Ever felt like you need a vacation after your family vacation? We've all been there...and don't plan to revisit. The good news: with a few simple strategies, we guarantee you'll spend less time stressing on your next family ski trip and more time reconnecting, bonding, and having fun on (and off) the slopes. Although SnowPak has been helping families plan ski vacations for over 20 years, we can't know it all, so we asked our favorite family travel experts to weigh in and share their words of wisdom. From sea to summit, these moms are pros at ensuring family getaways are excitement-filled and relaxing. It is your vacation after all. Here's what they had to say about planning an epic family ski vacation:
1. Find the Right Resort
Suzette Mack,Adventures for Families: When choosing a destination, identify or speak with a ski specialist about which resorts will be the best match for your family's ski abilities. If your children are new to skiing, a resort with a variety of beginner terrain will give kids a lot of opportunities to practice without being crowded out by other skiers. Kids can quickly get bored if there is only one run suitable for their level. Consider lodging amenities such as a ski concierge, who stores and preps your gear each day reducing hassle and stress for everyone. (Read: Warm dry boots every morning!) Some resorts even have ski nannies who take care of transporting kids between lessons and the children’s program, so parents can make first tracks and ski uninterrupted all day.
2. Book Activities in Advance
Nicole Feliciano, Mom Trends: One common mistake families make when traveling for ski vacations is not booking lessons and reservations in advance. Many ski schools fill up during peak season. If you want to get you child in a private lesson or secure a fireside table or sleigh ride make sure you plan out the details in advance. It's always easier to cancel something than nab a last-minute dog sled trip or dinner at a yurt.
3. Seek Out Used Gear
Amy Whitley, Pit Stops for Kids: Don't buy kids' ski gear new. If you have a local ski shop, go in early fall to have kids sized correctly. While there, ask about used gear from last year. Often, ski shops have rental skis in kids' sizing they're looking to off-load, or have set aside gear to take to any local ski swaps. They'll be happy to sell it to you, at a discount, first. If you don't have a local ski shop or community ski swap, go online. Major ski resorts' gear shops post demo ski sales.
4. Have a Backup Plan
Bethaney Davies, Flashpacker Family Travel: Parents, don't forget to come up with a contingency plan in case one of your kids doesn't end up enjoying skiing. You can buy all the gear, pack everything you need, turn up and have a child that just doesn't enjoy it or want to continue. This can be really frustrating when you've spent so much time, energy & money planning a ski trip. Look for other things to do for kids who don't want to ski, can't handle the cold or are too young to participate. Local libraries are a great resource. Winter holiday programs for local school kids and indoor playgrounds are a great place to find indoor activities.
5. Set a Meeting Point
Jennifer Close, Two Kids and a Map: Discuss a rendezvous point in advance. When we go skiing, we make sure our children know where to go if we ever get split up. After almost four years of skiing together, it finally happened. My 9-year-old daughter got separated from the family. It turns out that she took a wrong turn and ended up on a different run. When they realized they were separated, both my husband and daughter skied down to the previously planned spot and were able to find each other quickly. Choose a spot that everyone in the family can find. Also, point out ski patrol and uniformed employees so your kiddo can ask for help if they find themselves alone.
6. Get Creative
Kirstie Pelling, Family Adventure Project: Although downhill skiing is probably your first consideration, look for a resort that offers a variety of activities to keep all family members interested, especially if some are less capable and engaged than others. Ski biking, freestyle tuition, husky dog racing and igloo building are all great examples. In France's Le Grand Bornand last season we had a go at Biathlon; a combination of shooting and cross-country skiing. The teenagers loved it. And we are still arguing about who was the best shot!
Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas: Be sure to drink lots and lots (and lots!) of water or electrolyte-infused beverages, especially if traveling to the slopes from low elevation. It’s easy to become dehydrated in the mountains, especially when you’re exerting a lot of energy skiing, boarding, and tubing. Staying hydrated will ward off altitude sickness and ensure a fun trip for all.
8. Go Car-free
Kristen Lummis, Brave Ski Mom: The last thing a family needs when on a ski holiday is stress. And in my opinion, nothing leads to stress quite like having to load up the car each morning to get to the chairlifts. In our family, car-free equals carefree. Once the car is parked, we don’t want to use it again until it’s time to go home (or back to the airport). In North America, many resorts have extensive free shuttle and bus systems that make being car free easy. But staying slopeside within walking distance to the chairlift is the easiest for families of all ages.
9. Quality over Quantity
Eileen Ogintz, Taking the Kids: When coming from sea level or a warm climate, give the kids a chance to acclimate and get used to all the heavy gear and clothes. If your kids are new to snow sports, take a day to get used to higher altitudes, try on equipment, tour the ski school, etc. In addition, many parents try to teach their kids themselves. Even if you are an expert skier or rider, leave the teaching to the pros, who are trained to engage kids on the snow and have first aid training. Go out with the kids at the end of the day and see what they’ve learned or spend a day or two on the snow as a family. Everyone will be happier! And, if the young kids don’t want to ski or ride, just relax! There is always next year.