9 Affordable Spring Break Bargains For 2009

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

If your spring break family travel budget is extra tight this year, don't despair. The travel industry understands, delivering some of the best family vacation deals in recent memory. Although family spring break periods are typically marked by high season rates, that's not the case this year. You'll be surprised by the exceptional family vacation values available.

First, take a look at this article on The Family Travel Network for insider tips on how to find great spring break deals. Then visit bargain sites such as www.travelzoo.com and www.travel-ticker.com for ideas and call a few travel agents who may be aware of unadvertised specials. The Family Travel Network's Hot Deals area is loaded with bargains as well.

Here are nine top options for a fun and affordable family spring break:

1. Cruises

Cruises are one of the brightest spots in spring break travel this year. Prices are low and ships are loaded with family-oriented programs and amenities. Visit sites such as www.vacationstogo.com, www.cruises.com, www.Ecruises.com and www.cruisesinc.com to look for specials and compare offers. Once you narrow down your cruise interests, let almost 200 cruise agencies bid for your business anonymously at CruiseCompete.com.

Here are a few great deals available during the spring break period:

Norwegian Spirit
7-day Exotic Caribbean, round-trip from New Orleans
Departs on March 29, 2009
Rates start at $499 per person for the first two passengers (3rd - 8th guests from $199)
Visit www.ncl.com or call 1-866-234-7350

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas
7-day Western Caribbean, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale
Departs on March 29, 2009
Rates start at $599 per person for the first two passengers
Visit www.royalcaribbean.com or call 1-866-562-7625

Carnival Paradise
4-day West Coast cruise, round-trip from Long Beach
Departs on March 30, 2009
Rates start at $319 per person for the first two passengers (3rd-4th guests from $219)
Visit www.carnival.com or call 1-888-CARNIVAL

Norwegian Pride of America
7-day Hawaii, round-trip from Honolulu
Departs on April 11, 2009
Rates start at $899 per person for the first two passengers (3rd -8th guests from $149)
Visit www.ncl.com or call 1-866-234-7350

Carnival Glory
7-day Exotic Western Caribbean, round-trip from Port Canaveral
Departs on April 18, 2009
Rates start at $629 per person for the first two passengers (3rd-4th from $379)
Visit www.carnival.com or call 1-888-CARNIVAL

Rates listed above are subject to change and taxes/fees are additional.

In addition, Disney Cruise Line is offering 50% on cruise fares for children 12 and under (as quoted on their website) when children are traveling with two full-fare guests in the same stateroom. This offer is available for 3-, 4- and 7-night cruises on most sail dates from April 11, 2009 through May 12, 2009. Restrictions apply and government taxes and fees are not included. To book, visit www.disneycruise.com, call 1-800-951-3532 or contact your travel agent and mention booking code KHO.

Want to sail your own ship? Sunsail is offering 25-35% off Caribbean sailing charters on selected dates. For more information, visit www.sunsail.com.

2. Orlando

This year, Orlando is offering terrific deals and even more to love. As part of Disney's "Celebration Vacation" promotion, everyone who visits a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park on their birthday in 2009 can get in free. To receive free admission to one of the Walt Disney World theme parks on your birthday, make sure to bring along a valid ID including proof of birth date. Guests can get more details and start the process by registering their birthdays at www.disneyparks.com. For more information or to book a Disney "Celebration Vacation," call 1-407/W-DISNEY, contact your favorite travel agent, or visit www.disneyparks.com.

Taking the "Celebration Vacation" promotion one step further, families renting one of Imagine Vacation Homes' professionally managed vacation homes for a minimum of 5 nights will receive one free Disney park ticket for accompanying immediate family members. Rental rates start as low as $119 per night for a 3-bedroom home in the Orlando area with a private pool.  Terms and restrictions apply. For more information, visit www.imaginevacationhomes.com or call 1-866-535-7843.

Universal Orlando Resort is continuing its popular getaway offer allowing families to book a three-night package and receive two additional nights free. Packages begin at $711 – or less than $36 per-person/per-night for a family of four – and include accommodations at a hotel near Universal and unlimited theme park admission.  Families prefering longer stays can also book a four-night package and receive an additional three nights free – including unlimited admission to both Universal Orlando theme parks – beginning at $806 for a family of four for a hotel near Universal. Families have until March 29, 2009 to book this package for travel from now through October 8, 2009. Restrictions apply, availability is limited, and prices/offers are subject to change without notice. For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com or call 1-877-801-9720.

