Holidays are coming, family and friends will gather — providing the perfect opportunity to discuss individual and family vacation plans and travel destinations for the coming year. Here are ideas to get your planning underway.
Assuming you are gathering with family and/or friends for Thanksgiving, or talking on the phone or via Zoom with more distant pals, start by planting the seed. Invite them to come with thoughts for their ultimate vacation destination, and their most favorite place they have visited in the last few years. Ultimate destinations for me are England and Ireland, and most favorite place recently visited is northern Yellowstone Park in winter, seeing the same large Wolfpack two days in a row, just 150 yards away on a sunny, cold riverbank.
Over your holiday gathering, ask members to share their suggested destination and favorite recently-visited end-point. Ask one of the members to jot a few notes; viola, the start of your new year’s travel planning. Quite possibly, you’ll arrive at a common destination for a group gathering, as well as many who will find inspiration for individual travels in the coming 12 months.
Then ask each of them to start a simple travel planner, with a short list of their target destinations, best time of the year to visit (factoring in school vacations, available time off from work), costs associated and the like.
If a family or friends group gathering becomes the goal, bringing together families or friends from nearby and other more far-flung locations, get someone to volunteer to put together a simple slideshow/PowerPoint or informational flyer. Such a presentation or simple flyer would offer a few photos of the destination, suggested timeline, places to stay (either hotels/motels, RVing or camping), approximate cost of such a trip. Share the info with the group and encourage people to calendar the suggested dates.
Ask someone to research on group travel options: either with a trip planning company like Outdoor Adventure Travel (OAT.com; we have done three European river voyages with OAT, each memorable outings), or group travel sites such as Vacations to Go, Travels with Rick Steves, Travels with Alan or other group travel sites. Ask your friends and search the Internet.
By the way, don’t discount travel gatherings in your own backyard: hosting friends or families in your city, or, in your home region, in special places like Lake Tahoe. Tahoe offers an abundance of hotels, motels and casinos (with economical pricing Sunday through Wednesdays, and off-season discounted rates) and one of the world’s loveliest of Alpine mountain lakes and plenty of outdoor activities.
Get the kids involved in planning by having them share their ideas, what they would like to do on a vacation trip and the like, and be sure to record those suggestions.
If airline travel is a factor, virtually all major airlines offer group discounts for multiple passengers, including United, American, Delta, Southwest, Alaska. Likewise, check out group hotel, motel or casino discounts for group travel to places like Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs/Palm Desert and many other favorite destinations.
Are winter sports in your wheelhouse?
Depending upon the makeup of the group, search for a resort that offers free skiing for youth — many offer free lift tickets for kids a certain age and under. More than a few resorts offer discounts to skiers over age 62, any many offer huge skiing discounts for seniors over age 70. Almost all resorts offer discounts for tickets purchased online in advance, and enhanced group ticket options portend additional discounts. Your favorite resort can also offer suggestions for nearby hotels/motels offering good rates for families or groups.
As example, we have been going to the same lodge in Whitefish, Montana and skiing Whitefish Mountain for almost 40 years, with a group of active and retired National Ski Patrol friends. Whitefish Mountain offers free skiing for kids six and under, and, for skiers 70 and older, $30 lift tickets, with solid discounts for skiers older than 64. We get a group rate at lovely Grouse Mountain Lodge, $89 per night, for spacious rooms that normally go for almost twice that. Nearby Glacier National Park makes for excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing opportunities for those who are not downhill skiers, and some in the group also plan a couple of extra days in Yellowstone National Park, both parks are spectacular and lightly-visited in winter.
Watch for end of year travel “bucket list destination” stories coming out in your favorite travel magazines such as Condé Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Sunset, AAA, and local and national newspapers. If you’re homing in on a favored group destination, do an Internet search for deals and “what to dos when there” on the Internet, and visit local travel planning agencies such as visitlaketahoe.com, when you’ve chosen your ultimate destination research favorite things to do through Travel Advisor.
Mind the details; depending on where you’re traveling, ensure all of your group members have current passports and appropriate shots/vaccinations, if visiting other countries. Since COVID-19 remains a serious factor, check ahead with your destination to understand any future coronavirus requirements.
OK, send that note out to your holiday crowd and get them into the travel planning mood. Join in the fun by sharing your favorite travel destination, offering a short paragraph or two, noting the “what, where, when and why”, and a photo if you have one.
Send to me at [email protected] by Nov. 24. I’ll share your suggestions in early December.
Contact Tim, [email protected]. Happy travels in the new year.