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Planning A Winter Family Vacation
by Maria Bailey

Leaves are changing and there is a coolness in the air. Fall is approaching and in some areas of the country it's in full swing. Fall will quickly turn to winter and bring with it all the fun associated with snow. Each year thousands of families bundle up and pack their bags in search of a winter vacation filled with snow sports. Whether it's snow skiing, snowboarding, ice skating or sledding that fits your bill for winter fun, it's not too soon to begin planning your family's winter vacation.

January is the most popular month for visiting the best ski resorts and winter vacation areas but if you plan now, you can save lots of money in pre-season season discounts offered by airlines, hotels and tour operators. The advantage today's eager travelers have is information--lots of it--both online and offline. But how do you find your way through the avalanche of deals and vacation ads? We've assembled a few tips to help you plan and book your way to winter fun.

  1. Choose a destination that offers the most for everyone in your family.
    As any parent knows, you can't please everyone all the time, but you can come close. Consider the ski skills and interests of everyone in your family and select a site with the broadest offering of activities. Your son might love to ski but his sister might find her fun ice skating. Many resorts have now incorporated tubing, snowboarding and sledding areas to their list of activities. If skiing is the goal of the entire family, select a resort that offers runs that meet the skill levels of each member.

  2. Select a location with child care solutions that fit your needs.
    Many ski resorts have their own websites that list the amenities offered onsite. Although it is in your best interest to purchase a vacation package, you can research each element of the package separately to obtain additional information about services important to your family's needs. If traveling with children, consider Ski School schedules, indoor camps and evening babysitting availability.

  3. Consider accommodations with kitchenettes, family rooms or pullout sofas.
    Depending upon the ages of your children, the convenience of a microwave and refrigerator in your room can go a long way toward eliminating crankiness from irregular eating schedules. A visit to the local grocery store will allow your family to save money on eating out for meals such as breakfast and lunch. Hotels are working harder than ever to be family-friendly. Many hotels offer game rooms for older children, indoor pools and fitness centers for mom and dad. It's always good to know there are inside activities to entertain the family after a long day on the slopes.

  4. Purchase a ski vacation package rather than each element separately.
    Leverage the buying power and relationships of tour professionals by taking advantage of packages which bundle airfare, hotel and transportation together. Many of these packages may include a free night of hotel, upgraded accommodations and even free lift tickets, things you won't be able to obtain on your own. By booking before the New Year, you'll get the best deals. If you prefer to enjoy the slopes after the holidays, you will find the best rates by booking dates prior to President's weekend. The risk in reserving these days though is of course the possibility that the snow will be lighter than later in the season.

  5. Shop and compare online and offline.
    There are lots of great places to research hotels, ski resorts and package prices on and off the Web. Your local Sunday paper is a good place to begin. Online you might consider vacations sites such as deltavacations.com and coolvacations.com. Always consider the reputation and customer service level of the site you decide to purchase from.

  6. Outfit your family online.
    Once you have your winter vacation package purchased, you'll have to begin packing. While online, stay online for the best values in ski attire and winter wear particularly if you live in the Southern part of the country. There are many great sites such as www.Peterglen.com which offer warm clothing for family members of all sizes.

Written by Maria Bailey, Founder of www.bluesuitmom.com and mother of four. Our thanks to New River Technologies for permission to post this article.

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