (85-95 degrees).

Fun Things to Do in Boise with Kids

A young girl engages with a STEM-themed exhibit at the Idaho Discovery Center in Boise, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in Boise is the Boise Mountains surrounding the city.. In the summer months, they come alive with hikers and climbers seeking to conquer their peaks. There are also plenty of scenic trails to explore at your own pace. Walk along the shade on the Boise River Greenbelt, hike up to Table Rock, or head slightly outside of Boise to Eagle Island State Park. If you want to take a trek into the mountains, head to Boise National Forest, just 30 minutes from the city.

When you want to spend a lazy day, families can stroll the historic downtown area and browse many locally-owned shops. The city also has a vibrant arts scene, with museums such as the Children’s Museum of Idaho, the Idaho State Museum, and the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology. Finally, kids and adults alike will love the Discovery Center of Idaho, which even has a new Star Wars Fan Exhibit opening in March 2023.

Animal lovers can’t forget the Aquarium of Boise or Zoo Boise! For more suggestions, check out our list of the Best Things To Do In Boise With Kids For A Fun Family Vacation

Where to Stay in Boise with Kids

There are many wonderful places to stay in Boise with kids. Located downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites Boise-Downtown boasts a hot breakfast, an outstanding hotel pool (with a water feature for kids!), and an excellent location. Then, Hyatt Place Boise/Downtown has modern rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, and a prime location for families. Courtyard by Marriott Boise Downtown features an on-site restaurant and free parking. Finally, families wondering where to stay in Boise with kids can also consider Hotel 43, The Grove Hotel, and Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center.

Moab, UT

Moab is sure to captivate the hearts and minds of young and old adventurers alike! With its majestic red rock formations, desert landscapes, and abundance of outdoor activities, there are lots of ways to explore and be active on a budget. Whether you want to hike, bike, or camp, summer weather usually reaches around 90-100 degrees (visit in June to enjoy Moab before the heat comes in full swing!).

Fun Things to Do in Moab with Kids

A young boy wearing a blue shirt and sunglasses stands near a sign featuring a dinosaur, while wandering the Dinosaur Trail in Utah, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

For families who love nature, Moab is the ideal gateway to two of Utah’s most famous parks: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Featuring dramatic canyons, arches, and towering spires, families can go horseback riding, take a ranger-led hike, or go through the park to see some of the most incredible rock formations in the world. Then, try off-roading on a UTV or ATV. Or, rent a bike and ride down the Intrepid Trail or Bar-M Loop. Families can even see Moab by air on a helicopter ride with Pinnacle Helicopters!

Of course, a rafting trip down the Colorado River is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. Or, take kids to The Wild West Challenge Course to soar through the trees with a nice breeze. Dinosaur lovers can’t miss the Museum of Moab, Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trails, or The Paleosafari Moab Giants

Click here to find more Adventurous Things to Do in Moab Kids Will Love

Where to Stay in Moab with Kids

If you need somewhere to stay in Moab with kids, you’re in the right place. With camping and lodging options to fit every budget, it’s the perfect place to explore the United States on a budget. If you want a more rugged experience in the wilderness, check out Base Camp Adventure Lodge, Under Canvas Glamping Tents Moab, and the Red Cliffs Lodge. Families can also rent homes from Airbnb or Vrbo. Finally, read our other suggestions for where to stay in Moab with kids

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

There’s something truly memorable about the Grand Canyon in the summer. Perhaps it’s the way that the light dances off of the red rocks, or the way that the river sparkles in the sun. Either way, what better way to explore this natural wonder than with your children? Summer temperatures usually reach around 100 degrees, but you’ll find plenty of places to cool off within the park. 

Fun Things to Do near the Grand Canyon with Kids

Family taking selfie in Grand Canyon, one of the best affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Lisa Jubb

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do at the Grand Canyon, and for a good reason. There are trails of all different levels, so it’ll be easy to explore the stunning scenery on foot. Though it’s likely to be crowded in the summer, we suggest the South Rim, home to the South Kaibab Trail. It’s accessible via a shuttle from the Visitors’ Center, and one of the closest viewpoints, Ooh Ah Point, is around 1.8 miles away. It’s a bit steep, but most kids should be fine. To go further than Ooh Ah Point, set aside at least two hours or more.

If hiking isn’t really your thing, there are also plenty of other options for exploring. Take a scenic drive down Desert View Drive, go on a mule ride through the canyon, or even ride a whitewater raft down the Colorado River!

Combining a trip to Sedona with the Grand Canyon? Check out our Amazing Sedona and Grand Canyon Itinerary For Families

Where to Stay Near Grand Canyon National Park with Kids

Summer is a popular time to visit the Grand Canyon, so if you need somewhere to stay, we suggest making reservations early. One budget-friendly option is to camp at one of the many campsites in the area. This is a great way to save money on lodging, and it also allows you to experience the beauty of nature up close. If camping isn’t your thing, there are also several hotels and motels in the area that offer reasonable rates. Or, you could rent a place on Airbnb and Vrbo. 

