If it’s good enough for the likes of Katy Perry, Drake and Hugh Jackman this laid-back city in the Sonoran Desert checks all our boxes too. And it’s certainly a bonus when average temperatures in February are well above 70 Fahrenheit. You’ve got hip resorts, spas, stores, golf courses and a ton of activities, like Cowboy College, to keep the kids happy. Sky Harbor airport is a two-hour flight from San Francisco and five and a half from JFK.
For some retro glamour, check out the Hotel Valley Ho near Old Town Scottsdale, which originally opened in 1956. It’s been thoroughly revamped since then, of course, but it still channels a cool mid-century modern vibe.
Start the day off with breakfast at Butters Pancakes and Café, open from 6.30am at two Scottsdale locations. The Mexican Egg Burrito gets our vote but, hey, you’re on vacation so we won’t judge if you order the Nutella French Toast. Later in the day, head to Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue when the lure of brisket and a slab of ribs becomes too much to ignore. Finish off your night at the Rusty Spur Saloon where there’s live music every night and which has been open for more than sixty years.
Big Island, Hawaii
Yes, Volcano National Park is off limits at the moment until geothermal activity quietens down but there is still plenty to do elsewhere, not least just enjoy some rays next to a pool belonging to one of the numerous upscale hotels to be found here. We love the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, with its beachside location, sumptuous accommodations, pool, spa and fine dining options.
In many ways, the island – which has direct air service from the mainland to both Hilo and Kona airports – is a tale of two halves. The eastern side is lush and green, while the west is much drier with evidence of lava flows from centuries past. Either way, January average temperatures hover around 80 Fahrenheit.
Kids will love snorkelling with manta rays, going on a sailing boat cruise, gazing at the stars from Mauna Kea Observatory, getting wet on a waterfall hike or zip-lining.
Panama and Costa Rica
Anyway, the reason we mention it, is because an 11-day family trip by sea from Panama to Costa Rica is the winter cruise for people who don’t do cruises.
Forget ships that carry 5,000 people and feel like a small town floating round the ocean. Windstar’s is a more intimate “yacht”, with a maximum of 148 guests, which drops anchor at some cosy ports as well as big beasts such as Panama City.
A highlight, that will please kids of all ages, is a transit through the Panama Canal, including its three giant locks. It’s a really fascinating experience, before you sail onwards towards quieter anchorages. Our highlights included snorkelling in the Pearl Islands and stopping for a beach barbecue at idyllic Isla Parida, part of Chiriqui Marine National Park. And at Bahia Drake in Costa Rica you can explore rainforests and mangroves
In these locations, you can expect temperatures in the high 80s in January and February.
If you want to be in the thick of the action you could do a lot worse than stay at the One & Only Hotel (oneandonlyresorts.com) located by the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront complex. It’s from here you can catch a ferry to tour Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held as part of his 27 years in jail.
Take the cable car up Table Mountain, or hit the beaches nearby at Clifton or Camps Bay and drive to see the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Check out wineries in Constantia, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek as well as the city’s thriving culinary scene. Our top picks are Pot Luck Club, Test Kitchen and the Saturday morning Neighbourgoods Market.
If you can, try and bag a harbour-view room at the Park Hyatt Hotel for a spectacular look out at the gleaming-white Sydney Opera House. Talking of which, go ahead and book a behind-the-scenes backstage tour there.
While we’re on the subject of the harbor, get a unique perspective of the cityscape by climbing the iconic bridge. Or for something more earth-bound take a ferry to Watsons Bay for a lunch of fish and chips at Doyles, and bring a towel for a swim at Camp Cove around the corner.
Sydney’s most famous beach is Bondi: people watching there on a hot weekend provides a colourful canvas of the city’s multi-cultural cross section. Other beaches to visit include Manly, Coogee and Tamarama.