Tips For Your First Snow Vacation | Snow Vacation With Kids
Each year our family travels up north to spend a week enjoying cooler weather and snow. All six of us pile into the family minivan and travel 8-9 hours to the mountains of North Carolina. We have made this a family tradition. This year was our fourth trip. And it was the coldest and snowiest trip yet. We thought we had become experts from the last three trips, but that was not the case. We learned a ton this trip and I wanted to share it with all of you! First, let me tell you the ages of the kiddos, 16(in 2 wks), 14, 10, 8. So, for our first trip, they were 13,11,7, and 5!
Choosing a location
We have headed to the same area the last four years. The mountains of North Carolina are gorgeous and tend to produce a decent amount of snow. Our choice is Boone, NC and the surrounding areas. We have stayed in Banner Elk, Boone, and now Beech Mountain. (all of these are just outside the main city of Boone) Our favorite of the three? Definitely the small town of Beech Mountain. The views were amazing, the ski resort was walking distance to our cabin, and there was a free sledding hill right in the center of town. The Visitors Center was extremely helpful and accommodating. The perfect little mountain town.
Choosing a location doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Just ask yourself what activities your family enjoys and how far you’re willing to travel from your condo, cabin, or hotel to get there. Are you looking to ski or snowboard? Or are your kids smaller and you just want to let them play in the snow in your yard? Want a view? How about a creek or lake for fishing?
If you want to plan this out months in advance, you won’t have a guaranteed snow fall, so you’ll want to be sure there is a ski resort or hill nearby that produces the fake stuff. Which I promise is just as fun!
If you want to live on the edge and chase the snow like us, that is another option. My husband and I run our own business so we can make our own hours. We keep an eye on the weather beginning Dec 26th and as soon as there is a prediction of a decent snow storm or snow fall, we start making our plans. We use VRBO.com to find the perfect cabin for our family.
*BUDGET FRIENDLY TIP: Avoid traveling over the holidays as holiday rates are higher. Also, travel mid-week if possible as weekend rates are also higher. (Keep in mind, many businesses consider Friday the weekend!) Traveling Mon-Thurs is optimal.
Once you have decided on the city or town to visit, it’s time to choose your accommodations. There are many options out there. Hotels, condo’s, homes, and cabins. Or maybe you want to rent and RV and head up north? Our family has stayed in cabins during three of our trips, and a hotel during one of our shorter snow trips. Cabins win hands down in my opinion. Especially if you’re with children.
BUDGET FRIENDLY TIP: Ask for multiple night discounts.
Why do we prefer cabins over hotels or condos? (A house would probably work as well, we choose the rustic style cabins because it feels more “mountain-like” I suppose). We prefer cabins because they come with so many comforts and amenities like a fireplace, multiple bedrooms for larger families, your own yard, a fully stocked kitchen, and my must-have amenity, a washer and dryer! They also have more space than hotels or condos, a must for our large family. Cabins can also save you quite a bit of money when it comes to food!
BUDGET FRIENDLY TIP: We stop at Walmart or Kroger on the way up and grab everything we will need for the week. We will spend about $150 on food, snacks, coffee, hot chocolate, extra toilet paper, etc for the six of us for 6-7 days. That is a HUGE savings over eating out 3 meals a day, for 6 people. that is 18 meals a day or 108 meals for a 6 day stay. We were well fed with home-made chili, lasagna, frozen pizza night, and more. You can also bring some pantry staples from home!
A few tips when choosing your cabin (or house, condo, etc)
*Ask if snow chains and/or 4WD are required to reach your home. Make sure you ask if they are required during a serious snowfall too, even if one is not predicted while you’ll be there. Weather is unpredictable.
*A Washer and Dryer is a necessity for family, or even for a couple, if you’re planning any outdoor activities. You need layers. Most layers will get wet.
*Mud Room – A mudroom or something similar at the entryway is a must. Walking in the front door directly into the house or cabin is difficult if you’re covered in snow and your boots are sopping wet. This year, there was no mudroom. When we walked in the front door, it was the living room. However, they had a place for all of our boots to dry which was nice!! They also had a fan set up to help dry the now wet floor. Without a mud room, cold air is rushing in the living room when you open the door (6 people entering takes time). Mudroom or entryway area with space is a big plus.
*Fireplace – this is up to you, but we love sitting by the fire as a family. A fire pit in the yard is a bonus too. The cabin we stayed at this time around had BOTH an indoor and outdoor fire. Loved that. *more on our cabin soon*
*Ask if there is a fully stocked kitchen. I cook all our meals during our trips. Be sure there are pans, spatulas, coffeemaker, etc.
*Ask about detergent. Is it included? (dish detergent, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent)
*Ask if toilet paper, paper towels, and trash bags are available. We always bring extra.
Our yard had plenty of play room and a decent size hill for the kids to sled
*Is the backyard / front yard safe for children to play? There are many cabins that are located on a cliff. While that is beautiful, it’s not safe or practical for the kids.
