Kid-friendly in the Caribbean

It happens every year. No sooner do kids get back to school than Caribbean islands and resorts start rolling out their early-bird deals. The difference this year is a longer window of opportunity; some current deals are good for travel through the end of 2010. For parents able to plan months ahead, it’s a fantastic time to snag a vacation deal for fall, winter or spring break. Here are three of the best Caribbean deals on the table right now:

Atlantis through the back door
Dream of heading to the Bahamas? Bringing your kids to Atlantis doesn’t have to empty the family coffers. Book a room at the and you get a key perk: unlimited, free access to next-door-neighbor Atlantis and its 141-acre Aquaventure water park, 10 pools, beaches, lazy river rides, health spa, tennis, golf and kids' camp.  Plus, you get signing privileges in all of Atlantis's restaurants and lounges. Comfort Suites features a nice pool, restaurant, free Continental breakfast and rooms spacious enough for spreading out during family downtime.

Comfort Inn's promotion is good for stays through Dec. 23, with rates starting at $78 per adult, per night. Kids 15 and younger stay free.  We test-booked a four-night stay in November for a family of four and found a nightly rate of $187 for a junior suite with sofa bed. In comparison, rates at Atlantis for the same dates begin at $299 a night.  Consider, too, that some cruise lines charge north of $100 per adult and $75 per child for the privilege of coming ashore to spend a single day at Atlantis. That little perk adds up to a blockbuster benefit. 

Stay a week, pay for a weekend
If a Club Med vacation is high on your wish list, you’re in luck. The family-friendly chain has brought back its ever-popular deal and it's a doozy: You get seven — count-'em — seven all-inclusive nights for the price of three. Weeklong all-inclusive packages start at $799 per adult with a 50% discount for kids ages 2 to 15.

You can choose between Club Med's six family villages, including , in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; , in Cancún, Mexico; and , on Mexico's Pacific coast. Known for their stunning beach locations, award-winning kids’ programs and huge roster of active land and water diversions, Club Med resorts are a popular choice for families. Parents love the brand's all-inclusive pricing, which bundles virtually all costs — lodging, meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, plus most activities — into a tidy rate with no surprises.

To take advantage of this deal, you need to book by Oct. 31 but can travel anytime before April 30, 2010.

No passports? No problem!
Never got around to getting passports? Consider Puerto Rico, where one of the island's most lavish resorts just made a major splash with families. The recently-renovated, 750-room in Fajardo, Puerto Rico — a member of the upscale Waldorf Astoria Collection of hotels — just opened its brand-new Coquî Water Park, which boasts four water slides (including an adrenaline-spiking speed slide as well as a gentle one just for little splashers), an 8,000-foot lazy river, three pools and interactive elements such as a rope bridge.

The resort, close to the El Yunque Rainforest (brimming with coquî tree frogs), also has a private island and offers water sports galore, a spa, golf course and kids' club. The starts at $249 per room, per night, and includes:

  • lodging starts at $249 a night for a garden-view room (compared to non-package “best available rate” of $199)
  • daily breakfast buffet (normally $25 x 2 adults + $12 x 2 kids ages 3-12 x 3 days = $222)
  • admission for four to Coquí Water Park (normally $20 x 2 adults + $15 x 2 kids ages 3-12 = $70 for a family of four)
  • airport transfers to and from airport for four (normally $37/person x 4 people x 2 trips = $296)

Athree-night stay with the package comes to $747, or $150 more than the "best rate" for the room alone. Yet the package adds a whopping $588 in extra value for meals and services you know you'll use. (The resort is far enough from the airport that you will need to arrange transportation.) The deal is available year-round with a minimum three-night stay. Book online or call 888-543-1230. Note: Prices not include El Conquistador's flat 14% resort charge.

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