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Save on Disney and more

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Staff / May 15, 2005

I remember it clearly. As we watched the little black-and-white TV, the man with the mustache was pointing to a map and telling of all the wonders that visitors would see at his new kind of amusement park.

The man, of course, was Walt Disney and the park was Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif. Legions of skeptics said the park would never succeed, it would be too expensive to run, and the concept of a park divided into ''lands" and operated by workers in costume was just too radical. But Disney persisted and, although the park really wasn't ready, he opened Disneyland on July 17, 1955. Family vacations would never be the same.

Largely because of Disneyland and the theme parks that followed around the world, family travel has become more elaborate and, yes, expensive. There are ways to save, however, and there are many other family options, ranging from camping to actually learning something at historical sites. Let's look at some possibilities.

All the Disney parks -- in California, Florida, France, and Hong Kong (opening in September) -- are participating in Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, an 18-month affair that began this month, with new attractions, parades, and shows. In the Florida resort, the most popular one for New Englanders, there will be a glittery ''Cinderellabration" stage show at the Magic Kingdom, a high-flying ride called Soarin' at Epcot, a ''Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at Disney-MGM Studios, and a free-roaming, audio-animatronic dinosaur named Lucky at Animal Kingdom. Travel providers have a lot of special offers.

Liberty Travel has three-night packages beginning at $489 per person, including air fare, accommodations at a Disney hotel, airport transfers and luggage delivery, and a base three-day admission ticket to the parks. See a Liberty agent, visit www.libertytravel.com, or call 888-271-1584.

US Airways Vacations packages include air, hotel, round-trip airport/hotel transfers or a rental car, hotel taxes and service charges, and air-mileage credit. From Boston, the price is $379 a person, excluding park tickets. Call 800-352-8747 or visit www.usairwaysvacations.com.

Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa, within the Disney World resort, is featuring a free fifth night plus four-day Park Hopper passes, with rates from $259 a night. The price does not include air fare. Visit www.wyndhambyrequest.com. (Free membership is required.)

For more information, visit www.disney.com.

Although Philadelphia stresses what's old, there always seems to be something new, whether it is a concert, celebration, or attraction. For families, in addition to the city's historical sites and science museum, a renovated Adventure Aquarium with a 760,000-gallon ocean exhibit is scheduled to open May 25. Meanwhile, Sesame Place amusement park, in nearby Langhorne, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with special events all summer. The Philadelphia tourism website lists various offers, such as the Family Fun Package at the Holiday Inn Historic District hotel, with a $139 rate for two adults and two children that includes breakfast for the adults and free meals at the hotel for children 12 and under. Call 215-923-8660.

For all lodging offers, visit www.gophila.com and click on Hotels and Packages. For a long list of attractions, click on Family Friendly in the left-hand margin.

Theme park dining can be expensive, so Universal Studios Hollywood has launched an interesting experiment. Through June 30, the park has an ''all you can eat, all day long" offer. For $20 for adults and $12 for children under 48 inches tall, visitors can dine as often as they want at the main food outlets, Mel's Diner and Jurassic Cafe. Unlimited drinks are included.

For other offers at both Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood, visit www.universalstudios.com.

In a paean to family camping, Budget Travel magazine lists family camps costing less than $1,000 per week for your whole group, and none costing more than $1,000 per adult. The magazine offers these tips: Minimum stay is usually a week (six days and five or six nights); fees cover activities, meals, and the least expensive non-tent camping accommodations; bring sleeping bags and towels and ask if there's a camp store; financial aid is often available; sign up soon because places fill quickly.

For a listing of camps, visit www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4029636/.

The Comfort Inn in White River Junction, Vt., has a new Family Museum Tour. Guests get overnight accommodations plus admission to the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, and the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock. Midweek packages are $109 per room for two adults and two children under 18.

Call 800-628-7727 or, for general information, visit www.comfortinnwrj.com.

Anyone with a young daughter, granddaughter, or niece knows how popular American Girl dolls are. In New York City, the Affinia 50 executive club suite hotel, around the corner from the American Girl Place, is offering a little something for girls staying with their families: a complimentary American Girl gift bag, with a doll tea set, activity sheets, visiting tips, and an in-room Dream Big Pillow for the doll to rest on. Rates start at $199.

Call 866-AFFINIA or visit www.affinia.com. For general information about family activities in New York City, go to www.nycvisit.com; click on Visitors, then Things to Do, then Just for Kids in the drop-down menu.

For those who can book by Wednesday, Expedia has a Memorial Day offer for Washington, D.C.: air fare to and from Boston plus three nights' hotel from $323 (as of press time). The offer is valid for travel May 26-29.

Visit www.expedia.com/deals or call 800-342-2870.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at carpenter@globe.com.

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