“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them,” Mark Twain once observed.
If “the more, the merrier” is your philosophy for this year’s vacation with family and friends, several strategies are the keys to successful reunions — to ensure you don’t end the vacation enemies.
Communicate! Get input from every member of the group as to timeframe, destination, lodging, activities, etc., and select a leader who will make the final decisions and arrangements.
Planning and arrangements for group travel should begin at least six months (a year, ifat all possible) ahead of the trip for best selections of flights (if needed) and accommodations.
Carefully consider where to go. The best destinations for reunions are those that have something for different age groups and tastes (particularly in the case of multigenerational travel), and optimal lodging choices. Condos and villa-type accommodations offer plenty of room to spread out, and most have a kitchen so you can fix quick meals and snacks.
Here are some options in Florida and the Caribbean to consider for those who are already in the planning stages for trips with a group this spring and/or summer. Check each resort’s Web site for best rates at the time you wish to visit, and always check if there are specials or packages available.
The Last of the Florida Keys has multiple attractions for all ages, including the Key West Aquarium; the Hemingway House Museum, where visitors may see descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats; and Mallory Square, with its nightly Sunset Celebrations that feature street entertainers.
A good lodging choice for multigenerational travelers and groups of friends is Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, a 10-minute ride on the resort’s private launch from Key West. Choose between three- and four-bedroom seaside cottages.
Four-bedroom guest cottages include a full gourmet kitchen with custom cabinetry, granite counters and stainless steel appliances; private plunge pool; oversized porches, and private washer and dryer. Located downstairs in the two-story four-bedroom cottages are the kitchen, dining room, living room with flat-screen TV, one bedroom and one bathroom. Upstairs is the master suite with a private bath featuring a soaking tub with an ocean view, two additional bedrooms and one additional bathroom. Each of the four guestrooms offers a king-size Westin Heavenly Bed and flat-screen TV.
All cottages on the island are equipped with cooking and dining utensils, linens and standard toiletries. Guests have the option of having their refrigerators prestocked prior to arrival. Orange juice is delivered nightly at turndown, and a basket of fresh-baked pastries is delivered daily. Resort ambassadors are on the island and available 24 hours a day. Visit westinsunsetkeycottages.com.
Orlando’s myriad attractions beckon multigenerational families and groups of friends with something for every age and taste — parades, character meet-and-greets, roller coasters and fireworks at theme parks, and cultural pursuits such as concerts and theatrical performances.
Family-friendly accommodations abound and include Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, a lakeside, equestrian-themed enclave with studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom villas (the latter accommodating up to 12 guests), and inspired by New York’s Saratoga Springs, an area famous for its spas, mineral springs and horse racing. Also part of the resort are whimsical Treehouse Villas that accommodate up to nine guests. Onsite amenities include a spa, fitness center, swimming pool with a slide and restaurant, and the resort is within walking distance (or a short complimentary bus ride away) from Downtown Disney with its shops, restaurants and entertainment. Free buses go from the resort to Disney parks. Visit disneyworld.com.
What do singer Gloria Estefan and Donald Duck have in common? Both frequent Vero Beach, a quaint seaside town in Central Florida with a first-class art museum, theater and children’s theater, as well as multiple opportunities for area activities such as fishing, kayaking and biking.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort boasts nostalgic beach cottages and oceanfront inn hotel rooms. The two- and three-bedroom cottages have a kitchen, washer/dryer and other home-style amenities. The hotel rooms’ amenities include a swimming pool and hot tub, spa, gym and evening campfire program.
A variety of daily organized activities, such as crafts and games, are available. On-site restaurants include family-style Shutters (with character breakfasts including appearances by Donald Duck and Goofy) and Sonya’s featuring fine dining. Visit disneybeachresorts.com.
Gloria Estefan’s ocean-side boutique resort, Costa d’Este Beach Resort offers a spa, infinity-edge swimming pool, fitness center and The Wave Kitchen & Bar restaurant. Visit costadeste.com.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Often dubbed “the shopping center of the Caribbean,” St. Thomas is a duty-free paradise for shoppers with stores selling all manner of imported merchandise from perfumes and liquor to cameras and jewelry. The island is also a paradise for beach lovers with such idylls as Magens’ Bay Beach, frequently selected for “10 Best Beaches” lists.
Family-friendly attractions include Coral World at Coqui Beach with touch tanks, aquaria, aviary, an underwater tower for viewing sea life and optional activities. Wimco, a villa rental specialist, offers a variety of properties accommodating from small groups to reunions of more than a dozen guests on the island. Visit wimco.com.
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
In the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, Fajardo is near El Yunque rain forest and idyllic Luquillo Beach and 31 miles from San Juan with its historic old city filled with colonial Spanish buildings, including the Castillo San Felipe del Morro with its impressive fortifications and cannon gallery to protect the island against the real pirates of the Caribbean.
Las Casitas Village, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Fajardo offers 157 one- to three-bedroom private villas with full kitchens for rent on a hillside with ocean views. Resort amenities include a Golden Door Spa and a water park. Horseback riding and water sports are among other pastimes. Visit lascasitasvillage.com.