Image: The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Hawaii
Photo Resource Hawaii  /  Alamy
The Mauna Kea, (post-'06 earthquake) is welcoming back visitors with two family-friendly offers; book a Mountain View room, starting at $450 a night, and receive a fifth night free. Or upgrade to a Plumeria Beach Club room, starting at $700 per night, and receive your second room for free. Rates valid until September 30, 2009.
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updated 6/25/2009 3:56:59 PM ET 2009-06-25T19:56:59

If you only take one family vacation this year, make it count. Summer 2009 has some of the best-value deals we’ve seen in years, as the luxury travel industry works overtime to compete for their most valued clients—you and your family. Whether you’re planning on a full week of sun and sailing in the Caribbean, or an educational weekend in our nation’s capital, you’ll reap the benefits of an industry that’s scrambling to get your attention.

Weeklong rate reductions are biggest at specialty outdoor retreats, which are now competing with oh-so-cheap national parks like Yellowstone and Acadia, whose approximately $15 a day price tag can give you camping amnesia—what bugs? What moldy sleeping bags? What freezing lakes filled with leeches?

As a result, luxury camp-style options are bringing out the big guns to remind you that there’s no place like R&R under the stars. In some cases, it’s an enormous discount off a multiple-night rate, like $3,500 off the weekly price for a family of four at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the Virgin Islands, or a combined discount and credit, like over a thousand dollars worth of free massages, river rides, and kids’ wilderness camp at the Resort at Paws Up in Montana.

Stay-at-home moms and dads looking for a little one-on-one bonding time can cut their budget in half: If you’re willing to travel midweek, luxury playgrounds like the Viceroy Palm Springs cut their rates by 50 percent, dropping the rate for a two-bedroom villa from $590 to $295, Monday through Thursday, until the end of August.

But the biggest trend is a complimentary (or greatly reduced-think 50-80 percent) second room for kids-perfect for long city weekends. Get historical in Washington, D.C., where the Park Hyatt Washington will put kids 16 and under in an adjoining room for only $75 a night, a nearly 80 percent discount off the nightly rack rate; or plan for the future while touring some Boston’s more than 50 colleges and universities with your teenagers. The Four Seasons Boston will give you a connecting room for kids 18 and under at a 50 percent discount with their “Family Values” package, available until Labor Day.

Some of the best deals for families can be found at the beach, where communities based entirely on the tourism dollar have been hit harder than most by a quickly receding market. The second-room freebie rule applies liberally to these sun-soaked shores-and without an age restriction. The Mauna Kea in Hawaii will give you a second room for free, if you book one of their premium rooms. But of all the family-friendly deals, the Cayman Islands takes the cake—they’ll fly your kids in for free, give you a free fifth night at any of 27 participating hotels and condominiums (including the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton and the Westin Casuarina resorts on Grand Cayman) and feed your children for free at one of 13 restaurants.

Check out the 10 great family vacations in 2009; as always, blackout dates apply and restrictions have been stated when specified, so contact all the hotels directly for more information and to book.

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