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Going Our Way: An East Coast vacation for a military family

By K.C. Summers,

Who: Rob and Andrea Cornfeld of Kensington and their children, Samantha, Kate and Megan

Where: An all-inclusive resort or condo on the East Coast

Why: A little R&R before their summer move and Rob’s upcoming deployment

When: 10 days in June

Budget: $2,000-$3,000

“We are interested in water activities — a beach would be great, providing the water isn’t too rough. Our children enjoy playing outside; my wife and I enjoy eating at dives and exploring new places.”

Rob and Andrea Cornfeld need a break. With a summer move looming and Rob’s anticipated Army deployment within the year, the Kensington couple and their girls — Samantha, 5; Kate, 3; and Megan, 1 — want to take a fun family trip before the craziness kicks in. They’d prefer an all-inclusive resort on the East Coast, ideally with water activities, and they’d like to keep the total cost under $3,000.

This effectively eliminates most schmancy all-inclusives, even if we lop a couple of days off the trip. For example, Florida’s Club Med Sandpiper (sandpiper
bay.clubmed.us
) is a great family destination, with swimming, sports, age-specific “clubs” for the kids, entertainment and gourmet dining. But the tab for seven nights in mid-June, including round-trip air for five from Washington, comes to a whopping $5,231. Similarly, a week at Vermont’s well-regarded Tyler Place (www.tylerplace.com), a lakeside playground with boating, biking, fishing, crafts, three squares a day and an energetic contingent of children’s helpers, costs $4,781 for a two-bedroom unit. And that doesn’t even include transportation.

Clearly, we have to get creative here. Military rates are an obvious option: Check such organizations as the Armed Forces Vacation Club (www.afvclub.com) and Military.com (www.
military.com
) for deals and discounts. But to show you what else is out there — and to inspire other families with limited vacation funds — here are two appealing plans that come in well under your budget.

A condo on the bay

You’ll have to get your own meals and plan your own activities, but you can save a bundle by forgoing beach resorts and renting a vacation home directly from the owner. We checked the online clearinghouse Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and found many affordable options in the Virginia Beach area. With its proximity to Washington, abundance of family-friendly attractions and great natural beauty, it’s a good choice for D.C. families.

Sample offering: “Charming Condo with Access to Wide Chesapeake Bay Beach,” featuring two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. No rough waves to worry about here: The recently redecorated home fronts the wide, sandy beaches of the Chesapeake Bay. The area is a secret that’s well-hidden from most tourists, according to the owner, and the gentle surf is great for kids. In-season rates (June 11-Aug. 12) are $1,475 per week.

In this part of the world, boredom is not an option. When you tire of swimming, kayaking, fishing, boating and biking, check out the lighthouse tours at Cape Henry; the cute Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, located in the last remaining Virginia Beach Boardwalk cottage; the interactive Virginia Beach Aquarium; and the Nauticus maritime museum and Battleship Wisconsin in nearby Norfolk. Info: Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-822-3224, www.visitvirginiabeach.com.

Estimated cost: Seven nights’ lodging, $1,475; food, $600; gas, $80.

Total: $2,155, leaving $845 for attractions and incidentals.

A lakeside lodge

Purity Spring Resort in East Madison, N.H. (800-373-3754, www.purityspring.com), can hold its own against any big-name New England resort, with its gorgeous mountain setting and clear, spring-fed lake. Just one difference from those other places: It’s affordable.

The venerable resort — it just celebrated its 100th birthday — meets your water criterion easily, with four sandy beaches as well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Summer packages include meals, lodging and more than 90 hours of recreational programming a week: canoe trips, hiking, water-skiing and wakeboarding, nature walks in the Audubon sanctuary, mountain biking, crafts, sports and more. Cookouts, scavenger hunts and kids’ talent shows add to the fun. Day care for the little ones is free, five nights a week.

The summer program doesn’t officially start till June 24, when a seven-night stay in a two-room suite at the inn starts at $1,511 for a family of five, including daily breakfast. (Prices vary slightly depending on the age of the kids.) Lunch and dinner for the family are an additional $567. Total: $2,078.

If you’d rather visit earlier in the month, there’ll still be plenty to do — swimming, hiking, biking, boating — and you’ll save more than $500. Rates are $996 for the week, or $1,563 with meals.

Estimated cost for an early-June stay: Seven nights’ lodging, $996; food, $567; gas, $200.

Total: $1,763, leaving $1,237 for attractions and incidentals.

Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to www.washingtonpost.com/goingourway.

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