8 Cheap Spring Break Trips That Don’t Skimp on the Fun

From Nashville to Nevada, the best spring break ideas for families are cheaper than you think.
Surfer at Pismo Pier in San Luis Obispo (Photo: SLO CAL)
Pismo Pier (Photo: SLO CAL)

With inflation and the high price of gas always in the news these days, cheap spring break trips for families are top of mind for parents looking to get away with the kids this spring. And while there may be some costly obstacles at the most popular family vacation spots in the U.S., you can rest easy knowing that there are plenty of fun spring break ideas for families on a budget too. 

Spring Break Ideas for Families on a Budget

From Nashville to Nevada, the best spring break destinations for families are also some of the most affordable. Here’s where to go with the kids for cheap family vacations that don’t skimp on the fun.

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1. Kissimmee, Florida

Old Town Kissimmee in Central Florida (Photo: Experience Kissimmee)
Old Town Kissimmee in Central Florida (Photo: Experience Kissimmee)

The Orlando theme parks help make Florida one of the best family vacation ideas any time of year, but spending spring break in Orlando won’t come cheap. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative in Central Florida, consider using neighboring Kissimmee as a convenient base camp, where hotel rates tend to be lower but all of the best things to do in Orlando are just minutes away.

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There are a lot of fun spring break ideas for families on a budget in the greater Orlando area. A perennial favorite is Old Town Kissimmee, a throwback re-creation of a Florida town with tree-lined streets and live entertainment, plus a parade of classic cars on weekends. And Disney’s Wilderness Preserve offers acres of native habitat, including restored wetlands where bald eagles soar and the elusive Florida Scrub Jay sings a sweet song. Hike or birdwatch as you soak in the beauty of the ecosystem free of charge. 

With a few days of free or low-cost activities under your belt, you can probably squeeze a visit to Disney’s Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios or the Harry Potter theme park areas at Universal into your spring beak budget even if you’re trying to keep costs down.

Where to Stay on Affordable Spring Break Trips in Kissimmee

The two-bedroom villas at Fantasy World Resort are a well-priced alternative to cramped motel rooms. A lazy river, game room, and tennis courts are kid-friendly perks. If you do want to stay in Orlando at a Disney property, a few of the value-priced Disney World hotels in Orlando can actually accommodate large families of five or more quite comfortably.

2. San Luis Obispo, California

Pismo Beach Pier in California (Photo: @Chantelle via Twenty20)
Pismo Pier in California (Photo: @Chantelle via Twenty20)

Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, gorgeous San Luis Obispo County is an affordable spring break destination with a little bit of everything for families.

In Pismo Beach, there’s a long pier where surfers and sun lovers paint a quintessential California picture. Allow time for the kids to romp at Whale Surfing Playground at Pismo Pier Plaza, with a fun slide that leads straight down to the sandy beach. The free Montaña de Oro State Park is nearby. Scenic trails, tide pools, and secluded coves are accompanied by the scent of eucalyptus trees. 

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In the small city of San Luis Obispo, the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa offers free daily tours. Wandering among the pretty garden has a grape arbor, fragrant roses, and citrus trees is a great way to keep little ones entertained and burning up some energy on spring break. 

And for a cool treat, head to Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with flavors like Motor Oil and the Elvis Special joining tried-and-true classics like mint chip and strawberry.

Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo County on Spring Break 

Every room at the adorable Apple Farm Inn comes with complimentary Wi-Fi and a cozy gas fireplace. The inn is centrally located for visiting the beaches and wineries of California’s central coast.

3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

T-Rex at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Photo: VisitPittsburgh)
T-Rex at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Photo: VisitPittsburgh)

You’ll find plenty of cheap spring break ideas for families in Pittsburgh. Once upon a time, Gilded Age millionaires built their industrial fortunes here, but today their legacy of wealth is what sustains numerous museums and cultural institutions. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History charges half-price admission weekdays after 3:00 p.m., for example, and kids love browsing its sparkling gem collection and gawking at the enormous dinosaur skeletons.

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A visit to one of Pittsburgh’s verdant parks, including Highland Park’s landscaped gardens and Riverview Park’s wooded hiking trails, is always a good spring break idea for families on a budget too. You could spend a whole afternoon at either park and the price tag can’t be beat—the parks are always free. 

When hunger strikes, head to one of the city’s many diners that serve homestyle meals for a low price. In the Strip District, the tall stack of fluffy pancakes at Pamela’s Diner are reportedly a favorite of former President Barack Obama.

Where to Stay in Pittsburg on Spring Break 

Hampton Inn and Suites Pittsburgh-Downtown is located in the Strip District, and a stay includes breakfast and parking—both big savers for families on a spring break budget. The hotel is a short stroll to Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, a fantasy for anyone with a sweet tooth.  

4. Nashville, Tennessee

Lane Motor Museum in Nashville (Photo: Visit Music City)
Lane Motor Museum in Nashville (Photo: Visit Music City)

Spirited Nashville welcomes visiting families with a range of free and low-cost experiences that can make spring break affordable. At the Frist Art Museum, guests under 18 are always free, and its Martin ArtQuest Gallery is a hands-on wonderland designed for multigenerational engagement. Visitors of all ages can try their hand at painting, drawing, printmaking, and animation at numerous art-making stations, with materials and guidance provided. 

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Kids ages five to 17 pay only $3 to visit the Lane Motor Museum, home to the largest collection of European cars and motorcycles in the United States—a great activity for all ages, but especially good for family vacations with teenagers because oddities such as the museum’s amphibious vehicles really boost the wow factor. And if the younger kids in your crew need a break from engines and hubcaps, there’s a large indoor play area with imaginative toys. 

