Where to go for spring break: affordable spring break ideas for families

If you live in a cold climate like me, you’re probably ready for some fun in the sun. Or maybe you get plenty of blue sky, and want to experience snow one last time before summer. Either way, we have budget spring break ideas for you. Read on to learn where to go for spring break in the U.S….without breaking the bank.

Then, check out our often-overlooked spring break ideas, compiled with additional family travel experts!

For sun and sand:

Want a sun-kissed vacation, but can’t afford a trip to Hawaii or Mexico? Opt for the desert or Caribbean instead! Pack swim suits and sunscreen for the following family-friendly desert destinations:

1. Palm Springs, California: House rentals abound in the greater Palm Springs area, or resort stays include all the amenities you’d expect: multiple pools, golf courses, kids’ clubs, and fine dining. Just outside the city, hiking

and Jeep touring abounds. Where to stay? Our pick: Westin Mission Hills, where kids can take advantage of the SPG Kids Pass for free snacks and drinks and fun activities on-site.

2. Phoenix, Arizona: An easy flight from most airports along the west coast, Phoenix and nearby Scottsdale enjoy warm temperatures year-round and fun activities for kids like horseback riding and hiking. Lounge poolside all day, or hit the links while the kids enjoy their own children’s programming. Where to stay: try the JW

Las Brisas pool

 Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa to score big points with the kids as they hit the lazy river and Nickelodeon Activity Zone. In nearby Scottsdale, the Westin Kierland Resort is king.

3. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: this Caribbean destination was slow to gain popularity with families, but now the word is out. Punta Cana all-inclusive resorts tend to be cheaper than their other Caribbean counterparts, and the beaches are every bit as nice (and the water every bit as warm). Where to raise your beach umbrella: Dreams Punta Cana, where kids love the water play structure, and adults love the luxury of never having to worry about where the next meal is coming from.

4. Laguna Beach, California: Nearby Disneyland Resort may be packed with families during spring break, but the Pacific seaside town of Laguna Beach is much quieter. March is still considered a shoulder season for coastal towns, so you can snag a good room rate in most cases. Hit the beach if the weather permits, but if you visit during typical spring fog or clouds, opt to go whale watching instead.

sierra at tahoe

Snow and mountains:

Need one more ski or snowboard fix before summer? The major ski resorts will be crowded (and demanding spring break rates) but smaller resorts will welcome your family with open arms. The following destinations are big enough to provide great ski schools and childcare, but small enough to be affordable.

1. Lake Tahoe, California: Think you can’t find affordable skiing in Tahoe? Think again! With so many resorts in a small area, competition is steep…which is a good thing for guests. A few extra miles from the lake, family-focused Sierra-at-Tahoe sits just past South Tahoe, an easy commute from San Francisco or Sacramento. Because Sierra-at-Tahoe does not offer on-site lodging, the crowds stay away, but you won’t suffer: cozy HomeAway vacation cabins are only a few miles away. The resort has one of the best layouts for families, with all runs ending in a common bowl for easy meet-ups.

2. Vermont: Vermont is home to both family-friendly champion Smuggler’s Notch and classy Stowe, plus offers plenty of outdoor fun in addition to skiing should the weather cooperate. We love Smuggs even during busy spring break, because this family resort is always offering great deals for parents. Stay, ski, and keep your kids in camp or lessons for one low price.

Coit Tower San Francisco Alcatraz Cruises

City escapes:

If you’re city touring, it doesn’t much matter what the weather is like, so head to less-than-ideal-in-spring urban areas to soak up culture instead of sun. Spring break is a great time to tour museums, aquariums, and historical sites when school field trips are at bay.

1. New York CityThe Big Apple is exciting no matter what the season, and families can find great deals in March and April. Take in a Broadway show or spend your time in the best family-friendly museums. Not sure where to stay? Try Affinia 50, where families can enjoy some of the largest rooms in Manhattan, family gaming nights, and a relaxing guest lounge.

2. Chicago, Illinois: Check out Shedd Aquarium or the Lincoln Park Zoo, then bundle up and head to Millennium Park free of crowds. Take advantage of shoulder season discounts, and hit as many museums as you can. Stay at the Four Points by Sheraton where families get a big bang for their buck. It’s located right on the Magnificent Mile and includes all the amenities you’ll want after a busy day sightseeing.

3. San Francisco, CaliforniaYes, it may still be brisk by the bay, but hotel room rates will be low, Alcatraz tours will be uncrowded, and you probably won’t have to wait for a cable car. Check out nearby Muir Woods in Marin County, beautiful in all seasons, and take a drive along Highway 1 to see the California coastline. Stay at Omni San Francisco to be located right on the cable car line and mere blocks from colorful Chinatown.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. I love Phoenix – the desert is always cool. If you’re ever on the east coast check out Myrtle Beach – great beaches, and a lot of stuff to do. It’s even got some great private gardens and museums, and a couple of state parks are nearby. Plus, North Myrtle Beach hotels are usually a lot less expensive than the Gulf hotels and resorts – it’s a great town for kids, over a 100 mini golf courses!

  2. Myrtle Beach is definitely on our list for kids! We’d really like to get to that part of the country. Thanks for the contribution!

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  4. Great options for spring break and beyond – thanks!

  5. We’re going to Phoenix for spring break, and are looking forward to warm temperatures and baseball!

  6. You have shared some awesome ideas for spring break.

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