Nearly two dozen Orlando hotels have teamed up with SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for a great vacation package offer. Guests who buy three nights get two additional nights free plus admission to their choice of two of the three parks for the length of their stay. Based on a family of four, this offer starts at just $31 per person, per day. This package must be purchased by March 31, 2009 and is applicable to vacations scheduled through September 7, 2009. For more information, visit www.SeaWorldOrlando.com.

For more Orlando deals and vacation packages, visit the Orlando Visitors Bureau website at www.orlandoinfo.com. Also make sure to check out the Visitors Bureau's "Bundles of Free Smiles" promotion, providing information on more than 100 "get something free" deals - such as kids stay free, kids eat free, free room nights, and free attraction admission - available in Orlando through June 30, 2009.

3. Airfare Sale-Driven Vacations

One of the most creative ways to put together a cheap family spring break vacation is to let the weekly airfare sales be your guide. Sign up for newsletter alerts at www.airfarewatchdog.com and check out sites like www.kayak.com (especially www.kayak.com/buzz), www.farecast.com, and www.farecompare.com. Look for an airfare deal that strikes your fancy and then match it with a hotel, resort, or vacation rental property. I've come up with some incredible family getaways to Florida, Cancun and Hawaii this way, but it's critical to have a flexible approach to your family's vacation options.

4. Spring Skiing

Heavy snows this year are creating exceptional spring skiing conditions in a variety of locations and the discounts are excellent as well. Here are some of the available deals:

The Canyons Resort, Utah
3rd Night Free
Book two nights of lodging between now and March 21, 2009 and get your third night free when you stay at the Sundial Lodge or Silverado Lodge at The Canyons Resort. Restrictions apply. For more information, call 1-866-604-4171 or visit www.thecanyons.com.

Okemo, Vermont
Okemo's Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Off lift ticket deal is valid every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the month of March. That's just $99 for two lift tickets. In addition, Okemo's "Kids Rock" offer gets families a free child's (ages 7-18) lift ticket when a parent purchases their full-price Sunday - Friday lift ticket online 48-hours in advance through March 30. There are some restrictions and caveats to these deals, so visit www.okemo.com or call 1-802-228-1600 for more details.

Winter Park, Colorado
Spring Break Slopeside
Ski 4 days and stay 4 nights at Winter Park's new slopeside condominiums, Fraser Crossing and Founders Pointe. One child (ages 6-12) receives a free lift ticket with the purchase of an adult lift ticket. One child (ages 6-12) receives a free equipment rental package with the purchase of an adult rental package. Rates start at just $108 per person, per night, based on two adults and up to two children in a one bedroom condominium. Rates may vary based on arrival date, unit type and availability. For more information and details, call 1-866-239-3994 or visit www.skiwinterpark.com.

Park City, Utah
Extraordinary Family Package and Buy 3, Get 1 Free
Park City is offering two great late spring skiing deals. Check the restrictions and see which one is best for you. The Extraordinary Family Package starts at $192 per person, per night late season with double adult occupancy - kids stay free. The package includes three nights lodging for two adults and two children (ages 12 and under) and two adult two-day lift tickets to Park City Mountain Resort. Taxes and fees are not included and restrictions do apply. Discounted children's lift tickets (ages 7-12) are available for purchase. Children six and under ski free. If your travel dates are blacked out under this package, take a look at the Buy 3, Get 1 Free deal. When you buy 3 nights lodging and a 3-day lift ticket, you'll get an extra night and day for free. This offer is based on double occupancy and is valid through April 12, 2009. For more information, visit www.parkcitymountain.com or call 1-800-331-3178.

Breckenridge, Colorado
Spring Break Lodging Package & Spring Break Family Passport
As part of Breckenridge's Spring Break lodging package, guests get 30% savings with prices as low as $105 per person per night during March when they book four nights of lodging and four days of lift tickets for a group of four. Some restrictions apply. In addition, the free Spring Break Family Passport to Fun and Savings, valid March 14-30, 2009, directs families to special savings at Breckenridge Resort. For more information on these and other specials, visit www.breckenridge.com or call 1-888-284-9477.

For a dozen more spring break 3rd night free deals in Colorado and Canada, check out the 3rd Night Free page at Ski.com or call 1-800-908-5000.

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