Another reason Music City is one of the best spring break ideas for families on a budget? Kids are welcome to listen to live music along the city’s famed Honky Tonk Highway before 6:00 p.m. most nights free of charge. 

Nashville’s culinary scene is a hit with kids too, and hot chicken is one of its stars. This delectable fried favorite is both filling and inexpensive. At family-owned Hattie B’s, chicken can be served with no spice for those who enjoy their food mild. And scratch-made sides like creamy mac-and-cheese should tempt even finicky appetites. 

Where to Stay on Cheap Spring Breaks with the Kids in Nashville

The centrally located Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown is a budget-friendly choice with complimentary hot breakfast plus snacks and beverages at 5:30 p.m. daily. Or go big (and more expensive) at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, an impressively self-contained resort complex in Nashville with kid-friendly dining, entertainment, and one of the best indoor water parks in the country.

5. Virginia City, Nevada

Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City (Photo: Travel Nevada)
Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City (Photo: Travel Nevada)

When gold and silver were discovered here in the mid-19th century, Virginia City blossomed into a frontier boomtown—and it has been perfectly preserved ever since, making it a fine spring break destination for budget-conscious 21st century families who want an immersive living history experience only 35 miles from Reno

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A stroll down the historic main drag, C Street, is free, and Victorian-era saloons, shops, and attractions line the pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. People dressed in cowboy attire and frilly frocks with bonnets strut as casually as if they were wearing jeans. 

Virginia City’s Bucket of Blood is family-friendly saloon with free live daytime music on weekends. Wood floors and period chandeliers add authenticity. Adults may enjoy a potent potable while kids cool off with a soft drink and free popcorn. 

For a comprehensive narrated tour of this once-prosperous mining town, hop on the Virginia City Trolley for just $6. 

Where to Stay on Cheap Spring Breaks with the Kids in Virginia City

At Silverland Inn and Suites, you’ll find modern kid-friendly amenities like a pool and free Wi-Fi at yesteryear prices. 

6. Hocking Hills, Ohio

Old Mans Cave Upper Falls in Hocking Hills (Photo: Explore Hocking Hills)
Hocking Hills is one of best spring break ideas for families on a budget in the Midwest (Photo: Explore Hocking Hills)

Flush with state parks and nature preserves, Hocking Hills makes an ideal spring break destination for families who appreciate fresh-air and wide-open spaces. Miles of spectacular hiking trails are punctuated with caves and waterfalls, with ziplining, rock climbing, and kayaking adding active options. 

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For low-key fun, play a round of miniature golf, ride the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, or watch a movie at the Skyview Drive-In. Warmer weather brings a host of parades, festivals, and old-fashioned fairs.

Where to Stay for an Affordable Spring Break in Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills Tiny Houses are compact cabins with kitchenettes that sleep four, starting at only $115 per night. 

7. New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach (Photo: NSB Area Visitors Bureau)
Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach (Photo: NSB Area Visitors Bureau)

Soak in the Florida sunshine minus the hefty price tag when you visit the charming Florida beach town of New Smyrna Beach, home to 17 miles of soft sandy beaches perfect for families on spring break. You can also enjoy sand dunes and Atlantic waves at pet-friendly Smyrna Dunes Park, where you’ll pay just a $10 per car admission fee for the whole family.

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Beyond the beach, the Marine Discovery Center aims to impart a deeper understanding of the importance of maintaining the rich plant and marine life of the Indian River Lagoon. Naturalists present a robust program of learning opportunities with free admission. There’s a butterfly garden, a wildflower garden, and a nature playscape where kids can romp surrounded by native plants. 

Where to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

With an oceanfront pool, spacious suites, and complimentary breakfast, SpringHill Suites by Marriott New Smyrna Beach is just what you’re looking for on a cheap spring break trip with the kids.

8. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston's Greenway Carousel (Photo: Rose Kennedy Greeenway Conservancy)
Boston’s Greenway Carousel (Photo: Rose Kennedy Greeenway Conservancy)

After a long cold winter, the spring months are a fine time to explore free outdoor attractions, and kid-friendly Boston is a perfect spring break destination outdoor family activities that won’t cost you a dime. 

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Follow the footsteps of our nation’s founders with a stroll on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red brick path that traverses 16 historically-significant sites and sheds light on Boston’s pivotal position during the American Revolution. Then head to Boston Public Garden, America’s oldest botanical garden, with acres of plantings providing a shady respite from city life. The Make Way for the Ducklings statue is a must-see for fans of this children’s literary classic by Robert McCloskey.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a ribbon of urban park winding through Boston’s cityscape, with art installations, fountains, and food trucks aplenty during spring break season. Take a spin on the carousel that features animals native to the region, including lobster, cod, and harbor seals. Free programming includes movies and concerts.

Where to Stay on Cheap Spring Breaks with the Kids in Boston

Convenient to public transportation, Doubletree by Hilton Boston Bayside wins the award for best check-in amenity with warm chocolate chips cookies for every guest. 

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison Tibaldi is a travel and food writer based in New York City. She has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Australia, Toronto and Los Angeles. She writes for numerous publications including CNN, Business Insider, Travel Channel, HGTV, am New York, Emirates Open Skies Magazine, USA TODAY 10 Best, USA Today Go Escape, Shermans Travel, Family Traveller, Travel Squire and Travel Weekly. She is also a contributing editor at Family Travel Forum. She focuses on family, culinary and eco-friendly travel. A former early childhood educator, she studied child development in graduate school and believes that travel is the best education.

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