Are you ready for summer fun? These hotels are easy on the wallet and are rolling out the welcome mat for family visitors with new programming aimed at kids and parents.

By Mia Taylor
April 23, 2021
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An image of a family at Mar Vista Farm + Cottages.
Credit: Courtesy of Mar Vista Farm + Cottages.

There's finally glimmering light at the end of the tunnel. With 26 percent of the American population (87 million people) now vaccinated, Americans are beginning to return to the age-old tradition of the family summer vacation.

Families are traveling by car, rail, and air in the coming months—and they're booking hotels as part of their getaways, according to several industry reports and trackers, which indicate that as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread, reservations for trips are experiencing a substantial uptick.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports that 56 percent of Americans are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021. Even more encouraging, the latest Deloitte State of Consumer Tracker (which posts monthly updates) shows that 55 percent of consumers feel comfortable staying in a hotel once again, while 48 percent are planning to travel in the next three months and will stay at a hotel.

Of course, we all still want to be assured that the places we're visiting with family in tow are offering activity options that are COVID-19-conscious—meaning there will be plenty of outdoor or at least socially distanced options for entertainment for the kids. And many of us continue to be very budget-conscious as the nation emerges from historic levels of job loss and economic downturn.

With that in mind, we've rounded up 10 hotels that are not only budget-friendly but are also rolling out the welcome mat for family visitors this summer with specific kid- and family-friendly programming tailor-made for the COVID-19 era of social distancing. 

Campfire Hotel, Bend, Oregon

Created to be an urban basecamp for adventure seekers, the Campfire Hotel opened its doors in October. The property, just minutes from Bend's chic and historic downtown, bills itself as value-priced outdoor-themed lodging. To that end, the entire place oozes a retro-camp-culture vibe.

Highlights include vintage camp-inspired guestrooms and a lobby "camp store" filled with kids' books, coloring books, and snacks. There's also a giant fire pit at the epicenter of the property, where guests can safely come together, enjoy the great outdoors, and share stories. As an added touch of whimsical fun, hotel rooms include acoustic instruments for kids to play if the mood strikes. And did we mention what an ideal place Bend is for stargazing? This fact is not lost on Campfire Hotel management. The property has launched a new Stargazing Package that's perfect for kids and families. 

"Stargazing in Central Oregon is quite amazing," James Pearrow, Campfire Hotel general manager tells Parents. "We wanted to harness that unique feature as one of the many kid-friendly amenities we offer onsite. With the use of branded Campfire blankets and hot chocolate, we invite our families to cuddle up around the fire pit and spend some time outside exploring the skies." Room rates start at $119 per night.

The Whaler's Inn, Mystic, Connecticut

A historic 45-room hotel in downtown Mystic, The Whaler's Inn recently announced a kid-themed package that aims to bring the sights and sounds of an aquarium right into your hotel room. 

With family safety in mind, the property collaborated with the nearby Mystic Aquarium to develop an immersive, in-room experience for parents of young children who want to get out of the house but are perhaps not yet ready to be part of large crowds.

The hotel's new Aquarium Suite has been decorated with bedding that has sea life designs; walls are adorned with marine life photos, and there's a white noise machine mimicking ocean sounds, as well as ocean wave nightlights. If all of that doesn't leave you feeling thoroughly immersed in sea life, there's also sea-themed movies on demand, and a stuffed animal for each child to take home. And if and when you're ready for the crowds, there's also free admission to the Mystic Aquarium.

"The Mystic Aquarium is an iconic destination in southeastern Connecticut and a highlight for families traveling to the region. I can still remember the magic of family trips there as a young kid; the excitement of encounters with the whales and the opportunity to see the seals and sea lions,"says Amanda Arling, president of The Whaler's Inn. 

The nightly rate for the suite, which is designed to accommodate two adults and two children, is $500.

Bayside Resort, West Yarmouth, Massachusetts

There's nothing quite like Cape Cod in the summer. And the Bayside Resort is designed to allow families to make the most of all that a quintessential New England summer getaway has to offer. The locally owned and managed property overlooking Lewis Bay has a number of family-oriented packages featuring fun in the outdoors.

The Whale Watch experience, (starting at $199 per night) includes accommodations, tickets on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, and even breakfast every morning. There's also a kid-tastic Beach Campfire and S'mores getaway option ($139 per night) that in addition to accommodations includes a deluxe family S'mores kit, sticky fingers, chocolate mustaches, and breakfast every morning.

"We designed these packages for families that enjoy open air activities featuring the best of Cape Cod. Families want to get away to a safe place without having to get on a plane, wait in long lines, or be packed into indoor spaces," Rod Sroczenski, the hotel's general manager, tells Parents. "We've also expanded our beach area, added more outdoor seating, an additional fire pit, two corn hole games, and installed party lights outside. We're totally ready for families with kids."  

