Splurge vs. Save: 5 Affordable Alternatives for Lavish Vacation Destinations

Nora Zelevansky

Best Family Trips

Kauai offers numerous hiking trails for families to explore the island.

Kauai offers numerous hiking trails of all levels for families to explore.

The splurge destination: Kauai, Hawaii
When to go: Mid-April to mid-June or September to mid-December, when the weather is good but it’s less crowded.
Sample economy airfare: $950 from Seattle to Lihue
The allure: Seshadri’s splurge pick is dubbed “The Garden Island” because the landscape is lush and green, with rolling hills of taro fields, seaside cliffs, tropical rainforest and waterfalls.

But what really makes it great for families is the abundance of group activities, including kayaking, hiking, golf, exploring small towns (like art-focused Hanapepe) and feasting at luaus. Kids may especially enjoy riding the Kauai Plantation Railway at the Kilohana Estate or climbing the wooden playground at Lydgate State Park.

The beaches—like famed spot Hanalei Bay—are considered some of the most idyllic in the world. And resorts like the 9,000-acre St. Regis Princeville offer upscale service without stuffiness. An ocean-view suite can start from $900 per night, but you can save by booking a family vacation package starting at $650 per person, per night.

Zoo Miami lets families get up close and personal with the animals.

Zoo Miami lets families get up close and personal with animals.

The budget-friendly alternative: Miami
When to go: March to May, when the barometer stays within the 70- to 80-degree range, right before hurricane season hits.
Sample economy airfare: $385 from New York City to Miami
The allure: Miami may be known for its spicy nightlife (something parents with a babysitter may appreciate!), but with tons of beaches, beach-worthy temperatures year-round and an abundance of resorts—like the family-friendly Loews Miami Beach Hotel ($285 per night)—South Florida is a perfect getaway for parents traveling with kids of all ages, says Seshadri.

Aside from the obvious activities (jumping in the pool, paddle surfing in the ocean or just lying under an umbrella with a good book), families have an array of fun outings to choose from, including the Everglades Animal Farm, Zoo Miami or the 30-acre Monkey Jungle reserve.

RELATED: 6 Affordable Family Vacations: Summer Trips With Kids Edition

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  • GillianisGreat

    Wouldn’t it make more sense if the *alternative* used airfare from the same origin as the splurge choice? Otherwise it’s impossible to compare in a meaningful way.

  • Melissa Kennedy

    Describing travel to Chicago as “a little gusty?” If that’s a reference to our major gang/gun problem, you’re not painting the right picture of the city to travelers. Other big cities listed – Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mexico, Costa Rica and Miami – are not immune to crime and danger. Thieves targeting travelers is not any higher in Chicago than in any other popular city. Your readers understand that all travel destinations have some degree of risk so they have to be smart. When you’re a visitor in Chicago – my home – you’re not going to be close to the areas that have become known for their gang and gun violence. People aren’t randomly attacking tourists so no one should feel frightened or gusty to visit the Windy City. Also, you bring up a lot of points that make us a great alternative travel spot. I’d tell anyone who wanted an urban vacation in the US that there are plenty of thing to do, see, eat and places to stay in Chicago that are more budget-conscious than say, New York City or San Fransisco. Just don’t come in the winter and it’s pretty much perfect.

    • Christina Pangburn

      Please look up “guSTy” in the dictionary and that ought to clear up your issue.

      • Hizvondrolon Maltusador

        Christina, your snarky comment aside, Melissa is correct that there is an insinuation that seems out of place.

        • Jill

          What implication? Melissa is talking about a problem with crime, which isn’t even implied in the article. The only even remotely negative item in the article is the aside about the windiness, which is simply a statement of fact. I don’t understand why you and Melissa are both perceiving any negatively in the article.

        • 2cents

          How is she being snarky? And how are they insinuating anything?

    • mere

      It is the windy city, right?

    • Archer

      “gusty” as a play on the “Windy City” – not guTsy which would be your misunderstanding. Learn to read.

    • 2cents

      No one said anything about crime and your rant makes no sense. Are you trying to keep people away from Chicago?

  • Lindsey

    Chicago is called the Windy City because of the politicians, not because of the weather.

  • Paula Lewis

    Apparently we are using different definitions of affordable here. This list does not relate at all to the reality of my life. When Tulum is the most affordable destination on the list, then something ain’t right.

  • Megan

    How is Iceland comparable to Mexico, or Barcelona to Spain? This makes NO sense.

  • Lisa

    So instead of spending $1,200 to fly to Barcelona from NY, I should spend $1,100 to fly from LA to Bangkok?!
    1. How is that a ‘budget-friendly’ alternative?
    2. Interesting that the writer doesn’t mention the costs to fly from LA to Barcelona, or from NY to Bangkok.
    Clearly, ‘affordable’ and ‘budget-friendly’ are relative terms here. Disappointing.