Winter is the perfect time for family travel. It’s about inhaling fresh crisp cold air, experiencing breathtaking scenery, getting some exercise and, most importantly, spending quality time together as a family. For us, many of our most memorable travel moments have taken place during the winter months.
If you do plan to travel during winter, it’s important to take the time to properly prepare.
Some winter travel destinations are popular, so it’s best to try to book in advance to avoid disappointment. You can also offset costs on flights or hotels using Aeroplan Miles and, by booking early, you’re likely to still find availability.
To help with your winter family travel ideas, we’ve put together five favourites that we think you’ll enjoy.
Go Skiing and Snowboarding at Whistler or Sun Peaks Resort
With so many great ski resort destinations to pick from across Canada, it’s easy to visit a new one each winter.
Two of our favourites are Whistler, about a two-hour drive from Vancouver and Sun Peaks Resort, a four-hour drive from Vancouver. Both are very family-friendly and offer great ski schools for kids. Our oldest son learned how to ski at Sun Peaks Resort.
It’s no secret that Whistler is consistently rated as a top ski destination worldwide – for good reason. Whistler offers a number of different accommodation styles, lots of different activities both on and off the slopes, and world-class restaurants where kids are welcome. With the addition of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola a few years ago, it means you no longer need to pick between Blackcomb Mountain or Whistler Mountain. You can easily ski both mountains in one day. It’s also possible for children to only use gondolas to ski, which is great for younger kids who may not be comfortable with chair lifts yet.
Sun Peaks Resort is a must-visit ski resort for the avid ski or snowboarder. Did you know that it offers Canada’s second largest ski area, after Whistler? With its unique European-style ski-through village filled with quaint shops, cafés and eateries, it’s a destination the whole family will enjoy.
Visit a town like Jasper, known for its winter activities
Jasper, Alberta is the perfect town to visit in winter, especially during the Jasper in January celebrations.
The town itself is very cute and has a lot to offer visitors. Even if you’re not staying the night at the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, you’ll want to visit the Lodge to join in their family-friendly activities like sledding and ice skating. Rentals, like skates and sleds, are available for onsite activities, so you won’t need to worry about bringing these items with you. After a morning playing in the snow, you’ll want to warm up in front of the fire to have lunch at The Emerald Lounge, where kids under five eat free and kids under 12 eat at half price.
Jasper in January events happen annually. You can try dog-sledding, go wildlife-viewing and hiking and, for the foodies, they have Food-A-Palooza – a culinary crawl offering small plates and beverage pairings at many local restaurants.
Getting to Jasper is easy. You can fly into Edmonton, Alberta and rent a car at the airport. The drive from Edmonton to Jasper is about four hours, and it’s best to get a larger vehicle with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive since the area is prone to lots of snow in the winter. Plan to take your time. The drive is beautiful and you’ll want to stop and take pictures along the way.
Travel Tip: If you book your rental car through Aeroplan’s new online booking tool you earn miles towards future travel
Check out Carnaval in Quebec City
Carnaval has been a tradition in Quebec City since 1955. Taking place each February, Carnaval is the world’s largest winter carnival.
The festival celebrates the season by taking advantage of the area’s snow and ice to host events the whole family can enjoy. Some of the activities include an international snow-sculpting contest, night parades and a canoe race in the icy St. Lawrence River.
If you’re looking for something truly unique, you can also stay in an ice hotel. The Hôtel de Glace is located just outside Quebec City and operates from early January to Mid-March.
Every winter, the Hôtel de Glace is completely redesigned and rebuilt. It’s the only hotel of its kind in North America. If you don’t want to stay the night, they offer guided tours so you can still check it out.
Experience Europe and its Christmas Markets
Dating back to the middle ages in Germany, Christmas markets are found all over the world, but Europe is the best place to experience them.
Imagine this: the smell of warm sweet wine (called gluhwein), sweet treats and crisp cold air. The atmosphere is filled with Christmas music and songs, along with the laughter of friends and family enjoying quality time together. It’s a true holiday feeling.
Each Christmas market in Europe is different. Some are traditional, operating without electricity and relying on candlelight. Others are like amusement parks, full of rides and games. Half the fun is stumbling upon different markets as you wander the streets.
Every large European city has a Christmas market (sometimes two or three), so if you go to Europe in winter you’ll want to visit a few different cities. We suggest you fly into one city and out of another, so you can travel around with no need to back-track.
Take a break from the cold and travel to a warm destination like Mexico
Sometimes you just need a break from the cold, and a winter vacation to a sunny destination is a great way to get your much-needed vitamin D.
One of our favourite warm destinations in winter is Mexico, particularly the Cancun and Mayan Riviera area. With direct flights from all major Canadian cities to Cancun, it’s an easy flight to take with a family. Plus, it’s not uncommon to find great last-minute winter deals. Most all-inclusive packages take care of the details, so all you need to do is show up and relax.
Two great options are the Iberostar Del Mar and the Grand at Moon Palace. Each are very family-friendly and offer great kids’ clubs. The Iberostar Del Mar has a huge pool that snakes around the entire resort. It’s a smaller resort, so you can walk everywhere and it’s easy to find family and friends if you are traveling in a group.
The Grand at Moon Palace is a larger resort that features water slides and games rooms for both younger kids and teens, including video games, bumper cars, different climbing structures (all included). The food is top-quality, with over nine restaurants (not including buffets) – from Lebanese to Italian to Peruvian, there’s something for everyone.
Nicole and Cameron are family travel bloggers from Vancouver, BC. They have two boys ages 5 and 7. Their blog is recognized as a top Canadian blog, and together they’ve traveled to 70+ countries. All opinions expressed are their own.