Cheap Spring Break Travel Ideas for Families

Visit DC in the spring for warm temps and maybe even cherry blossoms. Photo by m01229 via Flickr
Visit DC in the spring for warm temps and maybe even cherry blossoms. Photo by m01229 via Flickr
3/9/24 - By Rose Gordon Sala

Spring break travel is a great way to make family memories, but it can also be expensive. Hotels, airlines, and rental-car companies all raise prices during school breaks and other high-demand travel periods. Popular warm-weather destinations like Orlando and the Caribbean can cost even more money as families flock to have fun in the sun. But that doesn't mean you have to choose between staying home and going broke for spring break.

In-the-know families deploy a few tricks to plan a fun spring break vacation without blowing their mortgage payment, from scoring secret deals to compromising a bit on the location. There are plenty of family-friendly cities and destinations that cost a bit less but don’t scrimp on the family attractions, including top museums, eateries, beaches, and amusement parks.

Read on for some of our favorite hacks for cheap spring break travel, including some great budget-friendly destinations throughout the US. If a longer trip is not in the cards, check out your local guide to family day trips and weekend getaways.


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How to Save Money on Spring Break Travel

Road-trip It

The first way to slash your spring break travel bill is to skip the flight and drive instead. It may sound painful to some, but if you really want to save money, a road trip is the best way to go. Take out the map and look at how far you're willing to go. Could you get to enjoy a couple of cities by adding an overnight stop along the way, possibly staying the night with friends or family? And that's tip number two...

Bunk with Friends or Family

If you can, stay with relatives or friends, even for a night or two. Suddenly, there might be some extra dollars in your pocket to spend on a nice night out or an extra-special attraction. If traveling with friends, find a suite or rental home that accommodates everyone and split the cost.

Prepare Some Meals

Book a hotel or rental home with a kitchen to save on meals. Stock up on breakfast essentials and lunch meats at a nearby grocery store, then enjoy dinners out. If your rental home has a barbecue, you can even grill up a few easy dinners!

Find a Deal

Look for coupons or online savings at sites like Priceline or the HotelTonight app, and scan the deals listed on your targeted location's tourism site. Sign up for email alerts from a resort or destination you're eyeballing, so you'll be the first to know when prices drop. You can also do this through various travel-planning sites. Some of our editors even recommend stalking your favorite resorts or destinations on social media for discounts.

Once you select your destination, start looking for ticket deals to the main attractions. Reserving tickets online usually knocks a few dollars off the admission price to theme parks and other attractions. There are also deals available through services such as Viator.

Head North

Lastly, if you’re not chasing the sun, you might get a deal in a more northern climate, such as Canada, New England, or the Midwest. And by spring break, the temperatures in these locales will likely be better than they'd be in the dead of winter!

Best Spring Break Destinations for Those on a Budget

1. Washington, DC

Free world-class museums, the iconic monuments and memorials at the National Mall, and plenty of public space—not to mention the possibility of seeing those famous cherry blossoms—make DC a popular spring break destination for many families. Even Smithsonian's National Zoo offers FREE admission It’s also an easy drive or train ride from most Eastern cities, including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and points more south.

Quick Hotel Pick: The Hyatt Place Washington, DC/National Mall is steps away from the National Mall and many Smithsonian museums, saving your family money on transportation. The hotel also offers free breakfast, and there's an on-site pool and fitness center.

2. Baltimore, MD

If you do head to DC, you could add on a day or two in Charm City. But with so many family-friendly attractions, Baltimore can be the spring break destination in itself. Much of the action is centered around the Inner Harbor, where you'll find Port Discovery Children's Museum, the National Aquarium, and the Maryland Science Center. Another must-see is the USS Constellation, the last sail-only warship designed and built by the US Navy in 1854.

Quick Hotel Pick: The Staybridge Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor features suites with fully equipped kitchens, a daily complimentary breakfast buffet, and evening socials on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays with free light bites and happy hour drinks. Plus, it's right near all the action of the Inner Harbor.

RELATED: Asheville with Kids: 40 Best Things To Do in Asheville, NC

Explore the sandy beaches of South Carolina on a budget-friendly spring break vacation
Myrtle Beach has beautiful beaches, a boardwalk with rides, and warm spring weather. Photo courtesy of the Myrtle Beach Visitors Bureau

3. South Carolina

Make your way to South Carolina to thaw out in fun cities such as Charleston and Columbia or at beach-centric spots like Myrtle Beach and the chill Hilton Head. Easy-to-find Airbnbs and other home rentals abound in beachside condos, and there are plenty of family-friendly hotels with suites. Myrtle Beach has boardwalk rides and games, as well as a zoo and an aquarium.

