Expert Advice for Family Travel Planning

Luxury Travel Expert Sarah Stopek Hirsch

Happy New Year my Well-Traveled Friends!!!!

I hope 2022 is off to a great start for you! I’m here to share some expert advice for travel planning in 2022.

Lessons Learned in 2021

Before I share my expert advice for travel planning in 2022, I’d like to start by sharing some truths that I learned in 2021 that are useful both in everyday life and in traveling the globe.

Always start with Gratitude

As I reflect on the last crazy year I’m grateful for so much. For me, 2021 was a year of making memories with new and old friends. It was a year both of learning a “new normal” way of life and returning to some of my absolute favorite activities like travel complete with experiences that were good, bad, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. In my good, bad, healthy, and sick times I’m grateful for everything I learned and experienced in 2021.

Happiness is a choice!

This pandemic has taught me so much about living life and my inner happiness. I’ve learned that when I focus on my intentions for a life well lived everything always turns out better than when I’m worried about anything in the world that’s outside of my total control. This is true when planning for a trip too!

What matters to me is that I continue to live my best life spending quality time with my family and friends, laughing with fun people, making progress on my personal aspirations, feeling passionate about my work, savoring delicious meals in new destinations, and embarking on incredible adventures that inspire me.
2021 was a rollercoaster of a year for many, and I realized more than ever that these things are the only things that actually matter. Everything else is just a silly distraction keeping me from living my best life.

Expert advice for travel planning in 2022

Entering this first chapter of 2022, I am returning to my luxury travel planning role as an experienced pandemic travel influencer and I can say this for sure:

Always start by setting a positive intention for your getaway:

Whether traveling, planning a staycation, or staying home in your own backyard, set the intention to be happy.

In life, change is the only thing that’s a guarentee. The world of travel is changing by the moment. Some changes are good and some just plain suck. I’ve found that choosing to view life through rose-colored lenses and rolling with the constant changes in our crazy world keeps me from worrying or getting angry about things I cannot control, change or impact.

Not worrying allows me to be present and make the best choices. This has also gotten me out of some crazy travel situations with magical results!

Try seeing the world around you through the eyes of a child.

Notice what your kids focus on when you are out exploring. Kids have an incredible way of observing things we take for granted and being totally present to capture the best of nature, the sights, and sounds of a big city, and even just the fun of puddle jumping on a rainy day!

Make a plan for the year to schedule all of your vacation days

Vacation is salvation!
I’m a big believer that we all need a fresh perspective from time to time, especially now in these crazy pandemic times. It always pains me to hear from so many friends and clients how they finished the year and didn’t use all of their vacation time.
Escaping the day-to-day grind has been so freeing during these intense pandemic times both for my family and for all of my clients who share tales of how getting away was life-changing for them. When I’m feeling stuck, I’ve found that a change of scenery can make all the difference in opening up my mind to new possibilities.
Travel is good for the soul. The memories we make and the stories we remember from meeting new people and experiencing new places are life-changing. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t even have to travel across the globe. Just jump in your car and drive! You only need to go as far as an hour in any direction on a quest to find some fun!

Give the ultimate gift of travel to those you love

Experiences make the best gifts!
This year I’ve had so many clients turn to me to plan epic vacation experiences as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and even an incredible VIP experience at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade. The joy and memories of these experiences will certainly outlast any material gift.

Travel came back in a big way in 2021!

2021 was the year my VIP clients and I pioneered the world of pandemic travel.

I am travel-obsessed and luxury resorts are my absolute passion so once I got a taste of what I’d been missing for most of 2020, I really went for it in 2021!

Here’s my recap of all of the incredible luxury resorts and destinations I explored in 2021:

For all of my fellow travel lovers out there looking for inspiration as you start your travel planning in 2022 here’s my 2021 adventures list in hopes, you see something that calls your name!

