Traveling with family can be a serious investment. After shelling out for planes tickets, you still have to book a hotel and cover the cost of meals. Package deals and all-inclusive resorts can be a great way to save, but an even better bargain is when kids stay and/or eat for free at the hotel.
While early fall seems to be the best time to book such family travel deals, it's not too late to get in on the savings. Whether your destination is the Caribbean, Mexico, or a U.S. city, hotels that offer free rooms and meals for kids are a big budget saver. Here are our picks for some of the best family vacations around.
Enjoy the slopes, free kids club, pools and more at Alta Lodge near Salt Lake City.
Alta Lodge – Alta, Utah
If you are skiers, head to this family-friendly resort just outside of Salt Lake City. Kids can learn how to navigate the slopes in ski school while parents hit the powder. There are pools, fireplaces, free yoga, and a complimentary kids club. But beware, there are no TVs in rooms. Kids stay free during Alta’s spring and other non-peak seasons. And no matter what time of year, all guests enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea, and a four-course dinner as part of the standard rate.
Kids can swim indoors or out at the majestic Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley.
Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, New York
This grand, castle-like resort sits atop a ridge overlooking the scenic Hudson Valley. Hiking and ice skating will keep kids busy when they’re not swimming in the heated indoor pool that has underwater music. There’s also a complimentary kids club. Three farm-to-table meals and afternoon tea with cookies are offered. The package includes one free child per adult and is only available by phone (855-883-3798).
Kids can stay for free and enjoy free activities at the Blue Haven Resort on Provo island of Turks & Caicos.
Blue Haven Resort – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
Kids will flip for the water trampoline, beach volleyball, giant chessboard, horseshoes court, kayaking, snorkeling, hammocks, and free kids club. Parents will love that kids 12 and younger stay and eat free with paying all-inclusive adults any time of year. You also have access to the Provo beach resort’s sister property, Alexandra Resort, via free shuttle. A nearby marina affords additional aquatic adventures.
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Bunk beds, a water park, and more family-friendly amenities await at the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites.
Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites - Waterpark – Orlando, Florida
Though all Holiday Inns offer a free stay-and-eat program for kids, this all-suite resort has spacious rooms with bunk beds and a water park. There’s complimentary shuttle service to Walt Disney World theme parks, which are just one mile away. An arcade, shopping, and family-friendly entertainment add to the Orlando experience.
The water features, including a lazy river, make the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa stand out.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa – San Antonio, Texas
The nine-acre River Bluff Water Experience is the main event at this Marriott, where kids always stay free with paying adults. There are water slides, a lazy river, a splash park, a sandy beach, and a zero-entry pool. Ping pong, billiards, an arcade, and s’mores making around a fire pit are also great entertainment. All activities are included in the room resort fee. Kids under 4 eat for free. This Texas city offers tons for kids to do. The Alamo, San Antonio Zoo, and SeaWorld are all nearby to explore.
A pirate ship is part of the water play fun at the Sunscape Cove Montego Bay resort in Jamaica.
Sunscape Cove Montego Bay – Montego Bay, Jamaica
We love Jamaica and have explored a few resorts in this friendly, sun-drenched country. Up to two kids stay and eat free as part of the "Unlimited-Fun package" at Sunscape Cove, a resort loaded with family fun. Kids start their journey with a special red-carpet check-in. Then they’ll be running for the pool that includes slides, a lazy river, castle structures, and even a pirate ship. There are also board games, rock climbing, bean bag toss, beach volleyball, kayaking, snorkeling, and movies on the beach. Access to the neighboring Sunscape Splash resort is included. Family rooms with bunk beds are available, adding to the family-friendly environment. There are also separate kids and teen clubs.
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The entertainment (and lodging options) at the stunning Atlantis complex are seemingly endless.
Atlantis – Paradise Island, Bahamas
If you’re thinking of going to Atlantis, a stunning complex in the Bahamas, go while the kids are young. Kids 6 and under stay free. They also eat free with the purchase of an adult dining plan. An extensive kids club offers plenty of supervised activities for an extra charge. There are also water slides, kids pools, swimming with dolphins, arcade games, theater shows, a pottery studio, an R/C raceway, and more to explore.
Myriad kid activities are available at Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida, from mini golf to cooking classes.
Club Med Sandpiper Bay – Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Club Med takes the cake when it comes to catering to kids, and this Florida resort is no exception. Families with babies are especially welcome with convenient items such as changing mats, baby baths, and strollers. Restaurants have baby food, and there’s a 24-hour baby feeding room, where you can prep meals any time of day. The kids' clubs start at 4 months old and include seven age groups, up to age 17. A water splash park, mini golf course, cooking classes, teen lounge, and circus school are just some of the fun kids can have. Spacious family rooms are available. Kids under age 4 stay free, while ages 4 to 11 are 50 percent off, and ages 12-15 are 30 percent off.
Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort offers multiple kids-stay-free booking options at its stunning Aruba location.
Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort – Oranjestad, Aruba
Kids will love the four pools, water slide, rock climbing wall, beach volleyball, water sports center, video game room, and other organized activities at this Dutch Caribbean resort. Kids 12 and under stay and eat free with a room-only booking. All-inclusive packages are free for kids under 6; older kids pay a reduced rate.
Bring the kids along on the Family Getaway Package and you'll score separate rooms if you like at the Fairmont Southampton.
Fairmont Southampton – Bermuda
Kids don’t just stay for free at the Fairmont — they get their very own room. Book a reservation as part of the Family Getaway Package, and kids under age 18 receive connecting accommodations, giving mom and dad some well-deserved privacy. Kids also are presented with a welcome gift and complimentary access to the kids club. Other amenities include a children’s pool with waterslide, toys, games, and books. The island's one-of-a-kind pink sand is sure to make this beach vacation a hit. Offer valid for select travel dates into 2019.
Get the whole family in on the splash pad action at Circus Circus.
Circus Circus – Las Vegas, Nevada
You may need to be 21 to gamble in Vegas, but kids of all ages can have fun in this desert city, especially at Circus Circus. You’ll find rides, carnival games, mini golf, bowling, and free circus shows under the big top as part of the Adventuredome. You can also take in one of the many resident Cirque du Soleil shows at the hotel. The seasonal Splash Zone is free for registered guests and features pools, water slides, a splash bucket, a water playground, and whirlpools. Kids under 12 stay free in a room with adults.
Families can participate in games, crafts, and sports alongside their kids at Royal Haciendas.
Royal Haciendas – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Kids 12 and under stay free at this all-suite resort in the Playa del Carmen region of Mexico. When they’re not splashing around the six pools, kids ages 4 to 12 years old can head to the complimentary kids club. Families can also participate in various games, crafts, and sports, or relax in the shaded hammock area. Beach-lovers will enjoy the short walk to the shore, unlike other sprawling resorts in this area.
Photos courtesy of the hotels