When the cold weather sets in, do you prefer a warm-weather getaway in Puerto Vallarta, or a ski vacation in the Midwest? Consider these winter vacation ideas to narrow down your picks for the best family vacations in December and January.

Aerial View of Vellas Vallarta Suites Resort
Plan a Warm-Weather Escape
Winter can be long, cold and snowy. Although the white stuff is pretty to look at, it can get old quickly (especially when it's time to shovel -- or drive to work in a blizzard). That's when it is time to escape to a warm-weather destination. Think Florida, Southern California, Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean. When looking for a winter family vacation filled with sunshine, families also need to consider budget, time frame and location. For example, if you're on the East Coast, you might have to spend a whole day just getting to Oahu, while those who live in the Pacific Northwest may find that getting to an island in the Caribbean is too long of a trip.

Recommended Resort: Velas Vallarta Suites Resort
The Velas Vallarta Resort in Puerto Vallarta is one of the best family vacations in December or January, offering activities such as beach volleyball, bingo, dancing, arts and crafts, and treasure hunts. Children can escape to the kids' club or get a spa treatment while mom and dad treat themselves to a couples massage. Grab dinner at one of the onsite restaurants, each offering a different international cuisine and then enjoy some alone time -- the kids' club counselors double as babysitters!
Velas Vallarta Suites Resort

Exterior of Boyne Highlands Resort
Go Skiing
For families that live in warmer climates year-round (or want to hit the slopes in a new location), a family winter trip to a snowy white mountain ski resort may make for the best family vacation in December or January. You'll find a high concentration of ski resorts in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania on the East Coast, and Colorado, Utah and California on the West Coast. You'll also find great resorts in the Midwest. Many resorts offer ski, stay and play packages that work with any budget and time frame. And it's okay if you or your children have never tackled the slopes before -- winter is the best time to enroll in a ski school and learn. At the end of a long day, sip hot cocoa and warm up by the fireplace with your family.

Recommended Resort: Boyne Highlands Resort
We weren't kidding when we said that the Midwest offers fantastic ski resorts, and Boyne Mountain Resort is a great one for families. With a ski school that teaches children as young as 3 years old and the largest indoor water park in Michigan, Avalanche Bay, this is a winter family vacation idea that provides something for everyone to do. Stay at Boyne Highlands Resort for ski-in/ski-out access, snowmobiling, an arcade and a Saturday night kids' club. Parents love the 55 ski runs during the day, and the Zoo Bar at night for an evening cocktail and live music.
Boyne Highlands Resort

Street View of Casablanca Hotel Times Square See a City
Hitting a major city like New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C. during the holidays means your family will never lack for anything to do or see (not to mention that there are plenty of restaurants remaining open on major holidays to ensure you are well-fed)! Visit historical sites, stroll through museums and take in shows at the theater. Find kid-specific fun like discovery museums, zoos and aquariums. Need more ideas? See our list of the 10 Best Cities for Families to get you started.

Recommended Resort: Casablanca Hotel Times Square
The Big Apple is magical during the winter months, especially near the holidays, which makes it one of the best winter vacations for families who enjoy window-shopping, ice skating, exploring, and (of course) catching the must-see Christmas Spectacular show. Plan for a busy week or weekend in the Big Apple, but make it easier by staying in the center of it all at the Casablanca Hotel. With complimentary breakfast and snacks, you'll save money on meals, and the hotel is located near Times Square, so you won't miss any of the action. Be sure to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, the holiday windows at Macy's, and Central Park.
Casablanca Hotel

Finding Nemo Wing at Disney's Art of Animation Resort Go to a Theme Park
Many people associate amusement parks with summer, but theme parks actually make great winter vacation ideas for families too! Whether you're headed for Disney World or Sesame Place, you'll get to enjoy your favorite rides, plus holiday-themed events and treats. For example, Sesame Place offers A Very Furry Christmas, complete with holiday lights, music, and visits with Santa (and other characters, of course). For other fun winter theme park events, see 10 Holiday Happenings in Theme Parks.

Recommended Resort: Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Disney won't come cheap when you factor in tickets, meals, transportation, unavoidable gift shop purchases, character dining and more. Save a little in your wallet without losing any of the experience at Disney's Art of Animation Resort. The property features themed family suites that sleep up to six guests, plus themed pools and free transportation to and from all of the theme parks in Disney World.
Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Colonial Williamsburg in the Winter Learn Something New
Just because the kids are on a break from school doesn't mean the learning has to stop. There are plenty of destinations around the country -- and the world! -- that offer an insight into history and science, and will have your family leaving vacation with a plethora of new knowledge (and not even realizing it). Museums are a great option as a winter day trip for families, but if you're not into quiet exhibits and fragile fossils, try heading to locations with interactive history at every turn. Colonial Willamsburg is great for children (and especially festive in the winter) and kids will love the old-fashioned clothing of the actors in the Virginian colony. If you're looking for something a little bigger and more breathtaking, head to the Grand Canyon -- the U.S. landmark is sure to make a big impression on the whole family.

Recommended Resort: Williamsburg Inn
Book a room at the four-star Williamsburg Inn for a stay in the center of history. Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, rent colonial costumes for the weekend and check out the different trade shops. Rooms at the inn come with four-poster beds, fireplaces and evening turndown service with chocolates left on the pillows. Parents can enjoy an elegant dinner in the Regency Room after a long day of educational activities. In the evenings, kids will love taking a dip in one of the hotel's three pools. Be sure to look into special packages around winter holidays.
Williamsburg Inn

More From Family Vacation Critic
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10 Magical Hotels for the Holiday Season
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Written by Lissa Harnish Poirot and Hilarey Wojtowicz

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