Where should 17 people go on vacation in November?
January 8, 2021 7:08 AM   Subscribe

My extended family (12 adults and 5 children, ages 2-13) would like to get a vacation rental for Thanksgiving week this year. Our priorities are a GREAT house that's not a huge pain to get to, near a few appealing things to do. Details below the fold.

Every 2 years we take a big family trip. Past destinations have included Taos, Lake Tahoe, Yellowstone-area Montana, Kona, and Portland. Folks are coming from Portland-area, Central CA, NYC, and Madison, WI. Over the years we've figured out some of the things that make these trips good for us:

*A big-enough house with enough bedrooms (minimum 7, preferably 8) and multiple common spaces for hanging out.
*Sufficient dining capacity with an above-average kitchen (in vacation rental adjusted terms) and a decent family-friendly restaurant or two nearby
*House should be well-maintained. On one trip we kept having to call management to get lightbulbs replaced and stuff, and the beds were terrible.
*A pool onsite or easy access to nearby water for kids to swim
*Things to do that are walkable or a short drive away (Yellowstone is great, but there was so much driving that we didn't see each other all day if we wanted to do different things)
*Urban and rural are both fine.
*Past activities that have been popular include strolling a downtown or cool neighborhood, hiking (hard-core for some, low-key for others), beaches, general natural beauty, half-day guided snorkeling/kayaking/rafting/etc, horseback riding for the kids, a bit of history or art. A few of us would visit a casino and a few others might golf. A near-majority would participate in a turkey trot.
*For November, we think we prefer somewhere fairly warm, but this is not an absolute requirement

International is fine, but nobody is interested in 4+ hours of jet lag or 14 hours of travel. Budget is <$1500/night. I'd love suggestions for general locations, ways to search for properties, or specific properties where you've had a good experience.

BIG CAVEAT: There are elderly and immunocompromised individuals among us. This trip is not happening if it's not COVID-safe. We are fully equipped and willing to make that decision. If it helps you suspend COVID-pessimism, pretend I'm asking this question in 2019 or as a pure theoretical.
posted by juliapangolin to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is kind of a broad question? We have no idea what your family is like, what your constraints are, which family members can travel far and which can't, etc. You are going to have to do most of the legwork here. It can be daunting when you don't know where to start, but I can help there!

First find a location you all would like to go to. Narrowing down the location can be done by drawing circles on a map to indicate an X-hour travel radius around each family's origin point. X would be the number of hours that particular family would be prepared to travel, like, older, immunocompromised, disabled, very young, or sick family members would necessitate smaller circles... Best to poll each family about their preferred travel radius, and proceed to draw the circles based on their responses.

Look at areas where all the circles overlap, and from the overlap area, pick 2-3 locations that sound appealing.

Then look up AirBnB listings to find the kind of house you're looking for in these locations. You can pick one house for each of two or three locations and send out a family-wide email with a short description of the location, house, activities, etc. for Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3, and let all the family members have a say in what they prefer. If that sounds like too much legwork, then go ahead and pick one option and one house and you're set.
posted by MiraK at 7:40 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've done a trip with a similarly large group to Vegas. We stayed in a house in Henderson, not near the Strip, so strippers, casinos, shows, etc were entirely optional for the group. It is a convenient place to travel to (tons of cheap flights) with lots of very large houses available as vacation rentals and plenty of things to do in the immediate vicinity -- Red Rocks for Hiking, museums, shows, casinos, etc. If you get past What Happens in Vegas-ness of it all, it can be a fun place to visit, even, I suspect, with kids in tow.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:10 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sunriver OR might be what you're looking for. I haven't been there in more than 20 years but it was a common family reunion place in my youth. May need to get 2 houses but that could be fun for the cousins to sleep over or whatever.
posted by Uncle at 8:14 AM on January 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I know from past research that there are some party houses like this in Palm Springs, which would give you access to every activity you listed above except maybe snorkeling/kayaking.

Do NOT unless it is absolutely unavoidable let anybody fly into LAX. With Thanksgiving traffic it'll be faster to drive from the San Diego airport if Ontario isn't an option, with Burbank and John Wayne in Orange county as backups but the 2ish-hour drive could easily be 5 from those, especially this year.

San Diego is also an option, but if you want to be any kind of stone-throw from the ocean (there is almost no "on the beach" in SoCal because beaches are state parks, so you will almost always be crossing at least one street to get there) I suspect the rental prices will be astronomical even in North County (from Del Mar to Oceanside, basically) and unspeakable down around Pacific Beach or La Jolla or on Coronado Island. But there might very well be some great places inland, which actually usually gives you a lot easier access to regular stores, restaurants, and shopping. The beach is cold af in winter, it's cold year-round and it's extra windy in winter, so one visit will likely suffice and you can't get in the water without a wet suit or maybe a dry suit. But there's absolutely tons of easy-to-hard hiking, strolling, cool nature, parks, museums, and other diversions all within a fairly compact geographical area and Thanksgiving is before the rainy season so there's a good chance of perfect weather or at worst overcast and a bit cool but not actually an impediment to being outside as long as you have a coat.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would suggest Virginia Beach, Virginia, or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
posted by poppunkcat at 9:10 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean side. Should be easy flights to Liberia from CA and NY, Madison people have to connect somewhere anyways. Many of the smaller towns are very easy with stretch restaurants at/ close to beach, and it should be possible to rent a house within walking distance or very short car ride. Endless amount to do for those who want to venture out more -- surfing, turtles, jungles, zip lining, snorkeling, etc. And many of these activities are full family friendly. No-one needs to do zip-lining themselves, or whatever but can still have fun.
posted by zeikka at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you want to swim in October I think Florida and a pool would be your best option, but that’s also hurricane season.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2021

