Don't overlook these exciting, affordable family vacations.
Best for a Long Weekend
Camp Marston YMCA Julian, California (760-765-0642; camp.ymca.org)
Family Fun: Just one hour from San Diego and with 230 acres of forest, this camp feels like it's an eternity away from big-city hustle and bustle. There are six themed two- to four-night weekend camps throughout the year. For Mother's Day, for example, kids make a special gift that they present to their moms at a lavish brunch. Thanksgiving is another popular weekend: It includes a full traditional turkey feast and classic camp activities, such as archery contests, boating, hiking, stargazing, and campfire sing-alongs.
Cabin Fever: The camp has eight new lodges, and each one has four private rooms that sleep six people. The lodges are heated and carpeted and have a common living room with a fireplace and shared bathrooms. You can book rooms or an entire lodge.
Cost: Weekend camps (two nights, four meals): $82 for ages 8 and up; $42 for kids ages 4 to 7; and free for ages 3 and under. Rates include all meals and activities, with the exception of horseback riding, which is only offered over Labor Day weekend.
Best for a Wild West Adventure
Cheley Colorado Camps
Estes Park, Colorado(303-377-3616; www.cheley.com)
Family Fun: Your family can live like pioneers at this unique camp on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Instead of staying in cabins or lodges, families sleep in real covered wagons! Younger kids learn to ride in the ring, while those 9 or older can take two horseback rides a day into the national park. Hiking is another popular activity: The video hike attracts kids who want to make a movie about their nature adventure, while parents usually gravitate to the gourmet-lunch hike. The camp also has a technical climbing program on real rock faces, archery, and evening campfires.
Cabin Fever: Each family gets its own covered wagon, which contains four twin beds with drawers underneath for storage. A shared bathhouse is nearby, and meals are served in the dining room.
Cost: Five-day camps are $600 for ages 9 and up; $300 for ages 4 to 8 (kids must be at least 4 years old to attend). Rates include all meals and activities as well as a children's program for ages 4 to 8.
Best for Water Lovers
Camp du NordEly, Minnesota(612-465-0450; www.dunord.org)
Family Fun: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a legendary million-acre expanse of watery wilderness in northern Minnesota. Dotted with lakes and veined with rivers and streams, it offers some of the best canoeing in the world, and Camp du Nord sits right at its edge. Weeklong family camps run all summer long, and guests get unlimited use of canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and sailboats. Families who've never canoed or kayaked can ask the trail master to help them plan the safest trip. A staff member will even accompany a family on an overnight canoe outing.
Cabin Fever: Whether your family wants to "rough it" or prefers more modern conveniences, this camp offers a variety of accommodations to fit your needs. Choose a tent cabin (with a double bed, two sets of bunks, a fire ring, and picnic table) or a fully equipped cabin (with a complete kitchen, multiple bedrooms, and private baths).
Cost: Weekly rates depend on accommodations and range from $375 for a tent cabin to $2,568 for a large, 16-person modern cabin. Rates include lodging, activities, and the children's program for ages 6 weeks through teens. Meals aren't included, but you can cook your own or buy them at the dining hall in the summer.
Best for Active Families
Arapahoe, North Carolina (252-249-1212; www.seagull-seafarer.org)
Family Fun: Get ready for nonstop fun: There's a four-mile-wide river for sailboats and motorboats; a large fresh-water lake for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing; and a lake with a sandy beach, a water slide, and separate areas for wading, swimming, and diving. Away from the water, your family can try tennis, archery, arts and crafts, and a climbing wall. If you go for the weeklong camp, you can also water-ski or take advantage of the kids' program, which gives parents time to play golf on the nine-hole course or just relax.
Cabin Fever: Your family will sleep in bunk beds in your very own screened cabin. The best part: private bathrooms.
Cost: Weekend camps (two nights, six meals): adults, $150; ages 6 to 12, $110; ages 5 and under, $60. Weeklong camps (Sunday to Friday afternoon): adults, $475; kids ages 6 to 12, $375; ages 5 and under, $295. Rates include all activities, food, and lodging.
Best for Extended Families
Sandy Island Family CampLake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire(603-253-4217; www.ymca.net)
Family Fun: This 65-year-old family camp on its own private island knows how to please its customers. Perfect for large families, it offers activities for every age group. Preschoolers love the teddy-bear picnic, where they hike and dine with a favorite stuffed animal. For school-age kids, there's a water carnival, while teens can hang out at the "beach party" excursion, which features music and dive platforms in the lake. Adults who want to learn more about sailing and tennis can sign up for lessons. In addition, there's waterskiing, tubing, horseback riding, boat excursions, kids' programs, babysitting, and all kinds of fun-filled tournaments.
Cabin Fever: Lakefront cabins sleep from two to ten people. All have electricity, and most share bathhouses. A few cabins have private bathrooms and are reserved for the elderly or families with very young children.
Cost: Weeklong camps are $550 for adults; $420 for kids ages 9 to 12; $350 for ages 6 to 8; $255 for ages 3 to 5; and free for ages 2 and under. Rates include lodging and all meals and activities.
Best for a Relaxing Getaway
Frost Valley YMCA Family Camp
Claryville, New York (845-985-2291; www.frostvalley.org)
Family Fun: Every season has its own brand of fun at this 6,000-acre camp in the Catskills, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New York City. In the spring, hike to the camp's sugar-maple forest to see how the trees are tapped, then stop by the Sugar Shack to learn how maple syrup is made. Fall family camp includes making apple cider from the camp's own orchard, hayrides, and leaf-identification hikes. In winter, families can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes to explore the endless trails.
Cabin Fever: The camp has accommodations to fill every family's needs. Choose from platform tents, small dorms, bunk-style family cabins, lodges, and hotel-type rooms.
Cost: Prices vary depending on lodging. For two-night, five-meal packages: $79 to $210 for adults; $55 to $147 for kids ages 3 to 17; and free for ages 3 and under. Rates include accommodations, meals, and activities.
- YMCA Camping Services
- Cheley Colorado Camps
- Camp du Nord
- Camp Sea Gull/Camp Seafarer
- Frost Valley YMCA