OK, folks, I'm looking for something a little different than my normal routine. We're considering a family excursion for the Xmas/New Years season, but planning for multiple families (age range: high school, college, ... to long-retired), and I've been given innumerable criteria (many of which aren't normally on my list).
Among other things, preferences have been stated for:
I'm out of my element here.... My initial research led me to this short list (plus a half-dozen properties that don't have enough rooms available):
Oh, and I thought about Atlantis in Nassau (which I've been impressed with), but it doesn't look like that will work.
So, fellow Insiders, I welcome your suggestions:
THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR ANY ADVICE!!!!ea
Are Gaylord properties of Vacation Club locations off the table? That could open a few more areas for consideration if they meet all your other criteria. Gaylord probably only adds the Orlando area to your list, but VC might work in AZ, FL, NV, SC, and a even a few less warm places. Booking a larger villa might mean needing fewer rooms, so it could be worth exploring. My experience with VC is limited, but the few times I have visited one, I've discovered many features I like.
Check out the MVC Canyon Villas in Phoenix, AZ. It is across the parking lot from JW Desert Ridge (5 minute walk, but they also run shuttles to the JW) and you get access to the JW amenities, including golf courses. Several good restaurants on site and you can charge everything back to the MVC Canyon Villas. A 15 minute walk (shuttle also available) is the Desert Ridge shopping center with a collection of restaurants. 2 miles down the road is the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) with the worlds largest collection of musical instruments. After that you have the rest of Arizona available.
I vote for AZ too. I have not been to Desert Ridge but I have been to the JW in Tucson. I was able to swim in Feb! I got a nice tan too! It was great. The nights and early mornings are pretty chilly but when the sun is up and shinning, its warm warm! The weather is just perfect. I try to go every year to the Starr Pass in February. Sadly this year my schedule didn't allow it. First time to miss out in a few years.
San Antonio is not warm in winter. Not to me... it's 44 degrees there right now! It does not have the sun power that AZ has.
Sea Texan, if you like Starr Pass I would highly recommend Desert Ridge. I have been to Starr Pass twice and it is a great hotel, but just too remote for my taste. (Although I do enjoy the free afternoon tequila tastings!) The Desert Ridge main building is the same layout as SP so it will feel familiar. If the remoteness of SP is what you like, you can get the same feel by just staying on property at DR. However, if you want more off property options, you can't beat DR. Also, DR has the Griffin Club, which I think is a great deal, for at least 1 day.
curiousone I do have to agree with you on the remoteness of SP. Hard to beat the tequila tho! I will check out Desert Ridge. I have been meaning to do this anyway. I have heard lots of good things about it.
What about a favorite area for a few of us here, Southwest Florida and Marco Island in particular?
Or if you want a bit higher end Florida Beach Resorts - Naples Florida Resorts l The Ritz-Carlton give a look in Naples.
The weather at that time of year should be very very good and probably 5-10 degrees warmer than northern Florida as the temperatures average around 76 at the end of December, Flights to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) are probably easy from the D.C. Metro airports and Naples is about a 25 minute drive while Marco Island 35-40 at the most.
IAHFLYR, on second thought, not so sure about that Ritz Carlton for that week - the web was quoting prices from $1,000 to $3,200+ per room per night.... I'm guessing that's out of our price range.
Okay ssindc, guess I should have put in MUCH HIGHER PRICE at the RC. Honestly it is hard to beat the Marco Resort, especially if you can snag one of their rooms at the very end of the building as you look at the main resort photo it would be on the far right. Those are some sweet suites (pun intended) if you can get one. Come to think of it I believe they have them at the end of both buildings along the beach, but you probably need to call the resort directly to get information on those.
In the resort photos they start around slide 15ish.
I agree with the Marco Island recommendation. There is also a MVC resort on the island with 2BR condo units with full kitchen. I also would add Singer Island to the list of recommendations. It is conveniently located near West Palm Beach and has a Marriott Suites resort as well as two MVC properties.
The MVC properties may be difficult to reserve through Marriott, but you might find rentals available on TimeshareUserGroup or Redweek.com. One nice thing about the MVC properties is that there are no charges for parking or resort fees.
If you choose Phoenix, I highly recommend a visit to Sedona.
