The holidays are a magical time here in Vermont, full of friends, family and festivities. But, as a parent, the holidays are also a lot of work…and a lot of money. In recent years I’ve found myself dreaming about leaving all all the stress of the holidays behind and going on an epic family adventure instead. I love the idea of spending a week focused on quality time with my family, and of building up anticipation for a trip instead of the Christmas morning frenzy.
For inspiration, I asked some of my favorite travel writers where they would love to spend the holidays with their family. Their answers were so diverse, ranging from Mayan Ruins to mini snowmobile races, from skiing in the mountains to culture in the city. Here are recommendations from Steve Jermanok, Active Travels; Mara Gorman, Mother of All Trips; Amanda Kuhnert, Vermont Mountain Moms; and Amber Johnson, The Mile High Mama, (along with one of my own) for family adventures this holiday season.
Mayan Ruins and Hidden Rivers at Chaa Creek, Belize
In the past two decades, I’ve visited over 50 all-‐inclusive properties, writing reviews for The Washington Post, Boston Globe, FamilyVacationCritic.com (owned by TripAdvisor) and others. One of the finest was Chaa Creek in Belize. Our clients love this resort hidden in the lush interior of the country. Not only do they take great care of families, entertaining kids both on and off property, the resort is conveniently located near Mayan ruins, hidden rivers, and verdant rainforest walks, where you’re destined to see monkeys and toucans. They offer an all-inclusive Christmas Vacation package that includes unlimited onsite activities and your choice of two full-day tours. www.chaacreek.com
Having authored over 1500 articles and 11 books, Steve Jermanok now runs a leisure travel consulting business, www.ActiveTravels.com, with his wife, Lisa, a Virtuoso-aligned travel agent.
Cross-Country Skiing and Sleigh Rides at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.
You can’t get much more idyllic than Christmas in Stowe, Vermont. When it’s dressed up for the holidays — trimmed in garland, wreaths, red bows, and twinkle lights — snow-covered Stowe village looks like a scene out of a holiday storybook. And if you’ve got kids, the local calendar is filled with holiday-oriented events and activities from the first week in December through New Years. Where else could you ski all morning, head out on a mid-day sleigh ride, attend an afternoon candy-cane making demonstration, and then cut down your own Christmas tree in time for dinner? Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe is particularly festive during the holidays, with over a dozen uniquely decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, and hand-tied garland filling the halls of this historic hilltop resort. www.trappfamily.com, www.gostowe.com.
Amanda Kuhnert and Lee Genung are the co-founders of Vermont Mountain Moms, a local’s guide to family travel in Vermont’s mountain towns.
Mini Snowmobiles, Skiing and Bobsled Racing in Park City, UT
I have long dreamed of taking an exotic sun-kissed beach vacation over winter break. But here’s the deal: I grew up in Canada and Christmas is synonymous with snow. And palm trees strewn in lights just don’t do it for me.
This year, my family is returning to one of our favorite winter wonderlands in Utah: Park City Mountain Resort. Not only does it have a full holiday line-up with Santa’s Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade down the mountain and yuletide festivities at Town Lift Plaza but oodles of on-the-snow fun. Channel Dasher and Dancer as you careen down the resort’s zipline and alpine coaster or head over to Gorgoza Park for lift-serviced tubing and mini snowmobile racing around a track. If you’re a real adrenaline junkie and don’t mind dropping $200, the Comet Bobsled ride at nearby Utah Olympic Park generates up to 4-5 times the force of gravity.
Then, hop in the car and head down to Temple Square in Salt Lake City where literally thousands of festive lights set the city ablaze. As you stroll around the international nativity scenes, you’ll understand why this is a world-class way to spend your holiday.
Amber Johnson is a mom of two, Denver Post columnist, family travel writer, blogger at themilehighmama.com and editor of the Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas. She is a lover of laughter and life and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.
Culture, Lights and Ice Skating in Philadelphia
For a city family holiday adventure, Philadelphia makes a great stop. A local tradition is to stop by Macy’s for their famous holiday light show (narrated by no other than Julie Andrews) and a stroll through the Dickens Village. To add a bit of global flair, walk over to the Philadelphia Christmas Village in LOVE Park where vendors sell crafts and food from around the world. Finish your downtown fun at the nearby Comcast Center where you can watch the Holiday Spectacular. The 2000 square-foot LED screen offers images that are so real you’ll feel like you are riding on a dog sled or dancing the Nutcracker while you watch.
And if that virtual activity doesn’t cut it, never fear. The BlueCross River Rink offers an Olympic sized space for ice skating right along the Delaware River at Penn’s Landing. Or, if you prefer an outdoor stroll, Longwood Gardens is a short drive from the city center and has a spectacular light display.
Mara Gorman is the founder of Mother of All Trips offering inspiration for family adventures that “bring the world to your kids and your kids to the world.”
Family Surf Camp at Peaks n’ Swells, Costa Rica
And one last recommendation from me…
One of my favorite places in the world, Peaks n’ Swells family surf camp in Costa Rica, added a new family holiday camp this year. There are so many reasons we love it there– the rugged beauty of Costa Rica, the incredible wildlife, consistent surf for all abilities (in really, really warm water!)– but the idea of a holiday completely free of cooking, shopping and logistical planning is pretty compelling too. (I’ve written a lot about our visits to Costa Rica and detailed our surf camp experience and family adventures on the Nicoya peninsula in previous posts too.)
Pretty inspiring, right? I know my boys took one look at Amber’s kids on those mini-snowmobiles and added a trip to Park City to their Christmas lists. Has your family traveled anywhere special for the holidays? I’d love to hear from you!