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Family vacations are fun and economical

January 19, 2005 - Here's some good news for anyone who fears the expense of "family travel" or struggles with the decision of taking a road trip vs. an airline getaway: You don't have to let any of that stop you.

Family travel can be fun and economical, experts say. If you can't afford to travel far, try something local, perhaps a festival.

Or consider driving to your destination to save on airfare. Renting a car is another option to avoid putting unnecessary miles on the family vehicle and maybe add space with a roomier vehicle for the trip.

Getting there is only half the fun. The right lodging should have good prices and activities. If you can't afford a fancy hotel with specialized children's programming, look for a destination that has plenty of local attractions suitable for your children.

The top choices for families this season are amusement parks and ski areas. Fam-ilies consistently flock to spots across Flor-ida, Hawaii and the Caribbean as well.

The following can help identify a child-friendly vacation spot that's right for you.

• Location is everything. Make sure the layout of the property makes sense. Select direct access to the beach as opposed to having to take an elevator or stairs.

• Make sure it meets everyone's needs. A good program for toddlers isn't necessarily ideal for a 9-year-old. Look for age separation and age appropriate programming. Also ask about the adult to child ratio for supervision and supervisory training.

• Make sure surroundings are safe and child-proofed. Avoid furniture with sharp edges or exposed outlets. Be sure balconies and patios are safe or locked.

• Select a lodging option with a refrigerator to store snacks or meals to cut down on food costs.

• If you're unfamiliar with a property ask for references from friends or look for customer reviews online.

• A truly child-friendly spot will make sure there's no accommodations issue that can't easily be solved.

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