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Break free from your family-vacation rut and try one of these new resorts, ships and theme parks in 2018. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s on our spring-break, summer-vacation and fall-escape short list.
Toy Story Land, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Florida
Opening this summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Bay Lake, Florida, Toy Story Land builds on the crazy popularity of the Toy Story Midway Mania! ride with two more attractions from Andy’s house: the Slinky Dog Dash coaster and a rocketship ride called Alien Swirling Saucers (if you’re lucky, you might get chosen by the claw!).
If you stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or the Walt Disney World Dolphin (both Starwood properties), you get most of Disney’s on-property perks (including extended park hours and free shuttles to all the parks) while still getting the option to pay with Starwood Preferred Guest points (rates start at 16,000 Starpoints or 6,000 Starpoints plus $110).
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort
With a just-completed top-to-bottom $50 million renovation, this resort is ready to host your next family getaway with newly designed guest rooms, a gorgeous location right on the sand (swim with stingrays!), the largest freshwater pool on the island and a great club for littles ages 4 to 12. (Pro tip: Take advantage of the night camp from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and schedule a date night.)
Rates start at 16,000 SPG points per night, and cash prices vary from $408 to $807. Since our valuation for SPG Starpoints is 2.7 cents per point, at a $807 nightly rate, points are a fantastic deal (5 cpp). Even at $408, Starpoints are only slightly below our valuations (2.55 cpp). Award availability is hit or miss, but there are still open 2018 dates.
Symphony of the Seas
This April, Royal Caribbean debuts a new mega-ship, Symphony of the Seas, making initial voyages in Europe and then moving to Miami in November to sail the Caribbean. Highlights of the cruise ship, which will be the largest in the world when it launches, include massive, two-floor family suites, where kids can ride a slide down from their bedroom to the living room; a 10-story water slide; onboard ice skating; and glow-in-the-dark laser tag.
On cruise lengths over five days, use the American Express Platinum and get $100 to $300 shipboard credit and a premium bottle of wine or champagne. Make sure to pore over all the ways to leverage points and miles on a cruise before you book, though.
Norwegian Cruise Lines is also launching a great new family ship, Norwegian Bliss, in May, with Alaska and Miami as home ports. Bliss will feature a huge electric-car racetrack, a waterslide where kids (and their grown-ups) can race side by side and a huge viewing deck with 180-degree opportunities to ogle the scenery.
On Norwegian, your American Express Platinum gets you $100 to $300 shipboard credit and a free dinner for two on trips of five nights or longer.
Beaches Turks and Caicos
Recently re-opened after a post-hurricane Irma renovation, Beaches Turks and Caicos (the nicest Beaches outpost, IMHO), situated on the loveliest stretch of Grace Bay, has introduced a bunch of new dining options (food trucks!) to its already awesome all-inclusive lineup of water parks, free scuba diving and all-ages kids club. Plus, their partnership with Sesame Street means that you — I mean the kids — can hang with their forever idols Grover and Big Bird.
Solaz, Los Cabos, Mexico
Currently slated to open March 31, Solaz is a high-design, 120-room, beachfront Luxury Collection SPG resort that also happens to have a great kids club with daily programming. Sign up for the SPG Kids Pass, which offers kids 12 and under all-inclusive dining with perfect-for-them menu options. Contact the concierge to arrange in-room babysitting on request.
Awards for Solaz are 20,000 SPG points per night, cash-and-points rates are 10,000 points plus $180, and nightly cash rates vary from $397 to $560. At $560, it’s a good deal to pay with points (2.8 cpp) or cash and points (3.8 cpp), while at $397 you should pay cash (1.9 cpp). At $397, points and cash are a little below average, but most nights should make this a great choice, and there’s currently tons of availability.
Julian Kheel contributed to this story.
Featured photo courtesy of Beaches, Turks and Caicos.
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