Share this article

print logo

Turn a trip into the gift to bring family together

I'm not filling any stockings this year or piling presents under the tree. No presents for Hannukah, either. (We celebrate both holidays in our house.) And my gang couldn't be happier.

That's because we're taking everyone on a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands ( right after New Year's, repeating a trip several years ago in which we chartered a boat from Moorings ( that was one of our best ever.

There is an extra plus to this trip-as-gift concept: With the kids scattered around the country and beyond, we haven't all been together in one place for months.

We've spent many holidays in far-flung places -- skiing in Colorado and Vermont, camping on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, snowshoeing in Yellowstone National Park, snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean.

But now that the kids are bigger, I've opted for the trip-as-gift philosophy. The memories will last a lot longer than the latest video game or sweater.

The best part is that your trip can be next month or a year from now.

According to Travelzoo (, there are plenty of deals to be had for 2012. With several airlines, including Delta and JetBlue, increasing flights to Costa Rica, hotels are promoting deals to encourage travelers. A bonus: your U.S. dollar will stretch here.

Japan and Thailand, reeling from natural disasters, are trying to lure travelers with five-star hotel deals up to 50 percent off.

For a multigenerational option, consider a Mediterranean cruise. You avoid the hassle and stress of navigating from city to city, and there are plenty of activities and food choices on board for everyone. Travelzoo reports that Norwegian Cruise Line (, Celebrity Cruises ( and Royal Caribbean ( are sending a record number of ships to Europe in 2012, which means increased competition and more deals for you.

Closer to home, Orlando ( continues to offer a lot of bang for your buck because there are so many hotels that cater to all ages. Bring your preschoolers to the new LEGOLAND, where a water park is scheduled to open in time for summer. I'm planning to take some high school seniors to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando (

Take your fashionistas and theater lovers to New York. You can afford to see how the 1 percent travels -- if you book two nights between Jan. 2 and the end of February, getting the third night free, at 20 of the city's most upscale hotels ( A bonus: A Key to Madison Avenue card with offers on everything from shopping to spas to restaurants to VIP services.

For nature lovers 12 and older, the nonprofit Yellowstone Association Institute ( is offering Lamar Valley Wolf Weeks in March. Or get up close to gray whales and their babies on a Baja gray whale camp trip,

The younger girls on your list will love a visit to an American Girl Place ( -- there are now 11 around the country. Your doll can have tea with you using tiny cups and plates.

Take your favorite little leaguer to Arizona ( or Florida ( for Spring Training.

Happy holidays and happy travels in 2012.