In search of a family vacation from NH
March 19, 2018 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Selecting a vacation destination shouldn't be this hard! Can you help?

We are a family of 4: Two parents plus two girls, ages 9 and 12. Due to {reasons} we've gone several very expensive tropical vacations in recent years: a resort in Hawaii, a Caribbean cruise + Disney, and a beach resort south of Cancun. These trips were enjoyable, but not really my kind of thing at all, and too expensive for my taste.

This April 22-29 we want to get away from New Hampshire to someplace warm. We initially talked about an east coast road trip, but we'd have to go pretty far south to reach a swimmable beach. We've looked at various options, and the kids now have their hearts set on flying to the Caribbean and staying at a Disneyified superresort, which gets a hard pass from me.

I want: Warmer than NH, nature, hiking, good local food, interesting historical/cultural sites, gardens, not exploitative, flexibility (don't mind driving if it gives us more options).
The kids want: Water slides, the beach, aquarium/zoo, theme parks, fancy resort swimming pools, less travel time.
Spouse is OK with both agendas.
None of us want: spring break party scene

Time is running short to book anything, and we are really struggling with finding a compromise. I'm sticking my heels in a bit because I feel like the last three vacations were not my choice, and I want to satisfy more of my criteria this time around.

My two-part question:

1) Recommend us some vacation destinations that will magically fulfill all our requirements. Total budget $5000.

2) How do I get the kids to see the importance of compromise on this? They're acting like their lives are ruined if they don't get to go to Atlantis. I feel like the kids' expectations are out of whack, and that they should be more appreciative of a more modest -- but still very fun and nice! -- vacation. Am I being reasonable?
posted by libraryhead to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your kids *should* of course feel grateful for whatever kind of vacation you see fit to take, but they are also getting to the age where kids naturally become more mutinous about things like vacation destinations. And honestly? Going from Disney to “some place with cultural interest and gardens” sounds like a bummer even to me! Your family probably only has a finite amount of time where you will all be vacationing together, I do think you should try to make it fun for your kids too. Not that that means you have to pay Disney or Hawaii bucks to do it. What about the Florida Keys? There is a lot of interesting history and culture there, but still Florida.
posted by cakelite at 2:53 PM on March 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Come to Palm Beach County! We have a big water park, nice beaches, a couple of zoos, cool gardens, and lots of other stuff including great food. You can fly JetBlue nonstop from Logan.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:20 PM on March 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I just got back from a terrific week in Martinique courtesy of direct flights by Norwegian Air out of Providence, RI. A different language and culture may satisfy your “not Disney”, would tropical beaches and pools satisfy them? I’d recommend checking out the flight options at least.
posted by meinvt at 3:20 PM on March 19, 2018

Go vacation in Puerto Rico! They need the tourism dollars! Warm, lots of chances to engage in culture, plus plenty of beaches.
posted by heathrowga at 3:47 PM on March 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I thought of Puerto Rico, but I'm having a hard time finding current info on conditions. Which parts are still without electricity?
posted by libraryhead at 3:56 PM on March 19, 2018

I feel like Charleston, SC, might be worth mentioning. There's plenty of nature nearby, good food, lots of history, and there seem to be water parks.
posted by General Malaise at 4:41 PM on March 19, 2018

I give you permission to say NO WAY to their perfect vacation! :) Even in my somewhat wealthy town, vacation weeks are mostly day trips to the museum or trampoline park. I think the amazing trips they recently had put their expectations a bit out of whack.

I hate to suggest Florida because sigh, it's Florida, but really it has it all and one of the few places that it nice and warm for a pool in April AND easy to travel to -especially on short notice.

I love to experience more than one place on a trip. We go for 8/9 nights and split it up. There really is some beautiful nature in Florida. And a little bit of history and wonderful food.

You could fly into Orlando - but head out to Siesta Key/Sarasota. Sarasota is a nice city and Siesta Key beach is just the best. Spend a few days there. You can go to the Ringling Museum, go to the botanical gardens, Mote Aquarium. You can visit more from there. Memail me if you want a few suggestions.

Head North to Tampa for a couple days. Busch Gardens and Lowry Park zoo. Historic Ybor City and more good food.

Then spend a few days in Orlando. The rooms are cheap and you can do 2 days of theme parks. Plenty of really terrific food, very reasonable, if you don't eat AT the parks. Our very favorite place there is Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. Giant pool with pirate ship and GIANT rooms. Snack bar next to poor with bad food and decent drinks and many hot tubs.

BUT this is April. Your flights are going to be 500 bucks a pop but there are still directs avail from Manchester.
posted by beccaj at 4:57 PM on March 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know people don't necessarily think of it as a family destination, but I'm going to throw out Vegas. It honestly hits all of your requirements except the beach, and might give your kids that sort of fantastical theme-y vibe they crave without being literal Disney.

Vegas has a really interesting history, breathtaking nature nearby (especially if nobody's been to the desert), a TON of wild and cool things to do with kids (and all of the normal stuff like aquariums and water parks too). Also, shows!

Also, here is an extensive list of school spring breaks that you can sort by date. You'll honestly probably be fine anywhere that late in April.
posted by lalex at 5:05 PM on March 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I second Charleston, SC; however, the swimmable beaches in the immediate vicinity (namely Isle of Palms, etc.) are solidly spring break party scene.

So, I would instead suggest The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, SC. Quiet, upscale, warm in late April, swimmable, and has nearby outdoor activities. From Kiawah it’s a short 45 minute drive to downtown Charleston for a day trip of historic foot tours in a beautiful, historic area of the Holy City. The regional food there is phenomenal as well.

Alternatively Litchfield, SC, has a similar day trip distance to Charleston, quiet beaches, Brookgreen Gardens, and the amazing Huntington Beach State Park (birds, gators, and hiking). Unlike Kiawah, Litchfield offers proximity to the more kid-focused attractions of Myrtle Beach.

I hope you have a wonderful vacation!
posted by skinzi at 5:09 PM on March 19, 2018

I spend a ton of time on Kiawah. It may be a little chilly for your taste in spring, so check out the temps. It's a terrific place for families, amazing nature, terrific food. EXTREMELY low-key. Sanctuary is stunning. (If you rent a house on Kiawah, the pool situation is extremely weird for vacation renters so make sure to check that out.)
posted by lalex at 5:16 PM on March 19, 2018

My family went to the Grand Canyon for spring break one year.
posted by brujita at 5:52 PM on March 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Which parts are still without electricity?

Of the known tourist locations, Vieques is the only area without power. I was in Rincon over New Year’s and President’s Day, and it was lovely. You can rent a car and drive the entire island easily, with plenty of hiking, the bioluminescent bay if you time it right, and good food. El Yunque is still closed last I checked, but major resorts are operating throughout the East coast.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you’re going to go to Puerto Rico, for the love of all that is holy stay in hotels that are owned by Puerto Ricans, not by international conglomerates. Puerto Ricans need tourism dollars, but what the big resort hotels have been doing to the island and their workers in the aftermath of La Junta, and then using Maria as further excuse to fuck over workers, is absolutely galling, just utterly inhumane.
posted by amelioration at 7:13 AM on March 20, 2018

Thanks, everyone, for all the great suggestions. I'm leaning toward St. Pete Beach, FL: Busch Gardens and water parks for the kids, plus several state parks and arts & culture in St. Petersburg for me. Plus an easy flight to Tampa from Logan and we should come in well under budget. If anyone has don't-miss suggestions for the area, hit me up!
posted by libraryhead at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2018

If you're heading to St. Pete, do not miss the Salvador Dali Museum.
posted by General Malaise at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2018

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