Road Trips From New Orleans That Are Budget Friendly

We have dozens of family travel tips on New Orleans Mom. Whether you are looking for a short weekend getaway within the state of Louisiana, a great place to camp with kids near New Orleans or a cross-country flight to the Pacific Northwest … we have you covered. If your New Orleans family loves to travel, the good news is … so do we!

Budget Friendly Road Trips In Driving Distance From New Orleans

Even though I absolutely adore raising kids in New Orleans and am addicted to Mardi Gras (yes, even with kids), I also love to travel and explore new places. But with 3 kids and a budget, family vacations are usually limited to driving distance from New Orleans only. Another caveat is that I max out our driving distance from New Orleans at about 8 hours.road trips from New Orleans One day when the kids are older, I’m sure we can all handle going further, but for now we’re limited to an 8 hour cap. I’ve done a lot of research on fun, family-friendly road trips from New Orleans that are easy-ish with kids. Good news for you is that I also love sharing travel tips for New Orleans families!

For me, you don’t have to go somewhere exciting to have a fun and adventurous time. Just exploring a city that is different from yours is a great way to make memories, and let’s face it; my kids just think it’s so cool to sleep in a hotel regardless of where it is. We love the beach and do tend to go every year and being so close to the beach is one definite perk of living here. But sometimes, it’s nice to go out and try new things.

I also am a research queen. I love Trip Advisor and I can’t imagine trying to plan a family trip before the internet. So below are some places my family has visited and loved, and I know your family could too. A handful of days at any one of these locations is sure to provide a lifetime of family memories that won’t totally break the bank. Without further adieu, here are some of New Orleans Moms’ best road trips from New Orleans and all of the corresponding details you need to plan your next adventure!

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Chattanooga, TN 

So full disclosure, I did live in Chattanooga for 4 years of college and that’s where I met my husband and have life long friends who still live there. But honestly, it’s a great city. They have an excellent children’s museum. My son loved riding the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. Near the children’s museum downtown is a nice aquarium. Chattanooga has an amazing very family friendly downtown with lots to see, do, eat and drink. If you have older kids, there is some really great white water rafting and camping areas. If you’re up for driving slightly past my 8 hour max, then you can hit Gatlinburg and there are endless family fun possibilities there. In fact, there’s an extensive guide to planning your next Gatlinburg vacation from New Orleans right here.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Huntsville, AL

My family just recently returned from a spring break trip from Huntsville. As per my usual, I put lots of research into our trip and had each day planned out. Everything we did exceeded my expectations. Huntsville is nicknamed Rocket City and their rocket ship collection didn’t disappoint. We visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and it was a huge hit. So much to see and do there and definitely something for every age. We stopped on our way up at William Bankhead National Forest and it was beautiful and we even discovered 3 waterfalls on our hike. We also took a drive one day over to Cathedral Caverns State Park and took a tour of an incredible cave. Bonus :: this outing was very stroller friendly which is not always the case for outdoor adventures. We enjoyed some delicious German food at Ol’ Heidelberg. We also spent half a day at Burritt on the Mountain. My kids cabins near New Orleanshad a blast here and learned about life during the 1800s. We attempted to build a “log” cabin, a blacksmith made my son a nail (his prized possession better than any souvenir we bought), we learned about growing your own food, farm animals, and even quilting. It was an awesome trip, and we all left happy and it was the family bonding we needed.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX

This is a great location for New Orleans families because all of your “entertainment” is automatically built in. Our kids had a blast at the indoor waterpark and were thoroughly exhausted at the end of each day. They also would have fun activities like dance parties, story times and hot chocolate. My son routinely asks when we are going back. On this same trip, we made the drive over to the Legoland Discovery Center, also in Grapevine, and that was an obvious hit. The kids had fun riding rides, playing Legos, watching a short Lego film and playing in the various play areas.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio, TX

I could not recommend this specific destination more as one of the best road trips from New Orleans. The grounds are gorgeous. They have a large lazy river, water slide, several pools, bikes, nightly s’mores by the fire and movie and popcorn on the lawn. They also have a wave machine my oldest was able to try boogie boarding on and a golf course and spa for mom and dad. There is also plenty to do allcamping near New Orleans around San Antonio if you’re able to pull yourself away from this amazing resort. Although we spent most of our time on the grounds, we did manage to make a stop at the Alamo and enjoyed walking around the grounds and along the San Antonio Riverwalk. We also took a drive to Natural Bridge Caverns and got to take a tour inside an amazing cave. There are also plenty more adventures to be had at places like Six Flags, San Antonio Zoo, Splashtown and lots of other area attractions.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Texas Hill Country

Perhaps you are simply interested in Hill Country in general. One local family shares why their favorite road trip from New Orleans is Texas Hill Country … and even lets us in on the best wineries and family-friendly activities in the area.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: The Florida Panhandle

