Vacations in winter can suit your budget Escapes: Itching to get out of town but don't have a lot to spend? There are plenty of places to go--snowy, sunny or in-between.

December 22, 1996|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Sydney Julien is thinking snow. Lois Naftulin wants nothing but warm sun.

But both mothers, Julien in Los Angeles and Naftulin in New York, are hoping for the same things from their coming winter vacations.

"The change of scenery," explains Naftulin, who can't wait to get to Florida. "The time to focus on each other," says Julien, who will be packing ski gear for her trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo.

We're not talking budget-busting trips here. Naftulin and her family will stay with family in Miami while Julien's brood will be visiting friends. Any winter getaway, no matter how modest, both women assert, is enough to help busy families survive their hectic schedules.

"It's not a keep-up-with-the-Joneses thing. It's a sanity moment," observes Kathy Sudeikis. She is a national board member of the American Society of Travel Agents and a family travel expert at All About Travel, a large suburban Kansas City agency.

Judging by a brand-new national survey, a lot of exhausted parents feel they can't wait until next summer for a vacation, no matter what their income bracket.

Not only are more winter vacations planned overall this year -- 139 million trips -- but a record 40 percent will include children, the Travel Industry of America, tourism's research arm, reports.

The top picks for winter travelers: Florida, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. To save money, families are cashing in frequent flier miles, booking shorter stays and splitting condos with friends.

"People feel good about the economy, so they feel comfortable splurging and taking the kids," says Shawn Flaherty, a spokesman for the Travel Industry Association. She likens the winter travel surge to the crowds of post-Thanksgiving shoppers hitting the malls. Travelers are realizing there are bargains to be had.

4 "You just have to look for them," says Flaherty.

Consider these:

Cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, are offering reduced rates for kids sharing a cabin with their parents -- as low as $99 on selected sailings. The discount booker Cruise Line Inc., says a family of four could sail for seven days this winter for just over $1,400. Call your travel agent or Cruise Line at (800) 777-0707.

Families with young children or those who are beginning skiers can save big at smaller areas where lodging and lifts are cheaper. Book in January and save even more. Some areas, such as Vermont's Okemo Mountain Resort, offer two children skiing with parents free beginner lift tickets. Call (800) 78-OKEMO. Most Colorado areas now offer all children kindergarten age and younger free lifts. Consider Silver Creek, one of Colorado's smallest ski areas. A family of four could ski the area's 250 acres for just $84 a day. Some major areas will cost you nearly double that in lifts. Call (800) 754-7458.

For less than $1,000, a family of six could spend three days at the Woodstock Inn in postcard-pretty Woodstock, Vt. The deal includes two rooms, ski lifts and rentals, a lesson and most meals for the kids. Availability is limited. Call (800) 448-7900.

Bring Grandma and Grandpa along free to Jamaica's all-suite Franklyn D. Resort from Jan. 2 through Feb. 12. One grandparent can stay free for every full-paying adult. In addition, the family gets upgraded to a two-bedroom suite. Kids 16 and under always stay and eat free at the all-inclusive resort, where a nanny is assigned to each family. A family with four adults and four kids could vacation for a week for $3,720, plus air fare. Call (888) FDR-KIDS.

Book a $129-per-night "Dream Deal" package at the Doubletree Resort in Ixtapa, Mexico, and get breakfast for a family of four and free supervised all-day activities for the kids. A similar deal at the Doubletree all-suite Sapphire Beach Resort on St. Thomas starts at $310 a night. Call (800) 524-2090.

Scuba divers can get a free refresher dive course at any participating dive operator in Curacao and a 15 percent discount on all dive equipment rental. Nondiving kids and spouses can get free snorkeling gear. Call (800) 3-CURACAO and ask about the "We Want You Back Diving" promotion.

Stay in the heart of the Big Apple but pay just $169 per room per night this winter for a Central Park view from St. Moritz on the Park. Availability is limited. Call (800) 221-4774.

Wherever you go, remember that you'll cut costs significantly if you're willing to stay slightly farther from the beach or the slopes.

"Just two blocks from the beach, prices might drop by half," notes Laura Sutherland, who was co-author for the soon-to-be-released new edition of "The Best Bargain Family Vacations in the U.S.A." (St. Martin's Press, $13.95).

Another money-saving tip from Sutherland: If you don't have a kitchen, bring along a small cooler and serve the kids breakfast in the room. All they want is cereal and milk anyway. Brown-bagging lunch saves plenty when heading to the ski slopes or the beach, too.

Send your questions and comments about family travel to Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053 or e-mail to eogintzol.com.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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