Cheap Family Weekend Getaways

Keep the Tykes Happy and Your Wallet Full

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We all need a change of scenery to break up the family routine, and sometimes, a weekend escape is just enough to do the trick. It’s even better when we can make it happen without all the time and money required for a longer vacation. And who's to say that a low-cost weekend getaway with the kids can't give you that sense of freedom and exploration — just in a more condensed and budget-friendly variety? Here are a few economical ways to grab the kids and get away for the weekend. 

Find a Vacation Rental Close to Home

row of colorful adirondack chairs in water

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If you find the right one, summer vacation rentals can feel a lot like a second home, only in this case, someone else has to worry about the repairs, the yard work and the mortgage — you get to just come and play.

If you put a little legwork (or, in this case, mouse work) into perusing the numerous online house-finding sources, such as VRBO, Airbnb or  HomeAway, a pleasing little getaway home can be yours for the weekend. Share it with another family, and voila! The price goes way down, plus your kids get the built-in entertainment of playmates.

Through Airbnb, we recently rented a historic home on the main street of Crested Butte, CO, and all were happy. In this cozy mountain town, we could all walk to hiking trails, parks and restaurants, so the less-than-relaxing parental duties of buckling kids into car seats and reading maps were non-issues. 

Where to go: Find a house within a short drive from home to minimize travel time and maximize fun time!  

Get Back to the Farm

children feeding a horse over a fence

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Sure, there’s a bit of irony in paying someone else for the experience of performing farm chores, but there is far more fun to be had at a low-cost, family-friendly farm than just milking the cows. (And besides, even that particular chore is actually quite a hoot, especially if your kid thinks milk just comes from stores!) 

The Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, NH, lets you wake up and milk cows, and then pet the bunnies, make cheese, tie-dye a pillowcase, paint faces, water-ski, play capture the flag … phew, farm life is hard! Thankfully, the farm hosts evening cocktail parties and talent shows on its green lawn, a welcome bit of relaxation for Mom and Dad. This traditional New England farm is all-inclusive, with 3 meals a day and comfortable accommodations that feature amenities such as refrigerators, air conditioning, hair dryers, ceiling fans, TVs and, in some units, fireplaces. 

Where to go: Farms across the country that offer affordable family weekend getaways include Montesino Ranch in Wimberley, TX; Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY; and Liberty Hill Farm & Inn in Rochester, VT. 

Don't Forget Your State Parks

cabin with log walls and bed

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Although it is only about 30 minutes from our hometown of Austin, my family had never been to the piney woods of Texas' Bastrop State Park. So, at the suggestion of a budget-savvy friend, we booked a cabin there for my husband's birthday. Despite the recommendation, I was nervous: Could this state-owned cabin actually be pleasant enough for a comfy, low-stress weekend with our 1- and 5-year-old kiddos? Indeed it could, we found. 

We loved waking up within the walls of this bare-bones but charming stone cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. With ferns spreading over the doorway and a picnic table amid the loblolly pines outside, it was our hideaway in the woods. The nearby hiking trails were easy for our little ones and gave them a sampling of what the pine forest can offer: big lizards, wren and cardinal sightings, and the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker overhead. Without much fuss, we savored the simple joys of nature and got a much-needed reprieve from our busy life back in Austin. 

Where to go: Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina, and a multitude of state parks in Minnesota all have rustic but appealing cabins for rent. Check out what your state's parks have to offer.

So now you have no excuses! Break up the family routine to see and do something new with the wee ones, even if just for the weekend.

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