Planning a unique family vacation

As I sit here and watch the snow fall outside, I’m dreaming of my very own family vacation coming up soon.  It’s true, even those of us who live in paradise do need to leave the valley to see other scenery from time to time.  What has struck me in the process of trying to find a great place for my family to vacation is how much work it is to find a unique family vacation destination.  I’ve always heard it on the phone, when a desparate mom calls up, completely overwhelmed by the process of sorting through the myriad options.  For someone who has narrowed down the choice to knowing they want a dude ranch, it’s still not easy as there are dozens and dozens of great options.  But, for those who haven’t even narrowed down their search to a specific kind of vacation, it’s enough to send one back into their shell and stay home and watch movies.

So, what tips are there for finding the perfect spot for your family vacation?  Here are some of my thoughts, but I’d love to have all of you comment to help others who are on the hunt.

1) Just book at Vista Verde Ranch- it’s one stop shopping, the experience is magical, and then you can get back to your life.  (Ok, sorry, my geeky humor popped out here)

2) Budget- this sounds obvious, but I found myself struggling because I didn’t set a budget initially, so I was all over the place.  From renting a condo on the beach to luxury all-inclusive resorts.  It wasn’t apples to apples, and that made it harder.  Just commit to what you can/want to spend and then use that as your filter.

3) Experiences- Do you want to be on your own for planning all activities and cooking meals, or do you want to be pampered a bit?  Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but sit down as a family and decide what your vision for how much you want to do on your own and how much you want taken care of for your family.

4) Setting- Do you want a remote, peaceful setting (like Vista Verde) or do you want to be in the heat of the action (in the heart of the city) or somewhere in between?

5) Advice- Once you have the above decided, start asking your friends.  Social media is an unbelievable tool for vacation planning.  If you’re a Facebook user, post a status update asking your friends if they have any recommendations on a great place for what you are looking for based on the above credentials.  I have been amazed at how many times we find out that one of our guests knows someone else who has been to the ranch before, but they didn’t realize it until after their trip.  Not everyone goes to cocktail parties ready to tell all their acquaintances about the great vacation they just had at Vista Verde.  Well, I may know a few, but most don’t and there is a hidden arsenal of great ideas and recommendations among your peers.

6) Tripadvisor- It is my go-to.  Although I’m spoiled by us having really good reviews for the ranch, not all properties have that going for them, and it’s helpful to know the pro’s and con’s of any resort or destination.  However, I do have to say that you need to keep in mind that there are always some reviews by people who just can’t be pleased.  Somehow, our guests are so incredibly wonderful that it seems like we don’t have to deal with folks like that, but they are out there.  I tend to take a 10% rule on reviews.  If there are 10% that rip apart a vacation destination with 90% raving about it, I take that in to account, but also recognize that there people out there who can’t be pleased.

7) Call- We live in such an email age, but I have to say there is something amazing about the good old fashion telephone.  Pick it up.  Call the places you are considering.  The person on the other end will tell you a lot about the property you’re considering.  For better or worse, Melissa and I have been told time and time again that we were the reason someone chose Vista Verde for their vacation.  We recognize that it’s likely that for every person who chose the ranch for that reason, there are likely others who chose not to come here because of our presentation on the phone.  But, our hope is that we get the kind of people who will really enjoy their ranch vacation at Vista Verde because of that reason.  If you feel good about the place because of the person on the other end of the line, it’s very likely that that person reflects the personality of the property so you will be happy.  Trust your gut!

7) Dream- Hopefully by now you have found a great spot.  Now it’s time to sit back and start dreaming about your wonderful upcoming family vacation….maybe it’s to Colorado this time?

Speaking of, I’m going to get my beach chair out and go sit out in the falling snow to read a good book.  I need to gear up for my escape from paradise!  Please help others by sharing your tips for planning a unique family vacation.