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The holiday season is a time for slowing down and reconnecting with family, outside of hectic day-to-day responsibilities. While many travelers opt for domestic destinations to be closer to loved ones, this time of year is an excellent opportunity to head out to a far-flung locale, as it's not traditionally a peak season for international travel. Here, we've put together a list of luxe winter family vacation destinations that are perfect for you and your loved ones, that are far from the ordinary.
&Three Collective, Private Tented Africa Safari
While there are many stunning, well-established reserves, lodges and resorts on the continent, "perhaps the most authentic and intimate way to experience Africa with your family is old school, private mobile tented safari," says Claudia Church, a mother of three and Co-founder of super exclusive, bespoke travel company &Three Collective.
Reminiscent of a grandiose turn-of-the-century safari experience, mobile tented camps are completely private and set up in magical locations far away from the crowds. Offering privacy, luxury, and one of a kind experiences, &Three’s favorite tents belong to their partners at Africa Born, outfitted with gorgeous Turkish rugs, comfortable beds, fully-equipped bathrooms, and to each, a private butler. Also, the food is organic and fresh, all prepared on site.
Camps move with your family from site to site, allowing your family to take part in a number of different activities, dependent on location. From game drive on top of vehicles to fishing, and hiking waterfalls to helicopter rides, this isn't your traditional camping experience. And every evening, after a day filled with new adventures, gather around the fire and listen to the sounds of lions roaring in the distance.
&Three Collective will plan trips for you in eastern and Southern Africa, curated specifically for your family's interests, ages, wants, and needs.
Mont Rochelle Manor House, South Africa
If "glamping" is not for you, and you want a more luxurious African adventure, the Mont Rochelle Manor House in South Africa is right for you. The villa is a beautiful, private, four-bedroom house that includes a "bunk room" with two double beds and two single beds that can sleep up to eight adults and six children. The room also has its own en-suite bathroom (no stepping on your kid's wet towels in the morning) and links through to a lounge with a big-screen television, games, and pool table. In short, it's perfect for a family with teenagers and gives everyone their own space, while also the option of being together.
While there isn't a fixed kid's program, "Little Corkers" activities are organized for younger ones by on-site staff, and babysitters can be booked with advance notice. Staffers can organize lawn games, cooking classes, arts and crafts, and even a scavenger hunt ending with a picnic. Children of all ages are welcome in both restaurants and there are kid-friendly menu options.
Exclusive use of the Manor House (in the high season, rates start from $7,700 per night.) Breakfast, soft drinks, and a choice of lunch or dinner are included during your stay. Children aged five and under stay for free; guests aged 16 years or older are considered adults.
The Little Nell, Aspen
If you want ultimate luxury, reliably good food, impeccable service, high-end shopping, spa treatments, and adventures, you can never go wrong with The Little Nell, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, in Aspen. The hotel was fully renovated in 2016 and is in the heart of it all, offering a super luxe, but super chill, home away from home for you, your kids, and even your dog, since The Little Nell is pet-friendly.
The hotel concierge can offer you a wealth of options that go beyond skiing and snowboarding. Ice skating is across the street and there's tubing at Elk Camp—at Snowmass Mountain through the end of ski season, with extended hours over holidays and each Friday night. The brand new Hideout at Buttermilk Mountain is perfect for kids ages two to six, offering hassle-free childcare, mountain adventures, and ski school programs. Kids ages eight to 14 can take the free shuttle bus over to Snowmass and hang at The Treehouse Adventure Center, which offers Colorado-themed playrooms and supervised activities during the winter season. There are also snowmobile tours, or, if you'd prefer a quieter, more old-school experience, sleigh rides with hot chocolate accompanied by panoramic views of the Maroon Bells, Independence Pass, and the White River National Forest. Older kids and adults who want a break from downhill skiing can hire a guide for a backcountry tour. There are over 80 kilometers of groomed trails throughout the Aspen and Snowmass Nordic Trail System that are perfect for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
When the slopes close at 4 p.m., Aspen Mountain Powder Tours can take you on a snowcat adventure with a stargazing teacher from Aspen High School’s astronomy program. Your guide will identify stars, planets, constellations and meteor showers, depending on the season, while you and the little ones enjoy sips and sweet treats. Parents can enjoy the gorgeous health center gym and spa, where facials and massages are offered. At the end of the day, come home to the cozy lounge area where an enormous fire crackles in the fireplace, adults sip cocktails, and happy pups, who have been walked and fed by on-site staff, lounge on sofas.
