Follow the Deals
Consider overall value. Orlando—home of you-know-what—offers the most total bang for your vacay bucks, according to hotwire.com's 2012 Travel Value Index. Or maybe Charlotte, NC, or Albuquerque appeals? Check out the entire top 10 at hot wire.com/destination/travel-value-index2.jsp.
Work backward from your budget. If you just plain want to get away (anywhere!), plug in your airport, a budget, and dates at expedia.com/tripexplorer to discover packages in your price range. Kayak.com/explore does the same with airfares.
Think outside the beach. Have a certain type of getaway in mind? Widen your target to, say, “warm weather and swimming” rather than the more specific “Florida beaches,” suggests Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor-in-chief of family-travel site wejustgotback.com. “A lake town in driving distance offers a lot of the same family-fun options as a beach you'd have to fly to, for a lot less.”
Set sale. If you're in easy driving distance of a port, cruises can offer good values for families and often feature in-state discounts. Vacationstogo.com's “90-day ticker” is a simple first stop to see which last-minute deals are hot.