Affordable Vacations Perfect for Large Family Reunions

Destinations, Planning Tips

Large family and group travel hacks will provide affordable and creative options for flawlessly memorable reunions that go off without a hitch

Large family excursions are treasured opportunities to relax, bond, and make memories together. With today’s rising travel costs, many families are searching for more affordable vacation options that still deliver tons of fun for all ages. Traveling with large family groups can be even more costly, particularly when flights are involved.

It can be challenging to find destinations that will make the entire family happy without breaking the bank. With advanced planning and smart money-saving strategies, however, it’s possible to find the perfect vacation for your crew. 

Affordable Large Family Reunion Destinations

There are plenty of affordable U.S. destinations that cater to large family reunions and vacations. Come together to reconnect and find your own brand of fun. Here are six great wallet-pleasing vacations the whole family will love.

Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park features stunning sandstone formations and excellent hiking trails. Photo credit: Nancy Schretter

Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park features stunning sandstone formations and excellent hiking trails. Photo credit: Nancy Schretter

Inexpensive And Uncrowded State And National Parks

America’s state and national parks are excellent choices for an affordable large family vacation, offering a myriad of activities everyone can enjoy. Admission costs are generally inexpensive, and many parks feature wallet-friendly accommodations often located nearby. Family groups can make memories while exploring the great outdoors together, and national parks offer Junior Ranger programs for kids as well.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I recently toured Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks and was impressed with less-visited Capitol Reef National Park. This park receives just 20-25% of Zion National Park’s yearly visitation numbers, and its scenery is spectacular. Families will enjoy hiking on the well-marked trails and marveling at the stunning red rock formations along Highway 24 and the park’s Scenic Drive. Make sure to view the ancient petroglyphs and stop at the Gifford Homestead before noon to pick up one or two of their delicious homemade pies. Plenty of reasonably-priced accommodations, such as the Red Sands Hotel and Spa, are available just outside the park in Torrey, Utah. 

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Many state parks across the United States feature lodges and cabins perfect for large family groups. South Dakota’s 71,000-acre Custer State Park is a perennial family favorite. The park is home to one of the nation’s largest free-roaming bison herds, and visitors often see elk, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and mountain goats as well. Plan to drive along the park’s Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway and watch for the wild burros that often approach passing vehicles to beg for food. Large families can stay at the park’s State Game Lodge Resort and in a wide variety of cabins located throughout the park.

Short family cruises visit exciting destinations with appealing activities for guests of all ages. Photo credit: Royal Caribbean International

Short family cruises visit exciting destinations with appealing activities for guests of all ages. Photo credit: Royal Caribbean International

Short Family Cruises For A Great Price

If you’re looking for an inexpensive vacation for your large family, a two- to five-night cruise may fit the bill perfectly. Short cruises are also a fantastic way to stretch your vacation budget. These quick getaways can be an excellent value compared to similar highly-inclusive land-based vacation options. Short sailings depart from a wide array of North American ports in major cities, which can stretch your vacation budget by eliminating expensive airfares. 

Family cruises offer activities and amenities for every age range, making them good choices for family reunions and celebrations. In addition, low prices make short cruises affordable for even the most budget-conscious family members. Daily meals, activities, and entertainment are included in the cruise fare.  

Cruise Lines Offering Short Voyages

A number of cruise lines offer short sailings, including Carnival Cruise Line, Margaritaville at Sea, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. These two- to five-night voyages visit enticing destinations, including Bermuda, the Caribbean, Eastern Canada, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Some cruise lines feature a wide range of short cruise itineraries, often including two or more ports and a day or two at sea. Large families can save money on cruise vacations by using a top-notch travel advisor, seeking out group discounts, being flexible with sailing dates, and choosing “kids sail free” departures. 

Reunion Spots Loaded With Free Attractions

America’s major cities are appealing options for large family getaways since there’s so much to see and do. If your family is vacationing or planning a reuinion on a budget, it’s wise to consider cities with plenty of free museums and attractions. The nation’s capital fits the bill perfectly.

Washington, D.C. Museums

Washington, D.C., offers a wealth of museums with free admission. Some of the most popular for families and multigenerational groups include: 

  • National Air and Space Museum
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • National Museum of American History
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • United States Botanic Garden
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Archives Museum

Free Attractions in the D.C. Area

There are additional free sites and attractions to visit in Washington, D.C. as well. These include Capitol Hill, the White House, the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Kids will enjoy visiting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, which spans over 160 acres and is home to more than 400 different species of animals. 

Large family groups can choose from a variety of hotels and rentals in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. While there are plenty of properties in the city, some of the more affordable accommodations for families can be found just outside the city limits. Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail public transportation system makes it convenient for visitors to get around the area. 

