Even during more carefree economic times few people wanted vacations that required mortgaging the house. My family travels regularly on a shoestring. When I think of the best budget friendly places to visit in the U.S. for families, several choices come to mind.
Driving 2 days to reach your destination or booking expensive airfare may be budget busting. Part of the trick with any cheap vacation is in knowing where to go and when. Do your homework before you go.
Off season travel can save you a small fortune when compared to peak season pricing. Deciding where to go is just as important. When it comes to the best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S., state capitols and cities with national or state parks nearby often top the list.
Here are my choices for the top 3 budget friendly cities in the U.S. and my reasons for choosing them. After reading this article, you may just want to start packing your suitcase.
#1 Best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families
Washington, D.C. tops my list of inexpensive places to visit. While the hotels can be pricey the monuments and museums are free. Visiting during a holiday or weekend can mean substantial savings.
The caveat to weekend travel here is that many of the government buildings will be closed to visitors. You can still visit monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and others.
During our last trip we spent less than $200 per day. My family stayed outside of Washington, D.C. at a campground in Pohick Bay, Va. Our warm and cozy cabin was only $50 per night.
Transportation options were to drive and park in Washington, D.C. or drive and park at the Metro station only 3 miles away from our cabin. Free parking is available for students at my daughter’s college in D.C. so I took that option over the Metro. We brought our own picnic lunch, toured the city and had a great budget friendly time.
Two years ago I took a group of 7 girls and ladies for a visit over Thanksgiving weekend. Our downtown suite cost just over $100 per night plus parking of about $30 and allowed us all to stay in the same room. (Researching for this article showed the same Embassy Suites with a holiday rate of $129.)
Embassy Suites includes a full buffet breakfast and manager’s reception. This gave the kids all the food they could eat without breaking the bank. Pizza delivered to our room made for a tasty and inexpensive dinner. Bringing our own cold cuts made lunch on the go easy and affordable.
Here are tips for how we made the group trip more budget friendly.
We arrived in Washington, D.C. early on Friday to tour the Smithsonian and Holocaust Museum. On Saturday we toured the Lincoln Memorial and other outdoor monuments, walked the kids’ legs off and had a great time. Sunday morning we visited a church, walked down part of Embassy Row, saw another monument and headed home.
The best part of this budget friendly trip was coming in under our combined $700 budget.
#2 Best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families
The theme parks can be expensive but the rest of Orlando can be budget friendly. Staying on the outskirts of town can be less expensive but it’s always worth checking hotel prices near the attractions that you want to see.
Attractions like Downtown Disney, Boardwalk and Celebration don’t have an admission fee. Visitors can even ride the monorail without a ticket. Read my previous article about a cheap Walt Disney World vacation.
our last trip in June 2010, we saw hotels advertising rates of less than $75 per night. Family restaurants often had “kids eat free” signs. The free attractions mentioned above, plus reasonable hotel and food prices put Orlando on my list as one of the best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families.
#3 Best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families
St. Louis, Missouri
When it comes to the best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families St. Louis should be on everyone’s list.
On our last visit, we found a room in St. Louis for $69.00 and saw other hotels offering similar prices. Rooms at this price were advertised both inside the city and on the outskirts.
The St. Louis Arch was expensive but there were plenty of other free activities to offset that cost. We never dreamed that admission to the famous St. Louis Zoo, the science museum and the art museum would be free.
Other free attractions include the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center and the Missouri History Museum. Parking at some of the attractions is free. The restaurants didn’t see any higher in cost than what we are used to paying at home.
These all helped put St. Louis on my list of the best budget friendly cities to visit in the U.S. for families.
Embassy Suites Reservations
House of Representatives
St. Louis Tourism