"If Punta del Este is the South American Riviera, José Ignacio is definitely its St. Tropez," says Latin American travel writer, mother, and legendary party-host Juana Libedinsky. Like St. Tropez—which was also once a quiet fishing village—this beautiful town has become a Mecca for the ultra-rich, famous, and infamous. However, the boho-chic, laid-back vibe is still family-friendly, with much of the day planned around very late breakfasts, even later lunches, and dinners that begin at 10 p.m., all with kids in tow.
José Ignacio is home to a litany of intellectuals and creatives, including novelist Martin Amis, businessman Sir Martin Sorell, fashionista Ana Luisa Herrera (daughter of Carolina Herrera), art dealer David Zwirner, and Ludlow and Bowery hotelier Sean McPherson.
Regular visitors recommend Parador La Huella for lunch, the place to see and be seen or to catch a glimpse of Naomi Campbell. (Think St. Tropez Club 55, but more low key.) Countless restaurants line the harbor; polo player Nacho Figures and his family are often spotted at Marismo, a family-friendly restaurant set outdoors in the forest. The yoga scene is vibrant, and eerily reminiscent of the Hamptons, thanks to the presence of the Channing sisters of winery fame in Bridgehampton, who run the local yoga shack here in the winter.
One caveat for families with kids who don't do well with a lot of unstructured time: José Ignacio is not the kind of place that offers drop-off camps and scheduled activities. There are myriad options for surf lessons on the Brava Beach, and a kite surfing and windsurfing school. "You can rent extraordinary Arabian horses to gallop on the beach or take riding lessons, but in a very unstructured style," Libedinsky says. " Kids just tend to spend hours on the beach making new friends and joining the locals for soccer—you can spot the Americans because of the Frisbee, of course."
For hotels, Playa Vik José Ignacio is the epitome of luxury, Posada del Faro is more bohemian chic, less expensive, and offers old-school charm. They are also the only hotel in the area to have their own restaurant on the beach.
Gstaad, Switzerland: The Alpina Gstaad
In Gstaad, there's fabulous hiking, cross-country skiing, and moderate level downhill skiing (that won't intimidate the kids) along with ski-in and ski-out restaurants for apres-ski. The Alpina Gstaad, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property and the crown jewel of the city, opened in 2012 and was the first luxury hotel built in the area in over 100 years. The 56-room hotel cost a reportedly $336 million to build, an average cost of $5 million per room. There are 11 apartments and three chalets on site, rumored to have been sold for $130 million each. Clearly, luxury is The Alpina Gstaad's middle name. Note that the property has a seasonal closure this year from September 22 until December 5, 2019.
The world-renowned Six Senses Spa offers treatments that last from an hour to—we aren't kidding—several days. The "Integrated Wellness Program" offers in-house experts to measure and analyze physiological biomarkers, in order to provide you with lifestyle and nutritional advice. From there, you'll design a personalized program of spa treatments, fitness, and wellness activities, based on the preventative principles of Eastern medicine. Naturally, there are also course caviar facials, ayurvedic massages, and a number of other treatments to soothe and relax you after all that skiing and shopping.
Fitness enthusiasts will enjoy the yoga, pilates, tai chi, and personal training. Or, get outdoors for an alpine hike, with a backpack prepared for you by a gourmet chef.