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By Valerie Moloney

After years of shelling out thousandson diapers and formula, my husband and I thought we would get a little break in the expense department when our girls transitioned out of them. Needless to say we were wrong.  A friend’s recent Facebook note titled “11 -step program for those thinking of having kids” now sums up our situation:

Kids under 15 stay and eat for free at Comfort Suites Paradise Island, where guests have access to next-door neighbor Atlantis.

1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.

Between juice bags, fresh fruit by the bushel, bread, milk, cereal and more, our monthly grocery bill covers mostly the basics but can easily creep to the mid $400s. At least when we’re cooking at home, though, these are costs that we can control. Come summer vacation, when most of the meals are enjoyed out, it’s anyone’s guess what the final bill will be.  For my next getaway and yours, finding a hotel where kids eat free could be the way to go. Because one fewer meal to purchase equals a few more dollars for incidentals — like that “I Burnt My Buns in the Bahamas” Frisbee that my 6-year-old just can’t live without.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
What would you be willingto pay to eat alfresco on the golden shores of Kauna‘oa Beach? For patrons visiting this Big Island hotel, the dining costs are minimized to the parents’ entrees thanks to the kids-eat-free program. Now through Sept. 30, families can take advantage of huge savings at five restaurants, including the luau, clambake, Sunday brunch, Hau Tree, Number 3 and Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar. Follow the rules, though: Parents must dine with their children and order a full-priced meal for themselves.

Holiday Inn Santa Monica Beach
Holiday Inn is well-known for its kids-eat-free policy. Emphasizing foods that kids actually like along with healthier fare such as lean proteins and grilled vegetables, the chain brings one more family-friendly bonus to its Santa Monica Beach outpost: location. Perched across Santa Monica Pier, kids can skip to the same roller coaster and Ferris wheel that appeared in the Hannah Montana movie.

Hilton Clearwater Beach
Ten acres of pearly white coastline front this Clearwater Beach hotel, a favorite for families who will spend their days riding bikes, parasailing, at the pool or at the kid’s club. When they work up an appetite, tykes won’t be charged for their meals – a promotion that lasts through Sept. 30.

Comfort Suites Paradise Island
Mom and dad will be happy that the kids get to eat – and stay — free at this Paradise Island hotel, but the little ones will be giddy for an entirely different reason: All guests still have access to Atlantis, the next-door neighbor. So the water parks, lazy river, pools and private beach are yours to enjoy, too.

Insider tip: Start your search for the ultimate family vacation spot: Atlantis on Paradise Island. Book and travel by Aug. 20 and you’ll receive a fourth night free.

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Tagged: Family time

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