Winter's coming and school has only just begun, so it may seem silly to be talking about Spring Break right now. But when I saw this post on the Vacation Mom's Facebook page, I realized how important it is to plan early. You know that fuel prices are rising and the economy is improving but did you know that most of Oregon's schools will be sharing the same week of Spring Break in 2013. That's right. The University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Lane Community College, and the school districts of Eugene, Springfield, Bethel and Portland are all off during the same week.
"Basically you're competing with 80,000 kids who all want to travel at the same time, and that can do you in" says Donnita Bassinger, the self-styled Vacation Mom. As a travel agent with VIP Vacations and a mother of school-aged children, Donnita helped a few of my clients plan and book vacations that they loved, so I asked her to share some ideas to help you begin planning your Spring Break now to avoid higher prices and hassles later.
If your break is short, stay close to home
Younger doctors may not get the whole Spring Break vacation off, so Donnita recommends that you consider a trip closer to home. She likes California, and San Diego in particular. "It just feels pretty laid back, and the water's always a part of whatever you do". But it doesn't have to bust your budget. Spend a day at SeaWorld, spend the night in the San Diego Zoo, or pack a picnic lunch and hit any of San Diego's beautiful beaches. Want a little culture to go with your curiosity? Balboa Park boasts sixteen museums, plus playgrounds for brain breaks and enough restaurants to feed the whole family, no matter what your kids won't eat. For children under 13, LEGOLAND California is a must-see with its waterpark, aquarium and 60+ rides, shows and attractions. Learn more about San Diego. Disneyland California and stuff to do in San Francisco.
Get grandma on board.
If you've ever wanted to do something special for your mom, your dad, or your extended family, a multigenerational family cruise is the ticket. "Everybody can sort of do their own thing during the day then get together at dinner time to talk about it", Donnita says. In addition to the fantastic food that cruise ships are famous for, they now feature tons of stuff for kids to do. With ten of the world's largest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean International has room onboard for flowrider surfing, movie theaters, rock walls, and even ice skating rinks. Carnival boasts water parks, multiple swimming pools waterslides and even a seaside screen where kids can enjoy a cruise-in movie. Then there's the magic of the new Disney Dream Ship which features a 765 foot long 'watercoaster' that travels down four decks, live entertainment done Disney-style, and kids clubs for all ages. For adults, all of the lines offer fitness activities, excursions to ports of call and some sleep. So what's the best thing about cruising? Donnita says, "cruises are a great way for families to share an experience without having to spend every last minute with each other". Learn more about cruising.
Keep da kidz from ja-maican you crazy.
Booking the perfect family vacation is a balancing act. Mom and dad want quality family-time and a chance to enjoy a romantic meal together. Younger kids love activities and meeting new friends. Teens and tweens want some adventure, some freedom and a place to 'hang out'. So what kind of vacation includes all this? An all-inclusive resort, of course! But be careful. "You don't want something that's just "all inclusive". That could be something that's really scary", warns Donnita. "The safety factor is important, especially in the Caribbean or Mexico".
With eight locations throughout Mexico, Dreams Resorts offer an "Explorer's Club" for kids ages 3-12 with beach soccer, Euro-bungee, campfires, treasure hunts, and big-screen movies on the beach. Certain Club Med resorts promise the best equipment, facilities and instructors for active families. Water skiing, sailing, and sea kayaking may be found at most of their resorts throughout the Caribbean and they also offer a circus skills program featuring a flying trapeze for adults and kids. Younger kids will love the Pirate's Island Waterpark found at Beaches all-inclusive family resorts in Jamaica. Tweens and teens can jam at the DJ Academy or hang out at the teens-only dance club.
If you have very young children (4 and under), most family-friendly resorts offer on-site drop in day care so you can take a dip in the pool or a much-needed seaside nap. Donnita says that the all-inclusive approach is "foot loose and fancy free. It's the easiest vacation you could ever take."
Think about the little ones and plan ahead
"If the kids aren't happy, nobody's happy, so you really want to think through what works for them", says Donnita. And what works for them may not be available later, or it may be available at a much higher price. After all, travel is a matter of supply and demand, so the longer you wait, the higher the price (and Spring Break is already the most expensive time to fly to just about anywhere). Donnita sums it all up by saying, "I don't want people to have to just settle for what's available. I want them to plan now so you can beat those college kids to the planes and get exactly what they want." Me too.
Donnita Bassinger can be reached at 541-688-7473.
Want to take an even longer trip? Learn how to financially plan for a sabbatical.