Celebrations without breaking the bank
February 26, 2014 5:14 AM   Subscribe

I need help coming up with a vacation place for this year for the week after Christmas that won't break the bank. It's harder that it seems, and so I'm hoping you all can help out. Snowflakes inside.

My parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year, yay! They want to take the whole family (6 adults, 3 kids (2-7 years old)) on a vacation, double yay! However, given the time of their anniversary and the complications of taking school aged kids, and various work schedules, the only time we can go is the week after Christmas, which is turning out to be super expensive. My parents were looking for some place warm and beachy (though if you can make an argument for going a different way, I'm open to hearing it), and were open to renting a house or staying at a resort/nice hotel. That said, they are used to having decently nice vacations by themselves (they are not the type to backpack and stay in hostels), and they aren't going to be happy at a real barebones sort of place. In general, we don't want to walk very far to get to the beach but a rental house wouldn't need to be on the beach per say. It would also be nice if there were things to do besides the beach. That's pretty much all the requirements we had. The location isn't super important, except that it be nice (though doesn't have to be super nice), and hopefully not a super long trip give that I'll be schlepping a 5 and 2 year old. We are all spread out across the US (Boston, Phoneix, Savannah) so what would be close for one of them might not be for another, so don't worry too much about that. I should also note that my parents HATE cruises, so that isn't a option.

That said, everywhere seems to be super expensive because of the holiday, and while my parents like us, they don't like us that much. They've sort of given up, but I wanted to see if I could give them more avenues to pursue at least, before giving up myself. Any ideas?
posted by katers890 to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
An affordable, non-beachy option would be Gatlinburg, TN. You could get an enormous vacation rental, with a hot tub.

Gatlinburg is on the edge of the Smoky Mountains, so there's lots to do, either of the outright, craven touristy stuff, or in the exploring one of the most beautiful national parks stuff. As a bonus, on the other end of the park is Cherokee, NC, which has historical things, horrible touristy Indian things, and gambling.

We have friends in Gatlinburg, so we go annually (at least).

Although Knoxville is the closest airport, Atlanta will be cheaper, and it's a straight 3 hour drive. (If you come off of 85, you'll pass Goats on the Roof.)

Dollywood is open during the Christmas season, and it's pretty much the opposite of tacky. It's an amusement park, with lots of cheesy country shows (but they are WELL produced) the food is delicious, and it features craftspeople doing the sort of work one would do at the turn of the 20th century. So wagon-wheel making, blacksmithing, etc.

So it's not the warm, beachy experience you want, but it would be a gorgeous, lovely family filled memory. A large log cabin, the whole family together, watching movies, playing games, and enjoying home-cooked meals.

This would be VERY affordable for everyone.

Another thing to consider is the Hyatt House Blue Lagoon in Miami. We stayed there, and while it's not ON the beach, it's actually a pretty terrific location.

A bonus is they have 2 bedroom apartments, so folks could easily double up. Also they provide a full hot breakfast and heavy appetizers in the evening. Lots of authentic restaurants in the area for Cuban food.

Getting to the beach is easy if you rent a car.

It will be warm, but I fear that this will not be as inexpensive as a cabin.

You can check flying into Fort Lauderdale rather than MIA for better pricing, or even West Palm Beach.

Inland properties will be less expensive than those on the beach.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on February 26, 2014

I don't have suggestions as to location, but I did want to suggest that you might get lucky on AirBnB (which I seem to evangelize on this site a lot!). I have used AirBnB extensively (for research travel), and have found that often people rent out their apartments/houses when they are going away - often for summer vacation or for Christmas. A lot of these people are students, so it might be difficult to find an entire house and something nice enough for your vacation, but perhaps worth a look? If you want to go this route, I would recommend looking on the site for tourist destinations that have a fair amount of locals, as the people wanting to rent out their houses during that period for a reasonable price are probably locals visiting family elsewhere for the holidays. Anyway, just a thought!
posted by ClaireBear at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2014

Thanks so far, I should note though that while we are looking for cheaper suggestions, they don't need to be super cheap. My parents were getting $20,000 for the week quotes and they just gave up.

As far as location, they are generally of the opinion that FL is not warm enough in Dec to allow for swimming in the ocean, etc, so they were really looking even warmer than that.

I will look into AirBnB though, thanks! And I'll keep TN in mind for non-beachy, though likely to convince them to do non-beachy, we'd probably have to go the opposite direction and end up somewhere like skiing, and even that will be a tough sell.
posted by katers890 at 9:48 AM on February 26, 2014

I'm going to recommend a completely different option - check with the schools to see if you can take the kids out for one week during some other month. Kindergarten - 2nd grade does not do such groundbreaking work that missing a week would kill them*. You could get the homework assignments in advance, promise to write a report about what they learned on the trip, etc. Phrase it in "family event" language, rather than "vacation".

* although I did meet a girl in college who just COULD NOT get the hang of using apostrophes for possessive nouns. She claimed that she must have missed that week in elementary school.
posted by CathyG at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2014

we'd probably have to go the opposite direction and end up somewhere like skiing, and even that will be a tough sell.

Skiing will be just as expensive, if not more so.

How about Mexico?

Everyone in Mexico City goes down to Acapulco right after Christmas, but you might be able to find something down there.

Playa del Carmen or Ixtapa or some place like that might be a consideration.

You're going to have to go to the Caribbean to get warmer weather than South Florida.

Another thought is Beaches although the property in Turks and Caicos is sold out for the week after Christmas.

The only issue is that airfare is going to be HIDEOUSLY expensive to the Caribbean right after Christmas.

Here's an article about All-Inclusive Family Resorts in the Caribbean.

Another thought is Puerto Rico, which is a WONDERFUL place and does not require passports (as other places in the Caribbean and Mexico would)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2014

Came back to add:

Found Villa Tropical On Shacks Beach on Trip Advisor. Not sure if this is your thing or not, but it sure looks interesting.

The Hyatt Place at Bayamon has very reasonable rates.

The Hampton Inn and Suites in San Juan, gets lots of positive reviews.

I'm seeing airfare on Kayak

Boston: $717
Phoenix: $676
Savannah: $990
Atlanta: $520

So Puerto Rico might at least be in your ballpark.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:18 PM on February 26, 2014

Beaches is where my parents looked and it was wicked expensive for the week after Christmas, even if it wasn't sold out. I would totally be willing to pull my then Kindergartener out for a week, but my brother would not be. He and his wife are not big on spending time with the family to begin with, so asking them to put in more effort or do something special for their kid isn't really going to fly. Additionally, his wife has to be on call (but not a doctor, different sort of on call) for her job at various times.

Passports, oddly is not that big of a deal, the only ones who would need them are my two kids and I can do that, but I will look into those options!
posted by katers890 at 4:37 PM on February 26, 2014

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