It’s that time of year again! Time to “get out of Dodge” (as they say) with the family for a vacation. But with top resorts inundating every platform of media with commericals, where on Earth shall you go? Here are our top picks and best bets for family travel during winter 2011.
1. Domestic Pick #1: Anything Orlando. From the many attractions there, and cruises embarking from there, you can’t go wrong vacationing in the Sunshine State, with all of the amusement parks (Universal, Disney, SeaWorld) and attractions (NASCAR, Cape Canaveral), and don’t forget the Atlantic Ocean is less than an hour away. The catch? There is so much to do, and so many big parks jockeying for your dollars, it can be both overwhelming and expensive, so be sure to plan, plan, plan before you go. Your biggest decisions are likely to come while you’re sitting at home in your pajamas: Where will you stay? When will you go? Which parks will you visit, and what will you skip? Search my other posts for more tips on the best times to book travel to Florida, and to avoid the crowds (best airfare, hotels rates, etc.).
2. Caribbean Pick: Atlantis. The first time this Travel Examiner visited Atlantis, she was more than a little impressed. Yes, it is very commerical, but most people will enjoy the conveniences the property has to offer, and there is no denying there is something for everyone in Atlantis. From gambling to some of the coolest nightclubs and restaurants outside of Manhattan and Vegas, Atlantis is it. Families will find water parks for all, and some pools declared for families only. A-list concerts come to the property regularly. Miley Cyrus was there the last time we went, and the conceirge does have a connection to purchase tickets at the last minute (though you’ll be paying a premium for them). Still, Atlantis is great. Parents with little ones will want to know they have a nanny program with really great ladies who adhere to high security standards put forth from management. In fact, we tested this — we actually wanted our nanny to take our little one for a stroll to get some fresh air outside, and we were flatly refused, due to high security measures. In hindsight, it was quite impressive. Atlantis is one of those resorts that will be advertising a lot in the winter months, so be sure to look out for deals.
3. Domestic Pick #2: Colonial Williamsburg. Virginia may not be Florida-warm, but it ain’t Michigan in the winter either! You may still need to pack a jacket or two, but chances are you’ll likely be able to wander around the streets of one of the oldest cities in the U.S. for an eye-opening history lesson. See it for yourself, and inspire your children.
4. South Pacific Pick: Hawaii for the family. We choose Hawaii for obvious reasons: It’s the fastest tropical American island (read: no passport required) to get to from the West Coast: less than 6 hours from California. If you’re considering Hawaii, check out our our posts about Disney’s upsoming Hawaiian resort. We suggest Maui as your island of choice for your family destination, thanks to the many many options and competitive rates. Two that stand out are: The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, or Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa for families, with plenty to see and do for all ages. Both are just a short trip down the road to one of our favorite historic spots, Lahaina (a former whaling village). Honalulu is also fun, but can get quite overcrowded, being the only major city in the 50th state. Put Honolulu on your to-do list, but if the name of your holiday game is R-n-R, we say skip it for now.
5. European Pick: Skiing in the Alps. A number of resorts in the shadow of the Matterhorn have become family destinations, due to theirchild-friendly activities and family pricing. Among them, a number of hotels in the ski town of Val Gardena, Italy offer free ski passes and free accomodations for children. If you have kids of varying ages, we suggest Zermatt, Switzerland. Here, little ones can go tobogganing or ice skating. What’s more, Zermatt had the distinction of being voted “one of the best family-friendly ski resorts in Europe” by the Associated Press in a 2006 article. And when your tots are ready to hit the slopes, Zermatt offers a children’s area called “Wolli’s Park” that will help them get off on the right foot, er-um ski.