When the budget gets tighter, families still need a getaway -- perhaps more than ever. Below are some affordable family vacation ideas, plus some suggestions for doing certain great vacation experiences in a more affordable way.
"Family camps" are like the summer camps so many kids enjoy -- but the whole family goes on the trip. Plenty of outdoor recreation, such as hiking or lakeside swimming; lots of schedule outdoor fun; kids programs; campfires at night; simple lodgings; all meals included. Some family camps get creative with activities for grown-ups (beer-tasting, anyone?); others have a special focus, such as music or the performing arts.
Ok, so it's not really "camping". But it sure is an easy way to take a family vacation at a campground. Not only do you not have to set up the tent in the dark (-funny how often that happens), you also don't have to buy, find, pack, or unload a ton of gear. Simply step into your abode that's already set up and equipped with beds, lighting, maybe even a fridge or microwave. And kids will think it's fun to stay in a yurt or tipi or deluxe canvas tent.
Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is a unique place to stay at Walt Disney World: save big-time on your budget by camping here, and still enjoy all the perks of staying at a Disney World Resort (-- use of the free Disney bus system, Extra Magic Hours in the theme parks, and more.) There's plenty of fun on-site at this giant resort, and a shuttle runs to the Magic Kingdom from its dock. If camping's not your thing, cabins are available.
Yellowstone National Park is unique on the planet, with stupendous scenery, wildlife viewing, and "geothermal features" such as geysers, hot springs, and mudpots. Families can learn and see plenty on 4-night "Learning and Lodging" programs offered by the Yellowstone Association Institute, exploring the Park with an naturalist. Lodging and some meals included too. Similar to guided Family Adventures, but much lower price point.
Check out these Lodges with affordable pricing and great amenities and activities, located in several of Ohio's state parks. These places offer lots of fun in the Great Outdoors, including fall foliage opportunities, and winter snowmobiling and ice-skating at some of the Lodges. Some are near theme parks or water parks, for summer fun. Look for packages that include family activities such as horseriding.
Save money by driving to a weekend getaway: point the car toward the nearest resort with its own indoor water park, and have fun with crazy slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, squirters and dunking buckets; play zones for little kiddies, too. Some resorts add an outdoor water park in summer. Rooms are usually suites; to budget-minded vacationers the price may seem high-ish, but rates include waterpark passes, and suites are roomy and may sleep up to six. Also, watch for bargain rates at off-peak times of year.