Woodstock Inn & Resort, Vermont

Think fresh air, wide open spaces, and an abundance of outdoor activitiesWoodstock Inn & Resort offers all of these things and more. New this year—and specifically for the youngest visitors—there's the Kids Concierge, which offers fully customizable experiences for guests five to 12 years old. Activities range from hiking Mt. Peg or Mt. Tom to river walks to visiting the nearby Billings Farm & Museum, or the Knox Meadow Fitness Loop, a one-mile outdoor route with 10 exercise stations. There's also optional add-on activities such as private lessons in falconry, golf, tennis, fly fishing, or mountain biking. 

"The new Kids Concierge is a wonderful opportunity for our younger guests to create memorable experiences of their own at the resort," Courtney Lowe, vice president of marketing and business development tells Parents. "These private, outdoor adventures allow kids to independently discover new hobbies, or hone favorite pastimes."

Pricing for the Kids Concierge activities starts at $30 per hour, per child and includes chaperone services for the outing. Room rates at the property can be found on some dates this summer starting at around $279.

Novotel Miami Brickell, Florida

Watching movies under the stars is another classic summer activity and Novotel Miami Brickell clearly recognizes this fun fact. The downtown hotel recently redesigned its rooftop pool deck and after the unveiling in February the property added an outdoor movie night as a COVID-friendly way for families to spend evenings. 

Rooftop yoga classes are also available for all ages, (just in case you have a budding yogi in your brood.) Within a five-minute drive, families will find the kid-friendly Frost Museum of Science and the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Rates start at $129 per night.

YOTEL, Boston, Massachusetts

Want to be your child's hero? Take them to a property where a real life robot mingles with guests and delivers items to your room. At YOTEL Boston, the resident robot YO2D2 is the star of the show. But that's not the only draw.

The property has also just announced a new School in the Seaport package that includes a one-night stay in a premium queen cabin with bunk, and passes to the beloved Boston Children's Museum for the entire family. The package also includes fun welcome treats for families including a YO2D2 plush toy, milk and cookies, and food and beverage credits. 

Rates for the School in the Seaport package start at $150 per night.

Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, Gualala, California

A property that recently relaunched in April, the Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, is one kid delight after another. The list of complimentary kid-focused activities is enough to make any parent gleeful. Options include self-guided star bathing and forest bathing; chicken chats and egg collecting; feeding goat triplets, S'mores by the fire, and if all of that's not entertaining enough, there's also a cottage playhouse. Can you feel your family unwinding and finding its happy place (at least mentally) just reading that description? 

With 11 cottages and a small farm set upon nine acres along Mendocino County's "Secret Coast" in Northern California, Mar Vista is a property that's all about safety in seclusion and allowing travelers to slow down and reconnect. 

"Our guests engage with the environment and each other," Owner Deanna Boettcher tells Parents. "We want people to be as free from artificial distraction as possible—so they can focus on reconnecting with the things that truly matter."

Let's all say it together: Bring it on. Rates start at $215 per night.

Gaylord Hotels, Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Denver, Colorado

Three words: Summer of More. What does that mean exactly? At least at the Gaylord Hotels it means all new family-friendly programming.

"The pandemic served as an opportunity for our team to reimagine our iconic seasonal programming. We have created new experiences designed for safety, social distancing, and capacity control, while at the same time delivering immersive, personalized and compelling events that evoke a powerful emotional connection," Niko Nickolaou, creative director of special events and entertainment for Gaylord Hotels, tells Parents

Summer of More themed programming is meant to be a highly creative and magical experience designed for every member of the family. Adults are able to relive their favorite childhood pirate or princess storybook memories, while kids experience these things for perhaps the first time through themed activities across each property.

Gaylord properties also offer immersive water parks. And even while splashing around in these water worlds, guests will find "magical" activities waiting to entertain them, says Nickolaou. 

Deer Path Inn, Lake Forest, Illinois

After a year of COVID isolation, the Deer Path Inn decided to add special programming that's specifically designed to allow grandparents quality time with the grandkids. Cue the Gramping Getaway Package, which features completely socially distanced and private experiences ranging from scavenger hunts around Lake Forest's historic Market Square to custom pre-packed picnic baskets and tickets to the nearby Chicago Botanic Garden. And what grandparent bonding experience would be complete without an in-room milkshake and a selection of children's books (curated by the Lake Forest Bookstore) perfect for bedtime stories?

"With so many seniors getting vaccinated and feeling more comfortable traveling again, we wanted to create a completely customized and private experience for grandparents who haven't been able to spend time with their grandchildren in over a year," Patrick Lacassagne, of Deerpath Inn, tells Parents. Rates start at $319 per night.

InterContinental New York Times Square, New York

It's a rare child that can resist a new stuffed animal—and the entertainment planners at the InterContinental New York Times Square totally know this. In celebration of the return of family travel, the hotel recently announced that it's partnering with Build-a-Bear to make your children's stay at the hotel more memorable than ever. The new package includes a $25 gift certificate to the local Build-a-Bear, a special Build-a-Bear NYC backpack, and a surprise welcome amenity for the kids.

And not to worry: Parents won't be left in the cold; they'll also be treated to a $20 minibar credit. (Maybe non-drinkers can ask for a spa credit?) For still more fun, the property recently began offering upon-request magic shows with mentalist Jason Suran, which can be conducted virtually or in a socially distant, in-suite format. Guest rooms start at $195 per night.