Image: Smugglers' Notch corn maze
Smugglers' Notch
The award-winning family ski resort, Smugglers' Notch offers fantastic active vacations year-round.
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updated 8/31/2009 1:12:21 PM ET 2009-08-31T17:12:21

Are your kids too young to be stocking up on notebooks, pocket folders, and No. 2 pencils? Then consider shopping for a vacation instead. For families with preschoolers, fall is the very best time of year to grab a getaway at a top family resort.

The back-to-school season has always delivered bang for your buck. When school kids clear out and prices come down, it’s easier to land not only a room but a super deal. In the past few years, big-name resorts have started promoting autumn as a time for preschoolers—not only with lower prices, but with special events and activities created just for wee ones. Here’s a sampling of destinations rolling out the red carpet for the under-5 crowd this autumn:

Beaches Resorts
Where: Four Caribbean locations

Why: Because this chain of kid-friendly all-inclusive resorts (see our review of Beaches Boscobel) is heaven for the preschool set, thanks to its partnership with Sesame Street, a super daycamp, and terrific waterplay areas. Through November 30, the Wonderfall seasondelivers a line-up of special events, including live stage shows with Elmo, Gordon, and Abby Cadabby. Best reason to book: You can save up to 65 percent on stays of at least three nights.

Nickelodeon Family Suites
Where: Orlando, Fla.

Why: Because the hugely popular Nick Hotel (see our review) knows how to lay out the orange-and-lime green carpet for preschoolers, from Nick-themed arts and crafts and scavenger hunts to character parties with Pablo from The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, and other beloved stars. The Free-for-Fall package delivers your third night free on a two-bedroom kids’ suite, plus you get a $50 resort credit to use for food and entertainment. The deal is good through December 23. Mention promo code “Freefall” when booking.

Winnetu Oceanside Resort
Where: Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Why: Because this exceptionally kid-friendly resort (see our review) is at its most divine when crowds are gone but the ocean water is still warm. Rates dip after Labor Day (and plummet a week later), letting families save more than 50 percent on a seven-night stay. A great list of complimentary perks makes this resort a stand-out. For starters: Free pee-wee tennis clinics, help-yourself bike rentals, fitness and yoga classes, and a parent-and-toddler activity program.

Atlantis
Where: Paradise Island, Bahamas

Why: Because this extraordinary mega resort is offering a super fall special, with three-night/four-day getaways starting at just $299. There’s also nothing not to like about the supercool Aqua Tots fishfeeding program for kids 3 to 5.

Smugglers’ Notch
Where: Jeffersonville, Vermont

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Why: Because this award-winning family ski resort (see our winter review) offers fantastic active vacations year-round. From September 7 to October 12, the “Fall AutumnFest” package allows families with small children to get in a good mix of family time and adults-only time, thanks to an exceptional children’s program (infants through 5-year-olds), a nice roster of adults-only hikes and walks, and many family-together activities. Pay for three nights and get the fourth for free.

Club Med
Where: Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean

Why: Because this family-friendly chain off all-inclusive resorts (see our reviews of Club Med Ixtapa Pacific and Club Med Sandpiper) caters especially well to families with young children. Through April 24, 2010, take advantage of the exceptional “$99 Wow Sale” which lets you snag a getaway for as little as $99 per night, per person—including lodging, meals, and most activities.

WeJustGotBack.com 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. Follow us on Twitter at @WeJustGotBack.

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