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Some of the greatest values for families can be found at all-inclusive resorts, which offer plenty of diversions and schedule flexibility.
Skytop Lodge, PA
Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts
Skytop Lodge, PA
Fans of the cult classic Dirty Dancing will recognize the wholesome brand of family fun cultivated at this stone-and-wood lodge on 5,500 acres in the Poconos. You can zipline through the Tree Top Adventure Course (more than 3,000 feet long, but a comfortable 10–15 feet above the ground); play laser tag or paintball; set off on a GPS-guided nature hike; or, in the winter, go dogsledding with the resort’s own team of huskies. Grown-ups may opt to do the more rigorous Leavitt Falls hike, which descends into a rhododendron-dotted ravine, home to foxes.
Rate: From $495 per night based on double occupancy, for the Full American Plan, which includes three daily meals and select activities (hiking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, and mini-golf). Children under 12 are free; those 12 and over or additional adults are $75 per person. Fees apply for golf and Adventure Center activities.
The kids want to go ziplining—for the third time in two days. But you don't need to think twice. When you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, nearly everything is included, so the pressure is off to constantly tally the cost of your vacation.
The all-inclusive concept has gotten a recent makeover—better food, spruced-up décor, more varied activities—and many are perfect for families. Activities are on-site, so there's no need to wake up early and usher the troops out the door only to wait in traffic or long lines. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa offers four themed villages, 19 restaurants, a 45,000-square-foot water park, a Scratch DJ Academy, a surfing simulator, an Xbox Play Lounge, and Sesame Street® characters.
Related: Best Family Getaways 2014
The best all-inclusive family resorts also have programs that give grown-ups a little space. Vermont's Tyler Place Family Resort runs nine camps tailored to specific ages, each with its own facilities; parents meet up with their brood for lunch and activities, but can enjoy dinner in the adults-only restaurant.
These are the kinds of distinguishing factors to look for before booking. "The devil is in the details, so do your homework with special attention to size, quality, and the staff-to-guest ratio," says Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico.
At Kenya's Lewa Safari Camp, families can customize the experience, say, with earlier mealtimes. Before each morning's game drive, hot chocolate is delivered to the door. Now that should keep the whole family happy.