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Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Photograph: Shutterstock

Plan the perfect trip with the best cheap family vacation ideas for 2021

The whole crew will love these cheap spots for family vacation ideas in 2021

By Tolly Wright, Allie Early and Sarah Medina
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It’s time to rally the troops and head out for some memory-making good times. For most of us, this year’s family vacation needs to be new and exciting, but also affordable. The best cheap family vacation ideas for 2021 travel in the U.S. are spots that offer entertainment for everyone at a budget-friendly price.

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, heading for the great outdoors is a top choice. Consider scenic national parks, outdoor adventures, and camping as an option. You’ll reconnect with nature, the kids can burn off a ton of energy, and as a bonus, you don’t have to worry about staying clean. Less-visited beach towns offer adventures on the boardwalk plus sun and fun in the water. For the less outdoors inclined, there are some fascinating, under-the-radar destinations that keep prices in check.

From whitewater rafting to touring national parks and seaside amusements to historic villages, these family vacation ideas stretching from coast to coast are sure to please. Our list will get you thinking, with a variety of options for all interests. Whether you take a hike or hit the beach, get out there and travel the U.S. with your family for memories you’ll treasure.

RECOMMENDED: The best places to visit in the USA

Family vacation ideas 2021

Old Faithful Yellowstone
Old Faithful Yellowstone
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Yellowstone, WY

No other place on earth is like Yellowstone National Park. The massive, natural sanctuary (3,471 square miles of green!) mesmerizes all visitors with its mountains, canyons, geysers and subalpine forests (and don’t be surprised if you spot buffalo). With challenging hikes into the backcountry as well as handicap-accessible wooden boardwalks, the wonders of Yellowstone are for everyone. Bring a tent and get here early to take advantage of the affordable campgrounds (seven are first-come, first-served and five require reservations). Pack the car with a cooler of campfire meals and snacks to get you through the weekend.

Ace Adventure Center
Ace Adventure Center
Photograph: Courtesy Ace Adventure Center

2. Oak Hill, WV

Located on 1,500 wooded acres adjacent to the New River Gorge National River, The ACE Adventure Resort is a one-stop shop for all of West Virginia's outdoor possibilities. ACE offers white water rafting trips on the New and Gauley Rivers, zip line tours with views of the Gorge, rock climbing, mountain biking, and lake adventures. And any family on a budget will appreciate the multi-day, all-inclusive package deals that allows for spending without worrying about added charges.

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Toroweap point at Grand Canyon National Park
Toroweap point at Grand Canyon National Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Grand Canyon, AZ

It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and for good reason: The Grand Canyon is a sight like no other. The kiddos might complain when you get out of WiFi range, but they’ll remember hiking these trails forever. For an overnight at the Grand Canyonopt for the North Rim, which is less crowded and the no-fuss sites are first-come-first-served. More experiened hikers can switchback steeply down to the river, a mile below the rim, where secluded campsites reward the effort.

Discover Arizona: 
📍 The best things to do in Arizona
🛏️ The best hotels in Arizona
🚗5 gorgeous ways to get from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg, Virginia
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Williamsburg, VA

If your squad’s favorite subject in school is history—or riding roller coasters—then make the trip to Williamsburg. Families can explore Historic Williamsburg (a Colonial-era living-history museum complete with horse-drawn carriages) and then seek thrills at Busch Gardens, where you'll find coasters, animals and more. If it's summer vacation, add on a visit to Water Country USA (season opens May 2021). And make sure to check out the area’s package deals like the Kids Play Free Package” which includes your choice of hotel (from selected partners) and free admission to multiple parks to save some cash. 

Discover Virginia: 
📍The best things to do in Virginia

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Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, CA

Want to really impress your kids? Head to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks where they can stand among giants (giant sequoia groves that is) and meet General Grant (the second largest tree IN THE WORLD). The parks also boast 240 caves, a scenic segment of the Sierra Nevada mountain range (including the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S.), parts of the Kings River and San Joaquin River and Moro Rock. Because of how isolated the park is, Sequoia National Park is also one of the least light-polluted areas in the country, perfect for stargazers and amateur astrologers. 

Discover California parks: 
🌲 The 9 best National Parks in California
🌲 13 best places to see California redwoods

Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Asheville, NC

For families who love the great outdoors and good food, Asheville is for you. Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains and seeing the beautiful waterfalls at the Pisgah National Forest are gratis activities, and in town, you’ll find family fun with tickets to see the minor league baseball team during the summer season. Feel like splurging? The beautiful gardens and grounds of the Biltmore Estate are well worth the price of admission and inside the historic mansion you'll find works by the likes of Renoir and more. 

Discover Asheville: 
📍 The best things to do in Asheville

🍴 The best restaurants in Asheville

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Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Old Orchard Beach, ME

The quaint, peaceful beauty of Maine is on full display at historic Old Orchard Beach—a destination for over 170 years—where your family will enjoy gentle waves for ocean swimming, fishing, sailing, kayaking and top-notch whale watching. In the summer, treat your kids to Palace Playland, New England’s only beachfront amusement park, where there's over a dozen rides and an arcade to enjoy. Save money by camping on the beach and planning ahead—2021 season passes for Palace Playland are currently on sale! 

Discover Maine: 
📍 The best things to do in Maine

Flying L Ranch
Flying L Ranch
Photograph: Courtesy Flying L Ranch

8. Bandera, TX

Giddyup to Flying L, a genuine dude ranch outside of San Antonio for some Western-themed fun. Whether you’re dying to try horseback riding or just hoping to relax in a resort where kids can entertain themselves, this ranch has you covered. And while some of the activities are currently suspended due to the pandemic, there are still plenty of fun things to do outside for the whole family, like creekside fishing, horseshoes, 18-hole putt putt, a golf course, and courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and even pickleball. 


Discover Texas: 
📍 The best things to do in Texas
🏡 The best Airbnbs in Texas

🏖️The best beaches in Texas

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DESTIN
DESTIN
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Destin, FL

Seek fun in the sun in Destin, Florida, known for its fishing spots, sprawling white sand beaches and being conveniently less expensive than other popular destinations in the state. Family-friendly activities include boating, snorkeling, parasailing, or just strolling along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Use the money you saved to indulge in a sunset cruise on a glass-bottom boat or a high-speed racer. And don't miss the Henderson Beach State Park, which offers a quiet and secluded beach access with a hiking route through the sand dunes. 

Discover Destin:
📍 The best things to do in Destin

Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Myrtle Beach, SC

Though the sand at Myrtle Beach can get crowded, you’re sure to find a spot for your umbrella (six-feet away from everyone else). Just wander along the Grand Strand—a 60-mile stretch of white sand beaches that runs from the North Carolina border south to Georgetown with Myrtle Beach at the center. If sand isn't your thing, book a room at the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort, which boasts its own lazy river and water park-like pool (reopening spring 2021). Visit during the weekday to save extra dough. 

Discover Myrtle Beach: 
📍 The best things to do in Myrtle Beach
🛏️ The best hotels in Myrtle Beach

🍴 The best restaurants in Myrtle Beach

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