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Where to find a super summer steal

Oh, the irony. Most of us can’t remember a time when money was tighter. And yet for families hankering for a getaway, the summer of our discontent is turning out to be a goldmine of deals.
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Oh, the irony. Most of us can’t remember a time when money was tighter. And yet for families hankering for a getaway, the summer of our discontent is turning out to be a goldmine of deals. In fact, this year’s summer vacation could very easily cost you 30 to 60 percent less than what you would have paid last year. Skeptical? Here is a selection of recent deals plucked from’s . Each will save a family of four at least $600 over a one-week stay.

50 percent off at Almond Resorts in Barbados and St. Lucia
Families really love the convenience of all-inclusive resorts, where lodging, meals, and most activities are bundled into one tidy price. Since we love all-inclusives even more when we get a big price cut, we were happy to learn that the upscale chain of Almond Resorts is offering a 50 percent discount on its all-inclusive rates for adults. Since kids under 18 always stay free at Almond Resorts (one child per paying adult), this deal translates into a half-price stay for a family of four.

This promotion is available at all five Almond Resorts in Barbados and St. Lucia, though one location is adult-only. Of the remaining four, you might consider the recently-renovated Smugglers Cove, set at the northern tip of St. Lucia. This village-style resort is spread over 60 acres and features a beautiful beach, five pools (one is kids-only and boasts a waterslide) and an expansive children's program for newborns through teens. A three-night stay in August at Smugglers Cove for a family of four normally runs over $3,200. When we priced out the same stay in August with this promotion, the total came to $1,611.  Want a better bargain? Travel in July, when a family of four can pay as little as $1,052 for the same three-night stay. 

The package includes accommodations in a standard gardenview room, all meals and beverages, beach activities and water sports (including windsurfing and sailing lessons), plus all taxes and gratuities. To take advantage of this promotion, book by April 20 and travel by December 20.

Free dining at Walt Disney World
If you missed out onDisney World’s unprecedented "buy four nights, get three free" deal, don't fret. There’s already another fantastic deal on the table: Free dining for the whole family when you buy a five-night package that includes hotel and six-day theme park passes. 

This deal will save a typical family of four over $600. The Magic Your Way dining plan normally costs $40 per adult per day and $11 per day for children 3 to 9, or roughly $102 per day for a typical family of four. The package includes one table-service meal, one counter-service meal, and one snack per person, per day. It can also be used to book Disney World's character breakfasts and dinner shows. 

The five-night package, including hotel and park passes, starts at under $1,400 for a family of four staying at one of Disney's Value Resorts. You can also get the free dining plan with a five-night/six-day package when you upgrade to a Moderate Resort (from $1,764 for a family of four) or Deluxe Resort (from $2,276) or Villa Resort (from $2,586).  To take advantage of this offer, you must book by June 21 and travel between August 16 and October 3.

Smugglers’ Notch rolls back rates by five seasons
Looking for a silver lining in this dark economic cloud? Consider how vacation prices are tumbling. Case in point: The amazingly family-friendly Smugglers' Notch resort in Vermont is rolling back its summer prices by five years. (For an idea of how much fun Smuggs is for families, see our winter review; the resort is every bit as popular in the summer.) This means you can snag incredible savings on the FamilyFest vacation package, which includes all great stuff for which a Smugglers' vacation is known: mountainside condo lodging, eight pools and four waterslides, daily award-winning kids' programs, guided walks and hikes, family programming and entertainment, two teen centers, skate park, and adult adventures including fitness walking. With these newly-lowered rates, a family of four can enjoy a Smuggs' vacation at up to 20 percent less than what it cost last year. 

Saw it on Travel Ticker: Kid-friendly hotels from $47 a night
Every parent should know about Hotwire's Travel Ticker for unearthing stellar vacation deals. We're particular enamored with the Family Travel page, which is a round-up of great deals at kid-friendly properties, and the Hotels Under a Hundred page, which lists super hotel deals that come in under $100 a night. Here's a small selection of what’s available:

  • From $47 a night for a one- or two-bedroom condo at the Paniolo Greens Waikoloa Village on the Big Island, HI. That's as much as 70 percent below normal rates. Travel dates: now-March 25, 2010.
  • $69 a night for a one-bedroom suite at the upscale Xona Resort Suites in Scottsdale, Ariz. It's a steal, since suites typically go for as much as $249 a night. While the resort has a sophisticated atmosphere and does not offer kid's program, this is a great deal for families with older kids. There is a beautiful pool and all suites feature a kitchen. Travel dates: May 8-December 31.
  • $99 a night for a room at the four-star in San Diego. That’s 50 percent off the normal rate. Travel dates: April 19-May 30.

Luxury for (much) less in Turks & Caicos
Who says a resort can't be both luxurious and family-friendly? The Somerset on Grace Bay, set alongside a stretch of pristine beach in Turks & Caicos, boasts a collection of spacious, ocean-front suites, villas, and cottages with full gourmet kitchens, surround-sound plasma TVs, and marble-floored bathrooms with mahogany carved cabinets.  The resort is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and has the amenities to back it up, from in-suite spa services to a private chef available for dinner on the beach. 

The Somerset was designed by a mother of five with families in mind, so you'll also find some decidedly kid-friendly touches, such as early children’s dining hours (kids 12 and under eat free off of the children's menu), complimentary continental breakfasts, and pools with zero-depth entries for wee ones and underwater piped-in music to keep teens in the water. Through December 18, you can get luxury for less when you combine the resort’s four-night "Family Value-Added Special" with its "4th Night Free" promotion, and since nightly rates start at $500, that means you'll see some substantial savings.   The package includes a line-up of activities that will keep everyone happy. Some are always complimentary at the resort (tea parties, dive-in movie nights, kids cookie-baking classes, snorkeling) and some usually incur an extra charge, like clambakes on the beach (non-package price of $30/person).  You'll also get three free hours of babysitting, which would otherwise run $40 for two children.

There's no denying this kind of vacation stands squarely in the "splurge" category, but if you're looking for that kind of family getaway this is a way to get a lot of extra value.  There are no blackout periods. The offer is valid for all suite categories but excludes standard rooms.

Buy 3 nights, get 2 free with SeaWorld Orlando package
Families planning a summer vacation in Orlando continue to be spoiled for choice, as one super deal pops up after another. The latest to come our way: SeaWorld in Orlando is offering a terrific "Buy 3 Nights, Get 2 Free" package when you book a stay at nearly two dozen nearby hotels. On top of that whopping 40 percent lodging discount, you also get unlimited admission for the week to SeaWorld and either its sister water park, Aquatica, or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Rates for the five-night package start at $561 for a family of four. This works out to just $112 per night, which is exceptional value for lodging plus theme-park tickets for a whole family.

Note that the package price depends on when you go, so test several travel dates to find the best rate. When we test booked this for a five-night, Friday-to-Wednesday stay in early August (July 31-August 5), the lowest price we saw was $671 for five nights at the Courtyard Orlando on International Drive, which works out to $134 a night for a family of four, including park passes. To take advantage of this deal, book by June 30 and travel by September 7. is an authoritative online guide to family trip-planning. The site features reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, destination insider guides, vacation deals, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about resort specials and exclusive, money-saving offers.