Most of us would enjoy a vacation anywhere that takes us out of the house. Yet if we cannot get to a true vacation spot, we can still go visit family, especially if they are too far away to see regularly. So it makes a vacation even better when you can combine the vacation with family!

In today’s world, many families have become distant through work-related moves, or marriages, or even retirement moves. Why not take the opportunity to get everyone together for a week of memorable fun? The answer is: Yes, but choosing where to go can become a committee-type decision, and that’s never easy.

When the family includes toddlers as well as seniors, it gets very complicated. Sightseeing vacations might become an either/or type of thing: spending time in the kiddie pool at a hotel vs. cultural attractions for Grandma and Grandpa. Then there is the choice of restaurants – those with Dino-shaped chicken nuggets compared to those with a wine list.

One solution I found that fits all is a small condo-style beach resort. The beach should be in a more sedate area, not on a strip of high-rise resorts. The condo allows for in-room breakfasts and snacks that work well with little ones, as well as comfy resting places after dinner for older folks. Also, the best part is the availability of multi-bedrooms with a central living room so the whole family can gather together to play games, cook their own specialties to share, and get crazy in ways you can only do in private!

My favorite choice is the Mainsail Beach Inn, located on Holmes Beach on the small island of Ana Maria, just south of Clearwater Beach in Florida. It has only 10 rooms on three floors in the main house, with a smaller number in an adjacent building. As such, you feel like you are in a private home. The furnishings and decor are beachy, and the amenities in room are complete with full kitchen, family room, and dining area. The best part however is the location: right on the beach, within a cozy little town.

On my last stay, we secured a ground floor 3 bedroom/3 bath corner apartment. We were staying for 5 days (usually the minimum requirement) with my daughter, son-in-law and two grandboys, ages 9 and 3. With the walk-out to the private white sand beach on the Gulf, the kids were able to slip on the suits and get right to the sand and sea.

As fabulous as Mainsail is, it was the excitement of the grandkids, along with the enjoyment of seeing all 6 of us engaging in fun conversations that really lifted the visit. Even better, on a trip a few years earlier, my son, his wife and our granddaughter joined the rest of us for Thanksgiving making a party of 9. Watching Aunts and Uncles with their nieces and nephews they rarely see is one of those highlights I’ll never forget.

There is something that just relaxes the mind and body when in a comfortable condo – everything is at your easy disposal, and the mix and match interactions provide so many memorable moments. You can come and go with everyone, or just a couple can take some time on a set of beach lounges. It’s even easier for the little ones to have some unstructured fun together.

A few other locations that also have plenty of condo/house/cabin rentals are Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, and Hilton Head Island. Of course, during this pandemic, check on the cleaning precautions as well as mask requirements in common areas. Check ahead on what is open in town for restaurants too. One final note for you seniors like me: paddle boarding in NOT an age-appropriate activity!

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