Recipe for a Great Family Vacation

Did you know: In the United States, 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018, and over half of Americans left vacation time on the table?

However, planners are more likely than non-planners to use their time off to travel (39 percent vs 20 percent). Enter National Plan for Vacation Day: In an effort to encourage Americans to plan (and ultimately take!) more vacation, the U.S. Travel Association celebrates this holiday each January. This year, National Plan for Vacation Day falls on January 28, and to mark the occasion we’re highlighting the vacationing styles of some of the leaders at Expedia Group Media Solutions.

Here’s a glimpse inside how Expedia Group Media Solutions Senior Director of Global Ad Operations, Doug Park, chooses to spend his vacation time.

Planning Travel

As a traveling family, many of us have been outside the United States and have our own lists of where we would like to go, from Europe to Asia to South America and beyond. When planning for travel, we look at many factors: travel time, air and accommodation cost, the amount of things to do in the destination, proximity to other cities or areas of interest, culture, ease of travel, safety, food, etc. A lot comes into play and we keep open minds as we search for what is going to fit within our time and budget. It can take months to figure this out as we look for deals and narrow down our options.

Once we decide where we are going, we then decide what we want to do. We generally try to balance full days with relaxing, less busy days to ensure we have the energy to make it through and don’t overextend ourselves. One day on, one day off seems to work pretty well. We share ideas via text and email. We use Expedia, Google maps, Instagram, and Facebook for research and planning. We also use general travel sites and web searches.

Family Vacation: La Paz, Mexico

Checking multiple boxes, Los Cabos in Baja California Sur has become a popular destination for our family due to the proximity to our home near Seattle (it’s a relatively short, direct flight) and the warm, dry climate. Having traveled to multiple destinations on the west coast of the Baja peninsula, we opted to spend a few days in La Paz, where we heard the pace was a little slower, yet the beaches were still magnificent. A great decision in the end!

For transportation, we chose to rent a car and drive the two easy and uneventful hours from the Cabo San Lucas airport. It is a well paved road with minimal turns and not much longer than a morning commute! As we pulled into our vacation rental we headed straight to the rooftop pool and view.

la paz mexico national plan for vacation day

La Paz boasts a 3-mile promenade, or ‘malecon’ in Spanish, with restaurants, shops, and other sites. It’s a great place to enjoy the weather on a hassle-free walk or run. We ate at many fine establishments with our favorite meal being ‘tacos al pastor’. This simple yet amazingly flavorful dish can be spotted by looking for the giant spit of meat roasting in the corner of local establishments, most often topped with roasting pineapple for flavor and beauty.

tacos al pastor in la paz

While we very much enjoyed relaxing in the city, the beaches quickly called to us. We spent our first day at Balandra Beach (Playa Balandra) where the shallow water stretches for hundreds of yards and you can walk to the famous Balandra Mushroom Rock. As we headed home for the night, we readied ourselves for our big adventure of the trip, a chartered tour around Espiritu Santo.

Our family of five boarded our boat for the day at Marina Costa Baja on the north end of La Paz. It was a quick and easy experience with Baja Advenure Co and we were out on the water with gear and fresh water in hand. Little did we know, but our experience would be one for the record books!


We started by boating to Balandra and checking it out from the water. As we headed away and toward Espiritu Santo, our guide Sophia explained much about the waters, islands, beaches, marine life, and more. It was educational, fun, and an easy way to pass the time on the open water.

As we were in transit, the captain stopped the boat and noted some rays jumping out of the water. Mobula rays, it turns out, can jump very high out of the water and do so often. No exact reason is known, but it makes for a fascinating sight. The magic, however, is below the water. There, you will find thousands of these graceful creatures, swimming peacefully. Our guide asked if we wanted to hop in the water and check them out and two of us jumped at the opportunity. It was one of the most amazing experiences, snorkeling within 25 yards of so many of them—something we will never forget.

We stopped at several different rock formations and island features as we made our way around Espiritu Santo—our next major stop being to snorkel and swim with sea lions. As we pulled into our anchor point, a group of sea lions decided they liked us and followed us for several hundred yards, waiting for us to jump in the water. We were all a little bit anxious jumping in with what are described as “puppies of the sea” but all decided to get out of our comfort zones and jump in. It was such a fun and exciting experience. They really are very playful and so graceful in the water. They swam around us, called out, and generally seemed to enjoy our company. We waved as we moved on and I swear one of them waved back! ?

After this, we continued to experience so much more on our cruise. We snorkeled on a reef, had ceviche on a white sand beach, watched dolphins and sea turtles swim in the water and, perhaps, the final amazing experience, we were the first in our guides’ career to see a blue whale on the open water. This giant creature moved with silent power as we kept our distance and marveled at how impressive and beautiful nature can be.

As we settled into our beds, exhausted from the day, we did so with thoughts and sounds of the sea lulling us to sleep.

My daughter put a video together of our whole trip:

Video credit: Alyssa Park @ParkRanger12

This trip was a major success and everyone had a great time. We balanced full days with relaxation: In my opinion, the perfect recipe for a family vacation.

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