Here’s a recent e-mail I received that I wanted to share with the rest of you:
I came across your website (travelsmartblog.com) while searching Google for advice on traveling with young children. My husband & I are hoping to take our two young boys on a family vacation in January 2012 as a celebration of our anniversary & my husband’s college graduation (finally!). We won’t have a large budget, but do hope to fly somewhere with warm weather as where we live tends to be rather cold in the winter. Where would you recommend traveling to, considering a small budget, two young children and the time of year? We are not experienced travelers but would like to change that in the future. I appreciate any advice you could give me. Thanks for your time! – Julie P.
Julie, your question is a great one and I wanted all the TSB readers to benefit from the answer on choosing an affordable, family-friendly, warm weather escape (I also discussed this in a video from June) during the winter.
When you are choosing a warm weather destination on a budget the most important things to think about are affordability, the value of your accommodations, and (believe it or not) the typical weather conditions at time of travel.
Affordability is ideal because you are working within a budget and much like ski areas, warm weather destinations are often at a premium in the winter. Planning ahead is key to finding the right place at the right price, so kudos to you for being so on top of your trip coordination. You will save money on airfare if you consider destinations that have a greater number of direct flights from your city or good connections from other U.S. cities. Also avoid popular school vacation weeks when planning your long weekend getaway. Both airfares and hotel prices will be considerably lower.
By value I mean what needs/desires does a hotel need to have to make you happy? Every person may have a different idea of what he deems important which would then dictate the value the resort actually offers. A hotel with a wide variety of amenities, services and family-specific programs would be a high-value resort for you. Look for features such as complimentary breakfasts, kids eat free, children’s pools and programs, and on-site babysitting. Because let’s face it, mom and dad deserve a romantic dinner on this vacation, too. Hotels.com allows you to search by amenity such as family-friendly to find the right accommodations for your trip.
The weather is important to consider as well. Even Florida can get chilly in January so if you want the sun and the sand, you will need to travel a bit more to the south. Most temperatures in the Caribbean and Mexico are on average in the 80s during the day through the month of March.
Here are a few destinations to consider:
Sanibel and Captiva are small barrier islands on the southwest coast of Florida that are known worldwide for their seashells. Your best airport access is Ft. Myers, but you could even fly into Orlando and spend a day or two at the theme parks on either end of your trip; as it is only a two and a half hour drive to the coastal retreat. Quaint beachfront cottages and hotels are strewn along the tropical gulf front such as South Seas Island Resort.
Cancun knows how to handle visitors and with a newly remodeled airport and tons of flights in and out daily, it makes for an easy winter vacation. There are a variety of family friendly resorts in Cancun including all-inclusive resorts, which are often a nice choice when you need to know your trip costs up front.
A scuba diver’s paradise! I think the island of Roatan is about to explode in popularity so get the jump on everybody else while it is still very reasonable. Not only can you eat well and sleep comfortably on a traveling budget but I experienced some of the best snorkeling ever right off the beaches of Roatan. And the kids love it too with the Roatan Zoo & Island Adventure nearby.
4. Puerto Rico
Leave the passports at home, Puerto Rico may be the easiest destination to get to with direct flights from many airports throughout the U.S. and Canada. The island is steeped in culture and history with old forts peppering the coastline that used to ward off pirates that beckon to today’s visitors. No matter your budget or interests, Puerto Rico has accommodations for even the most discriminating travelers. I find that most hotels are very family-friendly and offer a wealth of complimentary water activities (such as snorkeling and sea kayaking) as well as programs designed to entertain all ages.
Beautiful family-filled beaches are the norm in Aruba. Even though the island is only six square miles, you can experience diverse topography from rocky cliffs to pristine beaches to desert cactus on the interior of the island. Look for resorts on Eagle Beach and Palm Beach.
Bargains abound for cruising (outside of peak holiday weeks) with the introduction of some of the largest and newest ships in the last year alone. Families can take a cruise vacation from three to seven days departing from cities in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and California and visit a wide variety of ports in the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean. I recently traveled with my three and five year old children aboard the Carnival Legend out of Tampa, FL. An avid cruiser, I was impressed to say the least. The ship wasn’t the newest or the largest but what it lacked in the latest innovations it made up for in the quality of the food, the ports, the cleanliness, the staff and service and of course, the children’s programs. Cruise Critic is a great resource for comparing and choosing your next cruise.