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6 ways to save money on resort stays with children

Loyalty programs, card rewards and family-oriented properties can all help you score a great family vacation for less; here’s how


Taking your family to an all-inclusive resort aimed specifically for children can streamline your planning and help you score major savings. These tips will help you find the right resort and plan a great, budget-conscious stay.

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Taking the family to an all-inclusive resort can streamline your summer vacation plans, while potentially saving some money.

Many resorts offer child- and parent-friendly perks that are designed to make your stay more enjoyable and more affordable.

These tips can help you maximize savings this summer if your vacay plans include a resort stay.

See related: How to book an all-inclusive vacation using rewards points

Pick the right booking strategy

How you book resort stays can make a difference in what you pay. Jill Douglas, general manager of the Commander Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, recommends booking resort stays directly versus booking through third-party sites.

“When booking directly, you may have access to valuable unadvertised money-saving specials the resort is running during the time period when you’re looking to visit,” says Douglas.

Besides that, she says the resort may be more flexible with its cancellation policy in the event you need to change your travel plans.

The simplest way to find deals is to ask. If no deals are offered, look to your hotel loyalty program next. You may unlock special savings there if the resort you’re booking is part of the program.

Marriott Bonvoy, for instance, offers discounted vacation packages at nearly 800 family-friendly hotels and resorts.

If you’re considering a third-party booking site to find a lower rate, check the terms first.

Booking through a third-party site could make you ineligible to earn rewards through your preferred hotel loyalty program. While you could save money on your stay, you may miss out on earning points that could put you closer to a free night.

Look for third-party booking promotions that coincide with your rewards card to offset not earning loyalty rewards.

Capital One, for instance, offers 10 miles per dollar for Venture and Venture One cardholders who book and pay through through 2020.

Choose a resort that allows children to stay free

To really save money, consider booking a resort that doesn’t charge extra for children. Some of the all-inclusive resorts that welcome kids for free include:

When checking into free children’s resort stays, be aware of the rules.

  • At Club Med, for instance, only children aged four or younger stay free.
  • At Dreams Resorts & Spas, free children’s stays are limited to two kids per booking, one child free per adult.

Also, check for any blackout dates or other special restrictions that may apply. With Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, for instance, children only stay free at selected properties.

See related: How to enjoy free breakfast and dinner on your next hotel stay

Ask about free or low-cost activities for children

Depending on the resort you’re booking, there may be a slew of child-focused amenities on tap. Susan Ritt, an associate at Custom Travel Services, says parents should do a little homework beforehand to find out which resorts have the best budget-friendly options for children.

For instance, the range of amenities at family-centric resorts may include waterparks and watersports for children, story times, craft activities, movie nights, children’s camps, scavenger hunts and games.

“The typical all-inclusive resort may look spendy at first glance, but when you factor in all that’s included, you may find that you’re actually saving money,” says Ritt.

And as an added perk for parents, complimentary childcare may be available onsite, giving you some time to enjoy the more adult-friendly features of the resort.

Avoid paying full price for meals if possible

One of the biggest opportunities to save money when planning resort stays with children is to check out deals on dining.

Tracy Odell, vice president of content at finance site FinanceBuzz, says food is easily her biggest expense when traveling as a family.

When booking resort vacations, she looks for properties that offer kitchenettes so they can eat at least one meal in their room per day to save money. If that’s not an option, she says to check whether the resort has a communal outdoor grilling area where you can prepare meals.

Also, look for resorts that include children’s meals with your stay. Many of the resorts that allow children to stay free also include free children’s meals as part of your vacation package.

When looking for freebies on children’s dining, ask whether that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks. Odell always brings along snacks and breakfast items just in case the resort doesn’t provide those for kids.

Douglas offers another insider tip: ask the resort about partnerships with area restaurants. Many resorts and hotels, including the one Douglas works for, partner with local restaurants to offer special discounts for guests.

If you’re taking the children out to dinner, getting a free appetizer or dessert could trim a few dollars off the bill.

Get more resort freebies with your rewards card

In addition to earning points on your hotel stay, your rewards card could yield some additional perks to make your resort stay more affordable.

Hotel credit cards can help you earn loyalty status more quickly or even immediately in some cases and status perks can come in handy for families,” says Odell. “For example, with Bonvoy Gold Status you can get a room upgrade if a room is available. Having a little more space can go a long way when a family is sharing a room.”

One question you may consider is whether it makes sense to open the resort’s credit card to book your stay if that’s an option. Both Sandals and Beaches, for instance, offer their own branded credit cards. Ritt says this only makes sense if you’re loyal to that brand and will book future trips.

“For example, a Disney branded card might make sense if you live near one of the resorts and plan to visit often,” she says.

Otherwise, you may be better off with a general travel rewards card that lets you earn points or miles on resort bookings, car rentals and airfare. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards are good go-to options for earning points on travel and dining. The Reserve card includes another money-saving benefit in the form of a $300 annual travel credit.

Watch out for hidden fees

If it’s your first time booking a family vacation at a resort, be on the lookout for unexpected fees.

“Many hotels, not just the big resorts, are now charging an extra resort fee on top of the daily room rate,” says Ritt.

These fees can cover a variety of benefits and privileges, such as local telephone calls, internet access, gym or spa access, pool towels, daily newspapers or airport shuttle service. It doesn’t matter whether you use these perks either; the resort can still charge you. Every resort is different when it comes to when and how the fees apply.

“Sometimes these fees can be per person, including kids, and charged daily,” says Odell.

If the resort isn’t upfront about disclosing fees on its website, take time to ask before you book. And don’t hesitate to ask for a discount or waiver of the resort fee if it’s a brand you’ve been loyal to in the past.

“Knowing about the fees in advance helps you understand the overall cost of the trip so there are no unpleasant surprises upon arrival,” says Ritt.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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