Expert advice for pandemic travel with kids

I started 2021 ready to finally leave my house, kicking off the year with 3 weeks in Maui seeing for myself all the ways travel and the resort world had transformed with new Covid protocols while visiting four Maui hotels. We spent quality time at Wailea Beach Resort, Grand Wailea ResortGrand Wailea Resort, Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, and Four Seasons Maui.
That trip felt so incredible that we returned to Hawaii over Spring Break this time to the Big Island and fell in love with the new Mauna Lani Beach Resort where my son Harry experienced his favorite Kid’s Club of all time.
Best Luxury Hawaii Resorts with kids
In April, I headed to LA on a super fun girls trip with friends and we had a blast in the iconic Bungalow 1 at the Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica.
In May, my husband and I took off for a romantic anniversary getaway to Sonoma and Napa experiencing the best of the best at the new Montage Healdsburg Resort and the Carneros Resort and Spa.
We kicked off June with a super fun road trip to see lifelong friends at a gorgeous wedding in West Virginia making stops in Ohio to visit friends and family. We enjoyed one delightful night at the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland on the drive to the wedding and spent the rest of our road trip at small roadside hotels. We didn’t even mind spending 12 hours in the car each way after spending most of 2020 staying home!
Best Luxury vacations with kids
Later in June, I left the country for the first time in over 14 months and headed to Mexico to be spoiled rotten at the marvelous new Zadun Ritz-Carlton Reserve Resort in Cabo. I loved every minute of  Zadun bliss!
Review of Zadun Ritz-Carlton Reserve with kids
July took us on an amazing family vacation to Puerto Rico where we all fell in love with the sensational Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton Reserve Resort complete with our own private pool!
Review of Dorado Ritz-Carlton Reserve with kids
Afterward, Harry and I stayed in Puerto Rico a little longer for a mother-son luxe getaway to St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort right outside the El Yunque rainforest.
I ended July with a super fab and fun girls trip with one of my favorite travel buddies to the Ritz-Carlton Resort Amelia Island where we made friends with the talented mixologists and spent our time sampling all of the awesome signature cocktails!
In August, we met up with our friends in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for some fun on the lake taking the kids tubing and water skiing before heading back to school.
Harry and I kicked off September with a phenomenal mother-son getaway staycation to the beautifully renovated Four Seasons Chicago Hotel. This was our first time exploring the best of our sweet home Chicago in almost 2 years and it was amazing to enjoy all of our favorite spots in the late summer Chicago sunshine.
Review of Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island with kids
In mid-September, my husband and I were thrilled to head to Vermont for a wedding of dear friends where we were fortunate to glimpse the first peek of the brilliant fall foliage colors in the North East. We stayed at the rustic Lodge at Spruce Peak Resort in Stowe and the historic Woodstock Inn in Woodstock. It was the quintessential fall Vermont experience.
After Vermont, we road tripped to Maine on a fresh lobster eating quest where we drove down the coast and sampled all the best Lobster spots from Portland to Cape Neddick. I’d always wanted to stay at the Cliff House Resort and I loved every minute of our amazing stay in this gorgeous Maine resort!
I kicked off November flying to a remote spot in the Dominican Republic where I explored the ultra-luxurious and tranquil Amanera Resort and stayed a few nights at the sublime ANI Dominican Private Resort with my new fabulous friends from Index Select.
From the Dominican, I flew directly to Ft. Lauderdale where I hosted one of my favorite corporate client groups at the Conrad Ft. Lauderdale Hotel for their first in-person meeting in almost 2 years! It was so wonderful to see everyone gather again in the Florida sunshine.
After Ft. Lauderdale, I snuck away with my husband to our favorite ultra-fabulous Rosewood Baha Mar Resort for a quick romantic getaway and a spectacular night of fun with John Legend at the Taste of SLS Baha Mar. Our weekend was a blast enjoying the intimacy of the Rosewood pools and private beach and loving every splash at the amazing new Baha Mar waterpark!
Review of Rosewood Baha Mar with kids
For Thanksgiving Break, we headed back to Hawaii. This time we started off in Ohau first taking Harry to his favorite Disney’s Aulani Resort for a few nights of fun with Mickey Mouse, Mauna, and of course Stitch!
Next, we moved next door to my favorite property on Oahu, the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina for some pampering and relaxation. Harry made new friends playing the floor is lava at the kid’s club and my husband and I floated the day away at the adult pool swim-up Mai Tai bar!
For Thanksgiving, we joined my extended family and spent a week on the Big Island at my parent’s timeshare for our first big family vacation in over 9 years! Having our whole extended family reunited together in Hawaii was by far our most special trip of 2021.
In December, I realized I was just shy of earning my Platinum status on United. So, my husband and I did a quick weekend mileage run to LA and booked a room at the scenic Langham Pasadena Resort for a quick luxe retreat filled with the most gorgeous Holiday decor that really ushered in the feeling that Santa was coming to town!
We ended our year by flying to Costa Rica on New Year’s eve and kicking off one of the most epic adventures we’ve ever experienced as a family. It was really incredible to kick off 2022 with a vacation full of sloths, monkeys, toucans, lizards, rainforest, cloud forest, jungle, and beach adventures!

Best Wishes for  Happy Travels for all you Well Traveled Kids in 2022!

Wishing you all the best for an amazing year ahead! Where ever life takes you, I hope you have extraordinary adventures both at home and away! Please don’t hesitate to reach out when you are looking for specific expert travel advice. It would be my great pleasure to plan an extraordinary luxe getaway for you!
Cheers to 2022!
Sarah Hirsch
Sarah Hirsch

Sarah is a Chicago-based luxury travel influencer, Virtuoso luxury travel advisor, luxury family travel writer, an Oprah Daily Ambassador, and the founder of Sarah’s best travel companion is her sweet 12-year-old son, Harry. Her favorite getaways include a luxe hotel stay, quality family playtime, champagne & chocolate-covered strawberries.

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