This may be an obvious road trip from New Orleans, but it’s still worth mentioning. A short four to five hours from New Orleans are some of the most gorgeous beaches in North America. The Florida panhandle truly rivals the Caribbean in beauty and water quality. Of course, the crystal blue waters are not necessarily guaranteed, but generally speaking, you’d be hard pressed to find prettier beaches. Because of the close proximity to New Orleans, the Destin / Florida panhandle area is manageable for a long weekend. For more extensive tips on heading to Florida, check out this New Orleans family’s advice.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Oak Mountain State Park

For a pretty easy drive from New Orleans with kids, consider Oak Mountain State Park. This destination is roughly six hours from New Orleans, so doable for a long weekend, and offers a lot of outdoor, kid-friendly family fun. Depending on the time of year, there is even a chance for snow. Get the full details on what your New Orleans family can expect in Oak Mountain State Park here.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Orlando {But Skip Disney!}

Admittedly Orlando is a tad further from New Orleans than some of the other road trip ideas, but it is a really fun family-friendly destination. People typically hear “Orlando” and assume it’s a Disney trip, but there are tons of things to do in Orlando that have nothing to do with Mickey. Whether you enjoy the great outdoors or indoor play, you can make a great family-friendly vacation itinerary in Orlando without every stepping foot in Disney World. Get some ideas for things to do in Orlando here.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Poverty Point

Even within our own state, there are some really neat places to visit. If you have not looked into Poverty Point before, this is a really neat historical site that could be incorporated into your next road trip as you head out of town (it’s to the North, so if you were heading to Memphis, for example). You can also make a long weekend in the area, as there is hiking and a museum and lots to explore. Dive into the details about why you should bring your New Orleans kids to Poverty Point here.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Mount Ida, AR

This is one of my favorite trips we’ve taken. We rented a cabin at Mountain Harbor Resort with my in-laws. We had our own kitchen and plenty of space. There’s a few places to eatbest road trips from New Orleans on property, but we ended up cooking most of our meals in the cabin. We had access to several pools and a playground. Our cabin sat right on beautiful Lake Ouachita. One of the days we rented a boat that had a slide and inner tube and drove all around Lake Ouachita which is full of small islands we would anchor by and swim. The lake is so clear and perfect for swimming, unlike anything we have here in New Orleans. While there, we also enjoyed several gorgeous hikes. We took a drive to Lake Catherine state park and hiked along a stream that ended in a beautiful waterfall. We are definitely planning on visiting this spot again soon! Hot Springs is also just about an hour away, where you can stroll down Bathhouse Row, visit Garvan Woodland Gardens and enjoy hiking the trails at Hot Springs National Park.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Bryson City, NC

If you’ve got it in you to push past the 8 hour max, Bryson City was well worth the 9.5 hour drive from New Orleans. We went with friends over Mardi Gras and shared a very reasonable AirBnB. It was fun to get to explore another part of Great Smokey Mountain National Park, slightly different from what we had seen in the Gatlinburg and Tennessee area. We hiked a 3 mile waterfall trail in the park that was just a few minutes from our cabin. If you head this way, I definitely recommend eating at The High Test Deli and Sweet Shop. They have incredible sandwiches and the biggest ice cream sandwiches you’ve ever seen. On the way home we broke up the drive with a night at Great Wolf Lodge just outside of Atlanta, which of course was a huge hit.

Driving Distance From New Orleans :: Fairhope, AL

If you live in New Orleans, no doubt you have driven through the tunnel and across the Mobile Bay bridge at some point. Just across the bridge is one of the cutest Southern towns, Fairhope, AL. The Grand Hotel is a popular destination for families all over the things to do in Fairhope with kidsSoutheast, though this particular hotel is not necessarily “budget friendly.” The Grand makes a wonderful long weekend, either with or without kids, but this is more of a splurge resort with pricey cocktails and some of the most stunning sunsets you will witness. There is a fabulous spa, yummy food, gorgeous grounds and a fun pool with water slide. The town of Fairhope itself is a gem, with dozens of restaurants and great shopping. If The Grand does not fit in your budget, many families love staying off property to enjoy the town’s charm. Some of the tried and true restaurants in the area are The Wash House and Camellia Cafe (fine dining), Sunset Pointe (fabulous sunset views), Master Joe’s (sushi), Dragonfly, Warehouse Bakery (breakfast), The Yard (milkshakes) and Ravenite (pizza).

Driving Distance from New Orleans :: Tishomingo State Park

If you are looking for something close to New Orleans, my family really enjoyed the cabins in Tishomingo State Park in Mississippi. I wrote more extensively about our experience in Tishomingo here, but the highlights are being disconnected from technology / the real world, staying in nature with the amenities of a cabin and enjoying the peaceful outdoors with kids all on a budget.

