This winter, try a 'togetherness trip'

Travelers use cruises and resorts as a way to connect with family. Increasingly, 'togetherness trips' take place in winter. 

Lynne Sladky/AP/File
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Majesty of the Seas passes the southern most point of Miami Beach, Fla., as it heads out to sea in this August 2012 file photo. Cruises can offer a great way to get the family together while limiting incidental expenses.

Thinking of asking your grown kids to join you for some time off at a Caribbean beach? Or taking the grandchildren to Walt Disney World? Skiing with the whole family on some fresh powder in Colorado?

Increasingly, busy Americans are using vacation travel as a way to connect with family. Some travel experts call them “togetherness” trips. Increasingly, they’re happening in winter.

“We’re absolutely seeing an increase in winter family vacations,” says Nancy Schretter, managing editor of the online site Family Travel Network, in Reston, Va. “Winter breaks are natural times when families can spend time together.” 

To make it work, some families are tacking on vacation time to public holidays and parents’ business trips. More families are taking kids out of school for winter vacations.

Although travel costs have gone up and prices rise during holiday periods, there are ways to keep costs down. Some options are to rent a private home or condo, take a family cruise, or stay at an all-inclusive resort, says Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, an integrated travel marketing firm based in Kansas City, Mo.

Owning a time-share condo on the island of Maui works for Paul Showstead and his wife. “We just love it there,” says Mr. Showstead, who cites the gorgeous Hawaiian location and weather, and the amenities a condo provides, including living space that can accommodate guests, and kitchen facilities that reduce the need to eat in restaurants. The couple spent two weeks there in November and will return in March, when Mr. Showstead’s daughter and grandson from Pittsburgh will visit.

For some families, the convenience and cost of cruises or all-inclusive resorts – with their package of offerings – can be ideal.

“Over the last five to seven years, cruise lines have been offering more features for consumers of all ages,” says Anthony Hamawy, president of Cruise.com, a cruise consulting and sales company based in Dania Beach, Fla. With seven-day Caribbean cruises ranging from $399 to about $799 per person (excluding airfare to a port), “these are great deals,” which include room, meals, entertainment, and activities, he says.

The more family-friendly cruise lines include Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian, Carnival, and Disney, Ms. Schretter says.

All-inclusive resorts also provide a broad package of amenities. Vacationers can find some of the best values in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, says Tom Carr, president of All Inclusive Outlet, an online travel service based in Lexington, Ky. Those warm-weather locales are popular with multi-generational families traveling together.

In the United States, good family-friendly all-inclusives for the winter include Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida as well as Tanque Verde Ranch and White Stallion Ranch, both in Arizona, says Schretter. “All-inclusives let you know how much to budget for the trip, and you can cut down having to say ‘No.’ If your teen ... wants to go windsurfing five times a day, you don’t have to worry about how much each [time] will cost.” 

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