Depending on where you live and your child's school calendar, your family's spring break most likely falls in March or April. Either way, traditionally that's high season at family destinations, a time when rooms at the most popular resorts would often sell out months in advance -- even at peak prices.
But the forces of supply and demand are shaking out differently this year. The recession has brought on a domino effect. Leisure travelers have grown skittish about parting with their money, and consequently are waiting longer to book vacations. Business travel has fallen off, too. In the hotel biz, low occupancy -- fewer "heads on beds" -- translates into super deals.
This means travelers can expect to get much more value in 2009. "I haven't seen deals this good in all my years in the travel industry," said Barbara Messing, VP at Travel Ticker, a deal-finding site launched by Hotwire last summer. "Availability is excellent," she continued. "This year we're seeing the same hotels offering deals, but for half the price of last year. If people are planning on doing one or two trips a year, this is a year when you're going to get a lot for your dollar."
Travel Ticker (www.travel-ticker.com) should be a go-to site for any parent looking for travel bargains. While there are plenty of other deal-finding resources on the web, none has made as much effort to help parents zero in on deals that are particularly good for families. Travel Ticker has created a Family Travel page of well-vetted deals, and we also love to trawl its "Hotels Under a Hundred," a round-up of lodging deals priced under $100 a night, ranging from city boutique hotels to condo-style properties to all-inclusive beach resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Here are two current steals in the US that look particularly good for families:
Mike Ditka's Runaway Beach Club in Orlando, FL: Midweek rates start at $59 for a one-bedroom villa, or $89 for a unit with two bedrooms. What we like: The spacious units offer families plenty of room in which to spread out, not to mention a full kitchen, flatscreen TV, and washer/dryer. The zero-entry pool is super-safe for little ones, and there's a complimentary shuttle to Disney World. Travel through April 30.
Catamaran Resort and Spa in San Diego, CA: Rooms are going for just $99 a night -- that's up to 55% off regular rates. Plus, guests get discounts to some of San Diego's top attractions. What we like: For this price, we're impressed with the level of comfort and array of resort facilities and activities, including a spa, biking, and kayaking. This is a great location in Mission Bay's Aquatic Park, just 3.5 miles from SeaWorld. Travel through May 22.
Ski Condos, Beach Cottages, and More
Sometimes you need a home base away from home. With "More for your Money March," ResortQuest has come up with deal that's as straightforward as they come: Pay for two nights at a vacation rental property, and get your third night free. If you pay for four nights, you get your fifth and sixth nights free. Either way, you save a healthy 33% on your accommodations.
You can choose between a huge array of vacation properties at 21 locations in the US, Canada, and Costa Rica. Feel like a ski break at a top Western ski destination? The options include Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Snowmass, Steamboat, Sun Valley, Telluride, Winter Park, and Whistler. Or perhaps you'd rather head to a popular Eastern beach spot. The deal is available in Bethany Beach, the Charleston Islands, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, and Northwest and Southwest Florida.
Book by March 1 and travel anytime in March. Be sure to mention booking code INT MYM.
Hey, baseball fans! Spring training season is about to begin, with Florida's Grapefruit League (www.floridagrapefruitleague.com) and Arizona's Cactus League (www.cactusleague.com) offering a great opportunity to catch big-league action at a relatively small price. Games are played in minor-league ballparks, which deliver a more intimate experience than you typically find in a major-league stadium.
Seralago Hotel & Suites, one of central Florida's most affordable and family-friendly properties, is offering a spring training special. Stay at least two nights between February 24 and April 2, and you'll also receive daily breakfast for two adults (plus, up to two kids eat free), a "Seralago Spring Training Sports Pack" (think lunch cooler filled with snacks and beverages), and a coupon for two hot dogs from the hotel's food court. Note that game tickets are not included in the package.
The hotel is located in Kissimmee, on the doorstep of Walt Disney World and other Orlando attractions. The former Holiday Inn has been revamped with a bright, colorful look but still features the popular Kid's Suites, which include a designated kids' sleeping area with bunk beds, plus a TV, VCR, Nintendo, and CD player. (There are also standard rooms and two-room suites that sleep up to eight.) There's plenty of fun to be had on-site, from swimming (two pools plus a kiddie pool) to tennis, volleyball and basketball. Check out the video arcade, two playgrounds, and even free nightly screenings of family movies in the hotel's movie theater. There's also a convenience store and a food court for meals on the run, and kids 12 and under eat free at breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. Standard rooms from $47; kid's suites from $66; two-room suites from $84.
5-Star and Family-Friendly
In the mood for a splurge? Consider heading to The Broadmoor, a historic luxury resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which features an award-winning spa, fitness center, and well-regarded children's programs. Visit between March 1 to April 22, and you can take advantage of Spring Break at The Broadmoor.Package prices start at $85 per person, based on double occupancy. Kids stay free, so a family can nab this package for $170 a night in a standard room. (Upgrading to larger digs will bring the price up.) The package includes:
- Accommodations for one night ($170/night for a standard room and up to $270/night for a superior room)
- 15% discount on select spa services
- 15% discount on select retail purchases
- Complimentary access to The Broadmoor Movie Theater
- 50% discount on adult admission to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
- Children 10 and under eat free when accompanied by a paying adult
- Guests staying three nights will receive a $75 resort credit
The fine print says "limited availability for select dates." Translation: Act fast if you're interested.
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