Quick Hotel Pick: If you decide to head to Myrtle Beach, consider booking a stay at the beachside Captain's Quarters Resort. Its outdoor water park, Shipwreck Lagoon, is open year-round and heated seasonally, and there's also an indoor pool and indoor water features. The resort is extremely affordable, too.

4. Boston, MA

Journey to Beantown for a glimpse into America's past along with fun, education, and adventure. Whether you're in the mood for museums, like the Museum of Science and the Museum of Fine Arts, or outdoor fun such as a walk in the Public Garden to see the Make Way For Ducklings sculpture, there's an abundance of springtime fun to be had in Boston. A Go City - Boston tourist pass will get you access to many of these top attractions, all for one ticket price.

Quick Hotel Pick: While the Residence Inn Boston Cambridge isn't exactly cheap, its spacious suites feature full kitchens, so families can save money by prepping a lot of meals in the room. The hotel also offers free breakfast daily, and its just one subway stop away from downtown Boston.

5. Resorts with Indoor Water Parks

Escape to an indoor water park resort like Great Wolf Lodge in Maryland or the Poconos, where the air and water temperatures are balmy year-round. A night or two is long enough to feel like you’ve gotten away, and the kids will be in absolute heaven as they slip, slide, and splash around. They can also enjoy other free activities like magical lobby shows, arts and crafts, and character meet-and-greets.

6. New Orleans, LA

Spring break is the perfect time to visit New Orleans with kids because the crowded and expensive Mardi Gras season is over, while the popular Jazz and Heritage Festival (which starts in late April) has yet to begin. Plus, spring temperatures are typically quite pleasant. In addition to strolling the French Quarter and enjoying beignets at the iconic Cafe Du Monde, families can enjoy a slew of kid-friendly museums and attractions, including the Louisiana Children's Museum and the Audubon Zoo

Quick Hotel Pick: The Hilton New Orleans Riverside, located just a few blocks from an aquarium and the French Quarter, features an outdoor pool, a fantastic fitness center, indoor tennis and pickleball courts, and more family-friendly amenities.

RELATED: Family Amusement Parks and Water Parks Guide

Cheap Spring Break Travel Ideas for Families: Hersheypark
Who needs Mickey when you can meet a like-size candy bar at Hersheypark? Photo courtesy of Hersheypark

7. Philadelphia, PA

Philly is a great walking city with tons of family-friendly sights. Look into a Go City - Philadelphia tourist pass to gain entry to top attractions like the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Zoo, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, and more, all for one ticket price. Airbnb is very popular, and families can stay in the city or in any of the pretty surrounding towns along the Main Line, most of which have a direct train to Center City. Philly also puts you in good proximity to Dutch Wonderland and Hersheypark.

Quick Hotel Pick: You can stay within walking distance of historic sites like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Franklin Square without breaking the bank when you stay at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District. Enjoy the convenience of the on-site restaurant and fitness center.

8. San Antonio, TX

This Texas city is a popular summer travel destination for families due to its proximity to popular theme parks like SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resort. But March and April bring lower hotel rates and comfortable temperatures that are perfect for exploring the famed River Walk. There's also a fabulous children's museum called the DoSeum, LEGOLAND Discovery Center San Antonio, and plenty more. Also, schedule a FREE visit to the Alamo!

Quick Hotel Pick: The affordable and historic Menger Hotel, located next to the Alamo and only one block from the River Walk, is the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi.

9. New Jersey Shore and Boardwalk

It might not be sunbathing or swimming season yet, but the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore open for weekends and holidays come springtime, including spring break. Rides and Easter egg hunts are available up and down the Shore. Hotels and home rentals are much cheaper than in summer’s prime time. A stay in pretty Cape May will give you a quieter holiday, but it's also a great jumping-off point for a day trip to one of our favorite New Jersey amusement parks like Six Flags, Diggerland, and Storybook Land.

Quick Hotel Pick: Cape May's gorgeous Sandpiper Beach Club has 51 large suites with full kitchens, so families won't need to blow their vacation budget on restaurant meals. The hotel also offers free use of beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels and has an on-site fitness center. And, prices are quite low during spring break!

RELATED: Richmond, VA with Kids: 50 Fun Things To Do in Richmond

Visit Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg on a spring break vaction
Take a step back in time at Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum. Photo courtesy of The Vacation Channel

10. Williamsburg, VA

Enjoy the open-air historical attraction of Colonial Williamsburg, a fully immersive museum experience with street theater, costumed actors, historical buildings and exhibits, shopping, and great eats. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels nearby, some of which run shuttles straight to Colonial Williamsburg and to the other big attraction here: Busch Gardens. So yes, it’s a vacation that offers kids both a little education and plenty of playtime.

