Taking the Kids: Gathering the gang when budget isn't a concern (and when it is!)
No kids' table anywhere in sight! The huge table sits 32 and is set in the massive 8,500-square-foot main lodge. The huge stone fireplaces, accented by hand-hewn beads, dot the large building decorated with authentic memorabilia -- think Native American headdresses, clothing and western paintings.
Did I mention we're 9,200 feet above sea level atop Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs? Up a steep, winding road sits the Broadmoor Resort, our home away from home, offering unobstructed views of Pikes Pike.
This oasis was built in 1926 by Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose, and the road up was once known as the "million-dollar highway" because it was so expensive. Penrose constructed the Broadmoor as a hunting lodge for his friends; a place where they could drink freely during Prohibition. (Ladies were only permitted during the day.) Penrose's guests dined together, thus the huge table, and a large wraparound deck allowed guests to take in the view.
Welcome to Cloud Camp, the highest wilderness experience, new this year at the historic Broadmoor Resort (open from the end of April through October). For the first time, those who are looking for the ultimate where-I-spent-the-holidays bragging rights (and have $40,000 to spare) can gather the gang Thanksgiving or Christmas (seven bedrooms in separate cabins) this holiday season for a three- or four-night experience Think reading holiday stories around the blazing fire, making holiday cookies, wine tasting, building snowmen -- all with an always accommodating staff to do your bidding.
(Tell the kids they'll be higher than those at the North American Aerospace Defense Command who will be tracking Santa from deep inside Cheyanne Mountain. Maybe they'll even spot his sleigh first!)
Cloud Camp -- we got a glimpse of the experience last summer -- got me thinking about other holiday splurges -- or just memorable places to gather without all the muss and fuss of hosting everyone. Wherever you go and whatever the budget, the same rules apply: Make sure everyone is clear on who is paying for what (Thanks, grandpa!), that there will be activities for all ages and that parents (and grandparents) get a break from holiday chores.
For example, also new this year at the Broadmoor, which is celebrating its centennial next year, is The Estate House, a 12,000-square-foot historic mansion designed in the '20s, but recently refreshed and opened in Broadmoor-style in late 2016. It offers five bedrooms and a dining room that can seat 16 at $5,500 per night. Rooms at the Broadmoor aren't too shabby either (starting at $265). Or just gather to ogle the holiday lights and the massive gingerbread cathedral (Santa arrives on a zip line) and dig into one of the most sumptuous brunches anywhere. (Don't miss the Bananas Foster!)
If a cruise is more your gang's speed and you want to splurge but have all the bells and whistles of a big ship, check out The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line -- their ship-within-a-ship concept is now available on nine cruise ships, each offering the ultimate in luxury (think 24-hour butler service, private restaurant, bar, pool, sundeck and concierge and some suites that are bigger than many city apartments (1,345 square feet). Consider when the Norwegian Bliss debuts next summer, starting rates for a balcony cabin will be $2,200 per person on a seven-day cruise. Suites on the Haven start at $6,000 per person.)
If you would like to avoid the crowds and have a butler at your beck and call while you are lounging at your private pool or beach or pool service at your own villa while your own private chef prepares your meals, consider the Your Jamaican Villas collection, owned by Sandals. The Sun Down Villa on Jamaica's northern coast can sleep 12, has two seaside gazebos, private beach pool and unlimited greens fees at the nearby Sandals Golf & Country Club ($32,000 and up for holiday weeks).
Meanwhile, at Beaches Ocho Rios, if you can adjust your dates (the holidays are already sold out) guests can save up to 65 percent when they book a minimum of three nights by December 26, 2019. (Adult price: From $203 per person/per night. Child Price: From $47 per person/per night).
How about a private island in less touristy, but safe, Belize? Cayo Espanto has just seven all-inclusive villas on its own private four-acre island, seven minutes by boat from San Pedro where you can snorkel or dive the world's second-largest barrier reef system. You can also fish (have you ever tried bone fishing?) sail, windsurf or just relax. Rates for two over the holidays start at $2,200 per night. (The resort has just announced a special sale for one two-bedroom villa with its own pool for $1,995 (plus tax and tip) for two adults and two kids under 12; just slightly more with two older kids.) You could obviously enjoy a Belize adventure for a lot less, including week-long trips from companies like Wildland Adventures.
We can't forget Orlando, of course, with special holiday doings at every theme park and beyond. You can buy out the entire 16th floor at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, including a nine-bedroom Royal Suite ($66,000 a night) or just the Royal Suite ($15,000 a night). The Four Seasons is the only Five Diamond property in Orlando (Rates for a normal room are under $500 a night, significantly less off season.) Watch the Disney fireworks from your terrace! Kids love the expansive Explorer Island and complimentary Kids for All Seasons program so much that parents tell me they even opt to spend less time in the park. But if you do go to the park, you can hit all of the top attractions in one day with a VIP tour. This tour whisks you from park to park in a private vehicle and allows you to skip the lines! It starts at $400 an hour, plus park admission. Otherwise, you can do what most do and use FastPass to plan times to visit the most popular attractions and seek out the best deals, whether you want a rental house, budget hotel or resort.
There's another option, of course, for those who want a little luxury, but are looking for a bargain. Instead of gifts this season, promise everyone a trip -- and travel low season.