Driving Distance from New Orleans :: Getaway Homochitto

Camping with kids can be hard — especially for novice campers and kids used to everyday life in New Orleans. Enter Getaway Homochitto! Located an easily drivable two and a halfHomochitto Getaway hours from New Orleans and immersed in nature near Homochitto National Forest, Getaway offers their guests the unique adventure of exploring the great outdoors — without having to rough it. The Outpost includes 40 tiny cabins, each one featuring a large picturesque window facing the beautiful scenery surrounding you. While there are others around you, each cabin is well-spaced from the next campsite so you do feel like you’re alone with your family camping in the woods. Their tiny cabins are equipped with everything you need and nothing you don’t, including AC + heat, pots, pans, dishware, a two-burner stove, plus a hot shower and private toilet. Make s’mores over a bonfire (Getaway sells s’mores kits with everything you need to make 4 s’mores, including the sticks!), play card games, take a hike at one of the many trails close by, and just spend some quiet time disconnecting from the noisy world around you and reconnecting with who matters most. Getaway offers 1-bed cabins for a romantic getaway, as well as 2-bed cabins, with the second bed safely lofted, maximizing space in the tiny house for the whole family to enjoy! Book your own adventure at Getaway Homochitto.

Driving Distance from New Orleans :: Shreveport

In Northwest Louisiana, only five hours from New Orleans, Shreveport is a great place to visit with your family. Shreveport is conveniently on the way to many already known vacation spots. It’s only 3 hours from Dallas, Texas, and on the way from New Orleans, Shreveport is a great stop on the way to the Ozarks or Hot Springs in Arkansas. You can fill a weekend of fun in Shreveport! 

Road Trips From New Orleans That Can Be Done in a Day

While it is always lovely to have a solid week of vacation, that is not always realistic (nor within the family budget). Thankfully, in our experience, there are lots of unique and family-friendly outings near New Orleans that can be done in a day. Whether your family is more interested in relaxing on the beach or hiking, we’ve shared some of our favorite day trips below.

Day Trip from New Orleans :: Red Bluff, Mississippi

Sometimes I want to get away but don’t have more than a day to spare. There are lots of really fun family-friendly day trips from New Orleans. Many people don’t know that a stunning area that resembles the Grand Canyon (no really, it does) exists just next door in Mississippi. If a day trip to a gorgeous hike sounds like your family’s idea of a good time, I’d encourage you to get all the details on Red Bluff, Mississippi and how to enjoy it here.

Day Trip from New Orleans :: Fontainebleau State Park

Fontainebleau is a nice option because you CAN stay here overnight, if you wish. At the same time, you can also drive to and from the park and enjoy its amenities in one day. This is a very short drive from New Orleans and will wear out kids of all ages. There are absolutely alligators in the vicinity, so do keep a close eye on your kids while visiting. That said, the trails and scenery are a lot of fun and manageable for small children. Get more details about Fontainebleau State Park with kids here.

Day Trip from New Orleans :: Tunica Hills

If you’re looking for a fun family-hike within driving distance of New Orleans, we recommend Tunica Hills in Mississippi. You can hike as much or as little as you would like, depending on the stamina of your children. This is an easy road trip to plan at the last minute because there’s not too much you need to do to prepare!

Day Trip from New Orleans :: Gulfport, Mississippi

During the warmer months, especially summer, we love heading over to Gulfport, Mississippi for the day. If you are looking to go to and from Gulfport in one day, the access to free beaches, easy parking and a great splash pad makes this day trip fun for kids of all ages. It is absolutely possible to head to Gulfport for just the day, but if you are looking for a slightly longer weekend trip, get the inside scoop from one New Orleans family on their overnight trip to Gulfport. Whether you book a hotel with lazy river or come back home the same day, Gulfport is close enough for a quick change of scenery and family fun! If you head over to Mississippi, we also strongly recommend the popular indoor water park, Kroc Center {reservations highly encouraged in advance, especially in summer}.

Are there any other road trips from New Orleans that you would add to this list of family-friendly vacations in the Southeast?

Tara grew up all over south Louisiana and currently lives in Metairie with her husband Josh, and their 3 kids Dax, Dane and Delta. Tara is a buyer for a local food-service distribution company and Community Director for New Orleans Mom. During the week she can be found replying to emails, carpooling kids all around, giving out hugs and kisses, and looking forward to bedtime. Weekends are for family adventures, naps and cheering for LSU and the Saints. She loves trying new foods, travel, and she and her family love all things New Orleans, but especially Mardi Gras.


  1. I love all of these great ideas. I have definitely wanted to visit San Antonio and always wondered if there were things to do for families. Thanks, this is just what I needed to motivate me to start planning our family vacation this summer!

  2. Hello Tara,
    I love all that you have shared. My daughter lives in NO, husband and two young children and me and my husband in Raleigh and we would like to to do a road trip for about 3 days somewhere where we can meet up (me from Raleigh and they from NO). We are on a budge and don’t want to have to drive more than 6-7 hours to meet with them. Please can you suggest which city will be the best to visit that will not be very long hours driving from both ends.

    Thank you.


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