Q: Do You Want a Winter Wonderland?
A: Visit a Ski Resort!
If you envision a white Christmas complete with snowmen and snow angels, head for the hills. Ski resorts abound in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, California and the Rockies, with flights under five hours from nearly all destinations. Skiing is a family affair, whether you've been hitting the slopes for years or have always wanted to give it a go. Ski schools will get the kids started, and ski resorts offer an array of fun from snowmobiling to ice skating to dog sledding. Hotels located at the base of the mountains make it easy to spend a day outdoors, and provide families with lodge-like settings complete with wood-burning fireplaces, cabin decor and hot cocoa aplenty.
Our Pick: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
It may be pricey, but this mountainside Ritz-Carlton caters to families, providing parents with a luxurious stay at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort while treating the kids like rock stars. The Ritz Kids program keeps kids entertained in a camp-like setting for full- or half-day programs, and the outdoor, heated pool is great fun to play in while skiers swoosh by on the slopes. Northstar features 3,000 skiable acres, 92 runs and 19 lifts, as well as tubing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and more.
Q: Do You Want a Tropical Climate?
A: Head to Hawaii!
Isn't it everyone's dream to enjoy a Hawaiian vacation (or is it just me)? Hawaii was meant for families, with water parks meant for splashing, waves meant for surfing, reefs meant to be explored by snorkel or SCUBA, and wildlife meant to be discovered at nature reserves, aquariums and hikes. The Pacific location offers ocean breezes, palm trees, and hundreds of sandy beaches. A flight from California takes more than four hours, making Hawaii a trek for East Coasters, but the sun, sand and surf--as well as the luaus--are well worth it.
Our Pick: Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay
There is no shortage of oversized resorts catering to families, but the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay, located in Maui, is secluded and provides an "old Hawaii" ambience with beautifully themed gardens filled with exotic, tropical plants. The 236-room resort shares amenities with its sister property, Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele, providing guests with twice the fun, including a kids' club, teen center and horseback riding, not to mention beaches and pools.
Q: Do You Want a Jam-Packed Trip?
A: Make It a Big City Getaway!
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 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 kids'-specific fun like discovery museums, zoos and aquariums. Need more ideas? We have a list of our 10 Best Cities for Families to get you started.
Our Pick: Hotel Giraffe
What city is better than New York at the holidays, with the Rockefeller Christmas tree towering over its famed ice skating rink, Central Park alit in twinkling lights and store windows telling stories in fantastical displays? The Hotel Giraffe is a charming boutique hotel with large rooms (in New York terms), complimentary breakfast, and special family packages welcoming kids with cookies and stuffed giraffes.
Q: Do You Want Nothing but R&R?
A: Sit on a Beach in the Caribbean
Before you had kids, the thought of reclining on the beach and listening to the gentle waves were your idea of the perfect vacation. Who says you can't do that with the little ones in tow? Caribbean destinations like Aruba, the British Virgin Islands and St. Lucia provide a slower way of life (island time), sandy beaches, turquoise blue waters and plenty of family-friendly fun to make the entire family feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a week in the sun.
Our Pick: The Bitter End Yacht Club
In all our travels around the Caribbean, no place provided such a sense of calm than the Bitter End Yacht Club, located on the remote island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Arriving by boat, bungalows nestled into the hills overlook gorgeous expanses of ocean dotted by islands, providing fantastic sunsets, best watched from the hammock. As a yacht club, this resort's focus is to get the kids in the water, where they can learn to sail or kite board, or sail away to the rocky Baths and explore its many coves and pools.
Q: Is This Trip for the Kids?
A: Take Them to Meet the Mouse!
There isn't a child of any age who doesn't long for a visit to Walt Disney World, and Christmastime at its many theme parks is a magical time to visit. With Main Street decorated to the hilt in holiday decor, Christmas-themed parades, and snow falling from the sky (even in Florida's warmer climate), you're sure to be in the holiday spirit. A visit to Orlando for the holidays means a chance to visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Animal Kingdom, as well as Universal Studios, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Disney's Hollywood Studios and more. Even though this vacation is 100-percent kid-focused, you'll surely stumble upon the Fountain of Youth and turn into a big child, too! Check out our guide to Disney vacations, as well as what else the Orlando area has to offer.
Our Pick: Disney's All-Star Resorts
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 pocket, but don't lose any of the experience at one of Disney's All-Star Resorts, including All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies and the newest value property, Disney's Art of Animation Resort. The Value Resorts properties provide budget-friendly rates, themed rooms and pools, family suites with mini kitchens, and free transportation to and from all Walt Disney World theme parks.