Next Year, Maybe “Away for the Holidays” is a Good Idea

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The Tuesday before Thanksgiving my daughter and I joined my husband for a night on one of his regular work trips to the Austin area.  I had been gone the entire week before for SMD4, and then he left for work about two days after I got back.  In other words, we needed more “family time”, so my daughter and I drove up to meet him for the evening at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa.  He normally stays at a hotel actually in Austin, but he stayed about 30 minutes out of the at this resort for one night so that Little C would have more things to do while he was at work.

The visit not only reminded me how much I love that resort, but gave me the idea that it might be nice to “go away for the holidays” next year instead of staying home.  I love traditional holidays as much as the next guy (maybe even more), but removing the stress of preparation and clean-up of traditional holiday events is looking mighty nice about now.  Here are some of the cool things the resort was offering leading up to Thanksgiving, and why I think we may have to switch things up and stay there for Turkey Day one year.

S’mores by the campfire.  The resort offers outdoor campfires and s’mores most nights, but it never gets old sitting under the stars and catching marshmellows on fire.  There is no additional charge for this, and all of the supplies are provided in one handy s’more kit.

Pony rides and trail rides.  This is my daughter’s second time time to ride a pony here, and both times have been outstanding.  They have two adult employees to every one pony rider.  One to handle the pony on the trail and one to keep the child on the pony.  They put a helmet on the kid and they actually walk on a trail instead of in a circle unlike most places.  My daughter picked the same pony for the second year running.  It will be really fun when she is 8 and we can do the actual trail ride together, but until then this is a top notch pony ride.  I think the price is around $30-$35 (I forget the actual amount because we always include a tip and buy a horse related trinket).

Hula hoops galore.  There were lots of kids who had grabbed some hula hoops and were hooping it up outsie.  I tried and failed miserably, but my daughter had a blast putting on a hula hoop performance.  Every time I come to this resort I think it is awesome to see kids outside really playing instead of attached to electronic devices.  It’s the little things that make this resort feel like we are visiting a family member’s house instead of staying at an impersonal hotel.

Cookie decorating.  This event had a $5 fee, so it could add up if you have several children.  However, my kid had a blast decorating a cookie with all sorts of frosting and toppings.  It was fun for her – without me having to buy all the things at home and deal with the mess.  It would have cost much more than $5 for me to get all the stuff for her to do it at home.

Clearly she was pleased with her cookie masterpiece that she was able to enjoy indoors by the fire.

Camp Hyatt.  Oh how I love Camp Hyatt.  To keep with the family analogy, it is like having a cool aunt or older cousin watch your kiddo for a few hours so you can get a break.  I’m pretty anal with who I let watch Little C, but I have never felt uneasy about leaving her with the Camp Hyatt staff.  I do think that this particular Camp Hyatt would do well with a couple hundred dollars in new toys that will help grab the kiddos attention when they first walk in, but Little C was kept more than busy while we enjoyed some time at the spa.  She was the only kid there that afternoon, but she got to make another cookie, get her face painted, paint a piggy bank, paint a picture frame, sit on a longhorn, go to a petting zoo, make a bracelet, do some Thanksgiving themed crafts, and tons of other stuff.  My husband checked in on her halfway into the afternoon and she didn’t want to leave…so he went to the bar and she kept playing.  😉  The afternoon was $50, but it included lunch that you selected from the kid’s menu, and things like cookie decorating, face painting, and piggy bank decorating that would normally come with fees.  We got way more than our money’s worth, and she genuinely had a good time.

Apologies for the terrible shot of Camp Hyatt, but at least it gives you an idea of what it looks like.

While she was at Camp Hyatt I went to the Spa Django.  My husband had set up a massage and a facial for me and it was amazing.  I’ll do a separate post on the spa, but it was super enjoyable, and it is a great feeling to know that if something went haywire at Camp Hyatt that they knew exactly where I was and how to find me.  I was no more than about 100 yards away for my kiddo, but it felt like I was on another planet.

