10 Affordable Water Parks You Can Drive To

Planning a summer vacation with the kids? While you hammer out the details, you'll need to plan on spending a pretty penny. According to an Allianz Travel Insurance study, the average family planned to spend $1,798 on travel last summer. That's no small chunk of change.

Of course, summer travel is even more expensive if you fly your whole family to a faraway destination, or visit an expensive theme park like Disney World. Even if you use credit card travel rewards to pay for your airfare or hotel, you can expect to spend a bundle.

But, what if you could have just as much fun without all those costs? Some of the nation's best water parks offer exceptional value within driving distance of a slew of major cities. (See also: 9 Things You Must Do If You're Traveling With Kids)

If you want to skip airfare but still take the kids on a fun, warm-weather trip they'll never forget, consider one of these options.

1. Holiday World and Splashin' Safari — Santa Claus, Indiana

Holiday World and Splashin' Safari is the ultimate stop for a few days of family fun. The park offers both roller coasters and an expansive water park all for one low price. As a bonus, both parks offer free sunscreen and free fountain drinks all day long.

One-day admission to both parks starts at around $26 per person, although prices increase through peak months of July and August. Check out the giant Thunderbird roller coaster or the popular Raven coaster. Or, ride the park's giant water coasters with seating for six. Pitch a tent next door at the popular Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort for affordable camping fun and proximity to the parks.

2. Schlitterbahn South Padre Island Water Park — Texas

Schlitterbahn South Padre Island Water Park offers one of the largest water parks in southern Texas, along with an on-site hotel for ultimate convenience and comfort. Water park-only tickets start at just $51 for adults and $39 for kids. Kids age two and under are free.

Once you arrive, you can float the day away in a lazy river dotted with rapids, boogie board in a wave pool, or thrill your way down more than a half-dozen water slides. Schlitterbahn also offers splash pads and small rides for the little ones, along with plenty of spots for shade and rest.

3. Kalahari Resorts — Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells is a city known for its many, many water parks and outsized attractions. Kalahari Resorts offers one of the broadest selections of both indoor and outdoor water rides. Their indoor water park alone is 125,000 square feet, while the outdoor park features exciting water races, a meandering river, whirlpool spas, water slides that zip and turn, and so much more.

With an on-site room booked, you might qualify for free water park passes. If you stay off-site, water park-only passes start at $34, and kids under the age of two are free.

4. Water Country USA — Williamsburg, Virginia

Water Country USA offers extreme value and fun in the Williamsburg, Virginia area. Families can experience a white water rafting adventure together on the Big Daddy Falls, slide through curving chutes on the Colossal Curl, or fly face-first down the Nitro Racer. For the little ones, there are tiny slides, splash zones, and plenty of shade.

A one-day water park ticket starts at $60 at the gate, but you can scoop one up for as low as $40 online, depending on the date. You can also buy a combo ticket that includes admission to the adjacent Busch Gardens for $80 online or $120 at the door.

5. Legoland California Resort — Carlsbad, California

West Coast families can delight in numerous easy-to-reach water parks, including Legoland California Resort. Here, you can build your own rafts incorporating giant Legos, get blasted by water cannons in the Joker Soaker, ride the Orange Rush through its twists and turns, and master an array of other water coasters built for kids and adults of all ages.

You can get two-day admissions to both Legoland and its water park for $89 for kids under 13, and $95 for everyone else.

6. Dollywood's Splash Country Water Park — Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Families can enjoy mountain scenery and cool down in the waters of Dollywood's Splash Country Water Park. Race one another down the TailSpin Racer, take the Big Bear Plunge in a family floater made for five, or play with the little ones in their own special park within a park, Little Creek Falls.

Driving distance from many places in the South, Dollywood also offers a theme park perfect for family affairs. One-day admission to the theme park starts at $67 for adults and $54 for kids ages four to 11. Water park admission is $49 for adults, $44 for kids.

7. Roaring Springs Water Park — Meridian, Idaho

Roaring Springs is a sprawling water park in southern Idaho that offers fun for the whole family. Ride the new Corkscrew Cavern looping water slide, relax in a private cabana, speed down the nearly vertical Cliffhanger, or float in the wave simulator all day long. Of course, there are plenty of dining options available, too, from pizza to salads.

Full-day admission for adults is $32, while kids under 48" are $27. Children ages three and under are free.

8. Water-Zoo — Clinton, Oklahoma

Oklahoma's Water-Zoo offers an array of indoor water slides and rides that will delight even the pickiest young traveler. Inside, you'll find more than 300,000 gallons of water, 500 feet of water slides, a wave pool, a lazy and crazy river, and a small slide for little kids, too.

Admission is $23.49 for guests under 48", and $34.99 for everyone else. Children ages three and under are free.

9. Six Flags White Water — Atlanta, Georgia

Six Flags of Atlanta offers a water park filled with fun and crazy rides to keep the kids entertained. The Wahoo Racer lets you zip past your family and friends in a six-lane water race. You can also swoosh down the Bahama Bob slide, or ride the waves in the 700,000-gallon Atlanta Ocean Wave Pool. There are nearly two-dozen water attractions for guests of all ages (and sizes) to enjoy.

You'll save big here, too. Advance purchase tickets are $40, and children ages two and under are free.

10. Wild Waves Theme & Water Park — Federal Way, Washington

Wild Waves offers both roller coasters and water rides in a single, inspiring setting. The water park features eight wet and wacky attractions, including a giant wave pool, relaxing river, warming tubs, and thrilling water coasters for the daredevils in your crew.

Summer entrance is surprisingly cheap for families, especially if you prepay online. You can get advance purchase starting at $17 for adults and children. Adult tickets go up to $30 later in the season. Kids ages three and younger are always free.

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