Ready for an unforgettable family vacation? Combining our know-how with intel from Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the Family Travel Association, we chose eight websites that offer money-saving deals, useful advice, and cool trips for your whole squad.
Trekaroo: Called the TripAdvisor for family travel, Trekaroo offers helpful reviews of family-oriented places in the U.S. and Canada, plus gear recommendations and tips for traveling with kids. Click on a state on the interactive map to instantly see a list of star-rated, family-approved activities and hotels. Use the price slider up top to find activities that are free or low-cost.
Undercover Tourist: Yes, you CAN save money at Disney, and Undercover Tourist is legit. This authorized seller can net you savings of 30 percent on Disney World Resort hotels and nice discounts on tickets to Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando. Download the Orlando planning app for current wait times, best times to visit, show schedules, and line-length estimates for rides. (Los Angeles and San Diego options are coming later this year.)
Western Spirit Cycling Adventures: If you’d love nothing more than to see the country on two wheels with the whole fam, Western Spirit organizes guided family bike trips in national parks and monuments, like temperate rides through the twists and turns of Black Hills National Forest. Western Spirit is offering a 30 percent discount for Budget Travel readers on the following family trips: Trail of the Ancients, in Utah (June 20–24); Black Hills of South Dakota (June 27–July 1); and Yellowstone and the Gravelly Range (August 1–5).
Google Flights: One of our favorite ways to search for plane tickets, Google Flights uses its massive repository of data to show you alternate cities, times, and dates you can choose to save wads of cash, all neatly organized and easy to use. You’ll want to play with its cool money-saving maps all day.
Tracks & Trails: Dreaming of a family RV adventure in a national park out west? Tracks & Trails will hook you up with a fully planned, highly personalized trip, from renting the RV to organizing activities like rock climbing. Better yet, they’ll steer you away from tourist traps. The site is offering Budget Travel readers a 20 percent discount on trip-planning fees for 2016 travel dates. Just mention BT when you book! To save even more cash, go off-season—in April, May, September, or October—for fewer crowds and sweet deals: You’ll save up to 25 percent on RV rentals compared with high season in July and August. The company’s nine-day, all-inclusive Rocky Mountains and Central Colorado trip is one of its most affordable excursions.
Gogobot: Travel-planning site Gogobot, fueled by tips from travelers, is organized into 19 different “tribes.” Join the Family tribe to see reviews, ask questions in forums, and trade tips with fellow members. Handy guides include On the Go With Kids in NYC and Family Travel in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Find Your Park: We love national parks for both their splendor and their low entrance fees. Find Your Park, a campaign from the National Park Service, which turns 100 years young this August, provides ideas for family-bonding trips and ample inspiration for your next park excursion. Check out Nps.gov for a list of free entrance days for all 400-plus parks.
Family Vacation Critic: Looking for family vacation ideas? This website has plenty of 'em. Click through Family Vacation Critic’s ultra-specific articles, like 10 Best African Safari Lodges for Families. Or immerse yourself—in a good way!—in never-ending general links, such as Aruba Family Vacations, which yields a cascade of information about resorts, hotels, activities, and restaurants, and a mini guide that shares info about low season and the best ways to get around town.
Everyone would love for the kids to (voluntarily) put away their mobile devices while traveling. But before you dole out out Draconian rules, read this: “There are some very useful apps that will actually help them get more out of a vacation and more engaged in where they are,” says Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the Family Travel Association. Picks for the best of the best are below:
Best boredom-buster for long car rides: FindPlate Car Game
Best tool for preparing for a trip:PackPoint Packing List Travel Companion
Best navigation guide for families traveling with young children, especially in cities:Mom Maps
Best national parks mobile app—it works without Wi-Fi or a data signal:Chimani
If you'd still prefer to ban devices on your vacation, there's a fun fix: “While the cameras and photo apps on mobile phones are getting more and more sophisticated, I would still strongly suggest investing in an actual digital camera for the kids to play with while on vacation," Jenss says. "It gets them even more excited about snapping pictures while not getting distracted by all the phone's other functions, like texting and social media."