It's not impossible to squeeze in a last-minute family trip before the kids are back at school. We've rounded up the most affordable, family-friendly vacations filled with some extra bonding moments for the end-of-summer-blues.
Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge
Average Price: $226/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 4.0 Pearls Location: Disney World, Orlando From the gazelles and giraffes freely roaming the grounds to the enormous pool with a waterslide, the safari-themed Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge was designed to amaze and delight children. Throughout the day, staff members lead (free) educational activities for children like craft-making, African drumming, or mini-lessons about the where giraffes come from. Here, even the learning is captivating.
Nickelodeon Suites Resort
Average Price: $135/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: Lake Buena Vista, Orlando You know when you stay at a hotel with "Nickelodeon" in its name that you're in for a kid-tastic treat. Dedicated entirely to children's comfort and entertainment, "Nick Hotel," as it slangily refers to itself, is literally made for families. Accommodations are configured to give parents and children separate bedrooms, with plenty of shared living space and the convenience of kitchenettes. The entertainment and on-site amenities are unmatched outside of Disney and include two water parks, a mall, and -- during the busiest seasons -- activities like live entertainment at the pool and Studio Nick.
Average Price: $219/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 4.0 Pearls Location: Cambridge, Boston A "discovery" theme (hallway carpets patterned with stars and moons), kids' menus, large guest rooms, and lots of freebies -- welcome treats for kids, free use of bikes and kayaks, a free lending library of books, free cribs and playpens, free child-size bathrobes -- make Hotel Marlowe a great choice for families. Plus, across the street, hotel guests get free use of the telescopes at the Museum of Science observatory.
The Colonnade Hotel
Average Price: $294/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 4.0 Pearls Location: Back Bay, Boston This classy hotel features the city's only rooftop pool, making it a hit with the kids during the summer. Kids' menus are available for in-room dining; and at 350 square feet, the standard rooms are large enough to accommodate a crib or rollaway bed (which are available for free).
New York New York Hotel & Casino
Average Price: $98/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: The Strip, Las Vegas The hotel's signature feature is it's 67-mph roller coaster that takes off from the lobby and wraps around the hotel. The hotel also houses one of the biggest arcades in Las Vegas, and walking through the faux New York City neighborhoods and eateries is a little like walking through a Disneyland village.
Average Price: $163/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 4.0 Pearls Location: The Strip, Las Vegas The Mirage has endless ways to keep kids entertained, including the nightly eruptions of the hotel's signature man-made volcano and the lions and dolphins at Siefried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. The entertainment options, like Cirque du Soleil shows and performances by puppeteer Terry Fator, are relatively wholesome compared to some of Vegas' other offerings. And there's a kids' menu at California Pizza Kitchen and kid-friendly fare at Carnegie Delicatessen and Paradise Cafe.
Wilshire Grand Los Angeles
Average Price: $115/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.0 Pearls Location: Downtown, Los Angeles The rooms at this affordable hotel, at 240-square-feet, may be a tight squeeze for parents and kids, but who's hanging out in the room? From this downtown base, Universal Studios is a 20-minute metro ride (no car!), and Hollywood is 15 minutes by train. In town for a game? The Staples Center is within walking distance, and Dodgers Stadium is a five- to 15-minute drive depending on traffic. Even though the hotel attracts business travelers, kids can comfortably run around the large, carpeted lobby and swim in the pool without raising eyebrows.
Le Parc Suites Hotel
Average Price: $208/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: Hollywood/West Hollywood, Los Angeles An enormous suite at a reasonable price is the story here. The 650-square-foot suites have fully equipped kitchens, two TVs (one a 42-inch plasma TV), a living room with a gas fireplace, and balconies. A roof-top pool and tennis court sweeten the deal, and from the hotel's West Hollywood location, Universal Studios is only a 15-minute drive.
Average Price: $253/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: Midtown East, New York City Families love the Affinia Fifty, given its safe, convenient location in Midtown East, its large rooms (most of which sleep at least four people with sofa beds and can attach to other rooms), and its laid-back lounge with plenty of board games. Affinia also runs a popular "Jet-Set Kids" promotion, where young guests receive a New York City guidebook for kids, plus NYC stickers, a scrapbook, and even a digital camera.
Hilton Times Square
Average Price: $306/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: Times Square, New York City Large rooms, special kids' menus, an on-site movie theater, and plenty of nearby attractions in Times Square make the Hilton a great choice for families. Kids stay free in rooms with their parents, and standard and deluxe rooms with two double beds range from 330 to a palatial 360 square feet -- far bigger than the standard rooms in most New York hotels. The kids' breakfast buffet at Restaurant Above costs $10 and includes toast, eggs, pancakes, bacon, and juice.
Trump International Beach Resort
Average Price: $193/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 4.5 Pearls Location: Northern Beaches, Miami Unlike at most other Miami hotels, the Kids Club at the Trump is free. The large, family-size rooms all have kitchenettes, and many suites also include washer/dryers. The grotto-style pool comes with a broad shallow area that's great for little swimmers. Plus, there's always Globie -- the hotel mascot -- who entertains kids around the pool.
Newport Beachside Hotel and Resort
Average Price: $203/avg. night Pearls: Rating: 3.5 Pearls Location: Northern Beaches, Miami Kids gone wild, with parents (usually) in tow. The Newport Beachside is a lot like a cruise on land, with organized kids' activities all day long, entertainment at night, and tykes dominating the landscape. Plus, the hotel has two video-game rooms, a make-your-own-album CD creator, and family-appropriate movie nights.
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