Cheap Family Vacations
in the Portland Maine Area

You might think cheap family vacations can't be had around Portland, Maine's largest city, but that's just not true. Sure you might have to venture out a bit from the city to find reasonably priced accomodations for families, but that won't make for a bad vacation. In fact, you'll discover some other wonderful areas outside the city that offer up some great activities away from the crowds.

Let's take a look at places to stay, things to do and how to eat cheaply in the Greater Portland area...

Best Affordable Hotels for Families

The Pride Motel and Cottages in Scarborough Maine is conveniently located right near Portland Maine and Old Orchard Beach and is within easy driving distance of many other great destinations. Offering a motel (several rooms have kitchenettes) and cottages that sleep as much as 8 people, you'll love having a family vacation while staying here.

The children will love the grounds to run around on and the pool, playset and rec room. It may not be fancy, but it is clean and comfortable and makes for a great family vacation choice in the Greater Portland area. Rates range from $110 - $220 ($220 for a cottage that sleeps 8!) per night in the summer. If you have a large family like I do, you know how difficult it can be to find a hotel that will accomodate you without having to get separate rooms, which is always costly. The Pride Motel and Cottages are a great choice.

Another reasonably priced option for families is the Maine Idyll Motor Court in Freeport Maine. With summer rates that range from $77 to $113 (sleep 6 for the $113!), this oldie-but-goodie is easy on the wallet. Yes, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time, but the motel is clean and the cottages are quaint and cozy.

There's no pool here for the kids but there is a play set, picnic tables, grills and some trails for exploring. The motel is nestled amoungst tall pine trees and it'll almost feel like camping! Pets are welcomed at $4 per night and the lovely owners bake up fresh muffins and scones for the morning along with coffee. They don't take credit cards here, so bring cash or a check.

Places like these make cheap family vacations possible!

Cheap Family Vacations in Greater Portland - Things to Do

One of the best, cheap things to do with the family in the greater Portland Maine area is to visit the lighthouses. Located in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, visiting is a fun family adventure.

Visiting the Portland Head Lighthouse at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth is a real treat. Set in a spectacular setting, you could spend the whole day there and not get bored. Visit the lighthouse and museum (small fee for museum), play in the park, have a picnic, fly a kite, explore the fort and relax in the sun during warm weather. There's also the Spring Point Lighthouse in South Portland that's fun for kids because you have to walk out on a rocky breakwater to get to it. Watch little ones with the cracks between the rocks, but it is generally very safe for those over 5 years old.

Looking to go to the beach? Higgins Beach and Crescent Beach are right next to each other in Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. Old Orchard Beach is also only a 20-30 minute drive and lots of fun for the whole family with it's carnival atmosphere.

Other free and cheap things to do in the greater Portland area:

Who says cheap family vacations have to be boring? Check out these fun things to do!

  • Visit the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine. Open spring, summer and fall, your kids will love seeing Maine's wildlife in a natural setting. $7 for adults, $5 for kids, it makes for a relatively inexpensive, fun day.

  • Get a great view of the city, harbor and Casco Bay in Portland's Observatory, a historic maritime signal tower. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for kids. Children under 6 are free.

  • Get out into nature on the 4 mile Prout's Neck Cliff Walk which begins at Scarborough Beach State Park. Take your camera and enjoy the spectacular views.

  • Walk any of the Portland Trails. Popular ones include the Mackworth Island Trail and Back Cove. Visit the waterfall or go bird watching on the Fore River Sanctuary Trail or go biking or canoeing on the Presumpscot River Preserve.

  • Visit Deering Oaks Park for the playground, a picnic or the Saturday farmers market which is fun for the whole family.

  • Walk the Portland Freedom Trail for a little history and seeing the city.

  • Take in a free concert in Portland or Freeport. Free entertainment makes for fun, cheap family vacations!

  • Get out on Casco Bay for a cruise on the Mailboat Run with Casco Bay Lines - $15 per adult, $7.50 per child.

  • Visit L.L. Bean in Freeport for some window shopping or real shopping. The kids will love seeing the fish in the indoor ponds and large animals like moose, deer and more (stuffed, not alive!).

  • Visit the Maine Audubon's Gisland Farm in Falmouth.

  • Take a tour of Haven's Chocolate Factory in nearby Westbrook Maine - $2.50 per person by appointment.

  • Visit the Planetarium at Southern Maine Comunity College in South Portland - $6 adult/$5 kids on Friday nights, a dollar less for matinees.

  • Take a ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad or just visit the museum. Train rides - $10 adult/$6 kids 3-12. Museum - $3 adults/$2 kids.

  • Spend some time at Portland's Eastern Promenade. Beautiful views of Casco Bay and the islands will wow you. Walk, play, picnic, explore the small beach there for sea treasures. There's a playground for the kids. It's really a wonderful place in Portland, one of my favorites.

Cheap Family Vacations - Eating Cheaply in the Greater Portland Area

Portland Maine is quickly becoming one of the best foodie towns in America with its more than 300 restaurants. You can certainly go out to eat and spend $100+ per person for dinner, but you can find wonderful cheap eats too.

When on cheap family vacations, you've got to get creative when it comes to eating. If you are willing to eat simply, prepare some meals yourself and shop at local markets, pack picnics or have a few meals in your hotel room, you can really save a lot of money.

For breakfast, try Marcy's Breakfast and Lunch 47 Oak Street. It's a small place and it only takes cash, but the prices are very reasonable (cheap, really) if you want to eat out. For lunch, grab some sandwiches or wraps over at Federal Spice at 225 Federal Street or Fit to Eat at 164 Middle Street.

With the kids, you might want to hit Silly's at 40 Washington Avenue for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A small, fun, quirky place with a good kids menu, you'll all have a good time and an interesting meal. The menu is very eclectic (fried pickles?) and you should all be able to find something you'll enjoy.

Cheap family vacations in Maine CAN still include lobster! Skip the restaurant and get it cooked right at the dock at Three Sons Lobster and Fish market at 72 Commercial Street. Pick your lobster and they will cook it up for you. Enjoy on a picnic table covered with newspapers just outside and you've got the true Maine lobster experience, without the outrageous price! Keep in mind that lobster prices are lowest in the late summer and fall.

Cheap family vacations are possible in the Greater Portland Maine area if you do your research, stay flexible and get creative! I hope you take many of the suggestions here and create a vacation your family will never forget.

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