This summer, if you are willing to fly, you may find a better deal in the Caribbean or even Hawaii than in traditional beach resort towns like Newport, R.I., or Cape Cod, Mass. In fact, when Travelocity named summer's Top 10 family destinations, after Orlando, they included Cancun and Puerta Vallerta, the Hawaiian Islands, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and the Dominican Republic.
Travelocity spokesman Genevieve Brown says rates can be as much 50 percent less than last winter. "And that doesn't even include value adds like upgrades and resort credits," she said, noting that the Caribbean has some of the most aggressive offers.
For example, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas (www.ritzcarlton.com) touts "Reconnect," which includes breakfast and a $100 daily resort credit, rates starting at $359 a night (at least $200 less than in winter) and even a kids' sailing and windsurfing camp. Look for deals starting at $250 a night, plus a resort credit of up to $400 at the brand-new Grand Solmar (www.solmar.com) on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, with lower rates at its sister properties next door. Families will like the mini-kitchens and the location -- it's within walking distance to everything.
Look for deals at upscale Caribbean resorts from www.perfectescapes.com.
Travelzoo Senior Editor Gabe Saglie notes that Hawaii, not known for summer deals, can be a bargain this year, as it tries to recoup from the hit it took from the drop in Japanese tourists following the earthquake and tsunami.
For example, the newly renovated Kauai Marriott Resort's (kids will love the pool complex) Free for All deal includes free golf for the kids, discounts on food and room upgrades for $259 a night. (Visit www.kauaimarriott.com and enter promotional code FLP.)
There are plenty of condo deals, too, like up to 40 percent off at Aston properties (www.astonhotels.com), which offer resort amenities and kids programs.
Saglie noted that packagers have locked in airfare to Mexico and the Caribbean before fuel prices went up, making the overall packages appealing -- some under $700 a person, including air (www.travelzoo.com).
The downside: It can be hot and humid. And you have to fly.
The upside: You can spend your vacation at a tony resort where you might spend less than at an American beach town, whether you want a big all-inclusive (Kids Stay, Play and Eat free at Barcelo's resorts in Mexico and in the Dominican Republic, plus other savings, www.barcelo.com), a small all-inclusive (free nights, half off a second room and complimentary kids' tennis clinics at Curtain Bluff in Antigua, www.curtainbluff.com, or even an upscale villa. (With Wimco's value villas program (www.wimco.com), you can stay in St. Barts, St. John or Barbados for under $200 a night.
Look for kids free deals at many all-inclusives like Palace Resorts (www.palaceresorts.com), Divi Resorts, with nightly rates starting at just over $100 a night, and the new Villa del Palmar Cancun, in Playa Mujeres, a beach area about 35 minutes from the airport with all-inclusive rates starting at $123 a person, half that for kids up to age 12, including activities like kite-making and cooking lessons (www.villagroupresorts.com).
Puerto Rico touts a summer deal offering a free night, car rental discounts, tour discounts and more (www.seepuertorico.com) while Saint Lucia (www.stlucianow.com), known for its natural beauty, invites your gang to "Go Bananas" with special kids activities, room upgrades, restaurant discounts, complimentary excursions and even free baby-sitting one night.
You can try a different kind of experience too. Go to Belize (www.travelbelize.org) where you can visit Mayan ruins and, through the Maya Village Homestay program, also stay with a Maya family in a local village near Punta Garda. You can also take a hands-on workshop to learn how to make chocolate from cacao beans or go along with researchers studying crocodiles at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge's Crocodile Encounter.
Wherever you decide to travel, remember the sunscreen.