Kid-friendly budget getaways

The words

The words "travel" and "saving money" don't always mesh. (Clipart.com)

LORI KNOWLES, The Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

The words "travel" and "saving money" don't always mesh. But there are ways to save while having fun travelling with your kids this winter, whether your family is skiing or building castles in the sand.

Here are some suggestions:

SKI FREE

For more than 10 years, Grade 5 students have been able to ski and snowboard free at ski resorts in Canada using a SnowPass from the Canadian Ski Council. This winter, the SnowPass program has been expanded to include kids in Grade 4.

The 2008/09 SnowPass provides any Canadian child born in 1998 or 1999 coupons that can be cashed in for free lift tickets at participating ski areas. There are more than 150 resorts participating this season across all provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. Big name participants include Blue Mountain and Mount St. Louis Moonstone in Ontario, Quebec's Mont Tremblant, Alberta's Lake Louise, and Big White and Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia.

Here's how it works: Depending on where you live in Canada, each student who applies will receive either an Eastern or Western SnowPass Booklet. The SnowPass includes up to three ski-free coupons for each participating ski area. The SnowPass also includes coupons for deals on lessons and rentals. Some participating areas offer a bonus Grade 6 coupon that can be used in 2010.

To apply, visit snowpass.ca or pick up an application at Sport Mart, Sport Chek, Sports Experts and Intersport stores. Grade 4 and 5 school teachers across the country are also being asked to distribute SnowPass applications.

FREE NIGHTS IN ORLANDO

If warmer days at Disney World are more your style, at least one Orlando hotel is offering free nights.

From now until May 3, 2009, the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort is offering the fifth night free in a five night stay -- including during the high-traffic Christmas and spring break vacation periods.

The Orlando Marriott is a huge hit among kids as it includes six swimming pools -- including a lagoon pool with a 32-metre waterslide and waterfall.

Rooms at the Marriott start from $179 per room, per night. For more information, visit marriottworldcenter.com.

HALF OFF AT BEACHES TURKS & CAICOS

In January 2009, Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort will open the doors to its new Italian Village. Beaches is debuting the $126-million addition with a sale: 55% savings and up to two nights free.

Always scoring well among kids -- Sesame Street-themed shows and characters are very popular among the under-10 set -- Beaches is upping its game with the Italian Village. It includes 162 new luxury family suites with separate rooms, bunks, kitchens ... even private concierge services.

Beaches Turks & Caicos has also expanded its Pirate's Island Waterpark to 10 times the original size. It now includes a surf simulator, lazy river and seven new waterslides.

For more information, visit beaches.com.

FLORIDA DEALS

And finally, I've just discovered a nifty method of hunting for deals this winter in Florida.

The state's travel website -- visitflorida.com -- has a comprehensive search engine that offers instant, useful information on rate cuts on everything from accommodations and attractions to golf in this sunshine state.


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