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Dream with me...

My husband is lucky enough to work for a company that offers a paid sabbatical for every 7 years of service...2007 marks his 7th year, and as of July, he's eligible...we've been waiting for this treat for a long time! For a couple of reasons (new baby coming in August, and wanting to enjoy the perfect summers in Portland) I think we're deciding to postpone his time off until the first of next year. We're thinking Jan/Feb 08 although we could go a little earlier or a little later...

What are we going to do with this luxurious block of time? We definitely want to travel, we want to take the long trips that we haven't been able to take since college, we want to visit family and we want to spend time as a family--just the (what will be!) 4 of us, since most of our vacation time is spent visiting family. And of course, we want to see something new...The two trips that are definitely on our agenda are a trip to Norway to visit his family and a trip to a beach--if I'm leaving Portland during the rainiest time of the year, and visiting Norway during the darkest and coldest time of the year I definitely want some time to warm my toes in the sand and get a little sunshine!

So uMamas, where would you take your family if you had the luxury of time and a little money to spend? What have been your favorite winter getaways since becoming a family? Have any of you been on a fabulous European vacation in the middle of winter? Skiing in the Alps, maybe? And where are your favorite sunny getaways that are family friendly? Is Hawaii too expensive for families, even though they say it's easier to get to than Mexico or the Carribean?  And if you check Europe and the beach off our list, where else would you go? Someplace faraway and exotic (as exotic as a family with a 3 year old and an infant can handle!) Or would you hop in the car and take a road trip?

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This is a very timely post! I'm turning 40 in January and have been researching various places to celebrate with my husband and daughter (who will be 3). Here's where I did some searching.

Kauai, Hawaii - I heard that it's a tropical paradise with great weather and not as developed, busy, and touristy as the other islands. You can rent a condo near or on the beach and spend time exploring various sites on the isalnd.

Greece - this isn't the best time of year to go to a Greek island and the travel time felt a little daunting with a three-year-old tagging along, especially since we only have 10 days or so. I have been to Turkey and am longing to spend lazy days in the Mediterranean again. We can save this one for Howard's 50th birthday :)

Rural France - we looked into staying at a Gite, which is pretty much a rental house. I've been to the French countryside and love it! Riding bikes, eating delicious food, speaking French, what more could you ask for? But again, this trip is better during Spring, Summer or Fall.

Orland, FL - sounds kinda cheesy, but I was starting to give in to what Gabby might want to do and it's a quicker trip. But then, I realized it MY birthday, not hers :)

Mexico - this is where we decided to go and I actually bought our tickets last night even though it's over 8 months away! I used frequent flyer miles and wanted to make sure that we got the direct flights on the days we wanted. It must be middle age settling in :)
I have heard and read great things about the area that's about 1 hour north of Puerto Vallarta. In particular, Sayulita and Guayabitos. You can stay on the beach in a villa, complete with kitchen and ocean views, for less than $100 a night. You also don't need a car and can travel via taxi or bus. However, you can rent a car if needed. It's supposed to have beautiful beaches with sheltered waves that are more toddler friendly. These areas are also a lot less developed than Puerto Vallarta and you can still experience Mexican life with some of the luxuries that Americans are used to. I looked a lot at www.sayulita.com and a friend also recommended staying at www.villasbuenavida.com. There's a direct flight into Puerto Vallarta from Portland too!

This morning at breakfast Howard was reading "Ultimate" magazine that came with the Oregonian and said, "Hey, where are we going again? There's an article on Sayulita." After reading the article, I knew I made the right choice in purchasing our tickets last night :)

If you wind up going at the same time, it would be fun to meet up!

What a fantastic opportunity! Wow! I definitely yearn to travel more, more, more. My list of places I've visited is far too short. Exotic...I think I would go to New Zealand, although I'm sure that's it's very affordable. I've been to Kenya and if your kids were a bit older and you and your husband explored it for a little while first to discover how to be safe there, I would HIGHLY recommend it for your family. Maybe on the next sabbatical. Plus, where else could you go for 2-3 weeks and only spend a thousand dollars and live it up? Also on my list of must dos for the future are Costa Rica (or Belize) and probably Chile. Mexico is completely doable for a young family. Well, I like to dream, but I only have one child and we haven't traveled with him much (he's only 10 months) so I don't have advice for that portion of your adventures. I hope you have a wonderful experience.

