Plan Your 2011

The new year is upon us—and now that the holiday whirl is over, it’s time to start thinking about your travel plans. You probably already know your kids’ school schedules, so it’s a matter of deciding where to go and how to make the most of those breaks. Since I’m often asked about my family’s past vacations and future plans, I thought I’d pass along some ideas and tips.

January is when most summer camps and summer programs open up their calendars—many rental properties and boat charters are also starting to book for summer. It’s important to get on the books now, before your top choices fill up.

For many families, the long summer break is a chance to take a big trip together. If you and your kids love animals, an African safari is an unforgettable experience. My family visited several camps in Botswana and Tanzania, and loved it all so much, we can’t wait to go back again. If Africa is too far, you might consider the Galapagos—Jun-Dec is the dry season, when sea mammals and land birds are most active. If you want a little mild adventure, Alaska is a fantastic family destination. We’ve gone twice, once on a cruise along the Inside Passage, and once to the spectacular Kenai Peninsula—talk about getting away from distractions and living in the moment! There are great wilderness options closer to home, too. Aspen is filled with cultural and recreational opportunities in the summer. Or you could try your hand at fly fishing on the Kootenai River, go glamping at a luxury ranch in the Montana Rockies, or take a road trip around the Grand Circle of National Parks.

Summer programs have been an ideal solution for our family for years. My husband and I often take a couple’s holiday while our kids are at their summer program, and then the whole family meets up for an extended vacation. Last year it was a Greek Island cruise—we’ve also done boat trips along the Turkish coast and in the British Virgin Islands. Other years, we’ve rented villas in Provence and Tuscany, which were perfect bases for exploring the countryside. And the Amalfi Coast is a perennial favorite.

Shorter breaks can be trickier. Depending on the ages of your kids, their break schedules may not sync up, or they may want to do entirely different things. Boarding schools also tend to have longer holidays than day schools. If you’re lucky enough to have a full two weeks for spring break, consider a trip to Indochina or India. Both places have very pleasant weather during the spring months, and offer a huge variety of travel options: nature safaris, beach holidays, cultural excursions, community-based trips, or a combination of all four.

Even if your spring break is only a week, you can still go somewhere exotic. One spring we went to Japan to see the cherry blossoms—truly magical. Another year we rented a villa near Marrakech in Morocco, which is very mild in spring. The kids loved it, from sandboarding on the dunes, to camel rides, to the sensory overload of the souks. And my recent trip to Lake Geneva got me thinking about a ski vacation in the Swiss or French Alps—there are several charming resort towns within an hour or two of Geneva.

If your children’s breaks don’t allow an extended trip, you can make a number of small trips instead—maybe a ski weekend or a quick jaunt to London or New York. Our President’s Weekend ski trip to Aspen has become an annual tradition. Working with the same partner from one year to the next and having the destination already set takes away a lot of the stress.

If your kids are on different schedules, take advantage of the opportunity for one-on-one bonding trips, planned around the specific interests of each child. Both Terry and I have taken short, one-on-one holidays with our kids, in New York, Geneva, Venice, Paris, Rome, London, L.A., and they are always fun and filled with invaluable quality time.

Whatever you decide, the key is not to wait too long. Make this the year where you don’t just dream about amazing trips—you take them! Our Travel Advisor and network of travel partners are ready to help you get all your plans in place.

MLS Wellness Ambassador

One challenge all frequent travelers face is staying fit and healthy on the road. My Little Swans is pleased to introduce our new Wellness Ambassador, Sandra Hahamian. Extensively trained in fitness and nutrition, Sandi creates custom fitness classes for the world’s largest companies as well as celebrities. She’s also a lifelong traveler and is a connoisseur of spa and fitness options around the world. Through regular articles and reviews, Sandi will share her wellness tips with MLS members—everything from maintaining a healthy diet while on vacation, to the latest in fitness equipment, to the most exceptional spa experiences. Keep an eye out for her contributions, and be sure to let her know if there are particular topics you want to hear about.

Photo Contest Winner and New Photo Contest

Congratulations to Glenn Landauer, winner of the Apple iPad drawing! We want to thank everyone who shared their photos with us—especially our monthly winners—for making 2010 such a great year in pictures. We saw an incredible range of inspiring shots from all over the world: landscapes and cityscapes, sacred sites, art and architecture, faces and places, slices of life. In fact, we received so many amazing photos these past months that we have decided to hold another contest! Send in your submissions starting now up until May 31, 2011—we’ll be holding our next drawing in early June. Once again, the prize is an iPad, and the prize winner’s name will be drawn from the monthly winners. If you have an amazing image to share, please send it in. To see the winning photos from 2010, please visit the Photo Contest page on My Little Swans.

Warm Regards,
Katrina Garnett

Portrait of Katrina Garnett