Type any iteration of ‘cheap vacation’ into the web and you will undoubtedly get a gazillion results — many with Thailand near the top of the list. While Thailand is worth your vacation time and dollars, there are plenty of exotic family vacation destinations you can reach without as long of a flight and fuss. Here are nine exotic family vacations you can actually afford.
1. Amelia Island
You don’t have to leave the U.S. for an exotic family vacation. Plan a visit to Amelia Island, Florida, where you’ll find luxurious, yet affordable family resorts; world-class golf courses; top flight culinary experiences; a bevy of water sports; the French ball game of Petanque (which calls Amelia Island its adopted American home), and seemingly more relaxed exotic luxury per square inch than just about anywhere in Florida. A fun and cheap thing to do while you’re in town: enjoy a picnic lunch at Fort Clinch.
Recommended Resort: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
2. Santa Barbara
The most exotic small town in California offers amazing restaurants that bump elbows with exotic authentic street eats, just as the dramatic mountain to the east of the city bumps up against the sea to the west. Santa Barbara also offers easy access to private yacht charters, as well as the hiking and sea kayaking available on and around the Channel Islands. While there are several big-ticket resorts in Santa Barbara, there are also luxurious accommodations that won’t (completely) break the bank.
Recommended Resort: The Fess Parker – A DoubleTree by Hilton Resort
3. County Clare, Ireland
Cheap flights on Norwegian Air from New York (like, REALLY cheap) to either Dublin (two hours to the east) or Shannon (smack dab in County Clare near Limerick), plus your choice of inexpensive rental homes in the country is the ideal recipe for an affordable lush green exotic Irish getaway that is quite literally away from it all. Pack a stack of books, your favorite cable knit sweaters, the comfiest slippers you own, and head to the Emerald Isle for an exotic, restful family vacation off the tourist grid.
Recommended Resort: Hotel Woodstock
4. Roatan, Honduras
For the serious divers and avid fun-time snorkelers in your family who crave something exotic and inexpensive, Roatan, off the mainland coast of Honduras, is a slice of affordable heaven. You’ll find beachfront family rooms for less than $100 per night, and dive packages for just about $100 per person per night).
Recommended Resort: Bananarama Beach and Dive Resort
5. Greek Islands
Exotic value may not be found on Santorini, the showpiece Greek Isle you’ve seen on ALL the postcards. But Crete or Rhodes or Kefalonia each offer exotic family vacation affordability. For example, did you know you can find rental homes and hotels for under $50 per night?! And there’s no charge to see many of the sites — including the royal blue roofs and pastel-hued homes you’ve seen in photographs. The food is affordable too — fill up on hummus, gyros, grilled halloumi, and more!
Recommended Resort: IBEROSTAR Creta Panorama & Mare
Whether you decide to climb up Machu Pichu or simply spend your days exploring the Sacred Valley, there’s a ton of affordable luxury on offer in Peru, from Lima on the Pacific coast to the Peruvian Amazon in the east of the country. Soak in the Inca culture while gobbling up delicious Peruvian cuisine and touring the many stunning archaeological sites dotting this beautifully exotic South American country.
Recommended Resort: Hotel Rumi Punku
The epitome of Central American friendliness and affordable exoticism, Belize offers not only inexpensive family vacations for beach-bum and sun-seekers alike, but also the chance to feed howler monkeys in the rainforest, tour Mayan ruins in the dense jungle, and experience gritty, authentic urban life in the capital. A tremendous barrier reef and a bevy of rich marine life make Belize a prime destination for water bugs and serious SCUBA enthusiasts. But there are some luxurious, affordable resorts far from the Caribbean Sea that are worth visiting to get away from it all. Plus, you’ll eat like a king, queen, prince and princess for pennies on the dollar compared to similar heaping plates of delicious food back home.
Recommended Resort: Mariposa Jungle Lodge
Forget what you’ve seen on “Narcos.” Colombia has come a long, long way since the 80’s. With safe urban areas, including the capital Bogata, and vibrant beach resort towns like Santa Marta, nearly the entire country of Colombia is bright, colorful, delicious, welcoming and affordable to reach thanks to direct flights. You’ll find flights for less than $500 round-trip from many parts of the U.S. Once in Columbia, there are plenty of inexpensive places to stay, eat, drink and explore. Go to Colombia before it becomes the next “it” destination all your friends are posting on Instagram.
Recommended Resort: Irotama Resort
9. Loreto, Mexico
This charming, authentic Mexican beach town on the Gulf of California is easily reachable from LAX on Alaska Air and is affordable, too. You’ll find some great family-friendly hotels and resorts priced between $40 and $60 per night. Loreto features a gorgeous beach promenade along the crystal-blue waters of the Parque Nacional Bah?a de Loreto on one side, and on the other, the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range with trails leading to prehistoric cave paintings. Once here, you are only a short ride to the Pacific Ocean, where you can practically kiss gray whales on a Pachico’s Eco Tour!
Recommended Resort: Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa
Jeff Bogle lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife, two daughters, and three cats. He is an award-winning photographer and respected travel journalist with bylines on Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, PBS, Esquire and more. Jeff (probably) spends too much time in England watching football and far too many hours plotting his family’s future travel adventures. Find Jeff on his own site, Out With the Kids.