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Family-friendly Spring Break Destinations

My calendar says that shortly after the arrival of the new year, families will have a brief opportunity to seek respite from the daily grind and wintry chill. Enter: Spring Break. I've never been a part of that scene but in many households it's a big deal. Families with kids of all ages, as well as the college-aged wild ones, will be swept up in a great migration to the warm places. Most are aware that their breaks won't involve solitude, because as with most migrations the crowds, swarms, and masses have to be accepted as part of the deal. I thought, however, that perhaps those of you taking this trip as a family might appreciate some suggestions for slightly less crowded destinations, maybe with a touch of the uncommon, but just as fun and warm, and allowing a little more space in the pool. Sound like a plan? If these aren't your places, tell me where is. Oh...a word of warning - you need to book soon, as in now - availability is dwindling and prices are rising.

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Yes Punta Cana is popular, but it's also out of the way and not on everyone's spring break radar. The all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva, Cap Cana is the newest all-inclusive resort in the gated community of Cap Cana, and is a great choice for the family. Located on the sought-after shores of Juanillo Beach, this tropical paradise indulges guests in luxury surrounded by local culture, magnificent ocean views, sprawling infinity pools with swim-up bars, a water park with a lazy river and slides, floating swim-up suites, 12 unique restaurants and bars, a world-class fitness center and more.

The welcoming and attentive staff ensures you a vacation will exceed your expectations in every way imaginable. Because common amenities are shared with adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana, Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana is an especially great choice for large gatherings, multi-family, and multigenerational travel; it is minutes away from championship golf courses, a state-of-the-art marina, deep sea fishing, eco-parks, adventure excursions, and other family-friendly attractions. Punta Cana International Airport is only 15 minutes away from the Resort.

2. How about a Costa Rica adventure? Something suitable for families with older kids, and maybe even a multi-gen family experience? Imagine the kids going back to school with tales of cloud forests and jungles, rain forests with hidden hot springs and plummeting waterfalls; Howler monkeys, toucans, iguanas, sloths and other unique jungle dwellers; zip lines, white-water rafting, biking, hiking and hammocks. Your co-workers will be pretty jealous too.

For the less adventurous family, yes the relaxing, plop-in-the-lounge chair vacay is here too. Guests of all ages can vacation like stars at the new Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica. Studded with authentic Hollywood memorabilia, you can enjoy themed experiences in this breathtaking beachfront setting on the famed Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Enjoy all-inclusive dining venues and bars, an extra services at the PH Spa and Beauty's all here.

3. Dreams Villamagna, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. A little closer to the U.S. if you don't want to venture as far away as the DR or CR, I have a soft spot for Nuevo Vallarta: I've always found it relaxing. We've walked the street at night after dinner or events, and have never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. The oceanfront Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta treats couples and couples with children to unlimited luxury with spectacular views of Banderas Bay, the Sierra Madre Mountains, a gorgeous beach and elegant pools. Gray whales will still be in Banderas Bay at this time of year and can be seen in the morning hours from your ocean-view balcony. Dolphins cavort there too, so bring your binoculars. Located only 30 minutes away from the historic colonial town of Puerto Vallarta, whale watching, fantastic golfing, shopping and nightlife are nearby.

4. Also in Mexico, but a little more exclusive, the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort promises to offer an experience that transcends ordinary travel, by immersing guests in unsurpassed luxury. The resort features discerning service, 120 exquisite guest rooms, thoughtful amenities, butler service in all rooms and spectacular views of the ocean and grounds. St. Regis Punta Mita has two signature golf courses, tennis courts, three infinity pools, a Remède Spa and superior international cuisine among its seemingly endless offerings.

5. A Cruise. A family-centric Caribbean cruise is one way to see multiple destinations, and still have the amazing features of an all-inclusive resort: waterparks, pools, activities, adventures, shows, shore excursions, and depending on the cruise line, private islands loaded with fun, sun, food, drink, beaches, relaxation, and luxury. With so many cruise lines to choose from, let me help you pick the right one for the experience that's right for your family.

6. Grand Pineapple Beach, Negril, Jamaica. The All-inclusive Grand Pineapple Beach Resort Negril is authentically Caribbean: gingerbread trim and bright colors in this intimate, low-key resort. The resort's 14 multi colored cottages and Manor rooms bring back memories of Jamaica's Old Plantation Great Houses with their spectrum of colors in over 4 acres of lush gardens drenched in privacy, creating a peaceful retreat as far from everything as you care to be. The cottages are complimented by two blocks of manor rooms on the Beach and Garden side of the resort catering to singles, couples and families alike. This quiet oasis is the essence of Negril: casual, relaxed, laid-back and unhurried.

7. I've showcased all-inclusive resorts so far, since they add value for families. However, sometimes that attraction is too...attractive. If you really want to escape the possibility of crowds, how about Bonaire, the little-known Caribbean paradise. Bonaire is Aruba's neighbor and I know you've heard of Aruba; both, along with Curacao are Dutch-Caribbean islands. There is nary an all-inclusive in sight, and very few hotel options with over 90 rooms. Instead, adventurers seek out Bonaire to enjoy the eco-friendly island alongside the locals; scuba diving and snorkeling the protected reefs of the world's oldest marine park, dining at delicious local restaurants, hitting the all-public beaches to swim in turquoise waters, and visiting protected natural areas like the island’s Flamingo Reserve to spot the national bird, plus parrots, iguanas, and friendly wild donkeys. The island is so small you can explore on your own.

8. A ski vacation? Why not? The St. Regis Aspen Resort celebrates the Rocky Mountain experience, from its fabulous guest-rooms to its acclaimed Ski Butler Program. The St. Regis Butlers provide flawless personalized attention to each suite guest. It is the Butler's gracious pleasure to welcome you upon arrival and provide for every need throughout your stay. After an exhilarating day on the slopes with the family, enjoy The Remede Spa's lavish treatment rooms, unique water features, or oxygen-infused facial; or unwind in the heated pool.

I could go on and on for paragraphs describing the options. The important thing is that the family's spring break suit the family. That can't happen unless we discuss it so that I get a sense of what you're looking for. You only have 18 summers with your kids before they run off to do their own thing. If you're lucky, yes you'll be able to continue enjoying summers with them beyond that, as they start their own careers and families. As a grandparent, then, don't dismiss the opportunity to take the whole family on a spring break vacation. As a parent, take advantage of the mid-winter break to enjoy bonding with your most cherished loved ones.

'til next week...

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