Looking for a Getaway that won’t break the bank?
Here we offer these 5 family-friendly California vacation ideas.

The gorgeous scenery is well worth the trip. And, this is one of those spots where it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Highway 1 will be your route of choice in making your way to Big Sur – with lots of stops you can plan along with way.

Once in Big Sur, your lodging choices can cost a pretty penny if you choose the Post Ranch Inn or a luxurious cabin. Opt for a stay in a tent at one of Big Sur’s beautiful campgrounds. Camping among the redwood trees are available on a first come, first served basis for $25 or less.

Not into camping? Check out Ripplewood Resort located right on the river – it’s rustic lodging on the cheap.

Things to do on a budget:

  • You’ll want to cook your own meals at your campsite or cabin to not break the bank.
  • But, you can enjoy a beer at the Big Sur River Inn, where you’ll actually sit on a chair in the river.
  • The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into the nearby 3,000-foot ridges and includes the famous Overlook Trail. A day of hiking will cost you nothing more than tired feet and an iPhone full of the most spectacular sights. Just be sure you’ve packed well for your day’s hike.

The perfect budget friendly beach vacation is YMCA’s Camp Surf at Imperial Beach, California. Your tent is pitched right next to the ocean, where waves lulling you to sleep each night. Known for its spectacular surfing, this camp outing comes with lessons, lifeguards and leisure.

For as low as $60 for a child and $120 for an adult (toddlers are free!), this vacation includes everything! Family style breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily. And there are boogie boards, surf boards and instructors available at set times throughout the day.

Close enough to the village to for a quick walk to shopping and eateries – but who’d want to leave this beach respite?

If camping isn’t your thing, there are cabins available but require a minimum of 12 people. Group outing, anyone?!


There are so many festivals around California throughout the year. Patterson boasts the famous Apricot Fiesta, or you could join in at Big Hat Day in Old Towne Clovis. Why not plan your family vacation around one of
California’s Fairs & Festivals ? It’s a wonderful way to capture the uniqueness of each city. History comes to life at
Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale. Jousting, the Queen’s Court, shows, juggling, demonstrations and mistrals (singers, for the uninitiated) are part of the package for modest general admission.

As for lodging, dip your toes into the pool of home swapping. Sure, it’s kind of weird to have a stranger in your house (or you in theirs!), but the savings may quickly push that fear far from your mind.

USA Today offered some great information on home swapping which can help you decide. And, sites like Priceline and Orbitz always have deals. If the festival’s free, you’ll have that money on hand for your hotel.


Once the original home of the keeper, this 1872 lighthouse at Pigeon Point is now a hostel. Perched on a cliff 50 miles south of San Francisco, the 115-foot lighthouse is split into four different houses, each with a living room and kitchen.

You’re not coming here for a trendy restaurant, or spectacular shopping. Your visit to Pigeon Point Lighthouse is all about the ocean. The south-facing Whalers Cove beach is sheltered and perfect for whale watching. A hot tub at the cliff’s edge can be rented by the hour offering the perfect sunset view of the harbor seals on the rocks. There are picnic tables, a barbecue and plenty of board games. Make sure to pack your picnic basket! About five miles away you’ll find a few restaurants and diners, but none offering 24-hour service. This vacation is all about nature and family bonding time – and one of the most unique sleeping accommodations you’ll ever find.


After the “snowbirds” have flown the coop, the Palm Springs area settles down – and so do the prices. Gone are the tourists, crowds and pricey hotel rooms, now replaced by summer traveler discounts. While in the Coachella Valley, there’s plenty to do. From hiking to golfing, shopping to eating, there are bargains aplenty from June through August. Sure, it’s hot – but that fabulous hotel pool will keep you cool. If you plan your trip to the Desert to include Thursday night, VillageFest in Palm Springs is a must. Closing Palm Canyon Drive to traffic, the street is transformed into an event featuring craftsmen, farmer’s market, entertainment and food booths.

On Saturdays and Sundays, the College of the Desert Alumni Association presents Street Fair. Though not dissimilar to Palm Springs Village Fest, the Street Fair takes on a more grandiose status with more vendors, more food and (importantly!) more parking. Both events are worth the visit. You can enjoy self-tours of the modernism architecture as well as celebrity house tours including the likes of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. A visit to Palm Springs is not complete without a hike to the Indian Canyons. The Murray Canyon takes you along a brook, culminating in a short waterfall, while the Palm Oasis hike takes you down to one of the area’s largest palm oases. During summer months, you’ll save on everything from hotels to restaurants to golf. It’s a savers mecca in the sun.


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