Settle in on your sofa, open your laptop or tablet, and scope out the best deals on a winter family vacation. While the variety of travel options can be quite overwhelming, it's much easier to narrow it down if you begin with a destination, a budget, and preferred activities in mind. Official tourism boards offer some terrific vacation planning resources too.
Good Deals to Great Britain
A visit to Great Britain in 2017 and 2018 is cheaper than it was the year before. A number of factors have combined to make it so, including a strong dollar, a weaker pound sterling, and several new airline routes. So, if you're tempted to take the family sightseeing in London, this may be an ideal moment to do it.
Harry Potter's London for Kids
With its pomp and circumstance, history, and the lure of Harry Potter stories, London provides a perfect mix for parents and kids. Winter is a good time for taking a ride on the London Eye high above the River Thames, viewing the Crown Jewels, and touring the Tower of London's spooky chambers with a Yeoman Warder, but without the crowds.
During the holidays, visit the free, festive Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and go ice skating at the Natural History Museum's rink. Remember, Britain's national museums are always admission-free. The official tourism bureau, VisitLondon.com, has monthly highlights, children's activities, even Harry Potter-themed suggestions.
Cost for a Magical Family Vacation
Virgin Vacations has a 6-day "The Making of Harry Potter" package with flights, taxes, baggage, hotel, breakfast, and sightseeing to include a Warner Bros. Studio Tour and Harry Potter film locations tour from $949 per person including air. Optional add-ons are airport transfers and more sightseeing.
The pound weakened 20 to 25 percent following the June 2016 referendum on EU membership, so American families benefit from favorable exchange rates.
The Beauty of California, Baby
"Welcome to Kidifornia," says the Golden State's tourism site, packed out with ideas for family visits. From San Diego to San Francisco, winter is no obstacle to having outdoor fun without bundling up. January through March is ideal for whale watching right off the California coastline.
All Smiles in San Luis Obispo County
A National Geographic study named San Luis Obispo the "Happiest City in America." California's Central Coast, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is less expensive than the big cities but within easy reach at 200 miles.
At Pismo Beach, you'll ooh and ahh at winter's annual fluttering phenomenon at Monarch Butterfly Grove. Watch elephant seals laze at the rookery near Piedras Blancas Light Station and see sea otters act silly at Morro Bay before visiting the Skateboard Museum (free admission).
Splurge on a visit to the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon, complete with an IMAX theater and a herd of zebra. See hand rolled cookies made before your eyes (including free samples) at Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos, where the historic pier is a designated stop on the Whale Trail for orca viewing during winter migration. Follow CA Highway 1 Discovery Route, guiding you to all the do-not-miss places along the stunning coast, so many of which are free.
Typical Room Rates
Zoom in on dozens of seasonal deals or use the Visit SLO County booking engine to filter 328 accommodations with hundreds of reviews. Find places where you'll wake up to the sound of the waves and enjoy both an ocean view balcony and a fireplace. Many locations offer free parking, Wi-Fi, and breakfast, with rates starting from $169.
Awarded the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, Sand Pebbles Inn is one great example of where to stay. It sits adjacent to Cambria's kid-friendly Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, where Mother Nature puts on a free sunset spectacular.
Happy 150th Birthday, Canada
Children appreciate that birthdays are special. Canada is celebrating her 150th birthday with plenty of special offers for visitors throughout 2017, including ski packages into the 2018 season. Currently, the Canadian dollar (CAD) exchange rate is in favor of the American dollar.
Prices Go Downhill at Canadian Ski Resorts
In British Columbia's Monashee Mountains near Kelowna, Big White Ski Resort is one of Canada's best values for families as rated by Ski Canada Magazine, USA Today, and TripAdvisor reviewers. Ski-in, ski-out accommodation at Big White Village is the most extensive in Canada, making for quick and easy access to the slopes.
Among the 16 lifts for all ability levels, older kids get a thrill from Bullet Chair ski lift, rising 7,057 feet above sea level. The resort has 18 restaurants, a grocery store, daycare center, kids clubs, and activities including snowshoeing, tubing, skating, snowmobiling, dog sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides and Nordic skiing.
Winter Holiday Packages
Inn at Big White has spacious family rooms with kitchens and offers a fifth night free all season, including Christmas and New Year's. The package includes a four day ski lift ticket, free parking and in-room Wi-Fi, a mountain tour, shuttle, ski locker rental, family après-ski and a weekly fireworks display, plus use of the hot tub, outdoor pool, and fitness center.
Packages start at CAD$643 per person, taxes additional, an attractive deal considering the price of lift tickets.
Fiesta in Texas
Add a touch of south-of-the-border flair to a Texas vacation as San Antonio celebrates its tricentennial. Originally a remote settlement on a serpentine river, 2018 marks 300 years for the nation's seventh largest city. And Texans know how to throw a big event.
San Antonio Preps for a Party
The once quiet river has become River Walk. The super popular cypress-lined urban waterway with stone bridges connects a colorful and lively scene on both banks for year-round dining, shopping, live entertainment, evening light shows and people watching.
Winter months have temperate weather, so the kids will be keen on the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery at Witte Museum, and getting wet at Morgan's Inspiration Island or seeking thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where the new Thunder Rapids is America's first rocket blast roller coaster.
Be sure to remember The Alamo too. The Lone State's most visited historic landmark stages battle re-enactments, is free of admission, and remains open daily except Christmas. For a memorable day out, trip ideas include horseback riding at Flying L Guest Ranch or hiking at world heritage site Enchanted Rock.
Even the Savings Are Big in Texas
Visit San Antonio has seasonal deals and customized packages for accommodation, plus a flexible Go San Antonio Card offering up to 40 percent savings on attractions, museums, zoo, theme parks, caverns, sightseeing tours, and more.
Forever Florida for Families
Any snowbird from up north could tell you that Florida is a destination that never gets old. While the children could be clambering for Orlando, once they see the sandy white beaches and pop a toe into the warm and gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico's Emerald Coast, they may forget about Mickey Mouse.
Inclusive Everything at Hilton Sandestin
For many busy families, a truly relaxing vacation means there's no reason to leave the resort. Near airports at Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, and Pensacola, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has a name that explains the range of options for everyone, earning it a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor reviewers.
Kids' activities are divided into three age-appropriate groups. Parents know little things go a long way for little ones, such as suites with bunk beds, cribs, beach chairs, cabanas for shade, kids menus, and child care day and night.
Older children can get around the grounds independently to the indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, driving range, beach volleyball, and standup paddle boarding lessons. Meanwhile, dad may be a golfer and mom may want a massage. And, there are lots of restaurant options from fine dining to flip flop casual.
Affordable Family Fun Pricing
Family Fun Package starts at $168 per room including breakfast for four (two children under 12). An additional $25 daily resort charge includes internet access, self parking, fitness center use, tram transport throughout the resort, an exclusive shopping pass, and free local calls. Just add flights!
A Wallet-Friendly Winter Escape
Take the family on an unforgettable adventure this winter, all while being mindful of a more modest holiday budget. Whether the kids want to immerse themselves in Harry Potter's wizarding world in London or you'd rather relax on the sunny beaches of Florida, finding vacation package deals online is easier than ever before.