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Motherhood + Parenting Tips

7 Family Vacations in the US That Are Budget-Friendly

Let’s play Word Association! What first pops up in your head when you hear “family vacations”? I’d try to guess. Is it – noise?

  • Disneyland?
  • Ice creams?
  • Beach?
  • Sibling wars?

Or maybe – huge expenses?

Nod if you agree – traveling is enriching, but it’s not cheap. 

Vacations are a great time to strengthen family bonds, make memories together, relax and just get fun. It’s also a fantastic chance for children to experience the world and learn something new through experiences rather than books. However, family vacation plans may spoil the adventurous mood when you start to count spending. Indeed, when you travel with your family, all expenses are multiplied by the number of children, so the costs increase. For example, the average family of 4 spends around $4,580 on vacation annually

It’s impressive, isn’t it?

So, how to enjoy the summertime without destroying your wallet? There’s one solution – bet on El Paso rather than San Francisco. In other words, choose cheap destinations! 

Travel experts developed the list of the most affordable US cities with amazing weather. They calculated Numbeo’s cost of living and added the rent index for North America to get that result. Based on their analysis, I chose 7 top budget cities that are kid-friendly, safe, and full of attractions to keep every family member happy!

Sound interesting? Read on to find out more.

1 El Paso

El Paso is a border town located near the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border at the westernmost point of West Texas. Did you know it was called Six Shooter Capital? But keep calm – despite its wild-west history, it’s peaceful now. In fact, El Paso is one of the 10th safest cities in the US. Fortunately, you can still find traces of the past there (and move mentally to the wild west), and thanks to the proximity of the border, you can experience both American and Mexican culture at once.

That’s not all. With 302 days of sunshine a year, El Paso has earned the title of Sun City and has become my favorite affordable destination for family vacations. Honestly, every family trip is better when there’s sunny weather!

What to do:

  • visit the El Paso Zoo 
  • explore Franklin Mountains State Park
  • visit the area’s oldest inhabited village at Keystone Heritage Park
  • try Mexican food
  • book tickets in Viva! El Paso and watch a show in McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre

2 Wichita

Wichita is the perfect place to visit if you’d like to experience the cowtown lifestyle. Now, it’s the largest city in Kansas, but it still gives you a “small-town feel” and provides exceptional experiences with the living Cowtown Museum. The self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World, Wichita will provide your family a break from the city dust. Oh, and don’t forget about Pizza Hut! Indeed, it was born in this city!

What to do:

  • visit the Museum of World Treasures
  • experience 1865’s life and interact with townfolks in the Old Cowtown Museum
  • go to Tanganyika Wildlife Park, the most interactive wildlife park in the Midwest, and swim with penguins!
  • of course, eat a lot of pizza from Pizza Hut!

3 Tulsa

This year, Tulsa popped up on CNN Travel’s best destinations, suddenly becoming a hot destination. Before Bob Dylan’s Center opened there, the city was famous for its most extensive Art Deco architectural collection. However, I know that children usually find culture boring. Luckily, this city has much more to offer. The best is that many attractions are for free, making it not only kid-friendly but also wallet-friendly place.

What to do:

  • go to Tulsa’s Gathering Place
  • play in Woodward Park and Gardens
  • explore hike and bike trails in Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area
  • see the largest bull sharks exhibit in the world in the Oklahoma Aquarium

4 Tucson

Tucson seems the perfect destination for your family vacations if you want to spend slow-pace, quality time out in nature rather than visit restaurants, museums, and shopping malls. Filled with a Mexican vibe, Tucson is the best choice to relax and strengthen family ties. Also, it’s highly recommended for all foodies. Thanks to authentic Mexican food and innovative Southwestern flavors, this city became a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy.

What to do:

  • befriend a snake and get a true desert experience  at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • try tortillas in Guadalajara Original Grill 
  • see giant cactuses in the Saguaro National Park
  • Get active on a historic bike tour of Tucson
  • visit a ranch and try horseback riding 

5 Mesa

Let me introduce you to another spot for food lovers – Mesa! Indeed, it offers the well-curated Fresh Foodie Trail. However, even if you’re not a foodie family, there’s much to do. Mesa is a place that combines fascinatingly two opposites – stunning landscapes and a modern city. Aside from canyon-carved waterways and unique desert beauty, you can also rest in a wellness resort. Also, spending time there won’t make a hole in your pocket.

What to do:

  • spend delicious time on Fresh Foodie Trail stops
  • hike the Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstition Mountains (and learn more about the ancient Hohokam Indian settlement by a chance)
  • enjoy desert flora and fauna at Usery Mountain Regional Park
  • hit the road at Desert Trails Bike Park 

6 Oklahoma City

Basketball is probably the first association with Oklahoma. That’s all thanks to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder and the famous Johnny Bench and Bobby Mercer! So if you have young sports fans at home, they’ll be thrilled to visit this city. 

But is there anything to do? Well, Oklahoma is a stunning, modern masterpiece on a budget. Whether you’re interested in fine dining or rock climbing, you’ll find them here. It’s also home to one of the southwest’s fastest-growing entertainment districts, making it a perfect choice for a vacation with children.

What to do:

  • admire the natural beauty at Myriad Botanical Gardens 
  • take a boat ride down the Bricktown canal
  • try roller coasters and water rides at Frontier City 
  • visit Riversport Adventure Park
  • watch an OKC Thunder game

7 Memphis

It’s named the “Birthplace of Rock and Roll,” and the BBQ capital of the county – how cool is that? That’s all true about Memphis. This city is filled with kid-friend attractions that won’t ruin your budget! The musical, rock and roll background of this place gives the tour a unique atmosphere. If you want to add a pinch of education to your trip, you’ll find it at Rock N’ Soul Museum. Just don’t forget to turn on the good music when touring, and don’t miss Elvis Presley’s home! So, ready for the music edition of your family vacation?

What to do:

  • visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland
  • explore Rock N’ Soul Museum
  • Catch the Peabody Duck Parade at 5 p.m. at the Peabody Hotel
  • find adventure at the Children’s Museum of Memphis

Have fun on your cheap family vacations 

So – which city is your beat? Sunny El Paso, wild Wichita, or packed with natural beauty Tuscon? Whatever you choose, I hope you’ll get fun, lovely and – of course! – not-ruining-your-budget time with your family there! Since children are so adventurous, I’m sure you’ll get a fantastic trip no matter where you’ll go.

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Karolina Z

Karolina Zając, a writer and travel enthusiast at PhotoAiD. When it comes to writing, she loves bringing dry facts to life. When it comes to traveling, she just loves bikes. https://photoaid.com/

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