100% vegas. just a short ride away is so much nature. those that don't like nature can do more traditional "vegas" things. lots of places to stop and rest on the strip if need be. you can book travel tours with pink jeep or things like that. and you should easily be able to find a house that fits you all.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:33 AM on January 8, 2021

Look up villas in and around Cuernavaca Mexico... a two-hour van or bus ride from Mexico City.
If you need to be near the beach, Puerto Morelos or somewhere nearby
posted by jander03 at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2021

Echoing Palm Springs. Weather will be amazing, you can find a big enough (and probably very architecturally cool) house walking distance from town, it will have a pool, and there is SO much to do nearby. Hikes for the hiking crowd, art galleries, a zoo for the kids, golf, and I *think* there's a casino out there. It's incredibly beautiful and has a very fun vibe.

You will be far from a beach, though if you really wanted to make a day trip out of it you could; depending on traffic it would be about 2-2.5 hours from OC beaches.
posted by nancynickerson at 11:49 AM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

St. George, Utah. Great outdoors options including Zion N.P. Thanksgiving is a great time to be down there. Awesome golf and mountain biking.
posted by trbrts at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sedona AZ. Last July we stayed in the Moondance Sanctuary (airbnb) which was massive, wonderful house (with a yoga room!). Grandparents, littles (3 and 5yo) and several teens. Hiking for all ages, stream for swimming, tubing, fishing ... We didnt go horseback riding but Im sure its there. Sedona is a great town with art museums etc. Right now the house is listed in your price range.
posted by Illusory contour at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Tulum. You can rent a huge place on the water with a pool. Snorkeling is available in ceynotes and you can alternate relaxation days with time spent exploring architectural marvels. Our group of 12 spent Christmas here one year and we hired a tour guide with a big van to take us to farther sites, like Chichen Itza and a place we snorkeled in caves. You can all fly into Cancun; it's an easy drive. Tulum observes Eastern Standard Time all year.
posted by carmicha at 2:58 PM on January 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

It'll be a bit cold to swim in the ocean in November, but otherwise, everything about what you describe is the primary mode of vacation on North Carolina's Outer Banks, particularly north of Hatteras (so, Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.)
posted by desuetude at 4:51 PM on January 8, 2021

Gatlinburg, TN. Tons of things to do both outdoors and entertainment-wise.
posted by serendipityrules at 6:48 PM on January 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was also going to say Sunriver. Huge variety of homes to choose from, great hiking and easy walks, some homes right on the river for kayaking, and the SHARC pool complex is fab.
posted by purenitrous at 7:06 PM on January 8, 2021

I can't suggest a city but I have had good luck finding the right house for this kind of family gathering using vrbo (rather than airbnb). Just be careful to count the number of bed and match them to actual configuration of your family. A room with two bunk beds and one twin may technically sleep five but it won't work for two married couples who want to sleep together. And a room with one queen doesn't work for two adult siblings. The larger the place the more likely it has to odd have sleeping configurations.
posted by metahawk at 8:27 PM on January 8, 2021

This is the kind of complex thing a travel agent is good for. Have you considered using one? A quick Google for "travel agent family vacation" turned up a lot. You could give them all these variables and see what they can find, and save yourself a lot of time.
posted by emjaybee at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am very fond of Puerto Rico at that time of year. The San Juan area is jam-packed with interesting activities, and you can quickly get to other attractions such as the bioluminescent bays.

I also like windward Oahu a lot, again for the combination of things you can do. I have rented in that area and had a wonderful time. You may not be able to get a pool but you really don't need one with the beaches so swimmable.

In both places, finding a large rental may take some work but shouldn't be impossible. In Hawaii at least, there are groups of beach cottages that cater to weddings and wedding parties. I stayed in one of those and there was no wedding going on and it was great. But you might want to see what the setup is at any place where that is mentioned so you don't risk feeling crowded out.
posted by BibiRose at 5:12 AM on January 10, 2021

Somewhere in the mountains of NC? Asheville has an amazing food and beer scene and hiking galore. Lots of the towns around Asheville are really cute, like Hendersonville and Madison.
The French Broad River is just gorgeous. Boone/Blowing Rock/Banner Elk are a bit more sparse but still have decent places to eat. Both areas are full of beautiful scenery. I bet you could find an AirBnB with at least an outdoor hot tub, and maaaybe a heated pool in either area.

It is going to be cold, with maybe some snow, but not enough for the surrounding ski slopes to be open. It's probably too cold for rafting or tubing on the rivers, but there might be some horse rides and stuff like that.

I imagine the Keys and the Bahamas are too expensive for what you are trying to do, but worth looking into.
posted by Snowishberlin at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2021

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