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2018's 11 most budget-friendly beach destinations in the US

Now that summer is in full swing, soaring temps have us craving a refreshing beach with cooling breezes to beat the heat. Unfortunately, with so many Americans thinking the same thing, finding an affordable beach getaway can be difficult. So, we did a ton of research to create this list of the 11 most budget-friendly beach destinations in the U.S. Staying stateside saves you money on travel, and these locales go a step further with several value-packed hotels, inexpensive activities, and cheap dining options. Some are primed and ready for your summer vacation, while others are best suited for a winter escape. Regardless, all are great picks for a sandy getaway that won't wipe out your bank account – so you can lie out on the beach worry-free.

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Travel goods for today: Pack these hot picks to the beach

Ah. Sunscreen-scented days and nights spent cuddling over a good book, a soundtrack of ocean waves and kids' laughter playing in the background. Nothing beats a summer road trip to the beach – a much-anticipated outing for so many families that can only be enhanced by tossing a few choice travel goods into the back of the car.

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Scaling the Swiss Alps on trains and trams, ranking road-trip friendly states and more

The Swiss Alps are one of Mother Nature's most impressive shows, even viewed from afar. Getting in among these craggy peaks – some of which soar more than 13,000 feet into the sky – is even more special. Alpenwild offers a 10-day/nine-night tour that scales those peaks compliments of Switzerland's amazing network of trains, trams, and funiculars. Among the classic lines ridden are the Gotthard Express, Bernina Express and Glacier Express whose cars allow panoramic views of the scenery. On the first day of the itinerary, riders are apt to be gasping aboard the Mount Pilatus Railway, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, with a gradient of up to 48 percent. As the tour progresses, there will be exposure to the varied cultures of Switzerland reflecting their German, French and Italian neighbors. On a day's layover in Zermatt, you can ride the Gornergrat cogwheel train to 10,000 feet where you're at eye level with the famous Matterhorn. On the Glacier Express, a route that dates to the 1930s, the train crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels. Another day the Jungfraujoch Cogwheel train claws its way to the top of 13,371-foot Jungfraujoch, which is the highest railway station in Europe. Cost of this adventure is $4,995 per person double, occupancy. Though it's totally sold out for this year, reservations are already being taken for 2019. Info: 801-226-9026, http://tinyurl.com/y8btmdww

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In these parts of France, the Great War will never be forgotten

The last time I saw the Picardie region of France was in 1978. I was visiting an old family friend, who suggested we take a road trip to see the chateaux and cathedrals that dot the landscape there and nearby in Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine, all of which are an easy drive from Paris. Off we went in her Peugeot 504 and at some point I became lost (this was in the days before GPS obviously) and decided to make an illegal U-turn through a break in the median. "Georgie don't!" Nan cried. "The gendarmes are very strict! It could be a big fine." (She still calls me Georgie, but she's known me since I was 4 so she gets a pass).

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Florida towns' claims to fame: We're No. 1

Florida is known for making headlines – alligators end up in swimming pools, iguanas come out of toilets and people are always in the news for outrageous crimes. And with all the funny stories come interesting titles and nicknames for the cities within.

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Pixar Pier tells a whole new story

The early days of Disney's California Adventure theme park next door to Disneyland boasted a number of peculiar design choices: a paparazzi-themed family ride, a coaster alluding to reckless drivers on Mulholland Drive and an extreme sports story line to its rafting ride.

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Coachella's siren song attracts chic new resort

Every year, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its sister country music event bring hundreds of thousands of revelers to the desert, far from the trendy restaurants, hotels and other attractions in a resurgent Palm Springs, Calif.

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9 unexpected urban beaches around the world

Cities like Miami, San Diego and Honolulu are beloved for their combination of urban pleasures and oceanside beauty. There, upscale dining and lively bars lie a short distance from a soft blanket of sand and beautiful waters. Well, while you may not realize it, cities like Paris and Berlin have beaches, too. Though they're not necessarily known as sunbathing paradises, these urban destinations are home to sandy stretches that serve as escapes from the noise and stress of city life. So, kick off your shoes and saunter through some of the most unexpected city beaches in the world.

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Nantucket's small size belies boundless history, appeal

The Grey Lady is gorgeous. Just the profusion of giant rhododendron and wild roses cascading over the sand dunes is worth the cost of the hourlong ferry ride south from Cape Cod. But there is so much more to see and learn about on the island of Nantucket, a National Historic Landmark. Its diminutive size (47.8 square miles, in what Herman Melville described as a "small elbow of sand") belies its rich and boundless history and current international appeal. Thirty-two-mile network of bike paths; 82 miles of pristine beaches; an historic town center; no traffic lights, no chain stores. Heavenly.

Take a look at the Slinky Dog Dash family roller coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Slinky Dog Dash is a family roller coaster at Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's one of two new rides opening June 30, 2018.