We did go to Costa Rica with our son when he was about a year old and I was 5 mos pregnant with our second. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort on the beach and it was a great experience. The little guy got to swim a lot, chase iguanas and even went on a hike up into the cloud forest and then into a butterfly and hummingbird garden. If it weren't such a long day trip we would have gone to see the active volcano at night as well (but we thought we were pushing it a bit as it was). We had a great guide on our hike. When the little guy got fussy he helped to keep him distracted. Costa Rica has beautiful scenery. I highly recommend it.

Hi NoPo, Hope your pregnancy is going well! I am going to Cabo San Lucas tommorrow with a friend - no men, no children! There's something to be said for this type of vaca as well. :) Anyway, I will report back on how Cabo might work for a young family.

this is something I've longed to do! one of my sisters lives in Panama and that's basically a much-cheaper, less-developed version of Costa Rica -- we haven't been there with our kids yet (we're broke and my sis planned her wedding four weeks after truman was born) but we definitely plan to visit as soon as we have the lucky combo of cash and time. but they have lots of gentle caribbean beaches and spectacular, yet entirely tame, jungles. i can't wait to take everett and truman there since it's essentially dora & diego's home!

definitely stay away from the zoos though. third-world zoos give me shivers. they don't treat the animals very humanely.

we went to southern spain on our honeymoon when everett was nine months old, and though it wasn't exactly all about kids, both spain and italy are recommended for their love of children. boy everett was doted upon, it was like a ticket to free attention. i'd think the cinque terre would be great with young kids -- you can hike between towns with the babes in the backpack and then enjoy the spectacular views and warm hospitality.

and though it was long before children, i went to vienna in early january and loved it. vienna is such a rich place and the museums there are vast playlands, snow or no snow. during the post-holiday season, the city is still lit with the sparkling lights of christmas (they do a big job on christmas and new years' in vienna) and is stunning. the food's pretty kid-friendly too -- lots of fried meats and potatoes! and desserts are a huge focus of the culture. what could be better :)

I second Southern Spain! We went at the end of February with my son, who was 9 months old, and my sister's family with kids 5 and 3. I've traveled some in Europe but had never been to Spain and it was wonderful -- the culture is so much more open and happy than, say, in Germany or France. And, while not exactly cheap, it's less expensive than most of the rest of the continent. We rented a villa outside Malaga that had all kinds of baby gear on hand and rented Renault Kangoos (and baby car seats) to tool around through the lemon groves on road trips to the hill towns and the Alhambra. The sunshine was georgous, if not exactly swimming-weather warm. Lots of yummy seafood and good wine and plenty to see and do. Loved it!

Hi Leah-

We have had many fabulous ski vacations in Europe, but the one I can't forget was at a place called Ischgl in the Austrian Alps. It's not too far from Innsbruck. I think it would be a wonderful winter ski vacation with kids. It's definitely not cheap, but by far the most beautiful place I've ever skiied both in scenery and in terms of the amount and quality of the runs. We stayed at the hotel Elizabeth which was at the base of the main gondola and very convenient. The gondola takes you to the main bowl, and from there you can get one of 10+ different lifts to various areas. That's also where the lodge is and the ski-school. I know they have kids lessons (which would be fun for Anders) as I spent most of my first day there on the bunny slope (I was still learning). :)

I don't know about a daycare/babysitting, but I'd bet that they have something available. I know some ski places have a kids area up near the slopes so you can go check on them periodically. The only other place I do remember is in Italy north of Venice in the Dolomities. I don't remember the name of it, but the Olympics were held here one year about 40 yrs ago. It was amazing scenery, and could be combined with a trip to Italy which is of course highly recommended. One of our dreams is to rent bikes and bike around Tuscany someday with the kids on the back. (Maybe we should stop at 2 kids after all?). Anyway, I would probably try to get a stop in Italy in there somewhere, but it is my favorite country anywhere so I'm biased. I'm also not sure how nice most of Italy will be in the winter. I was in Venice in January one year--when we went skiing actually--and it was foggy, rainy and dreary. But I don't know about further South.

