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If it’s cold where you live and you’re looking down the barrel of a week-long staycation with your children between Christmas and New Year's, you have to know that your expenses are going to add up rapidly. My math is only rudimentary (my wife's fond of saying that “Paul and finance don’t go together”) but I figure the cost of my family's restaurant meals, hot drinks and snacks for outings lasting longer than 20 minutes, plus miscellaneous “I feel guilty for not taking you all somewhere warm” treats will set me back about $125 daily. If this budget seems indulgently high, perhaps that validates my wife’s comment. But I suspect many of you will end up confronting similar costs if you remain home in the cold next week. So here’s an idea. Find a nearby Marriott with an indoor pool that's participating in the chain's Escape! Family Time package.
The Marriott deal includes three free kids meals daily in the hotel restaurant for up to four 12-and-under children accompanied by a least one adult ordering off the grown-up menu.
Here's how your escape might work. In less than 20 minutes and for under 20 bucks, my family of five would be able to get from New York’s Penn Station to Newark Penn station and catch a short cab ride to the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel in Elizabeth, NJ. And yes, I do have the guts to recommend places in New Jersey other than the shore for family getaways, but in this case I’m advocating the concept of escape more than the destination. That said, if you haven't had enough shopping, Elizabeth is home to both IKEA and the Jersey Gardens mall. But the point here is you've got a fun alternative to home, and the Elizabeth Marriott has the indoor pool and the meal deal, costs $114 a night for a room with two double beds and, a Marriott rep confirmed, would permit a rollaway bed (pending availability) at no additional charge. The rep said that not all Marriotts would necessarily permit a rollaway and at no charge, so it's worth checking.
By the way, Marriott is also offering a similarly named Escape! Family package that includes pizza, soda, and an in-room movie, which in the case of the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott ($119 a night and comparable amenity-wise to the Elizabeth hotel) means you get those extras every night of your stay, though another Marriott phone rep confirmed that that policy might vary from hotel to hotel.
But I digress. My imaginary New Jersey Marriott outing would likely end up costing the same or slightly more on a daily basis than a staycation, though your results, particularly outside the New York tri-state area, most certainly will vary. But whether you end up spending the same or more than you would at home, it seems likely that limitless warm swimming, three square hotel restaurant meals a day, and the overall novelty of being at a hotel for a few nights will beat trying to make the the best of it at home next week.