Vacations are supposed to be relaxing. An escape from everyday life. But for most people, especially families, planning a vacation and traveling can be more stress than relaxation. For families planning a trip, not only do parents need to work out every step of getting there, but they need to plan activities that will keep their kids engaged (and hopefully it’s something more meaningful than watching cartoons in the hotel room), and on top of all of that they need to stay within their budget.

Planning a stress-free vacation starts with finding the perfect place. There are plenty of family friendly travel destinations, some exotic and far away and some can be fairly close to home. Wherever travelers end up, they’ll want to have their days planned so that they don’t miss out on any of the local attractions.

Where to Go: The Best Places for a Family Vacation

Traveling with a family can be tricky. The traveling needs to be safe, the destination engaging (and hopefully still interesting for the parents), and everything able to accommodate kids. For parents that don’t want to empty their wallets at Disneyland, here are five great travel destinations that have plenty to offer to both parents and kids.

  • Washington D.C.: Have kids interested in dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, animals, or space travel? Take them to the Smithsonian museums and many other free museums around the nation’s capitol. There is plenty to see and learn, from government buildings to the zoo.
  • Australia: From the wildlife to the expansive beaches, Australia has a lot to offer kids and parents. Take a tour, enjoy the food, and get to know the people of Melbourne, Sydney, or many of the other metropolitan areas.
  • London: Any kid (young or old) who has read Harry Potter will love to travel to the center of it all. Check out attractions the city has to offer like the London Dungeons, the Tower of London, or the London Eye. There is history and culture everywhere you look, and plenty to do and see.
  • San Francisco: See the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, watch street performers, eat the famous sourdough bread, take a stroll through Golden Gate park, visit the albino alligator at the Academy of Sciences, and finish the day with a beautiful sunset over the bay. There is a lot packed into little San Francisco, with plenty to keep kids interested and tired by the end of the day.
  • San Diego: Lovely San Diego has just about everything a family could ask for. Beaches, shopping, and a great zoo and aquarium. With beautiful weather, San Diego is a great destination to explore all year round.

What to Do on Your Vacation and How to Save Money

Families don’t want to go too over their budget with trips to expensive tourist attractions, but they also don’t want their trip to be a waste. A memorable trip doesn’t have to include expensive activities; it’s likely that there are national parks, markets, and free family friendly events to fill their days. Going on tours is a great way to get out and see the best that the destination has to offer, kids and parents alike can learn something new, and it will all be relatively affordable.

With any vacation, the best way to save money is to plan ahead, and for most family trips it’s nearly impossible to plan a trip at the last minute. Travelers who plan far in advance can save money on their flight, hotel, and have time to research the best sights to see and activities to check out.

Written by Drew Hendricks