Best Winter Vacation Ideas for Families: Affordable Vacation Spots for Kids of All Ages
The days are shorter and colder, and the winter blues are setting in. Why not cure them with a family vacation? While a trip to an all-inclusive resort or one of our warm and sunny winter vacation ideas would be nice, our wallets don't always agree. Luckily, there are plenty of fun and affordable vacation spots that won't break the bank.
Here are 20 low-cost winter vacation ideas for families in the US and abroad. Many of these affordable vacation spots have lower prices and thinner crowds in the winter months, making winter the perfect time to visit—even during February break. For more fun family vacation ideas any time of year, check out our Family Travel Guide.
Atlantis offers plenty of warm-weather fun for the whole family. Photo courtesy of the resort
Affordable Winter Vacation Ideas Abroad
1. Atlantis, Paradise Island
Believe it or not, this sprawling Bahamas resort can be an affordable getaway, especially if you are willing to travel outside of the holiday break in December and winter recess in February. Mid-week rates start below $300 a night, which includes admission to the Aquaventure Water Park and the world's largest open-air marine habitat with more than 250 species of animals. And let's not forget the pristine private beach with crystal-clear Caribbean water. It's called Paradise Island for a reason.
2. Belize City, Belize
While Belize is a Central American country, it's often grouped in with the Caribbean nations due to its former ties as a British colony. It is also the only English-speaking Central American country, making it easier to visit for people who don't speak Spanish. Belize is rich in history, and the Mayan ruins are a must-see. Beautiful beaches, resort pools, lush landscapes, and easy-to-spot native animals make Belize a fantastic destination for families. The average temperature is around 83 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months, which also don't see as much rainfall. Hotels start at just over $100 a night.
Frolic on Grand Lucayan's pristine beaches. Photo courtesy of the resort
3. Grand Lucayan, Bahamas
Located on Grand Bahama Island, this resort offers the option of going all-inclusive. Room-only rates for a family of four start at around $300 a night, including when some school districts have winter recess. There is also a discounted rate for Florida residents. Grand Lucayan is a fabulous resort for golfers and spa lovers. It also offers great pools, perfect beaches, and lots of scheduled kids' activities. You can even rent watercraft for some extra thrill-seeking fun.
Bermuda is such a small island (just over 20 square miles) that it doesn't matter where you stay—you can easily get from one side of the island to the other via ferry or bus. Bermuda isn't as warm as other Caribbean destinations, but there is so much to do and the residents are very friendly. Horseshoe Bay, with its pink sand, is one of the island's top destinations, but you can't go wrong with any beach on Bermuda. The city of Hamilton has restaurants and shops and is easy to explore on foot. The Crystal Caves are a must for adventurers, but beware—there are lots of stairs. Accommodations range from cottages and vacation-house rentals to large resorts. Prices begin around $200 a night.
Cruises are so much fun, you may not want to leave the ship. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Cruising out of Florida, Los Angeles, or Galveston, Texas will net you surprisingly affordable cruise options, even during school breaks. East-coast cruises go to the Bahamas, Jamaica, cruise-line private islands, and Central America. Texas and Los Angeles cruises typically sail to Mexican destinations. Cruise ships alone have so much to do on board, you almost won't even need the offshore excursions.
6. Niagara Falls, Canada
While Niagara Falls isn't a warm destination, going in the winter certainly has its benefits. It's one of the most affordable vacation spots on this list, at just around $100 a night for a hotel right in the heart of the city. There's also plenty to do in Niagara Falls besides visiting the falls itself, including an indoor water park, Ripley's Believe It or Not, an indoor aviary, and a bustling arcade. Toronto is just over an hour away and boasts a long list of its own attractions.
There's nothing like seeing the Grand Canyon in person. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Affordable Winter Vacation Ideas On The West Coast
7. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Nature-loving families must add this destination to their bucket list. The Grand Canyon is very affordable and offers so many ways to enjoy this wonder of nature with the family. There's traditional camping, which won't run you much in terms of cost, or glamping in an RV or cabin. Of course, there are luxurious resorts as well, which don't cost much more than $200 a night. Families with older children can traverse the canyon on horseback or mule. There are endless hiking opportunities, and views are different depending on where you are in the canyon.
8. Los Angeles, California
Proper budgeting makes a vacation to the City of Angels affordable. If you want to do more expensive excursions, like Disneyland in Anaheim and Universal Studios Hollywood, staying at a cheaper hotel will help make that possible. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas also have plenty of free and cheap things to do with kids, including spectacular beaches, gorgeous hiking trails, family-friendly museums, and lots more. And with mild temperatures year-round, you'll be able to comfortably enjoy LA's numerous outdoor activities all winter long.
