4 Fabulous Family Vacations Under $1000

Suggested itineraries for family fun in some of America’s best beach towns

Rooms & Guests×

Whenever a commercial flashes on TV showing some far-off island paradise, it's tempting to reach for your credit card and book the most extravagant getaway on an impulse. But once the vacation is over, you'll not only be stuck in a post-vacation funk, you'll also have the burden of having to pay back thousands of dollars. Not ideal.

So let us suggest an alternative: Look to domestic coastlines to deliver the family getaway you crave. Here are our ideas for four fabulous vacations under $1000 (including gas and accommodations costs only).

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach Boardwalk The Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Photo: Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Surrounded by the cities of Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake, Virginia Beach is a summer playground for East Coast families in need of a break. If you're based in a city along the coast, driving there will be a cinch, but even dwellers of cities as far away as Nashville can make it to this coastal haven in a day. Pile the kids in the car and hit the road. When they catch a glimpse of the Virginia Beach Amusement Park or the iconic King Neptune Statue along the beachfront, they'll pardon the long car ride.

In general, hotels in Virginia Beach are on the affordable side, though you'll save a lot of money if you make your escape in the early fall months — that will ensure you can pull off a family vacation under $1000. Rest your head in a superior double room at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which as the name suggests, offers easy access to the beach, as well as splendid coastal views from the balcony. Grab a drink at the 21 story high Sky Bar, or take a dip in the rooftop infinity pool.

Roundtrip driving costs:

From Columbus: $123

From Nashville: $152

From New York City: $81

Hotel stay:

3 nights in a double room at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront (weekdays in Sept.), $213 per night = $639

Total = $720 - $791

Panama City Beach, Florida

family vacations under $1000

Florida's Panhandle is a treasure chest of white-sand beaches with a coastline draped in the unmistakable emerald hue of the Gulf of Mexico. Boxy high-rises are scattered along the oceanfront in Panama City Beach, where a former party reputation has given way to a more serene, family-friendly standing.

Driving to this up-and-coming beach spot is a no-brainer for many southern city dwellers. Commit to a full day in the car and you can reach bone-white sands and ocean breezes before the sun sets. Look for condo offerings to host your family — we like the Long Beach Resort, with beach access, an outdoor pool and a fitness center.

Roundtrip driving costs:

From Memphis: $107

From New Orleans: $63

From Atlanta: $63

Hotel stay:

4 nights at the Long Beach Resort, $124 per night = $496

Total = $559 - $603

Saugatuck, Michigan

vacations under $1000 Photo: Theresa Boehl

For Midwesterners, a trip to a tropical beach represents a refreshing change of scenery. But don't overlook the stunning freshwater shores along the coast of Lake Michigan, sometimes called America's Third Coast. Oval Beach is one such lakefront paradise, an oasis not far from the bohemian towns of Saugatuck and Douglas that spring to life in the short-lived summer months. Fill up a cooler with snacks and buckle up: One of the nation's best beaches awaits at the end of your road trip.

Saugatuck is easily accessible from Midwest cities like Chicago and Detroit, but even locals as far west as Des Moines will find the car ride tolerable. The town is replete with mom-and-pop throwback resorts, such as the Starlite Resort, which is not far from Oval Beach. Get a double queen room (sleeps four) to rest your head and store your belongings, but plan to spend the rest of your time sampling ice cream, window shopping and hiking the wooded trails near the lakefront.

Roundtrip driving costs:

From Des Moines: $90

From Milwaukee: $49

From Cincinnati: $67

Hotel stay:

4 nights in an economy family room at the Starlite Resort, $129 per night = $516

Total = $565 - $606

Galveston, Texas

family vacations under $1000 Photo: Theresa Boehl

A small city on a barrier island just an hour and a half from Houston, Galveston is revered by families thanks to attractions like the whimsical, nature-focused Moody Gardens (including a rainforest housed in a pyramid and a 3D theater) and the amusement rides on the Historic Pleasure Pier. Even more outdoor recreation awaits at Galveston Island State Park, home to coastal dunes, wetlands, ponds, and of course, beaches, all ideal for bird-watching, hiking or biking.

Stay at the one-bedroom Galveston Beach Condos, upscale units with fully equipped kitchens and easy access to beaches and attractions.

Roundtrip driving costs:

From Tulsa: $114

From Jackson, MS: $99

From Dallas: $59

Hotel stay:

3 nights in a one-bedroom condo at the Galveston Beach Condos (weekdays in September), $110 per night = $440

Total = $499 - $554


Vacations Under $500 for Two Travelers: Best Budget Options by Region

How to Find Cheap All-Inclusive Family Vacations

The Best Beach Vacations Under $1000

4 Cheap Caribbean Vacations to Take in 2019

The only thing more stressful than forgoing vacation is taking one you can't afford. These destinations let you have the fabulous beach break you need while keeping your finances in line.

The Best Affordable Beach Vacations

If you're as pumped as we are about throwing caution to the wind and heading to the beach, rest assured that you have many excellent budget choices in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Super Cheap Vacations for Two Travelers: Best Budget Options by Region

Though it may seem too good to be true, vacations under $500 for two travelers do exist — if you head to nearby shores and keep travel and accommodations costs low.

7 All-Inclusive Resorts in the Dominican Republic That You Can Actually Afford

Don't let a slim wallet deter you from setting out for one of the Caribbean's most dynamic destinations. These all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic can accommodate tight budgets.

VIDEO: A Day in the DR for Under $100? Here's How We Did It

In the Dominican Republic — especially in lesser-known beach towns like Boca Chica and Juan Dolio — your hard-earned dollar stretches surprisingly far.

Every Room at This Ixtapa Resort Has Its Own Bay-View Terrace — Stay for Just $80/Night

Each guest room at Las Brisas offers its own oversized private terrace with hammocks and sun loungers, perfect for hours of uninterrupted ocean-view bliss.