- Kristin Finan American-Statesman Staff
There are so many things to consider when you’re planning a vacation.
Who will be traveling with you? What does everyone like to do? How comfortable are you in new situations? How much time and money can you afford?
If you want to travel more in the new year but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas from you, from close-to-home adventures to farther-flung destinations.
Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine
If you’re traveling with kids, I’m not sure there’s a better experience than a visit to Great Wolf Lodge, located a little over three hours from Austin in Grapevine.
When my husband and I visited in October with our three kids, ages 9, 6 and 4, we discovered a treasure trove that managed to keep everyone happy and entertained for a long weekend.
“We’re full of fun, fun, fun,” said Phil Cunningham, general manager of Great Wolf Lodge, which has more than a dozen properties across the United States and Canada. “We’re serious about fun.”
Here’s a sample of what we loved about Great Wolf Lodge: the sprawling water park that just so happens to be indoors, making weather and temperature a nonissue; the outdoor Howlers Peak Ropes Course, where you can fly through the air in the safety of a climbing harness (closed-toe shoes required); the Scooops Kid Spa, where our daughters enjoyed manicures from atop a banana-split throne; and the nightly dance parties, where “ambassador of fun” Jonathan Romrell wowed us with his dance moves.
“I was blessed with good rhythm,” he said.
If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss the KidCabin Suite, which includes an in-suite log cabin with bunk beds and a day bed for little ones. Check the website for special rates and offers.
Info: 100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine. 800-693-9653, greatwolf.com/grapevine
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
It’s not hard to love the California coast. And yet staying at Terranea Resort has made me love it even more.
My husband and I first visited Terranea — located about 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles — with our kids in 2016 and were instantly enamored with everything, from the cool ocean breezes to the toasty fire pits to the gray whales that make rhythmic arcs on the surface of the water below. It was, we decided, the perfect spot for a family vacation.
This year, we returned without kids and were just as enamored in a completely different way. Turns out, it’s also an ideal place for a couples vacation.
Terranea has made such a deep impression on us that we’ve vowed to return every year as long as we’re able. To our family, it’s that special.
Info: 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes. 310-494-7891, terranea.com
Hyatt Lost Pines, Lost Pines
This summer, my childhood best friend, who lives in Houston, and I decided it was time for a kid-free vacation and booked a one-night stay at Hyatt Lost Pines, located 30 minutes from Austin, near Bastrop.
The goal? Enjoy everything the property had to offer during our less-than-24-hour visit.
Enjoy it we did. We sipped Champagne by the glittering pool. We got pressure-perfect massages at Spa Django, where the music of Django Reinhardt, the spa’s namesake, greets guests when they enter a treatment room. We lingered over dinner on the patio. And we laughed in the way that only dear friends can.
In the morning, we grabbed a quick coffee, exchanged a quick hug and I was back at work at my usual starting time. Yes, it was fast. But it was wonderful, too.
Can’t spend the night? The spa is available for day use and, even though it’s on the outskirts of Austin, feels a world away.
Info: 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Road, Lost Pines. 512-308-1234, lostpines.regency.hyatt.com
Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, Cancun, Mexico
I have traveled to Cancun numerous times, but as we were planning our most recent trip last spring, my daughters had only on request: to drink something out of a coconut.
At Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, that’s easy enough — nearly anything you want, even chocolate milk, can be served in a coconut.
It’s just one example of the aim-to-please mentality we found over the course of our three-night March stay at the resort: If you can dream it, they can do it.
Among our highlights of our trip: Practicing cartwheels across the sugar-fine sand, battling the waves on a rented Jet Ski and enjoying an extended meal at the on-site La Joya, which serves authentic Mexican cuisine.
The hotel is also ideally situated for a day trip to Isla Mujeres, where our kids were thrilled by our golf cart transportation and the dozens of baby turtles we met at the Turtle Farm, a quaint tourist destination that safeguards turtle breeding grounds and protects their eggs.
Info: Boulevard Kukulcan Km 9.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500, Cancún. 888-830-9008, coralbeachcancunresort.com