Frugal Family Getaways

train going through a scenic desertLet loose for a little family time. Here are a few budget-friendly options.

Ride the Trails

Take a trip on a cross-country choo choo. Amtrak glides from Seattle to Savannah, Los Angeles to Lakeland and tons of points in between, allowing for several stops along the way. Three USA Rail Passes whiz tourists around the country (15 days for $389, 30 days for $579 and 45 days for $749). Children younger than 2 ride free, and it’s half price for ages 2 to 15. Worried they might get restless? For a fee, you can upgrade your coach-class seat to a sleeping car on some trains, giving kids room to stretch out.

Spook It Up

Kids love a good ghost story, which is why haunted tours are a fun teaching tool to engage them in American history. Check out Haunted America Tours for spooky ideas from coast to coast, including Salem, Gettysburg and the Chickamauga National Battlefield, scene of the last major Civil War Confederate victory. You can even take a lantern-lit trip through the National Building Museum in Washington, led by costumed Civil War veterans.

Tend Some Trails

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a forest ranger? With Wilderness Volunteers, you can sign up to maintain trails and campgrounds at one of America’s many national parks, including gems like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Hawaii Volcanoes. This is a great idea for travel with teenagers (minimum age is 18) and a fun way to illustrate the importance of protecting these priceless national treasures. And speaking of price, because this is a working vacation, it’s remarkably affordable, just $259 per person for a week. Meals are included. All you need is your camping gear.

Saddle Up for Cowboy Travel!

Pick up some ten-gallon hats for your little pardners. Visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma, which features a vintage cattle town called Prosperity Junction. Take kids on trail rides and camp under the stars. Or drive along California Highway 49 to follow The Gold Rush Trail, the site of many historical and picturesque towns. In Columbia, you’ll find docents in period costumes, and kids can pan for gold and ride in a stagecoach. Round up your vacation with tickets to the rodeo. For more great western-themed vacation ideas, check out American Cowboy.

By Amanda Castleman and Karen Eull

Keep reading: Travel on a Budget, Create an Adventure

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