When it comes to making travel plans, the options can be overwhelming. Five intrepid family travel experts add to the mix with their top picks for a memorable, winter season adventure:
GO FOR A GREEK GETAWAY
"People tend to stay close to home with kids. But I firmly believe in opening their hearts and minds early with further-flung travel," says Becca Hensley, an Austin, Texas-based parent and travel and lifestyle writer. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't have support, though. You'll manage to relax, spoil yourself and hang with the family in style if you book a villa with Greek-owned White Key Villas.
"They're congenial and involved - and they love kids and catering to families," adds Hensley. "With more than 200 handpicked villas to choose from, in destinations from Paros to Patmos, the homes are all privately owned and vary in size and orientation. Costing the same as villas in Hawaii or the Caribbean, the Greek villas come with outstanding staff support, VIP experiences and special treats for children."
Contact: www.whitekeyvillas.com; www.BeccaHensley.com
CHILL IN QUEBEC CITY
"Unlike many Americans, most Canadians seem to enjoy winter - even celebrate it," says Rainer Jenss, founder and CEO of the Family Travel Association, an organization that advocates for travel as an important part of every child's education.
"That's why I have often packed up the car and driven north of the border with my kids, to take advantage of all the festivities in a frigid but fun wintertime destination," says the New York-based father of two. "For example, Winter Carnival, held every year in early February, has what every kid loves: parades, snow sculptures, shows, skating and plenty of hot chocolate. It's also culturally rich, with French as the predominant language, adding another dimension to the getaway for Americans."
Contact: https://quebecregion.com/en/; www.FamilyTravel.org.
WINTER ON THE RANCH
Vista Verde, a luxury Colorado guest ranch, is a winter wonderland for families with kids of all ages, says Nancy Schretter, the founder and managing editor of the Family Travel Network. "There are so many fun things to do there - from snow tubing and cross-country skiing to snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking in the snow. They also have a great kids program.
"We went horseback riding along snow-packed trails and riding in a one-horse open sleigh ... something I always wanted to do," adds Schretter, who writes about travel from her home in Virginia.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are available at nearby Steamboat Ski Resort and one of the ranch's vehicles will take families there, says Schretter.
Contact: www.VistaVerde.com; www.FamilyTravelNetwork.com
CONSIDER COSTA RICA
"It's my favorite destination for families who love nature and wildlife," says LiLing Pang, the co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo, an independent family travel community.
"This Central American country is safe and easy to negotiate even for those who do not speak Spanish. In a week, you could be bird-watching and zip-lining in the Monte Verde cloud forest, surfing and boogie-boarding along the white sand beaches of the Guanacaste region, and watching playful monkeys and sloths in the rainforest," says the California-based mom and entrepreneur. December through May is the dry season in Costa Rica, adds Pang, which makes exploring that much easier.
Contact: www.VisitCostaRica.com; www.trekaroo.com
"Italy is a great family destination any time of the year," says Susan Pohlman, a mother of two, whose award-winning book "Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home" chronicles her family's adventures during an unexpected sabbatical in the small town of Nervi, near Genoa, Italy.
"Italians are all about family, so we felt welcomed at every turn," says Pohlman. "The food, the rich culture and history and the extraordinary landscape make for a great family experience in every season."
Contact: www.Italia.it; www.SusanPohlman.com
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author and family travel expert. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook or via FamilyTravel.com.
Let's have fun! (??)