Long gone are the days when spring travel was exclusively the right of college students. With deep discounts, families are (or should be!) seizing the opportunity to get away for less.
Jane Wooldridge, Travel Editor for the Miami Herald, advises that once you choose your destination, you should then hone in on affordable accommodations.
For traveling families, she especially recommends looking into vacation rentals.
Aside from perks such as free laundry, parking and kitchen facilities, vacation rentals also offer the benefit of having a “support system” in case a problem arises.
Wooldridge does suggest renting directly from the owner, and not an agency, so that travelers can vet the owner before signing any agreements. Check Web sites such as www.homeaway.com and www.vrbo.com to find options in various cities and price ranges.
If you’re prepared to sit through a timeshare pitch, renting at a timeshare resort can also be convenient because of the low rates and resort environment. “As long as you’re good at saying ‘no’ you’re probably fine,” said Wooldridge.
So now it comes down to where families can find good travel deals this spring and summer:
“Florida used to be the big spring break destination for kids [while] adults stayed away, but that’s no longer true,” said Wooldridge. Fort Lauderdale, in particular, has made a “definite and concerted effort to disinvite college students.”
Even rate structures and rules regarding noise and behaviors are now geared toward visiting families. Wooldridge suggests “condo-hotels” such as the Ritz Carlton Residences which allow families to take advantage of additional space and functional kitchens.
After Wooldridge completed her own Florida road trip, she also picked a few other Florida spots that are now on her family-friendly getaway list: Sanibel and Captiva Islands, and even Miami.
One stand-out South Beach deal is the beachside Courtyard by Marriott for $199 per night. Even the trendy, upscale Gansevoort South (www.gansevoortsouth.com/) has an unbeatable family package when you factor in the freebies: for $395 per night, you get accommodations plus daily breakfast, up to four hours of babysitting service, a Sony PlayStation and board games in the room, cookies and milk at turndown, and late check-out.
2. CRUISING (SURPISE!)
“The hands-down best vacation value this year is cruises,” said Wooldridge. “There are lots of cruises that are being offered at $500 for an entire week and in many cases, kids sail free.” She advises that the best values are week-long cruises, though there are still some good weekend deals, too.
Considering that accommodations and food are included, a $500 per person cruise for a family of four (with two kids sailing free) equals less than $150 per day. She also points out that right now, some of the best-value cruises are out of South Florida, namely Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. “Maybe you do or don’t love the ports,” she said, “but it’s still a killer getaway.”
3. NEW YORK
“This might be the year you want to go to New York,” Wooldridge suggested. “During weekends, especially, you can find nice hotel rooms in Manhattan for $125 to $150 per night.” One of these options is the Jane Hotel (www.thejanenyc.com) in the West Village, which features rooms starting at $99 per night. The Pod Hotel (https://podhotel.com) drops as low as $69 nightly. Several Apple Core (www.applecorehotels.com) properties around the city, including La Quinta, Red Roof Inn, Comfort Inn, the Hotel at Times Square, and Ramada Inn, have rates staring at $110 per night.
If you’d prefer to venture out of Manhattan and want an environment that’s a bit quieter, try Cooperstown, New York, only two hours from the city by train in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Right now, the Otesaga Resort Hotel (www.otesaga.com) in Cooperstown, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, has spring rates starting at $425 based on double occupancy, which includes breakfast and dinner. Summer rates will go up to $485 a night, also include two meals daily.
4. THE ISLANDS
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are two of Wooldridge’s favorite island destinations. “There are options in the islands that are less expensive and offer the benefit of easy airlift,” she said. And, as an added bonus, “You don’t have to deal with the passport issue!”
Wooldridge explained there is a lot of inventory at the right price, and with direct flights from major cities like New York, too, it’s a great time to take advantage of the fares.
From April 15 through the end of October, the Sizzlin’ Sampler deal in the U.S. Virgin Islands includes a complimentary fourth night in participating hotels, $300 air credit, $50 dining credit, a coupon booklet valued at more than $500, and a $50 coupon for attractions. The Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa (www.wyndhamsugarbay.com) in St. Thomas has a package featuring 40 percent off its all-inclusive room rate through April 19.
By Dara Bramson for PeterGreenberg.com.
Check out more of Jane Wooldridge’s suggestions with Personal Picks: Gourmet Getaways for Foodies.
For family travel ideas, try Taking the Kids: Family Voluntourism.
And don’t miss a Traveling Mom’s Tips on Easy, Family-Friendly Vacations.