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Even if money's tight, you can still take the vacation of your dreams. More and more, mid-priced beach resorts are putting on the ritz for price-conscious families, offering oceanside campfires and nature walks, elaborate kids' swimming pools, and upscale room decor. These facts aren't from a brochure, Web site, or travel agent working on commission -- they're the result of Parents' in-depth review of more than 200 beach resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean.
For each property, we researched how much it would cost for a week's vacation for a family of four during the summer months. The resort rates spanned from $99 to $750 per night. We automatically nixed the priciest half of the list and asked the remaining resorts if they had a supervised children's program, free activities that parents and young kids could enjoy together, a children's pool or shallow end of a larger pool, and lifeguards or other staff certified in CPR stationed near the pool. Then we pared down further, asking about the size of the rooms, smoking policies, what's on the children's menus, and other facts you'd want to know. In the end, we uncovered these 10 good-value getaways -- some high-energy, others laid-back, and all great fun for both you and the kids -- plus 10 more great runners-up to consider.
Sheraton Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort, Bahamas
With summer rates as low as $129 per night, you'd think this Caribbean resort must nickel-and-dime you elsewhere. Not at all. The supervised camp for kids as young as age 3 costs $50 for a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. session -- half that of some other resorts. Full-size "Sweet Sleeper" cribs and parking are free, there's a mini fridge in every guest room, and the resort fee, which includes Internet access, is just $5 daily per adult.
The property doesn't skimp on service either: The pool area -- with a spiraling slide into 4 feet of water and a shallow end for toddlers -- and the property's spacious white-sand beach both have lifeguards on duty throughout the day. As a backup, at least one of the staff members who hand out towels in the beach hut is a trained lifeguard.
A complimentary shuttle will take you over to Our Lucaya's pricier (though not outlandishly expensive) sister property, the Westin, where you're welcome to hang at its pools and restaurants. Reservations: 800-325-3535, ourlucaya.com.
Water Safety: Lifeguards at the beach and pools
Resort Fees: $5 daily per adult, no charge for children
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