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At winter resort

If winter's dreary weather has you down, take action. Here are five ideas to consider.

1. Make a plan.

We all like to look forward to an adventure. And research shows that by planning ahead, more families will actually take much-need vacations and thus reap a multitude of personal and professional benefits. By crafting a strategy in advance you'll have your pick of departures, the best cabins on a cruise ship and more options in popular resort areas. While you are at it, scan the year ahead and be the first to claim vacation days around existing holidays and school breaks, creating a future stretch for relaxation and enjoyment. Knowing good times are on the horizon will help wash the winter blues away.

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2. Embrace a new winter sport.

Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn sleigh headed to a cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.

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3. Connect with family and friends.

Geographic spread, busy careers and school and sports schedules make it more difficult than ever to spend time with the people who matter most. Check in with your clan and craft a plan to celebrate an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or to honor a family member's special achievement, acknowledging the kind of touchstones that can be a meaningful part of a family's legacy. At the same time, who needs an official event to enjoy the company and support of your loved ones? Take advantage of last minute travel deals and vow to focus on the joys of winter together.

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4. Seek the sun.

Visit Curtain Bluff, a laid-back but luxurious, family-owned resort in Antigua for an all-inclusive experience that offers extensive water sports including water skiing, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, paddle-boating, tennis, yoga and sailing. As the kids burn off energy with the Cee Bee kids club, relax in a hammock you'll find tucked within the palm trees. Spend an afternoon at the spa where open air massages provide a perfect end to a sports-filled day.

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Closer to home, consider Southern California's iconic Hotel Del Coronado, nestled on a wide stretch of sand with easy access to the water and a host of seaside activities. Get out your boogie board, take surfing lessons or watch Navy seamen from the nearby Coronado Island base train along the beach.

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5. Unplug.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, an increasing number of travelers plan to completely disconnect and turn their time off into an escape from the pressures of their jobs and other responsibilities. Whether you stay close to home or plan an exotic family getaway, taking a vacation from news reports, social media alerts and a never ending stream of emails can reduce stress and provide more time to pursue activities you enjoy.

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(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)

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