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Do you have cabin fever yet? It’s the time of year when all I can think about is taking a vacation over spring break or what we can do when school gets out for the summer. Yes, you can spend thousands of dollars taking your family somewhere for a week, but there are also a ton of options for affordable family vacations in the South that will not eat up half of your savings!
The most expensive part of any vacation is usually lodging/accommodations. You can cut this down tremendously by camping! There are great campgrounds in every state and you can find reviews by checking out Go Camping America. (If you need some help getting started camping, check out this guide to inexpensive family camping.)
12 Affordable Family Vacations in the South
Pigeon Forge/Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
The mountains of Tennessee are a great destination with slightly milder weather than the beach! You can check out our list of free national parks admission days. Whether you want to stay in the national park or nearby, there are a lot of inexpensive places to pick from.
Tip: The off season for them is just as gorgeous. It can mean saving 50% off lodging and possibly getting to play in the snow!
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
For another national park option, consider Mammoth Cave National Park. Older kids will especially love exploring the miles and miles of caves! There are a number of campgrounds near the area, plus you can enjoy other local attractions.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Whether or not you have someone in your family who loves horses, Chincoteague Island has tons of activities as well as opportunities in its national wildlife refuge that will keep your family occupied without spending a lot of money.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is a cheap beach destination outside of Savannah GA ,that comes with its own long list of free things to do. And honestly, when you’re at the beach, you don’t need that much to do, right? The ocean is free and offers fun for family members of any age! Fort Pulaski is also not far away for a fun historical outing.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
There are many specific beach locations along the Outer Banks, and many of them are not tourist-y at all. Our family spent a week in Oak Island last summer and enjoyed the free beach access and fairly quiet beaches! Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a fun option where you may even get the chance to see public excavations of sea turtle nests!
Edisto Beach, South Carolina
While not one of the most popular beaches in South Carolina, Edisto Beach is a gorgeous spot where you can enjoy the ocean on the cheap with lots of free things to do. There is also a state park there if you need a break from the water!
The savings of choosing Edisto other more popular SC beaches is easily 50% even in peak season!
Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island is known for its beautiful seashells and is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the water tends to be warmer and the waves tend to be calmer. You can find free things to do there and also visit the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge!
Gulf Shores, Alabama
You may not think of the beach when you think of Alabama, but Gulf Shores is a great destination for a family vacation. It’s also part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There aren’t a lot of options if you want to stay in Alabama for the beach, but cost wise this is very affordable area compared to nearby spots.
Not interested in a beach trip? Located not far from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Chattanooga is home to a national park as well as a huge list of free things to do! While it’s not free, we love the Aquarium there and have found they give discounts if you are a member of various other zoos.
Last year I shared how we went to Colonial Williamsburg on a budget. Even if you can’t do exactly what we did, most of the historic area is free to walk through any time of year. You can also visit Colonial National Historical Park.
You probably already know there are a lot of free options in our nation’s capital! Check our our list of the top 25 free things to do there. Almost every museum is free, plus you’ll find affordable rentals right outside the city center and a very affordable metro to get you there and back!
Tip: Don’t make any plans for late March through early May unless you want to be there with thousands of 4th through 8th graders. Trust me on this one.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States and is a beautiful, historic city great for walking around. There’s a state park nearby and you can also enjoy the ocean! You’ve also got a beach nearby, plus so many other things to do that you might not want to come home.
Know of any other affordable family vacations in the South? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
If you still need tips, check out our guide to planning a frugal vacation!