9 San Diego, California
San Diego is home to SeaWorld, Sesame Place, Legoland, and one of the best zoos in the United States, the San Diego Zoo. There are also so many kid-friendly museums, such as the Fleet Science Center and the New Children's Museum. There are gorgeous parks to explore, like Balboa Park, not to mention all of the gorgeous beaches. And great hotels like the Wyndham start at just over $100 a night.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
With tons of kid-friendly museums and shows, theme parks and arcades, and delicious restaurants, Las Vegas isn't just for adults. It's also one of the most affordable winter vacation ideas on this list, with hotels starting at just $50 a night—even in February, when many school districts have winter recess. Vegas is very hot, making it a nice reprieve from Old Man Winter. There are lots of places to cool off besides the hotel pools, like Cowabunga Vegas water park and even an ice skating rink. Even better, Las Vegas has many babysitting services, so adults can get in some fun, too.
Sarasota's Siesta Key is often rated the best beach in the US. Photo courtesy of Siesta Key
Affordable Winter Vacation Ideas in the South
11. Sarasota, Florida
If you're looking for a Florida beach getaway, look no further than Sarasota. With its soft white sand and clear water, Sarasota County's Siesta Key is often ranked the number-one beach in the United States. Affordable hotels can be found around Sarasota County, so there's no need to go for broke. Take a wildlife boat tour, or kayak along the mangrove-lined waterways. Visit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for lots of Instagram-worthy backdrops.
12. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of country music, but there's so much more to see and do besides the Grand Ol' Opry. The Tennessee Central Railway Museum lets visitors ride a vintage train. The Discovery Center at Murfree Spring is an interactive children's museum with water features, pretend shops, and more. And hockey fans can check out a Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena. Most Nashville hotels range between $100 and $200 a night.
13. Atlanta, Georgia
This southern city is home to lots of kid-friendly attractions, including Zoo Atlanta, which has a giant panda, and the Georgia Aquarium, home to a great hammerhead shark. Toddlers can jump into Adventure Bay and feel like they're part of the Paw Patrol at the Children's Museum of Atlanta. And there are plenty of fun winter activities, including ice skating and gorgeous winter hikes. Hotels range between $100 and $200 a night.
14. Savannah, Georgia
With average high temperatures in the 60s and fewer crowds, winter is a great time to explore all that Savannah has to offer. The Savannah Children's Museum is completely outdoors, with such exhibits as a maze and a sensory garden. Older kids will love going on a ghost tour, and Tybee Island is only a short 20-minute drive away if you're hankering for some beach time. There are plenty of affordable hotel options, but even a mansion stay won't cost much more than $300 a night.
15. Miami, Florida
With warm weather year-round and gorgeous beaches, it would be easy to spend all day at the beach on a Miami winter vacation. But the city has so much more to offer for families. Zoo Miami has many large animals like giraffes, gorillas, lions, and rhinos. Swim with seals and dolphins at Seaquarium. Explore the Miami Children's Museum and its cruise-ship exhibit. And cool off at the area's many splash pads and spraygrounds. Large resorts are pricier, but you can find hotels for around $200 a night.
16. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
This beach area nestled along Alabama's Gulf Coast is one of the most affordable winter vacation ideas on this list, with hotel stays around $100 to $150 a night. And with mild temperatures and fewer crowds, winter is the perfect time to visit. The beach and Wharf shouldn't be missed, especially the large Ferris wheel. There are lots of water sports to take part in on warmer days, like parasailing. Families can also enjoy hiking, fishing, arcades, and more.
Make a splash at San Antonio's Schlitterbahn Water Park Resort. Photo courtesy of the resort
17. San Antonio, Texas
There are so many fun things to do with kids in San Antonio, including the DoSeum, a fantastic children's museum with an ADA-accessible treehouse. Brackenridge Park is home to the San Antonio Zoo, the Witte Museum, and a miniature train ride. There are also theme parks, like Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Morgan's Wonderland, and Schlitterbahn Water Park Resort. Little marine biologists won't want to miss SeaWorld San Antonio. And the best part is, you can stay in the heart of the city at the Embassy Suites for around $200 a night.
18. Charleston, South Carolina
While this charming southern city has a great aquarium and children's museum, its historic Revolutionary War past shouldn't be missed. Visit Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon for a one-of-a-kind look at US history, including a dungeon where Revolutionary War prisoners were held. Seafarers can go for a pirate cruise along South Carolina rivers. Hotel stays range between $200 and $300 a night.
19. New Orleans, Louisiana
Similar to Las Vegas, New Orleans isn't a locale people usually think of when it comes to family vacations, but steer clear of Bourbon Street and you'll find a city full of culture, fun, and family-friendly destinations. There is a gorgeous aquarium with a walk-through tunnel, an insectarium, the Audubon Zoo, and a nature center. Check out the French Quarter for culture, dining, and music. Hotels are affordably priced between $150 and $250 a night.
20. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island has some of the best beaches in Texas, all featuring buttery soft, white sand. While it's a popular spring break spot for the college crowd, South Padre Island is perfect for families any other time of year. Winter is very mild and makes for perfect hiking weather. Kayaking, paddle boarding, and windsurfing are also popular among visitors. Hotels average around $100 a night, and the national park has multiple beachfront campgrounds, making South Padre Island one of the most affordable winter vacation ideas for families who want to hit the beach.