Quick Hotel Pick: The Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites features a walking path directly to Colonial Williamsburg, spacious rooms, mini golf, an arcade, a fitness center, and more fun amenities for a surprisingly low price.

11. San Diego, CA

Though SoCal isn't exactly known for its affordability, spring break is the perfect time to visit San Diego—especially if you want to take a road trip from other parts of California. That's because May Gray and June Gloom haven't yet set in, nor has the peak summer travel season arrived. There are tons of affordable hotels. And while some can't-miss attractions, like the famous San Diego Zoo, cost money, there are also many FREE things to do, like exploring the area's beautiful beaches, taking gorgeous hikes, and playing at great parks and playgrounds.

Quick Hotel Pick: The affordable, family-owned La Jolla Shores Hotel is steps from the beach and offers complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels. There's also a year-round heated outdoor pool with a children's wading pool, plus tennis courts. Some of the rooms even have kitchenettes.

12. Outer Banks, NC

With fewer crowds, spring break is the perfect time to take in the beauty of these North Carolina barrier islands and their breathtaking beaches. The many large vacation rental homes offer lower prices than in the summer, making it a great spring break spot for extended families. Daytime temperatures typically reach the mid 60s in March and April, when many restaurants and activities start to reopen or the season. Attractions like the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the North Carolina Aquarium are open year-round.

RELATED: A Guide to Acadia National Park with Kids

Acadia National Park is a great budget-friendly spring break destination
Get breathtaking views hiking in Acadia National Park during the off-season. Photo courtesy of The Maine Office of Tourism

13. National and State Parks

Camping at (or staying in a lodge or hotel near) a national or state park can make for a memorable spring break. Check out our National Parks Guide for some great options. Plan a few hikes, then look for nearby attractions that offer a few more creature comforts, such as an amusement park or a great children’s museum. Several national parks waive admission fees on April 20, 2024, which may fall at the tail end of spring break from some kids.

14. Maine

It's known as “vacationland” by many, and it’s not just in the summer that Maine's rocky coasts, wooded forests, and charming New England towns inspire family travel. The seaside city of Portland has a terrific children’s museum and train museum, ferry rides, hikes, and more. Up north, you can go for one last run at Sugarloaf, the state's highest ski mountain and largest resort. Or head to the Downeast region, where the hotels and B&Bs that remain open year-round often offer wicked-cheap rates until summer, and you can see Acadia National Park without the crowds.

Quick Hotel Pick: If Portland is your pick for spring break in Maine, the Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront has a fantastic location across the street from the Casco Bay Line Ferry Terminalan indoor pool and fitness center, and extremely affordable rates.

15. Pittsburgh, PA

You might not think of Pittsburgh as your first spring break option, but if This Is Us taught us anything, it’s that this city has heart... but also, a ton of things to do with kids! Pittsburgh is loaded with museums, including a children’s museum, a science center, a natural history museum, a sports museum, a cartoon museum, and the Andy Warhol Museum. There’s also the National Aviary, as well as a zoo and aquarium. Plus, you’ll find plenty of affordable Airbnbs and hotels.

Quick Hotel Pick: Affordable rooms, a fantastic downtown location, an indoor pool and fitness center, and a free hot breakfast daily make the Hampton Inn & Suites Pittsburgh-Downtown a fantastic pick for families.

RELATED: 100 Things To Do in New York State with Kids Before They Grow Up

Niagara Falls Spring family travel
The magnificent Niagara Falls inspire all ages. Photo by Rosalba Tarazona

16. Niagara Falls, NY

Though perhaps not the balmy beach weather one might think of for spring break, Niagara Falls (located on the border of New York and Canada) is a bucket-list item for many families. Why not beat the summer crowds and head there in the spring? There are tons of breathtaking nature and photo ops, but we recommend reserving a ride on the Maid of the Mist. You'll have some memorable photos in the famous blue ponchos while getting a close-up experience of the Falls—and getting pretty wet!

Quick Hotel Pick: The DoubleTree by Hilton Niagara Falls is located only blocks from the Falls on the New York side, has an indoor pool and fitness center, and is extremely affordable. Plus, your kids will love getting a free, warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in.

17. Coeur d’Alene, ID

This beautiful lakeside mountain town in Idaho is the perfect spring break spot for families who love the outdoors, with adventures including golfing, hiking, paddling, climbing, biking, and more. Take a cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene, which is surrounded by majestic mountains. The downtown area has great restaurants and shops to explore, too. By April, temperatures typically reach the mid to high 50s, so you won't be too cold.

Quick Hotel Pick: The famed 139-room Coeur d'Alene Golf & Spa Resort offers families a premier lakefront vacation beginning at a modest price point. Families can enjoy the on-site fitness center, restaurants, and more.

This post was originally published in 2017 and has been regularly updated.

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