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Travel Fed up with this never-ending winter? Book a sunny family getaway now

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I have no faith in rodents.

It’s been three weeks since both Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhogs who reach celebrity status in Canada each Feb. 2, predicted early springs.

Since then, Canada has been walloped by winter.

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Groundhog Day was a wake-up call. It was a reminder that a) rodents can’t be trusted and b) rodents’ shadows should be trusted even less.

We are at a crossroads: Are you going to continue to place your faith in a giant rat and sit staring at the weather channel with your fingers crossed for another three weeks? Or, is it time to trust the one thing that I have long claimed to be the true sign of a winter that has gone on too long: parental stress levels (PSL).

Every year at this time, my PSL index reaches dangerous levels. I lose my hibernation cool and begin ferociously scanning travel-deal sites for a getaway, any getaway, that will take me somewhere warm. I know I’m not alone.

High PSL is easy to diagnose. Take a good hard look at your friends with kids (or in the mirror) and ask yourself: Do they/I look a little dead in the eyes? Are they constantly rubbing their temples when answering questions from their children? Do they drive their kids to school when buses are cancelled?

Other behavioural clues include cursing snow days, an inability to form full sentences when the temperature dips below freezing and crying while watching weather reports.

In February, parental stress levels peak. It’s when even the winter-loving guardians have begun to fall apart. You can spot them skipping the slopes and starting the après festivities as soon as the kids board the bus to ski-school. They’re the ones who have become “you can do any activity that doesn’t include me” parents by March.

Think I’m exaggerating? Wave a trip to somewhere warm in front of a mom or dad in February. I dare you. You’ll be lucky to escape with your fingers.

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For years, I made the mistake of thinking we could make it through a winter season without a sunshine getaway on the books. I’d settle down after the holiday season rush, only to discover that it was mid-February, cold as a Canadian stereotype and that I was slowly turning into Gollum – wondering at the strangeness whenever the sun peeked through grey skies. No longer. Over the past few years, trips have taken our gang away from calls for “polar vortexes” and “snowmageddon,” to places such as Florida, the Caribbean and South America.

Which reminds me, here’s a warning to all you childless resort-goers: When we parents are finally granted that chance to flee – an opportunity to not only stick our heads out of the winter bubble but to actually feel the warmth of the sun on our skin – we go a little crazy. Yes, that is little Billy’s mom rushing for the resort’s pool loungers at 5 a.m. with plans to stay there until sundown. Why yes, we are the ones waiting in line for the kids’ club to open at dawn. And, now that you mention it, it is 5 o’clock somewhere!

There is no shame in it. The fact is maximizing winter sunshine is as vital to survival as locks on bedroom doors and teaching children to pour their own cereal on the weekends.

So listen up, moms and dads: The hard truth is that no one is coming to rescue you. This month, instead of sobbing into your coffee at yet another cancelled school bus, set aside a few moments to plan a vitamin-D-infused vacation.

Kids not interested? Ditch ‘em. Plan a girlfriends’ getaway, guys’ weekend, couples retreat or solo trip where the only rules are that you’re warm, not making anyone’s school lunch and having fun. Run, parents. Run like the wind. Run like it’s the last pool cabana at the resort or like there’s only one spot left at the local daycare.

Another six weeks of winter without a break is unacceptable.

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Say it with me now: We parents are tired (so very tired) and we aren’t taking it any more.

Looking for a family-friendly deal?

Air Canada Vacations is nearing the end of its Winter Blowout promotion, but you can still save up to 40-per-cent off packages trips to the Caribbean, Mexico and South and Central America until Feb. 24. Discounts are available on departures up to April, 2019; minimum three-night stay required.

Perennial family favourite Orlando has a few special offers just for Canadians. At visitorlando.ca, you can print off coupons for a range of attractions such as Legoland, Universal Studios, Medieval Times and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and find savings on accommodations including some locations of Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Sheraton and Wyndham. Rules and regulations vary.

If the kids are dying for Disney, a special Canadian-resident ticket price is available at both the Florida and California parks. At all four Disney World Parks in Orlando, an adult four-day base ticket can purchased for as low as US$316 (Park Hopper upgrades are available). Tickets must be purchased by March 15, 2019, for use through Sept. 27, 2019. At Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the offer is an adult three-day, one-park-per-day ticket for US$207. Tickets must be purchased by April 11, 2019, for use through May 23, 2019.

Myrtle Beach’s official annual Can-Am Days run March 9 – 17 this year, but savings for those with a Canadian passport can be had now through to April. Canucks can score savings of up to 55-per-cent off at some hotels, up to 35-per-cent off at condos and 50-per-cent off at various restaurants and attractions. During the March week, we’re also entitled to free doughnuts and coffee at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, so … what are you waiting for?

At press time, Sunwing was promoting a range of discounts on all-inclusive vacations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and at designated “Smile Resorts” kids always stay and eat for free. Online, it’s easy to scan lists of the top-rated family resorts, and properties that have larger rooms to accommodate families of five. Sunwing also offers vacations with no single parent supplement fee.

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WestJet Vacations features more than two dozen hotels in its exclusive family collection of properties. These packages (available until Oct. 31, 2019) come with perks such as free prereserved seating and preboarding privileges for the flights, and amenities such as connecting rooms, kids clubs, kids menus and complimentary WiFi at resorts (all subject to availability).

Transat’s new Family Collection is broken down into five categories that help simplify the selection process: For the Little Ones and Tween (kids up to 12), Cool For Teens (ages 13-16), Big Fun for Big Families (groups of five or more), Water Parks (hotels with water attractions) and Solo Parents (for mothers and fathers travelling alone). Other benefits include a free excursion for one child, kids stay and eat free, free WiFi, dedicated family airport check-in counter, priority boarding, free seat selection for Kids Club members and on-board surprises.

Domini Clark

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