Mountains or beaches whatever suits your whimsies

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency
Taking the Kids

Ready for some fun?

Now that the stress of the holidays is behind us, we can plan a fun getaway this winter. For too many of us, meeting up with family over the holidays doesn’t qualify as a bonafide vacation.

Now, whether we want to head to the mountains or tropical beaches, Orlando, a favorite city, or a new one to explore, or perhaps to a cruise when WAVE season offers some of the best deals of the year, it can be about us and not our obligations — within budget, of course.

You’re not alone. According to the most recent American Travel Sentiment Travel Study from Longwoods International, a near-record 91 percent of American Travelers indicated they have plans to go somewhere in the next six months.

Join us in exploring the very best, affordable, fun, and safe family winter vacation ideas with our partners at The Family Travel Forum and Little Family Adventure.

A few tips first: Protect your investment with travel insurance. You don’t want to be out of pocket if someone gets sick, there’s a volcano (as in Iceland recently ), a blizzard, a war or your luggage gets stolen.

If you are considering the value of an all- inclusive resort, think about whether your family will use all of the amenities. Do you drink? Will your kids participate in the children’s programs? Will you enjoy the entertainment? All of the food offerings? If not, your family may be better served by a beachfront condo with a pool.

Ditto for a cruise where you also must consider how much shore excursions, alcohol, and specialty restaurants (if not included in your package) will add to the tab. Also take the time to consult a travel adviser to choose the right cruise line and ship for your family — a megaship with all the bells and whistles; a small ship offering a more intimate experience and less visited ports or a ship from a port you can drive to.

Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Tennessee Drone Aerial
Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Tennessee Drone Aerial

If you are heading to the slopes and your kids are relatively new to snow sports, consider smaller, less expensive resorts. Another plus: ski school classes likely will be smaller whether in New York state, Pennsylvania, or the Midwest. Colorado Gems are 11 smaller Colorado snow resorts that are less expensive and less crowded than the big resorts and, for younger families, easier to navigate. They include the famous-for-its-long-season Arapahoe Basin, Ski Cooper and Sunlight in Glenwood Springs, home to the world’s largest hot springs pool. Choose between 2-for-1, single-day adult tickets or 30 percent off one single-day adult ticket at 10 laid-back local ski areas.

Make your goal a winter festival and turn it into a long weekend adventure. Winterfest, for example, runs through February 2024 in the Smoky Mountains. Tour Tennessee to explore the Dollywood theme park, drive the Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights along Pigeon Forge Parkway or fly over it with Scenic Helicopter Tours in Sevierville. Explore Gatlinburg and beyond. The Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival takes place Feb. 7 to 11, celebrating more than a century of winter tradition. At SNOWFEST in Tahoe City, Nevada, catch 20 chilly events over the 10-day period February 29 to March 10. The fun Western town of Park City is filled with chic shops and restaurants, plus condos, hotels and B&Bs where you might snag a lodging bargain. And the annual Sundance Film Festival in mid-January is a winter highlight.

Opt for a long weekend in a nearby city where you can take in some theater, some restaurants, and a new museum exhibit or two. In New York, the “The Secret World of Elephants” at the American Museum of Natural History explores the 60-million-year evolution of the elephant family. You can save 24 percent on hotels when you book rooms from Jan. 3 to Feb. 4 during NYC Hotel Week.

Sedona Red Rock Country, Arizona
Sedona Red Rock Country, Arizona

Also in NYC, Martinique New York on Broadway, which just celebrated its 125th anniversary, is offering 24 percent off stays between Jan. 3 and Feb. 4, 2024.

In Washington, D.C., of course, most museums are free. This season, The National Gallery’s show “Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers” will highlight the artist who would have turned 200 with a birthday celebration.

Take a road trip from Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon where you can combine a stay at a big resort with the awe-inspiring red rocks of Sedona and the Grand Canyon before the spring and summer crowds arrive. See an entirely different Yellowstone if you visit in winter.

There are plenty of admission and dining deals at the major theme parks. Save if you buy tickets online in advance and take advantage of credit card and other discounts. Save up to 30 percent on theme park tickets, for example, with AAA discounts. GOCITY.COM passes include discounted admission to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Opt for vacation rentals offering amenities you don’t have at home. Save money on your next vacation rent al by checking out a variety of websites that rent vacation homes. DVCRentals, for example, which features value rentals in Orlando, Anaheim, Hilton Head, Vero Beach, Florida, and Oahu by Disney Vacation Club owners.

Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Outdoors lovers willing to rough it should check out, which offers rustic accommodations (often $50 or less per night) on federal lands and waterways by location. Brands such as Escape Vacations feature tiny houses for rent or sale in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington State and Wisconsin.

If you are traveling with grown or college-age kids, you don’t want to be surrounded by young children. Consider Virgin Voyages where we met many families — also ideal for mom-daughter getaways. The minimum age is 18 on these cruises. Sandals resorts are designed for those 18 and up and there are always enticing deals. (Learn to scuba at no extra charge!) Check out their Escape the “Winter Blues” deals at Sandals and Beaches Resorts with up to $1,500 air credit for bookings at select resorts, including the brand-new Sandals Saint Vincent and The Grenadines opening in March 2024.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s fun simply to mull over all the choices together. Have fun planning!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2024 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.