Escapist Family Travel Stories To Inspire New-Year Wanderlust

Under The Sun: Luxury Living In Costa Rica

It’s always exciting to return to a place where, when your mind goes to it, you’re instantly smiling—and checking airline pricing to get there. Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica is one of those places for my family, so the last time we were giddy to plan a getaway, we naturally focused on the resort that had everything we wanted: exotic vistas, amazing accommodations, great entertainment options, and kind, welcoming people.

Costa Rica is one of a handful of demilitarized countries in the world, and the idyllic Peninsula Papagayo is a private eco-sensitive development with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Culebra Bay on the other. The Four Seasons Resort is its grand centerpiece.

And what a centerpiece it is. The resort’s villas and private homes are accessible by chauffeured golf cart or by a pleasant walk in the sultry Costa Rican air. The accommodations, so large they can easily fit two families, boast screened-in porches overlooking the water, expansive bathrooms, comfortable living and dining areas, and huge TVs with Bose sound systems.

Breakfast was a daily highlight, with chefs crafting perfect omelettes and pancakes alongside local cuisine like chorizo empanadas and Tico rice. With a good, complimentary culinary start to the day—kids eat for free—my son Liam would then join the gratis Kids for All Seasons childcare program. There’s a large kiddie pool, play areas for active and craftsy activities, and, for the older kids, day trips to volcanoes and kayaking. Otherwise, with a sitter on board, my wife Marilou and I could catch up on work (using the excellent Wi-Fi) or indulge at the extraordinary spa—a Condé Nast Traveler readers’ favorite—with hot and cold plunge pools overlooking the ocean.

Of course, a week in this relaxing environment  goes by way too quickly, but its power is strong. I find myself vividly reliving moments from the trip—seeing beautiful Marilou and a smiling, squirming baby Quin descend the Villa hill as I watched over Liam in the pool. To my left, I remember the blue Pacific sparkling in the sun; to my right, an insanely tasty frozen drink—the Coconut Vacation. I had a favorite novel on my iPad. My legs were pleasantly sore from tennis. The rest of the day: a blank slate.

Clint White is an NYC-based entrepreneur and writer focusing mostly on arts, culture, and education marketing. His project recently launched in Chicago, DC, and NYC.

On The Snow: Laid-Back Fancies In Vail, Co 

Once home to a specialized U.S. Army training camp for mountainous and cold-weather combat in the 1940s, Vail’s slopes are backed by an impressive 10th Mountain Division pedigree. Today, it’s emerged from a recent rebirth (and $2 billion investment) that completes the rest of the resort experience, boasting a mega entertainment-residence hybrid, gourmet restaurants endorsed by the likes of our First Lady, and top-rated hotels and spas galore.

But for a small town of such high repute, Vail is surprisingly laid back. I spent a weekend at The Sebastian Vail, a hotel right off of the classic Vail Village, which has more of a quaint vibe compared to the newer, Euro-style Lionshead Village. Farm-to-table restaurant and chocolate truffle popcorn happy hour aside, I loved The Sebastian for its proximity to the aforementioned Solaris complex. It’s host to my favorite curiosity for off-powder pleasures in town: Bol Vail, a bowling alley serving gourmet fare. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. But the rule of travel is not to knock it till you’ve tried it, and the minute you taste its garlic chips and braised ribs, you’ll be glad you did.

If bowling isn’t your family’s forte, Solaris also has its own skating rink and a Cinebistro, which serves up the latest movies with a side of chef-prepared meals. In the Village, Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory is a treasure chest of old-school candy like Ring Pops and Warheads—plus some signs that it’s 2013 like Angry Birds gummies. Souvenir shoppers might strike gold at The Toy Store, while mini Picassos can make a scavenger hunt out of spotting the alpine sculptures, murals, other public art that dot the Village.

Here’s the kicker: I don’t ski. Even so, the mountains provide plenty of opportunities to explore the snow. While the Adventure Ridge is famed for family thrills of the snow tube and snowmobile variety and the new leather-seated, WiFi-equipped gondola is an attraction in itself, my high-elevation favorite is Nova Guide’s backcountry heated snowcoach tour, followed by lunch at their resto-lodge with two beautiful golden retrievers. For more critterly fun, the Nautre Discovery Center hosts wildlife-focused day programs and snowshoe walks in the moonlight.

You wouldn’t think that such a big name would be such a small fuss. But at the end of the day, Vail doesn’t seem to be a place to just see and be seen, even with a star-studded guest list. It’s a perfect winter playground for families who simply want to relax, plain and simple.

Christine Wei is the associate editor at New York Family. When she’s not tinkering with words or cajoling WordPress to behave, she’s on the prowl for new destinations to explore. She can be reached at cwei [at] manhattanmedia [dot] com.

Close To Home: Cold-Weather Comforts In Weekapaug, RI 

As the cold weather settles in, I find myself daydreaming about one of my favorite winter getaways: Weekapaug Inn on the shores of Rhode Island. This charming retreat is the perfect place for the whole family to spend a Winterlude.

Snuggling up to the ocean’s edge, the Weekapaug Inn offers an expansive seaside panorama as well as gorgeous water vistas. The comfortable, spacious common rooms are alight with inviting fireplaces and plush seating. Families can stay in roomy Signature Suites with kitchens, washers and dryers, and large living rooms, all with generous views. The Inn, originally built in 1899 and then moved to its current location in 1939, has been remodeled with a nod to its long history, delightfully decorated with vintage pieces and trinkets from its past.

One of the best parts of staying at Weekapaug Inn is the opportunity to get out and enjoy the frosty weather. Families can stroll along the private beach, take long hikes, and even become amateur birdwatchers. Special activities for kids include learning about outdoor bird migrations and awe-inspiring stargazing led by  staff naturalist Mark Bullinger—not to mention cozying up with s’mores by the fire.

And after a long day outside, families will be ready to warm up with a delicious meal. Weekapaug Inn chef Jennifer Backman has conjured up three menus with selections that adults and kids can both enjoy, and she’s happy to take special requests. Hors d’oeuvres like pickled vegetables and Matunuck oysters, followed by al dente Tortelloni and grass-fed beef with red wine sauce, for example, is a superb dining experience. Kids will devour dishes like the rosemary-buttermilk biscuit cobbler.

Moms and dads who look forward to having a romantic night out can also choose to spend the evening at the Ocean House, the luxurious sister location to the Weekapaug Inn just minutes away. A complimentary shuttle service transports guests between the properties—both of which are perfectly suited to a host an intimate night cap to a fun-filled day.

New to the Big Apple, Jessica Roblin writes, travels, runs, and teaches others about the sport with a love of words.