If I were you guys, given the time of year I would definitely go to the Southern Hemisphere (I'd choose New Zealand if you have the money for it) and then stop in Hawaii on your way back. Kauai I've heard it great, but Maui is so family friendly it's incredible. I'd choose Hawaii over Mexico just due to being easier with kids. Everything is similar to home so you could find anything you needed. And then for the European portion, I'd stop off for a European ski trip somewhere after going to Norway.

No matter what you do, I'm SO jealous. You guys will have a wonderful time. And the best part is you'll get to skip out on some of the ugly Portland winter weather!

I'm a long-time lurker and saw this post and wanted to wish you congrats on your addition :). I had to chime in and add a place that has long been on our wish-list to travel to as a family - the Inn at Mama's Fish House in Maui. I like how it's more of a condo setting and you have the ability to sight-see or just hang back on a beautiful beach. When I checked pricing in the spring for summer, it was very reasonable and the Inn owners are super nice:
http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/

We took our family vacation (our little ones are 3 and 4) to Disneyland instead. I thought long and hard about Maui, but we didn't have the time (and we did get an awesome deal through my pal who works at Disney for Disneyland). Otherwise, this would have been my pick!

And yes, I join the rest of the gang in expressing an incredible amount of envy LOL! :)

I agree with Sayulita Mexico - my husband and 2 children (3 in November), spend at least one week every winter there. Rent a house so you can cook your own food - and just relax at the beach. This is a wonderful small town - no need for a car if you just want to laze about - a lot of nice resturaunts etc. Plus it is family friendly, we have found the people to be loving and very accomidating to families.

What a dream! We had the most fabulous journey to Italy in late Jan./early Feb. We flew to Venice and headed north to Bolzano and into the Alto Adige region of the Dolomites. We stayed in a town called Santa Christina (in Val Gardena) and skiied and ate and loved every minute. I highly recommend it.

I have also been to Sayulita--the bugs are bad if you go after April or so. But it is wonderful for a family get away.

Have fun!

We agree with Laura - New Zealand and/or Hawaii get our votes!

We spent 3 weeks in NZ last year and it was absolutely fantastic! The scenery is gorgeous, the people are friendly and generous, traveling within NZ is surprisingly affordable, and it is a very family friendly destination as well.

Mila talks about the trip all the time and looks forward to returning to see her new friend Ella who lives in Wellington (we met her family while camping on the Coromandel Pennisula). We hope to head back next winter with both kids in tow.

The end of February will get you there during the end of the peak and the beginning of the shoulder season. Accommodations will be easier to find, rental car rates drop, and Air New Zealand and/or Quantas may have special deals.

Sign-up for e-newsletters with both airlines. Both fly direct from LAX or SFO and it is not uncommon for either airline to offer a deal that includes a stopover in Hawaii. Speaking of which...

We spent a little over a month traveling around Hawaii when Mila was seven months old. We went to Kauai, Oahu, and the island of Hawaii (aka The Big Island)on that trip. We also spent a couple of weeks traveling around Maui and Lanai when Mila was two. Both trips were wonderful and memorable. However Kauai remains our personal favorite of the Hawaiian islands we have explored.

Hawaiian Airlines often has specials for post-New Years travel, United does as well. If you want to island hop, you can find deals on Hawaiian Air, Aloha Air, and now GO! Airlines (we haven't flown them, they began service in June 2006 - http://www.iflygo.com).

We have traveled to Hawaii - as a family or couple - in late January, February, and early March. It will be winter during those months so don't skimp on your time there if you can help it, it is definitely nice to be able to accept a rainy "winter" day here or there.

So those are our votes, have a wonderful time where ever you go! If you would like more detailed recommendations on traveling in New Zealand or Hawaii, feel free to send us an email:

milagros@milagrosboutique.com

We are a having our first "Family Supper" at Milagros on May 3rd.

The Family Supper is a casual vegetarian potluck for folks to meet and greet. In addition to chatting, each supper will have different topic for discussion.

The 5/3 Family Supper will focus on budget travel to Hawaii for families.

We will be sharing tips from our experience there and welcome others who want to learn or share their own ideas.

Space is limited so a RSVP is required. You can find the details for the Family Supper on our event calendar here:

http://milagrosboutique.com/events/

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