*How far is the local ski resort? How far is the local store or market? While it’s fun to be away from town to relax and “get away”, it’s also not fun to drive 20mi to the nearest store if you’re in a pinch.
During our last trip, we were just 1/4 of a mile from the ski resort. This was a great family walk. However, plan to make a few stops to rest if you’re not used to the thinner mountain air or walking up a mountain. Being Floridians, we don’t spend too much time walking up mountains…or hills for that matter.
*Make sure there is heat! Our last cabin had individual heaters, not central heat/air. It worked great. Once we figured it out. There was no a/c in our cabin at all. Not that we would need it during the winter, but be sure to ask these questions! Also, we noticed that the heaters that they had in our cabin got extremely hot. Not a great idea for toddlers or young children.
What to pack
Here are some tips on what to pack for the snow (in addition to your normal items you’d pack for a trip)
Layers, layers, and more layers. The kids may fight it, but it’s necessary to layer them up. Walking to and from the car at times even required layers. Granted, our last trip was the coldest trip we’ve taken, you will want to be prepared. We had one day with -20 wind chill. Brrr!
Plan on at least 3 layers if you’re going to be in the snow. There were days that we wore 4 layers.
My girls for example wore a pair of leggings, a pair of sweat pants (or fleece pajama pants worked well), and snow pants. On the coldest day, they added a second pair of leggings! long sleeve top, sweatshirt or heavy sweater, and snow jacket. (sometimes a tank top too!). Or, consider purchasing long john sets.
My boys wore long johns, jeans or sweats, and snow pants. And the same layered tops as the girls.
ADULTS need just as many layers y’all!
BUDGET FRIENDLY TIP: We found DEEPLY discounted snow pants, sweatpants, gloves, windbreakers at Academy right before we left. Also, check Goodwill, and Walmart for some amazing deals. If you’re from a warm state, like us, Goodwill may be hit or miss for winter clothing.
THICK snow-boot socks are a must. I made the mistake of wearing regular socks the first day. Bad idea. Not only did they slip off inside my boot, they did not keep me warm at all. MULTIPLE Snow boot socks for each person so that you can throw them in the dryer while wearing another set.
SNOW boots. Yes, snow boots. Not fancy fashion boots. Not cowboy boots. Not rain boots. You need the real thing. Trust me.
Sneakers. There were a few times that I wore sneakers in the car with thick socks on the first day or two before the heavy snow hit. Beware of ice. Sneakers + ice don’t mix well. Ask me how I know….
Gloves. Not mittens. Unless you’re wearing mittens under your gloves like we did for extra warmth. Make sure the gloves are waterproof. We had 1 set of gloves for each person, and a dozen pair of mittens total for the 6 of us. Why the extra mittens? If you’re like me and take photos, you will need to remove your gloves to take pictures. And those nice warm mittens will get wet. So bring a spare for each person.
BUDGET FRIENDLY TIP: Have kids? Buy a size too big so they can be worn next year too. The boots were a tad too big, so we layered 2 pairs socks and they were perfect. Jackets can be a size or two too big because of the layers. They can last 2-3 years. Then,hand them down to the younger kids!
Snow hats for everyone. Make sure they will cover your ears. This was a struggle with the kids at first. They didn’t want to wear them. The first hour in the snow, they were happy they had them!
Warm ski masks or warm scarves.
Ski / snowboarding goggles. Not everyone will need them, but my kids used these while tubing, snowboarding, and sledding. Snow flies in your face. It’s not pleasant, I promise.
First aid kit My first run down the hill this year ended painfully. Another person ran into me and I hit the ice covered ground with my knees. Ouch. First aid kit should include band-aids, wraps, gauze, PAIN KILLERS, etc.
Shovel and ice scraper these are things we don’t have here in Florida. As soon as we got to the mountain, we grabbed these. The ice scraper was free thanks to the welcome center. The snow shovel was about $8. Not bad. SO glad we got our snow shovel before this happened:
See that white stuff behind our car? There was no plow service for our little road (or driveway of course) so the boys were busy shoveling. And this picture reminds me of another tip I learned during this trip. See those windshield wipers? Do that every single day. Pull them off your windshield if it’s going to snow or freeze. That would not be good to have wipers frozen to your windshield. Another issue we had was our trunk froze shut. I’m not sure how to avoid that. None of the cabins that we saw had garages….so that wasn’t an option.
Also, as mentioned earlier, you may want to bring trash bags, laundry detergent, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, paper towels, and toilet paper! Definitely the latter two as you will run out of what they provide.
SNOW CHAINS if you don’t have 4 wheel drive and are staying ON the mountain. We did not have either (snow chains or 4WD )and we had a heck of a time getting off the mountain on our last day. We will be purchasing a set to keep in the van for future trips. We attempted to purchase them at the last minute, when we were stranded, and they didn’t have our size. The nice company did give us the exacts on what we need to purchase for the future.
BUDGET FRIENDLY TRIP: BE SURE to get these ahead of time. When you’re desperate for them, they can be quite expensive. Amazon here I come!
I will share more about OUR cabin and Beech Mountain in another post.