The kids are finally out of school, and you are already wondering when they will be going back. Perhaps a summer family vacation will help — yet you have to watch your budget.
Gas is far less expensive than in 2014, but airfares are up because demand is still high. That makes vacations within driving distance an even better bargain for most families. It's time to load up the minivan — but where will you go? We have a few suggestions to consider.
- Asheville, North Carolina – Pauline Frommer of the Frommer Travel Guide recommends Asheville, as it has natural beauty, relatively low costs, nearby historical sites, and an up-and-coming art community with interesting (and often free) events. The Asheville tourism bureau website has printable coupons that can be used for package deals for lodging, ziplines, and passes to local attractions.
- Ocean City, Maryland – Ocean City offers a generally affordable beach experience, along with the traditional Maryland seafood (crab in particular). Ocean City advertises itself as kid-friendly, with plenty of beachfront and amusement park rides on the classic Boardwalk. Bring your own supplies and food, save the restaurants as an occasional treat, relax on the beach, and minimize the trips to the souvenir shops. You can also get away to nearby Assateague National Park and purchase a seven-day vehicle pass for $15.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota – The Twin Cities and the surrounding area can be a great summer getaway. You can experience the amenities of a large city and combine your trip there with a few days at one of the many lake resorts and campgrounds in the area. If you can control spending urges, you can also visit the Mall of America, the mall with the largest square footage in America as well as its own zip code. Check the many online sites for Minneapolis and Minnesota vacation deals to find the mix of rural and urban entertainment that works best for your family.
- Yellowstone National Park – National Parks are almost always among the best bargains, and 2015 is no different. Yellowstone is an excellent choice this year, since the iconic Yellowstone Hotel has been rebuilt and the overall lodging options have improved. A seven-day pass to the park only costs $30 for your family (one carload), and you can extend the pass to nearby Grand Teton National Park for an extra $20. Seniors can receive a lifetime pass for only $10, and active duty military and their families can be issued a free annual pass.
With plenty of wildlife and breathtaking scenery, Yellowstone is a great place to take the family for some outdoor bonding time. It may be too late for you to acquire campsites and permits for this summer, but it can’t hurt to check. If you are not into camping, you can still save money by preparing your own meals to the extent possible and avoiding the restaurants.
If one of these destinations is not close enough for you to take a driving vacation, look around for others that are. Check your online state tourism guide, as well as those of your neighboring states. You may find entertaining vacation options you had never considered, and will probably find links to package deals and useful coupons.
Get started now, and you may be able to take advantage of advance deals. Before you know it, you will be enjoying your inexpensive vacation, and counting the days when the kids return to school.