Affordable Dream Vacations in the US for Families

Traveling as a Young Family

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Are you often asking, “What is the best vacation for the money?” If your goal is to travel more with your kids before they grow up, that’s a fair question to ask. We all want to get the most out of our vacations, especially now that we may not be able to travel as often. Fortunately, when I started researching affordable dream vacations, many of those are socially distant vacations as well.

Additionally, I set the parameter of affordable dream vacations in the United States because I know many of us are not traveling overseas yet. Plus, many of us want to stay closer to home in 2021. I’ve always felt you should explore your own backyard before you go too far outside of it.

Granted, I also want to see the whole world. A conundrum I know!

How do I find the cheapest vacation?

Everyone has different metrics for what they consider affordable, so I didn’t set exact price limits. What I looked for in affordable dream vacations are desirable destinations and ways to make them more affordable in general.


Photo by Martin Zangerl on Unsplash

Hawai’i is definitely on the list of dream vacations for many people. And generally something you plan and spend a lot of money on. But Hawaiian Airlines has some direct flights from many major hubs in the US. They offer no change fees, and you can sign up for their newsletter to get deal alerts.

Currently, Hawai’i requires that you have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel and you may have to get tested on arrival.

Here’s how to make Hawai’i affordable.

  • Don’t do Honolulu. Just like any major city in the US, it will be more expensive.
  • Visit the beaches. It’s free after all and just one of the many reasons Hawaii is AMAZING!
  • Hike waterfalls. Another free activity if you are visiting state parks.
  • Visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. If you have a National Park Pass for $80, it’s included.

Stay off the main island of Maui, although it might be cheaper to fly into Honolulu. (I did find a one-way flight that took me from Orlando to Honolulu to the Big Island for less than $250.)

Eat local. visit street vendors and go off the beaten path to enjoy fresh local food. It’s as good as any in the big fancy restaurants.

If Volcanoes National Park is on your list for this dream vacation, check out the places to stay for less here.

Beach Dream Vacations

Alden suites beachfront dream vacations

Let’s look at beach destinations a little closer to home. Tropical beach destinations are often on the list for dream vacations for many people.

Gulf Shores, Myrtle Beach, South Beach, Clearwater, are all popular beach destinations. But dig out your map. Often you can go nearby for the same beach with fewer people and less money.

For example, we like Indian Rocks Beach, just north of Clearwater. We can walk to nearby restaurants, stay in a cozy villa, like at Cay Pointe Villas, and still soak up sunset views. Plus, when we stay at a place like Cay Pointe, we have a full kitchen to bring in our own meals, keeping us socially distant too if we choose.


camping as a dream vacations

I get it. A lot of people don’t think of camping as a dream destination. In fact, many of us probably look at camping as something we can do at any time. However, I’m planning an epic road trip and camping plays heavily into that. This epic road trip will hit as many national parks as we can get to.

Rent an RV from RVshare

I think some of the best ways to see those national parks will be by camping. Even if you’re not doing your own road trip and you want to rent an RV to go camping, RVShare or Outdoorsy are great options to rent a rig big enough for your whole family. In popular destinations, many owners will deliver to you. RVShare says you can save up to 25% off on your 2021 travel costs.

Or start searching National Parks here.

Rail Vacations

blue train during daytime
Photo by Paul on Unsplash

Did you know that Amtrak railways had an Amtrak Vacations? They offer a lot of different vacation packages and if you’ve ever dreamed of taking a cross-country rail trip, this is something to look into. For example, an American coast to coast express is $869 per person and includes 2 nights hotel and 3 nights onboard Amtrak. It doesn’t appear as if this one includes food, but food would be available for purchase.

You can also choose some national Park tours for as little as $299 per person. It’s worth checking out as some of these don’t even involve riding the rails. The Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks include 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, 2 nights at Zion, and a 4-day midsize car rental.

New York City

New York City will forever be on my dream vacations’ list, even though we’ve been there a few times. However, do not stay in Times Square. Stay in one of the boroughs or off of Manhattan in Brooklyn.

To make it more affordable, take walking tours instead of paying for the top attractions. You could also make your own guided walking tour by searching Pinterest.

Pinterest is also great to find plenty of cheap eats in NYC, I’ve curated a few here.

Kids like Hamilton? Visit Trinity Church for free. Do a walking in Hamilton’s footsteps tour.

Dude Ranch Vacations

I have a lot of getting back-to-nature types of trips on here and a Dude Ranch Vacation takes that and multiplies it. If you’ve never thought of visiting a dude ranch as a dream vacation, it’s often a lot more luxurious than you might think.

Dude ranches are working ranches that allow you to stay, play, and sometimes even work or help out along hte ranch. Located all over the United States you can search by what activities you want to do, search by price, time of year, you name it. You can go high-end and include spas, or back t nature and do pack trips.

Many of these are all-inclusive, which includes all meals, activities, and lodging for your stay. Talk about a dream!

Southern Utah

brown rock formation under blue sky during daytime
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Southern Utah ends up on a lot of my lists because it is incredibly varied and includes five National Parks. The National Parks are naturally affordable because a National Parks Pass only costs $80 annually for your entire car. You could rent an RV and camp along with the state and National Parks.

Or you can stay in one of these accommodations.

Central to Northern California

California coastine with tall cliffs and pacific ocean

Want to combine beaches, nature, culture, great food, and a fun road trip?

Head to central California and go north along the Pacific Coast Highway. Star in Big Sur for the iconic bridge shots. Check out the local Aqua Surf School. Then spend some time in Monterey before heading to San Francisco for great culture and food. Keep heading north to wine country before you end up in Redwood National Park to marvel at the trees.

Moon Guides has a great book that highlights the Pacific Coast Highway from California all the way to Washington. Get the Moon Pacific Coast Highway guide here.

Check out the hidden gem tour of Sequoia National Park too!


massachusetts, lake, water
Photo by 12019 on Pixabay

Massachusetts is also another one of those places that most people probably don’t think of for dream vacations. However, imagine Massachusetts in the Fall, with Halloween, witches, history, Salem, whale watching, apple picking, and leaf-peeping. I included all of Massachusetts because a road trip through the state can be easily done in a week. Add in Boston for added history and walking the Freedom Trail.

For exploring Massachusetts, I love the idea of staying in Bed and Breakfasts or small inns across the state. I filtered out all the Bed and Breakfasts at VRBO here.

All-Inclusive Dream Vacations

beach, resort, vacation, dream vacations
Photo by cuncon on Pixabay

To round out the list, I’ve included a few more all-inclusive resorts. did you know there are all-inclusive resorts in the United States? I know many think an all-inclusive is only in Mexico or the Caribbean, but in addition to the dude ranches mentioned above, you can have an old-fashioned family vacation at an all-inclusive resort.

Picture the family resort that the Housemans visit in Dirty Dancing. Remember the dining hall, activities, and lakefront views? Those vacations still exist and I found some of my favorites for you here.

Rocking Horse Ranch in Upstate New York – stay in the offseason, $419 per night for a family of 4 includes all meals and activities.

Migis Lodge in Maine – One feature at Migis, is the lobster. Imagine you can eat Maine lobster every night. Your rate includes activities and three meals a day.

Want that Caribbean all-inclusive feel? Go to Club Med Sandpiper in Florida Florida. they have full kids programs for all ages, even the teenagers.

Do you have a dream vacation you want to take in 2021? Comment and let me know.

Affordable Dream Vacations pin

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