Parents deserve some time off too—and it doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some affordable options for a weekend trip that is fun, relaxing, and definitely on-budget.

By Hiranmayi Srinivasan
May 27, 2021
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Family vacations are great, but once in a while, parents need some R&R too—alone. With juggling work and Zoom school for the past year, parents are definitely in need of a break. A 2020 survey by the American Enterprise Institute found that more than half of the parents surveyed reported that they were anxious or exhausted because of COVID. While you might have a family-friendly vacation planned this summer, you deserve some time to yourself to rest and rejuvenate, even if it's just for a weekend.

"Most of the travel demand we're seeing nationwide is in popular beach and lake towns," says Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of Hotelplanner. "Also mountain towns for those who like hiking and camping, or 'glamping.'"

Here are some of the top cities that will make for a parental weekend getaway that's refreshing, fun, and budget-friendly. (Of course, if you have to bring the kids along, there are also hotels with kid-friendly activities, so you can enjoy some downtime while the kids are occupied.)

An image of a couple putting luggage in their car.
Credit: Getty Images.

Sedona, AZ

Monet Hambrick, founder of family travel blog The Traveling Child, recommends this desert town as a beautiful, affordable weekend trip with great food and spas. Sedona is a very outdoorsy destination, and you can reduce the costs a lot by hiking the parks for free. "A lot of these hikes can lead you to the infamous vortexes where you can center yourself as a couple," says Hambrick. While there a ton of campsites and hotels, you could rent an airstream for an affordable, private, and cozy option.

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans is full of food, music, and culture, and offers many affordable options to its visitors, making it a great place to go for a weekend away from the daily grind. "You can easily navigate the city without a car, saving you money. Plus there are always affordable flights to this city," says Hambrick. Enjoy jazz music at Preservation Hall, or the live music playing in the streets. Hambrick recommends Jackson Square for a romantic photoshoot, taking a trolley ride down St. Charles Ave, or a sunset swan pedal boat ride in City Park. For accommodations, check out one of the many budget-friendly bed and breakfasts the city has to offer.

Lehigh Valley, PA

Located an hour and a half outside of New York City, Lehigh Valley, PA is home to 30 wineries, and like its west-coast sister Napa, CA, is considered an American viticultural hotspot—an area that is federally designated for wine-grape-growing. Other than wineries and breweries, Lehigh Valley also has a great local music scene—especially in the summer. Catch local artists playing at the SteelStacks, built on the 10-acres of land that was once home to Bethlehem Steel, or attend Musikfest, a 10-day music festival that has been named one of the best in the country by USA Today. You can stay at the historic Hotel Bethlehem, which has rates starting at $179 in the summer, or Townley House, a new boutique hotel with rates starting at $150.

Carmel, CA

Take a weekend trip to the gorgeous little coastal town of Carmel in Northern California. Kristy Esparza, founder of family travel blog JJ & The Bug, says that when her and husband plan a weekend trip alone, they're ok with anything as long as it's within budget—and allows them to finally sleep in. "We found a relatively affordable hotel right on Ocean Avenue, appropriately called The Getaway," says Esparza. The hotel is pet-friendly and includes a complimentary breakfast basket each morning for guests with fresh pastries and coffee. The hotel also has an outdoor area with fire pits and offers complimentary bikes for guests to explore downtown Carmel. "On our first day, we simply explored the shops, and did a little wine tasting. The second day we headed over to Monterey and hopped on a whale-watching cruise," says Esparza. Monterey is a short drive over from Carmel, so you can explore another famous coastal Northern California town while you're at it.

Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., and has a rich cultural and historical heritage. For an affordable and authentic experience, you can stay at the historic and newly renovated El Vado Motel, which was one of New Mexico's first motels for welcoming Route 66 travelers. Be sure to check out local eateries like Monica's El Portal for New Mexican cuisine. Drive along Route 66, and don't forget to explore Albuquerque's wide variety of public art.

Estes Park, CO

Situated at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado is a great option for an affordable, outdoorsy trip to a mountain town that is less crowded but still has beautiful views, tundra wildflowers, and adventure. You can stay at the Estes Park Resort, which offers scenic views of the Rockies. Go hiking or horseback riding along mountain trails, and the more adventurous folks can choose whitewater rafting at Rapid Transit Rafting.

Panama City, FL

Panama City, FL is less than five hours away by car from major Southern cities (Atlanta, Jacksonville, Birmingham, and New Orleans), and has its own airport (Northwest Florida International Airport) that offers direct flights throughout the year from other parts of the country. This budget-friendly city located on St. Andrew Bay has a ton of affordable options for stays, plus activities such as public art, strolling through historic neighborhoods, and of course sailing in St. Andrew Bay. Check out the Panama City Mural Trail, and the free Center for the Arts, which is open daily and has different exhibits every month. Then, hop over the bridge to Panama City Beach and enjoy its famous blue waters and white sands—and be sure to catch a beautiful Panama City sunset while you're there.