Affordable Family Vacations for Budget-minded Bliss
When planning an affordable vacation for your family, it helps to keep three things in mind, says Julie Danzinger, director of luxury travel services at Ovation Vacations, in New York City. First, be realistic: “Don’t get too ambitious where you aim to do it all and miss out on those small, little things.”
Second, be patient. With kids in tow, you won’t be moving as fast as you would if you were just going with your partner or friends, so do your best to stay calm when plans fall apart. “The second you lose your patience, the family ends up losing it, too,” she says.
Finally, Danzinger, who along with several travel experts offered exciting destination ideas, says to tell your hotel, travel consultant and guide what you like. The more information they have, the better the outcome will be.
With that in mind, here are 10 destinations where families can save on vacation.
If your family can stand the heat, you’ll score amazing hotel deals and upgrades during the low season, says Danzinger. The arid climate is ideal for lounging out by the pool while adventurous types can test Camelback Mountain or mountain bike in the foothills of the Sonoran desert. Looking for a more laid back vacation? Book an open-air Jeep to see the Saguaro cactuses up close.
Families have “so much to see and do” in the Canadian Rockies, says Lynda Turley, an agent with Alpine Travel in Saratoga, California, by email. Head to Jasper National Park, a three-hour drive west from Edmonton, for a relaxing 10-mile float down the Athabasca River, or hire a guide to explore the ancient glacial ice. With the U.S. dollar holding its own against the Canadian dollar, you’re guaranteed a great value.
The charming Québécois city has spectacular deals, writes Danzinger, and an outdoorsy culture that’s perfect for families. Make like the city’s beloved son and visit Leonard Cohen’s old breakfast haunt, Bagel Etc., then after you’ve paid your respects at his gray stone triplex, wind down with a book in the Parc du Portugal on Saint Laurent Boulevard.
Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands
The island of Bonaire, which forms the ABC group with Aruba and Curaçao, is paradise for divers and snorkelers alike: There are 63 official dive sites and 26 more on Klein Bonaire, plus a coral reef steps from the coastline. On land, bike around the island, take a solar boat tour, or kayak the crystalline Lac Bay lagoon. “It’s a really wonderful family island,” says Lisa Lindblad, owner of Lisa Lindblad Travel Design in New York City. Also, rates are competitive.
Experience the tropical paradise for half the price of Hawaii or Tahiti, says Turley. The friendly Fijian people have an affection for kids, and popular islands like Denaru offer plenty of activities, from water sports and free kids clubs to Kula Eco Park, a wildlife park teeming with exotic birds and reptiles.
New York, New York
With many New Yorkers fleeing the city in August, bargains on the luxury end are plentiful, Danzinger says. Though the Big Apple isn’t cheap, a slice of pizza, walk in Central Park, or snack in a hip Brooklyn bar won’t break the bank. Be sure to check out SummerStage and other free music festivals.
The little island nation excels at adventure, and the strong U.S.-to-New Zealand conversion ensures a good value, says Turley. Head to bustling Queenstown for a heart-stopping bungy jump, zip downhill in a luge, or speed toward the Shotover River Canyons on a whitewater raft. Turley recommends going in the off season, between May and September, to save even more.
Greg Tepper, founder of Exeter International in Tampa, Florida, writes in an email that the southern Poland city is one of the best values in Europe since the country is not on the quickly appreciating Euro. Refine your pierogi-making technique in a private master class, or take the little ones to explore the world-famous Wieliczka Salt Mine. You can also go during the holidays, when kids paint Christmas ornaments.
Portugal remains one of the best deals in Europe, writes Turley. “You have a wonderful place for families, mostly due to the lovely Portuguese people,” she says, and children are always welcome. Imbibe in the crisp table wine from Douro while the kids busy themselves on Comporta, a little village on the Troia peninsula.
The laid-back city is a hot destination for families on budgets, says Danzinger. Hit the Sagrada Familia, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterwork, then stroll Las Ramblas to get a true feel for the design-loving city. Late in the evening, make time to nosh on plates of fried eggs, manchego cheese and Serrano ham.