Pocket-friendly, reliable family hotels Our February 2014 issue just hit the stands and in it you'll find my article, "Best Value Vacations," in which I offer up a variety of winter vacation options based not just on cost, but time, convenience and suitability. All of these factors are important when you're considering a holiday escape. If you go with the cheapest travel option, then as my late Aunt Mary used to say, "You pay cheap, you get cheap." If you're short on time, I suggest a quick jaunt to the Dominican Republic (it's a surprisingly quick flight). Short on case? I suggest a home rental on Anguilla. Bragging aside, you could very well discover a gem of a value-packed holiday for yourself. The question of best-value hotels also comes up when talk turns to travel, especially for those travelling as a family. I have two sets of friends who have been on the hunt for family-friendly, budget-friendly hotels – but they don't want the lowest priced hotel. One set is heading off for a weekend hockey tournament, and the other is heading out to Alberta for a family wedding. In both cases, they're looking at a minimum of a three-day hotel stay so they have a place to bunk for the night, but they also want (a) good food, (b) a convenient location and (c) some form of entertainment. Based on my experience travelling with my assorted nieces and nephews over the years, that can be a bit of a juggling act. Brother-in-law wants a good steak dinner on the night of arrival, the nieces and nephews want a hotel swimming pool to play in, and my two adult cousins invariably want to have a drink and catch up, preferably close to the hotel where the clan is bedding down. I've been impressed with the new direction Holiday Inns across Canada are taking in their family hotel category, which recently underwent a $1 billion dollar refresh. Not only do the hotels have a strong tradition of catering to families, but kids eat free and stay free! Plus, there are usually amenities such as the swimming pools, in-hotel restaurants and business centres. In a word: convenience. Three words: value for money. Essentially, that's what families are looking for when planning short breaks. A few pointers when choosing hotels for your family's stay: 1. Proximity to your event, be it a hockey tournament or family wedding. 2. Amenities/ entertainment for the kids. An informal survey of eight moms in our office put 'swimming pools' at the top of the list. 3. Reasonably-priced but good food available. No to fast-foods. No to room service. The majority of our readers expressed the need for on-premise eateries where children are welcome, and where the menu actually caters to youngsters. 4. Lounge or bar: is there a place where adults can spend some time on their own? 5. Decent-sized rooms. I'll add one of my own criteria to the list: no wifi charges. Followers of this blog will know that I've ranted about wifi charges in hotels several times in the past. Holiday Inn is one hotel worth checking out, though I'm sure there are others. I'd love to hear about your great hotel finds for families on the road. Safe travelling. It's winter out there!