Book your Grand Canyon tours here through GetYourGuide!

Affordable Summer Vacation Ideas Across the United States with Kids

Regardless of where your family lives, there are countless affordable summer vacation destinations in the United States to impress your kids! Consider cutting costs by visiting a local state park or lake, for example. Or, embark on your next RV adventure. Here are some more affordable summer vacation ideas in the United States for kids! 

Visit a Local State Park

Affordable summer vacation ideas in the United States for families with kids are easy to come by if you know where to look! One great option to save money is to visit a local state park. Many parks offer camping and RVing opportunities, as well as day-use areas for picnicking and hiking. Camping is a great way to spend time together outdoors, but if roughing it isn’t your style, many parks also offer cabins and other lodging options. Some even have beaches or lakes where you can cool off on hot summer days. And best of all, state parks are usually much less crowded and more affordable than national parks, making them a great option for budget-conscious families. So whether you’re looking to hike, fish, or just relax in nature, be sure to check out your local state park!

Rent a Cabin or Home on a Lake Near You

Summer is the perfect time to get away and explore new places. But if you’re looking for affordable summer vacations in the United States for kids that won’t break the bank, consider renting a cabin or home on a lake near you. Not only will you save money on travel expenses, but you’ll also be able to enjoy all the benefits of a lakeside vacation without having to venture too far from home. There are countless lakes all over the United States that offer stunning views, plenty of activities, and refreshing waters to take a dip in. Go fishing, rent a kayak or paddleboard, or just sit back and enjoy the magnificent views. And best of all, they’re usually much more affordable than booking a hotel or resort! 

Find Your Closest Great Wolf Lodge

Summertime is the perfect time to take a family vacation, and there’s no better place to enjoy some quality time together than at a Great Wolf Lodge. Great Wolf Lodge is the largest family of indoor water parks with locations across The United States, from Pennsylvania to Texas, California, and beyond. Not only will kids get to experience all the great amenities of a stay here, but they’ll also love the indoor water park this chain is famous for! Plus, themed suites will make kids feel like they’re in their very own wolf pack, with woodsy decorations and a cozy cabin feel. For even better pricing, keep an eye out for deals on mid-week stays or holiday promotions. 

​​Family-friendly amenities differ slightly based on which location you stay at, but you can expect an indoor water park and a Raccoon Lagoon Play Park. Other activities to keep families busy include a morning Wolf Walk, Wolfercise aerobics, and the Northwoods Friends animated show.

Older kids will appreciate Howl At The Moon Glow Golf, Ten Paw Alley, Northern Lights Arcade, and MagiQuest. Plus, there’s the Howlers Peak Ropes Course outside. At the end of the day, everyone can also gather around for storytime with the Great Wolf Kids characters! Certainly, this is one of the top affordable summer vacations in the United States with kids.

Go Camping at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park 

Three Yogi Bear mascots stand in front of a water park at Jellystone Park, one of the best affordable summer vacation ideas in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Jellystone Park

Looking for affordable summer vacation ideas in the United States that are perfect for families with kids? Why not go camping at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park? Not only is it a great way to get back to nature, but it’s also tremendous fun for the whole family! Choose between a variety of cozy cabins or furnished yurts, where kids can explore the world of Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo. Locations vary from the East Coast to the Southeast, Midwest, and more. 

There are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park, from swimming and hiking to playing mini-golf and indulging in s’mores around the campfire. Plus, there are always tons of other kids around to make new friends. Best of all, it’s incredibly affordable – especially if you book your stay in advance. If you’re visiting during a holiday, check the calendar for various themed events. Kids will love spending the 4th of July alongside their favorite characters! 

Read our list of Best Themed Hotels In The United States For Families for more fun suggestions!

Take an RV Trip

Family eating a meal on a bench outside of their RV pop-up trailer, one of the best affordable summer vacation ideas in the United States with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Noelle MacGregor

What could be more American than exploring the great outdoors in an RV? For many, the very idea of an RV trip evokes a sense of wanderlust and adventure. In fact, there’s something about hitched-up campers and road-tripping across the country that just screams “freedom.” And, as a bonus, it’s a great way to see the United States on a budget with your kids! You’ll save money on lodging and transportation costs, and you’ll have the freedom to change your plans on a whim. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can take an RV trip somewhere local near you or set across the country to visit national parks like Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, etc. Check out our article on RVing as a family to learn more! 

Find the perfect RV Rental with RV Share here!

Happy Travels!

We hope you liked this guide to Exploring The United States On A Budget: 21 Affordable Summer Vacation Destinations With Kids! From the beaches of the East Coast to the mountains of Tennessee and the red rock of Utah, there are so many destinations waiting to be discovered across the country. Enjoy your summer vacation with kids! 

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Families Love Travel Team

The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.