updated 3/15/2010 9:16:07 AM ET 2010-03-15T13:16:07

Everybody loves a bargain, and the search for the ultimate vacation deal has led many a hapless traveler (including this one) astray. If you're traveling solo, you pay the consequences and move on. But if you’re planning your family’s only annual holiday, the stakes rise. Naturally, every parent’s definition of what constitutes a “bargain” resort or hotel is going to differ; but all would likely agree that when you’re planning a trip with children, certain amenities can’t be sacrificed, no matter how enticing the rate.

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We’ve gathered together 10 of our favorite family resortsthat offer a great deal for families. Each property offers something special for the kids, without breaking the bank. We haven’t put a price on what constitutes a good bargain, since let’s face it: $200 a night in Maine will buy you a lot more than $200 in Maui. These resorts offer a great value when compared to others in the area, rates that are less than nearby competitors, and amenities that are comparable or superior. When it comes to bang for buck, these properties deliver.

1. Comfort Suites Paradise Island Resort
The Comfort Suites Paradise Island in the Bahamas is the best way to experience Atlantis Resort and Casino on a budget. Directly adjacent to Atlantis, a few extra steps could save your family several hundred dollars, if you don’t mind returning to less-luxurious accommodations than your friends residing at Atlantis. A nice resort in its own right, the 229-room Comfort Suites has a lovely pool with a swim-up bar, free continental breakfast, an on-site restaurant for breakfast and lunch (less expensive than dining at Atlantis) and a refrigerator in every room.

What makes it a deal?
The major draw is that you get full access to all the facilities at Atlantis Resort and Casino including the pools, water slides and river rides, spa, Kids Club, Dolphin Cay and Aquaventure. Yes, seriously! You can also ask for signing privileges at Atlantis restaurants (though you will not have access to Atlantis meal plans), which means you can spend the entire day there and return only to sleep.

2. Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Considered one of Disney’s “Value Resorts,” Pop Century is admittedly a little more dated, and little less amenity-friendly than some of the other Disney properties; but for families looking to visit Disney on a budget, it’s an ideal option. Located near Epcot, this sprawling 2,880-room resort has three pools, an arcade, a playground and a large food court.

What makes it a deal?
The rates are extremely reasonable for a Disney property. All Disney Resorts offer advantages to staying at a non-Disney property, including extra Magic Hours, which allow you to arrive early and stay late at the park on certain days, avoiding lines — a privilege that is well worth it, especially during peak season — and free bus transportation to all Walt Disney World Resort destinations. Affordable family vacations

3. Club Med Yucatan
Club Med's Yucatan’s 400 rooms and suites sit alongside what is arguably the best beach in Cancun. The wide, mile-long expanse of sandy beach is perfect for families. Some may remember that prior to the Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the resort was adults-only. But it re-opened in November 2006 after undergoing $20 million in renovations, including the addition of Club Med’s signature children’s program: Mini-Club for ages 4 to 10, Junior Club Med for ages 11 to 13 and Passworld Teen Club for ages 14 to 17.

What makes it a deal?
Club Med is a good bargain because of the quality of the kids’ programming you get for the price. While you will find other all-inclusive resorts that offer children’s programs and might have more luxurious accommodations and more sophisticated dining options, what you get for the price at a Club Med makes it a good choice. This particular Club Med rates even higher than most on the value scale because of its top-notch beach.

4. Si Como No
Located in the Province of Puntarenas in Costa Rica, eco-friendly Si Como No’s 60 rooms are surrounded by jungle and sea. The property is secluded enough to feel like you are a million miles from civilization, yet there are ample amenities and activities to make it entertaining for the kids. These include two on-site restaurants, two pools (one family pool with a waterslide), a small movie theater and wireless Internet.

What makes it a deal?
The room rates at Si Como No are surprisingly affordable given its spectacular location, and also include a complimentary breakfast buffet, free shuttle to nearby Manuel Antonio National Park and free passes to the Butterfly Botanical Gardens at Fincas Naturales Wildlife Refuge across the street. But perhaps, most importantly, you’ll feel good knowing your money was well spent. The owner of Si Como No is renown for his efforts to help preserve the rainforest.

5. Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg
Located just three miles from Colonial Williamsburg, Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg offers families the ability to mix a healthy dose of culture with a giant dose of fun. If your children aren’t keen on the idea of period clothing and Civil War, this ought to be enough to get them there. The property has been ranked first for “Top 10 Best Pools in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor.

