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Bargain Travel for Families

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By Katherine Relf-Cañas

Take advantage of complimentary meal offers from hotels catering to family travelers.

Some chains offer nationwide, year-round programs. Others offer continental breakfast, or one, two, or three square meals for kids as part of a family getaway package. You'll also find the ratio of free meals to purchased meals varies. Look for programs or promotions of this kind at more upscale chains and resorts. Embassy Suites Hotels takes pride in being "the first and only upscale, full-service, all-suite hotel brand to offer guests a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast every morning." They have also developed a kid concierge service: Embassy Suites Kids-Eye View Passport. It lists "kid approved" attractions in 36 cities. A recent offering from the Westin Pasadena in California lets children choose from its kids' menu and dine free with room service and a free movie as part of its family getaway.

Conduct an Internet search for restaurants with "kids eat free" programs.

The offers vary, the days of the week vary, and not all of them are chains. If you're willing to spend the time doing online research, your efforts will be rewarded by free meals for your kids. While the listings at may not be completely up to date, contact info is provided so you can verify with the restaurants listed in this state-by-state directory. The website also offers coupons and other ideas for budget dining with kids.

Use online flight aggregators.

With their independent, 'neutral' online search tools, travel aggregators can help you locate the lowest fare from among hundreds of travel sites and airlines on the Web. At Kayak, the service finds flight, hotel, cruise and car rental deals along with eye-pleasing site design, simple controls, copious customer-oriented FAQs, and humor! Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites, then you take your pick from options displayed on their site. You leave the site to book your travel with the provider that offered the best option. Kayak won't book your tickets or take your reservations. Keep in mind, though, that it may be difficult to find child fares. According to the site's FAQ, only some of the airline sites allow you to alter your fare information once you click over to the airline's reservation form. Other airfare aggregators include Wegolo and Airfare Watch. They offer search tools and links to assist you in controlling the cost of your flights and other travel deals.

Take out travel insurance.

You never know when a family member will get sick right before you leave or while you are traveling, so consider purchasing travel insurance. Shop around for a good travel insurance package tailored to your specific needs. They're not all created equal. Access America, available through AAA, offers one of the most liberal products out there. Providers often update their policy offerings to bring you more, so keep your eye out for new benchmarks and rules for what is covered. Medical referral networks are another handy feature that can help in a medical emergency when you are away from home. Packages that cover your non-refundable trip costs are a good way to recoup part or all of your travel investment.

Katherine Relf-Canas travels whenever she can. Her daughter, Olivia, now 6, is a responsible globetrotter in training. Her freelance writing has appeared in Mothering and GeoParents.

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