Other attraction-filled cities that can be easy on the wallet include St. Augustine, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Award-winning YMCA of the Rockies offers family-friendly lodging, abundant wildlife and gorgeous mountain views. Photo credit: YMCA of the Rockies

Award-winning YMCA of the Rockies offers family-friendly lodging, abundant wildlife and gorgeous mountain views. Photo credit: YMCA of the Rockies

Savings-Oriented Getaways With Group Appeal

There are a number of affordable options for large families seeking a fun-filled vacation with plenty of outdoor activities. One of the nation’s best is Colorado’s YMCA of the Rockies, which operates year-round locations at Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch. These value-oriented, inclusive mountain getaways were recently named winners in Good Housekeeping’s 2023 Family Travel Awards. 

YMCA of the Rockies

YMCA of the Rockies focuses on bringing families closer together and connecting with nature. The vacation destinations are located at the gateways to stunning Rocky Mountain National Park. Both Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch offer a wide variety of accommodations and spectacular mountain views. Families can choose from wallet-friendly hotel rooms with large common areas ideal for group gatherings, pet-friendly multi-bedroom private cabins with full kitchens and wrap-around porches, and reunion cabins for large groups. Snow Mountain Ranch also offers yurts and campsites in the summer months. 

Childs Play at Snow Mountain Ranch

Families can enjoy hiking and taking part in pickleball, making crafts, playing miniature golf, swimming, roller skating, mountain biking, and a daily array of games and camp-like activities. Snow Mountain Ranch’s “Hanging with Huskies” program and tubing hill are popular with families during the summer months. Inexpensive day camps for children ages 3-17 are offered at both properties on weekdays from early June through mid-August. There are also many winter programs and adventures available, including guided snowshoe hikes and holiday-themed events. 

RV Campgrounds and Resources

If camping and RV trips are your family’s style, there are superb family campgrounds and RV resorts located throughout the country. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) operates over 500 family-friendly campgrounds in North America. Additionally, sites like The Dyrt and Hipcamp feature hundreds of thousands of listings for campsites, cabins, glamping tents, RV sites, and public parks with facilities. Families can also check out the Glamping Hub site for additional glamping options. 

Cheap Off-Season Ski Resort Vacations

While accommodations at ski resorts are generally expensive during the winter season, prices can drop significantly once the snow melts. According to recent surveys, this is particularly true this year. It’s essential to compare destinations, as some off-season mountain resort vacations can be much cheaper than others.

West Virginia Skiing

At West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort, base summer rates for family-friendly multi-bedroom condominiums can be less than $100 per night on vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo. 

Set on 11,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountain Range, Snowshoe Mountain Resort features lodging options for families of all sizes. Guests can enjoy mountaintop village attractions, fun-filled lakeside adventures, and spectacular mountain views from on-property elevations reaching over 4,800 feet. Popular family activities include scenic lift rides, e-biking, horseback riding, swimming, playing golf on the resort’s 18-hole golf course, and watersports on Shaver’s Lake.

Slopes in California

California’s Big Bear Mountain Resort is another ski resort offering attractive off-season rates. Set within easy driving distance of major cities in Southern California, the resort offers three mountains filled with attractions for outdoor-loving families. Large family groups can choose from a wide variety of affordable accommodations at hotels, motels, cabins, townhomes and condominiums. Discounts on activities are available for children and seniors. 

Conveniently-located beach destinations are often great choices for affordable family road trips. Photo credit: Nancy Schretter

Conveniently-located beach destinations are often great choices for affordable family road trips. Photo credit: Nancy Schretter

Budget-Friendly Beach Towns 

Beach destinations are popular choices for large family vacations during multiple seasons of the year. Some exciting beach towns offer a wide range of affordable accommodations, as well as restaurants and attractions that are open all year. It’s wise for families on a budget to seek out beach destinations with a wealth of hotels, motels, and multi-bedroom condominiums, such as Ocean City, Maryland.  

Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland features 10 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, and top-notch accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. This Mid-Atlantic beach destination has approximately 10,000 hotel rooms and 25,000 condominiums, providing numerous lodging choices for large family groups. It’s an easy three-hour drive from major Mid-Atlantic cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. While accommodation rates are competitive during the summer, prices drop significantly during the destination’s lengthy off-season. 

Ocean City’s Large Family Attractions

Families will enjoy strolling along Ocean City’s three-mile-long boardwalk, frolicking in the waves, playing miniature golf, and getting their thrills at Jolly Roger Amusements and Trimper Rides. In addition to the beach and outdoor activities, there are plenty of indoor attractions, including arcades, cinemas, escape rooms, and shopping at boutiques and outlets. The destination also features 17 championship golf courses and a variety of festivals throughout the year. Ocean City is less than 10n miles from Assateague Island National Seashore, an idyllic beach-filled paradise famed for its wild horses. 

Additional highly affordable beach destinations include Crystal Coast, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

For more helpful tips for planning your next group gathering, subscribe the current issue of Destination Reunions. Don’t forget to also download the essential Budgeting for a Reunion E-Guide and start planning today!

By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor

Header Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

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