What makes it a deal?
The indoor water park. If your kids are into them, this one is well worth every penny. The resort has a 300,000-gallon indoor water park with eight waterslides, a wave pool, lazy-river, pool for basketball, Flowrider surf pool, and the highlight of the property: The Howlin’ Tornado, which sends four-person rafts down a six-story funnel and spits them out into an exit pool. And of course, with the Williamsburg location, you're getting two vacations for the price of one — that is, if you can manage to tear the kids away.

6. El Capitan Canyon Resort
Located on 300 acres of coastline about 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon Resort is two parts rustic, one part luxury. The experience is referred to as “glamping” or “glamorous camping” Families can stay in charming private cabins that have kitchenettes and private bathrooms with soaking tubs, or safari tents. Fire pits in the cooking area allow families to prepare their own meals. Family activities include storytelling, Saturday night barbecues and concerts in the summer, and there is a heated swimming pool.

What makes it a deal?
You are not paying for extras at El Capitan. By bringing your own food and making use of the kitchenettes, and participating in the free activities offered, you’ll save a bundle.

7. Franklyn D. Resort
Located in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, Franklyn D. Resort (FDR) is all-inclusive resort that is a favorite among young families. You’ll have access to four restaurants, three pools and a great beach. With just 77 suites (ranging in size from one- to three-bedroom) it’s more intimate than most all-inclusives in the Caribbean. All suites have separate living and dining areas and kitchens.

What makes it a deal?
Two factors make this a great deal, especially for families with young children. First, it’s all-inclusive, which often works out in your favor when traveling with kids. But more importantly, FDR’s claim to fame is that they include a personal nanny for each family for the duration of each family’s stay. The nanny will (but does not need to) take charge of your kids every day from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. She will do everything from feeding and bathing them to escorting them around the property to scheduled activities. Without the nanny service, there isn’t a lot to distinguish it from other all-inclusives in the area; but with it, it offers real appeal.

8. Disney’s Paradise Pier
The modest 48-room Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim is a quaint little spot within walking distance to Disneyland. The most affordable of the Disneyland hotels, it’s also the smallest. It has a few key amenities, which make it a great choice for families, namely a really cool rooftop pool with a waterslide and great views, and on-site character dining.

What makes it a deal?
You can’t beat Paradise Pier’s location and Disney touches for the price. Disney always offers little incentives to make their properties more appealing than the others, like park re-entry (the ability to scoot back to the hotel for meals or naps and then re-enter the park) and free transportation to and from the park. You’ll also have access to a Disney movie room and in-room babysitting.

9. Point Sebago Resort
Campy Point Sebago Resort is a great budget-friendly resort for families looking to get back to basics and spend some time close to nature. Located on Sebago Lake, southern Maine's largest lake, the resort covers 775 shorefront and wooded acres and offers loads of activities for families at an affordable price. The country’s splashiest hotels

What makes it a deal?
What’s great about Point Sebago is that you have a wide variety of accommodation options; so you can decide for yourself how much or how little you want to spend. You’ll have the option of everything from a tent or RV to a much-less-rustic park or vacation home. The resort also runs a terrific kids’ program, which is free for all guests and provides tons of outdoor fun for children ages 3 and older. Families can also save money on food, as all lodging options include some kind of cooking facility, be it a campfire or fully-equipped kitchen. Many families opt to cook their own meals, purchasing goods at the on-site general store. Those who prefer to be served can dine in the on-site Lakeview Restaurant.

10. Ka'anapali Beach Hotel
Let’s face it, Maui ain’t cheap. But the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers a beautiful location on 11 acres of the island’s famous Ka’anapali Beach, along with lots of genuine Hawaiian touches and personalized service hard to come by at some of the larger resorts. The hotel has a neat whale-shaped pool and beautiful landscaping.

What makes it a deal?
The location on Ka'anapali Beach can’t be beat for the price, and the hotel’s Aloha Value rooms (which face exterior lawns or surrounding hotels) are a great deal. The hotel also offers a free “Aloha Passport for Kids” program for families with children 12 and under, which guides families through the property while they participate in activities like hula lessons and flower and lei making. Kids also get a free Hawaiian souvenir.

Family Vacation Critic is published by online travel specialist The Independent Traveler, Inc. — a subsidiary of TripAdvisor LLC and the creator of Cruise Critic, the leading cruise news and reviews Web site.


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