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We all dream about that fantasy ski vacation: luxurious slopeside condo, plush leather recliner by a roaring fireplace, pristine views of the slopes out the window, secluded hot tub to unwind. 

Sounds magical, right? 

Indeed—but it can come with a hefty price tag.

Understandably, some middle-class families feel like they’ve been priced out of taking ski vacations. 

I disagree. 

I think they’re deterred by the perception that you have to stay in the heart of a ski village with a gondola out your back door.

It is possible, though, to take a ski vacation without breaking the bank. 

It’s not a matter of high-dollar or low-dollar. 

It’s a matter of being sophisticated traveler. 

Not in a dripping-in-luxury kind of way; rather, in a smart, savvy kind of way.

If you can afford the slopeside condominium in the village and feel like splurging, by all means, go for it. 

I’ve done it myself, and yes, it is magical. 

I’ve taken plenty of ski trips, however—with kids in tow—during which our accommodations have been far from luxurious. 

Make no mistake, though: Even on a budget, we’re sophisticated in our choices.

I want to share three tips to help you become a sophisticated traveler when you’re taking a family ski vacation on a budget.


1. In-room amenities

I’m talking about a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker. 

If I’m traveling solo, I don’t care about these things. 

I’m not cooking in my room, I’m going out. 

With kids, though, you need these things. 

You need a fridge to keep the baby’s milk and little Johnny’s leftovers since he barely touched his dinner from the restaurant. 

And you absolutely need coffee when you wake up in the morning.


2. A balcony or patio off the room

Listen. 

I’ve been there. 

I remember a trip where I was trying to work on my laptop in the bathroom after my wife and I put the kids to bed. 

A balcony or patio off of your room will give you and your spouse a place to sit and relax—sure, maybe bundled in your jacket, but there’s something to be said for fresh air, especially during spring skiing—after the kids go to bed. 

Otherwise, you’re going to bed the same time as them, or, like me, you’re sitting on the bathroom floor typing on my laptop.


3. Public Space.

It’s 3 a.m. and the baby is awake. 

Either there’s a public space in the hotel where you can go and let her crawl around for a while, or the whole family is awake and the next day is going to be less than pleasant. 

Of course, we look for pools and hot tubs and those types of amenities in a hotel, but we also look for hotels that have big lobbies, lounges, stairs that lead to little alcoves, and nooks outside our room where we can escape if one of us needs to be up in the night with a kid who just won’t sleep.

If you’re planning a family ski trip to Tahoe on a budget, I have good news for you. 

There are plenty of hotels that fit these criteria. 

Trust me, my wife and I have spent endless hours looking for family-friendly lodging in our travels. 

Save yourself the endless hours of searching. 

Here are a few places you can book with confidence.


South Shore

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel

Situated right between Heavenly Village and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe (if you’re interested in a grown-up night out), this all-suite hotel has balconies off of the rooms, an indoor heated pool, and lots of public spaces.

Beach Retreat and Lodge Tahoe

Rooms here open up to private balconies, and the hotel offers two on-site restaurants plus ski storage so you’re not lugging your gear up to your room (a joy with three small kids trailing behind).

A ski shuttle stops here to take you right to the resorts.

Tahoe Seasons Resort

This place is walking distance to the Heavenly Tram. 

There’s a general store, a pool and hot tub, a rooftop deck, a game room, and other amenities (public space: check). 

The all-suite hotel is furnished with those oh-so-important items: mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and wet bar.


North Shore

Truckee Donner Lodge

Okay, this place doesn’t have it all (I love a private patio, which isn’t included in rooms here) but many other amenities make it worth considering.  

You and the kids will enjoy an outdoor pool and spa. 

All rooms are equipped with a mini-fridge, microwave, and a coffee maker. 

And there’s laundry on-site, which can be a perk with kids.

Red Wolf Lakeside Lodge

Located right along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the lodge is a 10-minute drive to Northstar and offers studio rooms as well as one- and two-bedroom condos. 

If you go with a condo, you’ll have plenty of space for parents and kids; for the more budget-conscious who choose a studio, there’s still lots of public spaces around the lodge to keep you from feeling cooped up.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino

Although it can be pricey, I’ve seen some amazing deals here. 

If you’re lucky enough to plan your travel over dates that match up with a good deal, this place is a real score. 

You’ll find everything from basic rooms to suites to cottages, and lots of public spaces and outdoor fire-pits (always a hit with kids).

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