Congratulations! You've just won the lottery. Now where are you going to go?
Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and TakingtheKids (www.takingthekids.com) collaborated on a poll asking 1,500 people just that -- where they would take the family for a "dream trip," if money were no object. According to the results, no matter how bad the economy, when it comes to our vacation wish list, we dream big.
We want to show the kids the world, traveling to foreign cities. We want to see exotic wildlife. We want to cruise and kick back on a beach, enjoying first-class service all the way. Sixty percent of respondents said that what matters most when thinking about a dream trip is to have an authentic experience; 40 percent want the best service possible.
These dream trips are more affordable than people realize, as long as you plan smart. Families who travel with children have more dream vacations planned -- in their minds anyway -- than those who don't travel with kids -- 88 percent compared with 75 percent.
I've also met a lot of families who have saved for years for that special trip, whether to Africa, Hawaii, Paris, the Mediterranean or Orlando. (Yes, 9 percent of those polled said they'd go to Orlando on their dream trip and 12 percent said they wanted their children to experience a theme park.)
More than a third of those polled said they wanted their kids to experience a foreign city and 27 percent said they would go to Europe. Nearly as many want to go to Hawaii. Eleven percent wants to see exotic wildlife, though only 5 percent said they would take the kids to Africa, even fewer to Costa Rica or the Galapagos Islands -- two of my favorite family destinations.
Families can save as much as 40 percent on airfare if they opt to go to Europe over Thanksgiving rather than over the summer. You'll avoid the crowds, too. Save even more (as much as $525 for two people) if you book your flights and hotel together. Maybe you could swap houses with a European family and avoid hotel costs altogether. (Check websites like www.luxehomeswap.com and www.homeexchange.com.)
Hawaii (www.gohawaii.com) has many deals too, especially if you can go before Christmas or after New Year's, says Brown. For example, Maui's newest luxury resort, the all-suite Honua Kai Resort & Spa (www.honuakaimaui.com), has just announced 50 percent off published rates and a fifth night free through Dec. 22, excluding Thanksgiving week. OHANA Hotels & Resorts (www.ohanahotelsoahu.com) promises special rates on one-bedroom Oahu units starting at just $125 a night.
For the 18 percent of you who would take your kids on a cruise if you had the money, go for it! There are deals this fall starting at under $75 per person per day, including lodging, entertainment (supervised kids programming) and, of course, all the food you can eat. (Check out www.allthingscruise.com to compare cruise lines and my family cruise guide on www.takingthekids.com.)
The 22 percent of you who want to get away with the kids and relax on a beach don't have to wait, either. Go to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving, suggests Brown, when many resorts still offer low-season rates or opt for a long fall weekend. (Get travel insurance in case of a hurricane.) The upscale Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen (www.condohotelsplayadelcarmen.com), which offers all the amenities of a resort and an ideal location in the safe and fun Riviera Maya beach town, touts half-off deals through Oct. 31 and 35 percent off up through Dec. 22. Beaches all-inclusive resorts (www.beaches.com) is welcoming military families this fall with an extra 15 percent off rates that are already as much as 65 percent off rack rates.
So where did you put those suitcases ...