VACATION IDEAS

PHOTOS: Big Cities, Small Budgets!

Think a big city vacation is off limits on a family budget? Think again. We gave ourselves a challenge: A world-class family vacation in one of America’s most popular cities for less than $125/night. Here, how to get “luxe for less” in San Francisco, New York City, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Chicago!

  1. You may leave your heart in San Francisco, but you don't have to leave junior's college fund there. Affordable delights like a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car ride, or a stroll in Golden Gate Park, are picture perfect.

    (Chee-onn Leong/Dreamstime.com)
  2. San Francisco offers beautiful sights everywhere you look, including the iconic "Painted Ladies"—colorful Victorian-style homes on Alamo Square.

    (Daria Angelova/Dreamstime.com)
  3. Hotel Del Sol is a family-friendly hotel with vibrant design and a great location in San Francisco's Marina/Cow Hollow area. Perks include afternoon cookies and milk, heated pool, and free breakfast. (jdvhotels.com, from $120 per night)

    (Courtesy Hotel Del Sol)
  4. Sure, New York City is known for some astronomical prices ($1,000 baseball tickets, $100 hamburgers, anyone?), but this capital of art, music, design, fashion, and finance also offers more freebies (and near-freebies) than any other major city in America.

    (Ken Griffith/Dreamstime.com)
  5. A peaceful stroll through Central Park, including a visit to beautiful Bow Bridge or a free concert or play, is a must when visiting NYC.

    (Courtesy I Love NY)
  6. New York's State Island Ferry provides a scenic, refreshing ride from lower Manhattan to Staten Island. And the price is right—it's free!

    (Courtesy I Love NY)
  7. Whether you just pass by on the free Staten Island Ferry or spend an afternoon exploring Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty is near the top of any list of NYC must-sees.

    (Viewapart/Dreamstime.com)
  8. The Jane, in Manhattan's West Village, once housed the survivors of the Titanic. You'll feel (almost) as lucky with this nicely appointed hotel's bargain summer rates. (thejanenyc.com, from $105 this summer)

    (Courtesy Jane Hotel)
  9. Orlando is theme-park heaven, and Universal Studios is one of the area's gems!

    (Courtesy Universal Studios Orlando)
  10. You can find good deals in Orlando in September, when school's back in session. Psst! We won't tell if you give your little ones a few days off to shake hands with Mickey and Minnie!

    (Stephanie Adams)
  11. SeaWorld Orlando's thrilling killer whale shows may or may not suit your taste in entertainment, but the park offers a wide variety of water rides and educational programs as well.

    (James Elliott/Dreamstime)
  12. The Hilton Orlando is offering special deals timed to the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios now through December 18. You can get four nights at the hotel, two three-day Park-to-Park tickets for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (to experience both Harry Potter sections), early admission to the parks, and more. (hilton.com, four nights from $102 per night)

    (Courtesy of Hilton Orlando)
  13. If you're thinking that Las Vegas is just for bachelor parties, girl getaways, and high rollers, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The city's major hotels and venues are wooing families with kids with low prices and tons of fun.

    (Courtesy Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Bureau)
  14. Viva Vision Light Show at Las Vegas's Fremont Street Experience is a lively music and light show on a projection screen the length of five football fields suspended 90-feet above you.

    (Courtesy PetLvr/Flickr)
  15. While the best prices are usually found off the Vegas Strip, Circus Circus is an affordable family-friendly hotel on the strip, and it includes a five-acre indoor theme park, The Adventuredome, which even includes a roller coaster! (circuscircus.com, from $39 per night if you book now)

    (BrendelSignature/Wikimedia Commons)
  16. Chicago is a world-class city in the heart of the Midwest, with great public transportation, unparalleled museums, theater, music, and food.

    (Rcavalleri/Dreamstime.com)
  17. Drop by Chicago's Navy Pier (one of Budget Travel's 20 Most Awesome Boardwalks in America) for a ride on the immense Ferris wheel on the banks of Lake Michigan. And don't forget to grab some deep-dish pizza: Two local favorites are Lou Malnati's and Gino's East.

    (Christian De Grandmaison/Dreamstime)
  18. The Warwick Allerton Hotel offers pure luxury on Chicago's Magnificent Mile (warwickhotels.com, Expedia offers deals from $99 per night)

    (Courtesy Warwick Allerton)
  19. Chicago's Warwick Allerton hotel is the very definition of swank that won't break the bank!

    (Courtesy Warwick Allerton)

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