The Tuesday night that we were there, the rates were very low and we were able to use a confirmed suite upgrade to stay in a true two-room suite.  There were other guests at the hotel, but not very many by our count.  By Wednesday afternoon the place was much more lively with many more families checking in.  Just as we were getting ready to leave that evening to drive home (which of course resulted in monster traffic the night before Thanksgiving!), I thought it would be so nice to just stay and enjoy Thanksgiving there.  There were kids running and playing on the large lawn, and everyone we encountered seemed to be friendly and in a good mood.  It truly felt like you were with a bunch of your (distant) relatives just playing together and having fun.  They were offering a Thanksgiving meal the following day, and I believe there was even a parade of sorts with the ponies decorated in different football team colors (at least that is what we were told on the pony ride).

Staying there one year for Thanksgiving might feel a little weird, but it would be great for our family to just focus on being a family and playing together rather than having some folks busy the whole time with cleaning and meal preparation.  If you have ever been one of those folks doing the prep you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, then help out more next year cause it’s a bunch of work (and this is coming from someone whose mom did much of the work this year)!

Has your family ever broken tradition and gone somewhere else for a major holiday?  How did it go?  Did it feel weird to not be at home, or did it feel amazing to just be able to have fun?

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  1. We just returned from Williamsburg for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s our third time going somewhere for Thanksgiving rather than being with family. While we have nothing against family get-togethers, we have learned traveling over Thanksgiving is an ideal time due to lower crowds, cheaper prices (in some instances) and luckily, perfect weather. I’m still working on getting the whole extended family to travel for Christmas in lieu of gifts, but that is a harder battle to fight.

  2. Awww – it ain’t Thanksgiving without the four hours spent cleaning up dirty pots, pans and dishes after the Thanksgiving Dinner and the three weeks of leftover turkey sandwiches; turkey soup; turkey chili; turkey casserole; turkey tetrazzina; turkey ala mode; and, my alltime favorite, turkey surprize! Pony rides, spas, professionally cooked meals and hulahoops for Thanksgiving? Bah humbug!

  3. Lost Pines is a great place, but don’t forget that you are truthfully in the middle of nowhere. It is probably at least a 30 minute drive to get anywhere of note. That is a good reason to take advantage of all the resort amenities.

  4. Fed up a few years ago with the commercialization of Christmas and the tug-of-war to spend Christmas Day with several different branches of our family, I suggested that we celebrate Christmas Day at a ski resort and booked a villa for just us. It was one of our best Christmases. Now we’re talking of doing something like that every other year and doing the same on some Thanksgivings.

  5. For the second year in a row, I am reading your thanksgiving posts (and doing Small Business Saturday purchases 🙂 from some warm place. Last year, it was Westin St.John, this year it is Westin Cancun. The hotel this year had a lovely beach, low to non-existence crowds, we got upgraded (using suite nites) to a top floor with a balcony, nice buffet breakfast spread (free to platinums), nightly Club reception, endless sunshine and any type of shopping you can desire (from local crafts in downtown to high end Cartier store shopping). Marvellous! P.S. your daughter has grown so much! She looks like a 4 year old. 🙂

  6. Boy do i understand this one! Cooked for 25 relatives this year and I was so worn out I am really loving this post and the thought of fleeing next year! Yana, we own Westin Maui KOR- and have traded a few times for Cancun- could you explain the nightly club reception?

  7. I just got back from a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Disneyland with my wife and two daughters. Coming from New England, it was a little strange to suddenly be in 80 degree weather, but no complaints about it 🙂 The funniest part was that in Disneyland they had lots of fake snow blowing during parades and such, but the morning we returned home, we had real snow falling for most of the day. (Needless to say, the real snow was pretty, but the 30 degree weather was a bit of a shock!)

    It feels strange to abandon the extended family and typical Thanksgiving traditions, but it’s hard to beat getting away for a four day weekend without missing any school or needing to take any vacation days!

  8. @Karen – Westin Cancun has a Royal Club section (separate building) that has a lounge on the first floor. From tripadvisor posts it looks like it costs about $60 to get an upgrade to a “Club”. The lounge is open for breakfast in the morning and there is a “nightly reception” from 5pm to 8pm with a modest spread of mostly appetizers & snacks as well as drinks. As SPG Platinums, we got breakfast in the main Palamar restaurant (~$18 pp) and a “free” access to the club lounge in the evening. In our opinion that evening happy hour was nothing to write home about (and even for a couple of Diet Cokes we had to sign a zero bill) but it was free for us – so no complaints here. Other tripadvisor posters found it worthwhile to pay $60 for an upgrade but I can’t comment on this (and I just don’t see the value).

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