I second superchief1 on the MVCI on Marco - it's called Crystal Shores. Very nice property. It can be hard to get into. I also agree that Sedona is a great place to visit if you are anywhere nearby.
Some great early suggestions - THANKS
KEEP THE SUGGESTIONS COMING!!!!!
ssindc, I agree with everything IAHFLYR suggested. I would add that the RC Amelia Island is a fantastic property with every amenity, a wonderful beach, and excellent restaurants, BUT, it is cold in the winter. You will be wearing jackets there, and the locals will be in Ugg Boots and puffy coats. Marco or Naples are better options in Florida as the Gulf Side beaches in SW Florida are much, much warmer. South Florida beaches on the Atlantic side should be good, too. The RC is Naples is super pricey, but the RC across the Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale might be less expensive if you time it right - I've stayed at the RC Naples, and the cheapest rate I've seen is about $599 a night, whereas I've stayed at the RC Ft. Lauderdale for $250 a night. That property is urban, though, and not a huge expansive resort. It does have a nice pool, beachfront service, and a great restaurant, but the beach is across the street - there's a private skywalk for hotel guests and a private portion of the beach, though. Marco Marriott can be expensive, too, but it's worth it - every amenity you can think of there. And a wonderful uncrowded huge white sand beach.
Everyone else had great ideas, but I'm going to throw one more your way just to be different: Puerto Rico. You won't need passports, and it's an easy flight. One Ritz Carlton is 5 minutes from the airport (and the other Ritz properties aren't that far away), there is a Renaissance, and a Marriott Resort & Casino. I won't list the two Courtyards here (although I stayed in them both). I have been to all these properties except for Dorado Beach where I visited the property to check it out but didn't stay. These are some of my favorite Marriotts for easy ocean swimming and the weather is usually very nice for the time of year you're looking at. In Carolina/Isla Verde, it's safe to walk around the streets and visit the other hotels, restaurants and casinos (I have only been to P.R. with other women and we all concur it's one of the safer places we go). Something to consider! Best of luck with your trip planning.
Regarding Puerto Rico, the Marriott and Ren are in the Condado area which has a nice beach but it is a very urban area (see below). No Marriotts in Old San Juan which is a fun area, but no beach there either. Nice to be able to use US money and have your cell phone work as if in the states. I am not sure that I agree it's all that safe, but you could say that about much of the Caribbean and many places in the US.
Nice photos clebert. I wish I was there right now! I guess I'm just a bold girl, because we usually take the "roach coach" (public bus) from Isla Verde or Condado to Old San Juan sometimes on a daily basis after the beach. Yes, we get a lot of looks but we smile back, everyone is friendly and we have never had any trouble. I love to walk around there, so maybe I'm crazy (I have yet to be committed). But at night when staying on Isla Verde we go back and forth from all the casinos, to Ruth's Chris, etc. Even walking to the little Puerto Rican restaurant (Metropol which I highly recommend for Carribbean fare) is undaunting. But I go for the beach and easy access from the airport, so even leaving the properties is a bonus pour moi!!
Sledchick I haven't spend any time around Carolina except the airport or Isla Verde, so maybe those areas are safer. I walked from Condado to Old San Juan and generally felt safe in the daylight, but I wouldn't do it at night. The cabbies were also sketchy and demanding cash only and making up the routes/rates as they went along. There were a lot of lower-end businesses near Condado that wanted you to pay in cash, too, and the local Puerto Rican in our group said it's because they aren't reporting transactions to the government or paying taxes. She also told us that there was a fair amount of carjacking and that tourists should not leave the main tourist areas or they would be mugged, carjacked, etc. BTW, I stayed at the Vanderbilt Condado which was a 5-star property (below) and I'd highly recommend it over either of the Condado Marriott properties, not that there is anything wrong with them. Lots of old shelled-out looking buildings along the beach in Condado as well as bars on the windows even though Condado is supposedly the luxury part of town.
Yes, the empty buildings are kind of creepy when walking along the beachfront. There is a dilapidated cemetery there too, right? You're braver than me -- I wouldn't walk from Condado to OSJ. And I had the same taxi experience you did. I'm perfectly happy to spend my days out on the beach, having the hotel waiter bring me my mango coladas to my beach chair.
