June 9, 2017 • 8 min read by Mia Taylor
Giving dad a vacation for Father’s Day may sound extravagant and costly, but a variety of budget-friendly offerings would be a far more memorable gift than another tie, golf set or steak dinner.
“The most obvious — but most essential — piece of advice is, of course, to pick something that hews closely to his interests,” said Kelsey Blodget, executive editor for Oyster.com, a hotel review website. If dad’s a foodie, consider taking him for a day trip or overnight stay at a city known for great restaurants. “Even if you spend a lot on an amazing meal, it will still be cheaper than a long vacation,” she said.
Smart budgeting and tools like travel rewards cards, which offer kickbacks like free checked bags and hotel upgrades for everyday spending, can also help curb your expenses. However, many gift givers find it hard to think outside the box.
“In general, travel is not gifted often for any occasion, because it ends up being so high dollar, as compared to other options,” said Clem Bason, CEO of goseek.com, a hotel booking site, adding it’s usually done on special occasions like weddings. However, he sees people increasingly choosing experiences over material goods, which is probably what dad would prefer anyway.
To help you break free from the boring-gift rut, here are nine travel ideas to get some priceless bonding time with your dad.
1. The Bourbon Lover
If dad is a fan of top-notch bourbon, you may want to put the Kentucky Bourbon Trail on your radar. The trail showcases Kentucky’s world-famous distilleries, including Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve, taking participants through big cities, quaint country towns and and bourbon-themed hotels.
To fully experience the trail takes between two to three days, and spending a full weekend allows time for exploring some of the Bluegrass region’s other famous attractions, including the more than 400 horse farms and hundreds of locally owned restaurants serving Kentucky cuisine.
Accommodations are light on the wallet. For example, rooms at The Campbell House, in Lexington, start at around $140 per night.
2. The Speed Racer
Not only is Indianapolis the racing capital of the world, it’s considered an affordable destination. You and dad could spend Father’s Day weekend touring the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Among the exhibits is the first car to win the Indy 500. There are also track tours on days when the track’s not in use.
Keep the race car theme going at nearby Dallara IndyCar Factory, the U.S. headquarters for Italy’s Dallara Automobili. Exhibits showcase the technology, science and engineering involved in making an Indy car with interactive and hands-on displays. Visitors can sit in a car and experience a simulated drive. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children ages 5 through 12.
In terms of lodging, you won’t pay much. Rooms at Marriot’s Courtyard Indianapolis South, for example, start at $199 per night. (Carry a Marriot Rewards Premier credit card? Here are five more hotels to consider.)
3. The Space Enthusiast
Along Florida’s eastern shores, there’s a region known as the Space Coast. Attractions include the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex and its Shuttle Launch Experience, the American Space Museum & Space Walk of Fame and Exploration Tower.
The priciest of the stops is the Kennedy Space Center. Tickets are $50 for adults and $40 for children. The American Space Museum & Space Walk of Fame, which displays items donated by astronauts, space workers, NASA and company contractors, is $10 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Admission for children ages 13 through 18 is $5.
Exploration Tower, meanwhile, is a seven-story structure with an indoor observation area facing Kennedy Space Center and an exhibit on air and space. Admission is $6.50 for adults and $3.75 for children.
Lodging along the Space Coast is reasonable. Rooms at budget chains like Days Inn Cocoa Beach Port Canaveral start at $100.
4. The History Buff
Philadelphia is a city synonymous with history, home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. What’s more, the Museum of the American Revolution just opened, making it a great time to visit.
Tickets for the new museum, which offers a look at the nation’s founding era, including Revolutionary War memorabilia, letters, diaries and works of art, are $19 for adults and $12 for children ages 6 through 18.
While in town, you could also take advantage of Art Museum Area Restaurant Week, which runs June 11 through June 16 and June 18 through June 23.
For reasonable lodgings, try name-brand hotels like Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City. Rooms can be found for $160 per night. (Be sure to check out these Hilton credit cards before you book.)
5. The Rock Star
Visiting Austin over Father’s Day offers live music and a memorable movie extravaganza. The Texas capital is home to the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, said Bason, of goseek.com. If checking out a movie at a drive-in isn’t cool enough, for all of Father’s Day weekend, the theater will screen the “Indiana Jones” series, ending with “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” which centers on Indiana and his father, of course. Tickets for the drive-in start at $8 per person.
For live music, top choices include The White Horse, a honky tonk featuring new country talent; Sahara Lounge, known for its eclectic mix of everything from blues to Brazilian music; and Elephant Room, a rare jazz venue in the city. Many of the spaces have free nights, but some charge a small cover.
For lodging, rates at boutique hotels like Casulo Hotel start at about $129 per night.
6. The Beach Bum
Quality time at the beach with Dad is always fun. In Miami, you can take the experience up a notch or two. Not only is the city cheaper come summer, you can also treat dad to a ride on one of the trendiest forms of transportation — a hoverboard. Two-hour rentals from South Beach Hoverboard Rentals start at $49. The hoverboards can be delivered to any local Miami hotel, residence or public park.
You can also check out speedboat adventure tours for that “Miami Vice” vibe. Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures offers tours starting at $38 for adults 12 and up and $24 for children under 11.
Affordable accommodations can be found at options like Lexington Hotel Miami Beach where rooms start at $100.
7. The Outdoorsman
Whitewater rafting in Maine is another chance to share bonding time without spending a fortune. The Kennebec River, famed for Benedict Arnold’s fateful trip to capture Quebec, offers an opportunity to paddle through a variety of serious whitewater rapids.
The Double Gorge Trip, with Magic Falls Rafting Company, in West Forks, Maine, is $129 per person on weekends and $99 weekdays.
If you’re too exhausted to drive home after the rafting workout, inexpensive lodging can be found at hotels like The Dead River Lodge, where king rooms are $79 per night.
8. The Sailor
If you’ve always wanted to go sailing with dad, a variety of windjammer cruises are available through the Maine Windjammer Association website. A few are offering special Father’s Day deals.
The Heritage, a 95-foot schooner, is promoting discounted rates on its June 15 through June 18 expedition, charging $492 for dads who are sailing with children on the three-day getaway. The Victory Chimes will sail from June 16 through June 19 and is offering dads a discounted ticket of $340 when accompanied by a child. The cruises leave from Rockland, Maine, and include meals. There will be time to help sail the boat or sit back and enjoy the scenery.
9. The Golf Pro
No self-respecting Father’s Day story can overlook golf, so here’s one last option to consider: You and Dad practicing your backswing by the picturesque Finger Lakes.
Located on top of a mountain and adjacent to Canandaigua Lake, in Canandaigua, New York, the Bristol Harbour Lodge & Golf Resort provides a great backdrop for some quality golfing time. The resort’s Golf & Stay Package includes two nights of accommodations, one round of golf, a complimentary golf cart and range balls for $265 per person. As an added incentive to visit, the Finger Lakes region is one of the country’s most up-and-coming wine destinations.
How to Save on Your Father’s Day Trip
Before you hit the road with Dad, make sure you have a plan for your spending. Travel rewards cards are one way to save, as are hotel rewards cards, which offer perks such as free hotel nights and late check-in and check-out. Just remember to swipe wisely so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest or debt. The last thing you want to come home to is a huge credit card bill. Not sure where your credit stands? Find out before you apply. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.