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Hotel Family Values

Hotels lending out toys and games at the front desk? Local managers arranging family passes to amusement parks and museums? At one hotel chain, there's even a special kids' check-in for those who can't yet see over the front desk; pint-size hotel guests get to mount a ladder to receive a friendly welcome and a kids' activity pack.

Hotels have finally caught on to the boom in family travel and they are vying with each other to lure the young tourist. After all, a six-year-old hotel guest turns into a 26-year-old paying customer down the road. Especially one who's had a fine time in the hotel pool or playing Nintendo in the Kids' club.

Families who are heading out onto the road this summer should check ahead for special rates and bonuses. Often, it's a chain-wide program such as Delta's Sizzling Summer program. Sometimes, it's up to district management or even the hotel manager as to what kind of goodies they're offering. Some rates and programs have to be pre-booked. Call the info number for a list of hotels and rates and then check with the individual hotels to see if they're participating. For families who want to get the most for their money, here are some suggestions of places that promise a good time for all.

Holiday Inn: This summer, the "Official Hotel for Family Fun" is giving away Wild Pack POGs at the front desk. And, as always at all Holiday Inns, kids 19 and under stay free; those 12 and under eat free. Some pools are Olympic size. With a 7-day advance booking, rates are reasonable. For instance, the Holiday Inn in Windsor, Ont. or Montreal-Longueuil can bed everyone from $69. They are also obliging if a kid forgets his toothbrush ( a regular occurrence in our family). A simple request at the front desk and all teeth can go to bed clean. Call 1-800-HOLIDAY.

Loews Hotels: The U.S.-based "Loews Loves Kids" program carries over into their two Canadian hotels in Quebec. In both Montreal and Quebec City, $125 per night, those under 10 receive coloring books and special passes. Call 1-800-23-LOEWS.

Westin Hotels: Parents will appreciate the safety kit equipped with electrical outlet covers, bandages, night light, and emergency phone numbers; kids will like the Express Meal Service that lets you call ahead and place orders in the restaurant. Result: reduced waiting time to the tune of spoons and forks being dropped on the floor for the twentieth time. Kids also receive an age-appropriate gift pack with gifts such as a cap or a water bottle and can participate in the Kids Club if they're over two years old. In mid-July, a large corner room in the Westin Hotel Winnipeg, accommodating five people, comes at a special rate of $94 per night. Call 1-800-228-3000.

Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts: At the Hotel Bonsejour in Moncton, New Brunswick, families can book a $279 "Meet Us Midway" package giving two night's accommodation, breakfast and passes to a family amusement park; the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal offers a special rate of $125 per night including two free tickets to watch the Expos play baseball or a discount on a family museum pass. Call 1-800-441-1414 to see what else is going on this summer at these top-class Canadian properties.

Delta Hotels & Resorts: Delta has long had a reputation for friendliness toward families. In fact, when our kids were little and we were getting cabin fever in mid-February, we would book an evening downtown at the Delta Chelsea Inn. The kids could swim in the pool; we could escape for a long breakfast while they played in the staffed playroom. When we asked for a change of room one time, the hotel staff moved the crib containing sleeping baby Dustin down one set of elevators and up another so that he wouldn't be disturbed. Of course, the baby woke up and thought it was a great adventure.

This year's Sizzling Summer program lets kids 6 and under eat free; those 7 to 12 eat for half-price. Those under 18 stay free. A $24.95 meal deal lets a family of four dine on chicken, beef, and corn-on-the-cob. There's a separate kids' check-in and welcome activity pack.The Delta Kids Have Fun program includes a Children's Creative Centre with trained staff, and Delta Dolphin, a swimming program created to support the chain's sponsorship of the Canadian National Swim Team. Kids earn badges in the hotel pool for accomplishments such as putting their faces into the water for the first time. Each hotel offers its own rate. For example, families get to check out the Delta Ottawa Hotel and Suites with its 115-ft. waterslide for $99. All guests are automatically entered in a sweepstakes for a new GM Lumina Van. What better accommodation for further adventures on the road. Call 1-800-268-1133.





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