You need a vacation! 15 ideas for affordable family trips

Vacations from the grind of work and home life are so important, and so bonding for your family! Here are 15 ideas for affordable vacations (in no particular order), crowdsourced from a working moms’ group I’m in.

  1. Beach camping in the mid-Atlantic. Assateague Island National Seashore (in MD and VA) is nice... but as the signs say, “Wild ponies bite and kick.” Don’t feed them!) In Delaware, I love Cape Henlopen State Park (tent sites in the summer need to be booked months in advance!). Another suggestion is First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, which has cabin rentals and many things to do in the area. Also suggested was Kiptopeke State Park, located in the southern end of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, which has cabins.

  2. Beach camping on the southern east coast. You can rent a cabin at Myrtle Beach, SC for under $100/night. Florida has great beach camping too. Scruggs Harbor on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida is recommended.

  3. Eastern mountain camping. Beautiful spots: Catoctin State Park in Maryland is great. And I can’t wait to go back to Red River Gorge in Kentucky someday (check out Natural Bridge cabin rentals or a state park lodge like Hemlock Lodge). The swimming pool near Hemlock Lodge is amazing and great for little kids! Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas has a water park and tent camping.

  4. Washington, DC area vacation — The museums and monuments are free, and major historical sites like Mount Vernon are nearby in Virginia. Add a DIY Civil War tour in VA, MD and PA.

  5. Stay at hotels near ski lodges in the off season (spring, summer and fall). They're pretty inexpensive in the summer in particular. The Lodges at Gettysburg (PA) is recommended.

  6. Rent a beach house on the Outer Banks, NC in the off season (spring or fall). Toms of houses and great prices.

  7. Rent a house or apartment on Airbnb — I’ve had especially good experiences in the U.S. southwest (like Tucson and Phoenix, AZ, where there is a lot of new housing stock that is used only seasonally). Bonus points: rent out your own house on Airbnb while you’re gone on vacation to kick back to your own travel expenses.

  8. Rent someone’s timeshare for minimal money. Call around to some timeshare condos in the area you want to stay. Or find out if any of your friends have timeshares. People frequently rent out some of their timeshare weeks to cover maintenance costs.

  9. Rent a houseboat for a long weekend.

  10. Find a church retreat house where you offer service in exchange for lodging.

  11. Visit the Adirondack Park and the Thousand Islands regions of NY. The area is inexpensive. Lots of camping, boat tours, Olympic parks, proximity to Montreal and Ottawa, fire towers, kayaking, rock hunting (there’s a really cheap garnet mine in Lake George), inexpensive whitewater rafting... If you’re looking at New York State, also consider the Ithaca region. It’s a haven of local food culture and there are plenty of parks with campsites right next to awesome waterfalls. Very kid-friendly too!

  12. Go to South Dakota or North Dakota — so cheap! Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park (ND) is recommended, as is Rapid City, SD.

  13. Do a staycation, driving to new destinations and activities every day.

  14. Wherever you go, save money on food by bringing coolers and shopping at Aldi.

  15. Don’t buy camping gear. Instead, borrow camping equipment from friends rather than buying it, as long as you can return it in the same condition you borrowed it in. REI does camping equipment rentals. You can also rent pop-up campers from various companies.