Speaking of Marco Island, last night we watched an HGTV show called Island Life that I'd saved on DVR. Gave a nice idea of Marco and even filmed a segment at CJ's Restaurant which is one of the spots we have lunch and a drink when on the island.
See if you can find it ON DEMAND or some other source, title was New Hampshire Couple to Marco Island.
Well ... so many suggestions ... and ... well ... the early returns from the (extended, oh-so-conservative) family look like we're headed to Phoenix/Scottsdale and the JW Camelback (which I've enjoyed in the past).... As compromises go, it's not a bad outcome...
The next big debate: as many as six rooms, five nights (a total of up to 30 nights), category 8 - points (lots of points) ... or ... cash (lots of cash)??!?!?!?!?
[Gotta be points, right? right? But - sometimes - travelling with extended family or friends - I'm surprised/disappointed by how uncomfortable others are letting us cover the rooms with points, and sometimes it's not worth fighting about.... We'll see how this one plays out....]
In any event, it's nice to have the luxury of sitting on a points war chest large enough to be pondering this question.....
Thanks for all of your suggestions... [Sorry they only let me choose a few answers as correct/helpful...] There's always next year....
It is - a very nice place to eat and wonderful for Sunday brunch. The sticky buns (cinnamon rolls) at El Chorro are a destination dish - addicting.
If there are hikers in the group, both Camelback Mountain and Piestawa Peak (aka Squaw Peak) are close and worth climbing. Don't miss the Musical Instruments Museum described above by curiousone and for great southwestern ambience try an evening at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn, which is within 2 miles of the Camelback Inn.curiousone
Absolutely, AZDesertRat, will do - I've done a fair amount of hiking (and biking) in the area.
As a side note, on the bike, the seemingly endless (what is it? 8 miles?) arrow-straight ever-so-slight descent on Dynamite road from near the Four Seasons (actually, it turns into East Rio Verde) is unlike anything I've done anywhere else.... It's really kind of wild....
ssindc In addition to Sapporo (mentioned by IAHFLYR above), two other restaurants you might enjoy include Houston's (Scottsdale Road south of Lincoln) and Razz's (Scottsdale Road just south of Shea). Also a terrific, but very down to earth Afghan restaurant, details upon request. Have a great time here. Little chance of anything but great weather.
I didn't chime in earlier, because there were so many good suggestions and "apparently California is too far," but while there's certainly nothing wrong with Phoenix in the winter for sure, Southern California is only an extra half hour in the airplane. From west to east, when there's a head wind tail wind (boy do I feel dumb), the flight can even come in at around 4 hrs, 15 mins. So, I'm just putting it out there. Beaches, museums and aquariums, of course amusement parks, nature preserves, the arts, mountains, lots of recreation, even skiing. Good food too, but there's good food most everywhere.
For Phoenix, I imagine you might consider a day trip or an over-nighter to Sedona (and sorry if that was previously mentioned).
A great choice. Last time the Son and I went to Camelback to play some Scottsdale golf courses they upgraded us to a two floor Casita with a huge sun deck that was awesome to watch sunsets.
Sapporo near the Scottsdale Airport had amazing Japanese food and Sushi last time if you enjoy Asian cuisine.
What about Cancun? One thing we've found with winter trips in the US is that they never tend to get above just warm enough. Cancun isn't too far away the temp can be significantly warmer than in FL or AZ and the water is beautiful.
AZ is good but stay in the lower elevations because it gets cold in the hills in winter. We just came back from a Thanksgiving trip near the Grand Canyon and it snow/sleeted on us one day.
We did PR two winters ago and it was nice and warm too. But if I had to choose between Cancun and Puerto Rico, I'd go to Cancun.
I might have to somewhat disagree with you about the winter weather in Florida. Have you checked out Southwest Florida? Not saying the weather there is always perfect as some of the cool/cold fronts make their way that far south to Ft. Myers and Naples area, but not often. I just returned from two days of 82 partly cloudy days in Ft. Myers and having lived there long ago will say it has some of the best weather in the U.S. in the winter.
You are correct though, Cancun and the Riviera Maya has some of the most gorgeous water anywhere, not hard to get to and great winter weather.
Ahhhh there's that goofy sideways photos again, I sure hope when Insides comes online with the new updated platform they fix this stinkin issue!!!