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10 cheap summer vacation ideas that will save your family a load of cash

As a parent, nothing kicks your planning gene into gear like having to figure out summer vacation for the family. Thinking of where to go and what to do to keep everyone happy is hard enough. Add in the worry about how you are going to pay for it all, and we say all parents deserve a nap.

If the summer break has you Googling “how to stay home all summer” or “kiddie pools for the yard for sale,” then let us take some of that stress away. We have 10 amazing and cheap summer vacation ideas that any family will have a blast doing.

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A family getting to their vacation home

1. Take the train

Who doesn’t love a train ride? Even if you just hate driving, let someone else do it for you so you can relax in peace. No stopping for food, gas, or bathroom breaks, either. You can do a cross-country ride or find a local historic or scenic route. Whether the train ride is the vacation or simply your means of getting to your destination, the views will be nothing short of amazing.

2. If your kids can drive, road trip it

Road trips with tiny tots aren’t the most fun. But if you have a third driver, as in a teenager who can do a couple of hours while one parent naps and the other keeps the little ones company, then this road trip just got a lot cooler and no plane tickets need to be purchased. The road trip vacation is all about the stops. From funky sites and local diners to anything your kids say looks fun along the way, memories will be made.

3. If the kids are little, parks are king

We have yet to meet a child who has turned down a park day. Turn summer vacation into a world of park days. Map out every park you can find that’s near you (check reviews, as some are only walking trails) and hit one a day for a week. The best part is most parks are free, and we’re quite impressed by some of the crazy setups they have these days.

A family enjoying a walk in a national park

4. National parks are gorgeous

See how many you can drive to

Any national park would do, as they are the most gorgeous natural creations in the country. Plus, entrance costs and campsites are pretty inexpensive to hang out for a few days or even a day. There’s plenty of quiet for the parents and picture-perfect opportunities for the kids. The only downside is everyone is going to these in the summer, so it’s best to go right at the start or at the end of the season to avoid the bigger crowds.

5. Get a water park pass

Have a family of fish? Then a summer pass to your local water park is a must. There’s always a lazy river for the adults and plenty for the kids to do. If you have small ones, kiddie sections and shady spots are aplenty. Getting the summer pass makes it extremely affordable to go the whole season, and most times it only takes a couple of visits to get your money’s worth.

6. Glamp it up

Ditch the tent

Depending on the age of the kids, camping might not be the best idea. Little kids get scared at night and older kids just can’t even. But glamping has an elevated sophistication that pleases everyone, and the costs are lower than springing for a hotel. The structures are stunning, but you still get close up with nature and bonding time with the family.

A family in the car on a road trip

7. Check the community center

No matter where you end up on vacation, if you want budget-friendly things to do, ask the local community center. There are all kinds of events, shows, and activities for kids and adults for free or at low costs. They are also your best bet for other authentic local places to visit. If you haven’t used your own hometown’s community center, make plans to do so immediately.

8. See the relatives

Do you have relatives in another state or country that you’ve been meaning to visit? Well, hello free accommodations! Not having to pay for somewhere to stay slashes your vacation budget down drastically. And kids always love to see family they haven’t seen in a bit. Plus, you’ll have locals to show you around and help you find more affordable things to do while there. It works well for everyone!

9. Go to a winter destination in the summer

For the winter break, everyone makes a beeline for Florida for hotter weather or Colorado for the slopes. So, try your hand at these places in their off-seasons in the summer. States that see a surge in the winter have good deals in the summer when their tourism slows down. You might have to do some different kinds of sightseeing and activities, but you’ll stay within budget and still get out of your city.

Family overlooking the city view

10. CityPASS passes are amazing

CityPASS or Go City are both great

If you’ve always wanted to visit a city but didn’t want to pay for each museum, zoo, and other big touristy things separately, then see if it is part of CityPASS or Go City. You get a big discount on admission to all of those places. And a lot of the cities throw in free parking, coupons to restaurants, and other freebies.

You don’t need to save up for the entire year to have an exciting and fulfilling summer vacation with the family. Cheap summer vacations don’t have to be dull and boring, playing Game of Life because you can’t afford to go out and live it up. Pick any (or combine a few) of these affordable vacation ideas and you’ll have the perfect summer full of beautiful family memories.

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