Report From Our Lake Tahoe Family Retreat

This post is a partnership with Vacasa — managing more than 10,600 vacation rentals across 23 U.S. states and 16 countries.

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Between Christmas and New Year’s we took the whole family to stunning Lake Tahoe for a few days. We had two goals: 1) Get a dose of winter and snow. And 2) Get time with the kids that wasn’t being interrupted by calls to hang out with friends or babysitting jobs or the kind of last-minute activities that come up when we’re home.

(Did I mention how stunning Lake Tahoe is? It really is remarkable — in any season.)

We booked this fabulous cabin through Vacasa. I hadn’t heard of Vacasa till they reached out, and I was curious to try one of their properties. I was super pleased with the whole thing. Vacasa’s inventory is 100% vacation rentals — meaning, these aren’t home people live in day-to-day.  And they’re not just a listing site, they manage the properties as well. We’re talking marketing, booking, housekeeping, navigating local laws — even interior design. Vacasa partners with companies like Airbnb, Booking.com, Homeaway and Expedia, with the goal of driving year-round bookings and increased revenue for homeowners. 

They have more than 10,600 vacation rentals in their portfolio, and they have local teams who manage the properties. The team prepped our rental perfectly — super clean, everything in order — and I really liked knowing there was an office in the area with actual people who we could contact if we ran into any issues with the rental.

When we arrived, there was a sweet welcome gift waiting for us — including an adorable s’mores kit and some west coast honey.

Each day we were there, we planned a couple of outings. But mostly, we just wanted to stay in, keep cozy by the fire, make food together, hangout, watch movies, do puzzles, etc.. And the cabin was perfect. (More cabin pics in a bit — I would stay there again in a heartbeat.)

When we woke up the first morning there, a gentle snowfall had started and the kids were over the moon about it. Ralph grabbed his camera and starting capturing footage. Betty, June, and Oscar immediately got to work on a snowman. : )

It was COLD. But really, just normal winter cold that we’ve grown unaccustomed to. We’ve lived in very cold, very wintery places most of our marriage, but it’s funny how fast your body forgets. We also noticed the tasks that become burdensome in wintery places (like shoveling walks and scraping ice off windshields) seemed fun to us because we don’t have to deal with them regularly. And I’m sure it helped that we were only there 3 nights. Hah!

Our first big activity was tubing/sledding. We briefly considered going skiing, but concluded this wasn’t a ski trip, so instead we went to one of the groomed hills in the area. You pay for parking, and you can bring your own sleds or tubes (or you can rent them onsite).

We shared four different kinds of sleds and concluded the round plastic disc-style sled was the fastest by far. But the tube was fun because you could fit two people and sometimes it would spin. 

After sledding, we took a scenic drive to Emerald Bay Lookout. On one side of the rode you get these amazing views. 

And on the other side of the road you’ve got majestic peaks. It could not be more breathtaking.

After the scenic drive, I was craving a chance to get by the water’s edge. So we drove back down to a spot where we could park, and then take a short hike to shore.

The wind off the lake was intense, but totally worth it to get to the edge of the water and get a better sense of how big Lake Tahoe is.

It was a happy little hike back to the van, complete with oversize pine cones.

After our outdoor adventures, we stopped at a grocery store to grab dinner ingredients and then went back to the cabin to get cozy.

The next morning we slept in and lazied about by the fire. (How gorgeous is that table?)

Our second big outdoor activity was snowmobiling. We rented two and would take turns, two people per snowmobile. We have 5 licensed drivers now so that’s really helpful for this kind of activity. It had been almost a decade since we’d gone snowmobiling and it was such for everyone to get a chance now that they’re older — even June took a turn “driving”.

We only rented the snowmobiles for 30 minutes, and honestly, that was plenty. It was so cold! And even bundled up, no one wanted to be outside for too long. 

After snowmobiling, we stopped in Heavenly Village for lunch and exploring. But we didn’t stay long. Everyone wanted to get back to the cabin.

That afternoon, we gathered around the dining table and worked on a Yosemite puzzle that Grandma Blair sent for Christmas.

It may not look like it, but it’s the hardest puzzle we’ve ever done. This is as far as we got before we had to leave the cabin. (Over New Year’s we tried again and stayed up till 3 AM finishing it. Hah!)

In addition to puzzles, there was lots of time hanging out here and quizzing each other with Harry Potter trivia questions. (That fire? It turns on with the thermostat.)

Ralph gave Olive the board game Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit for Christmas and it was a hit.

There was also lots of hanging out in the kitchen. We did some baking, made dinners, grazed on snacks, etc.. It was so lovely to be able to bring groceries so we didn’t have to eat out a bunch. And I loved that it was a BIG kitchen with an open floorplan — which made it easy for the whole family to all be there at the same time.

Something else I loved about Vacasa. Everything you need is provided — a fresh sponge, a sample size dish soap, single use laundry detergents. Enough pods to run the dishwasher through out our stay. Every detail is taken care of.

This really was a perfect cabin for us. As you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard for us to figure out where to put 8 people when we head out on a trip, but this spot was wonderful and never felt crowded. We knew we wanted a place that felt like a wintery cabin, and this hit the mark, but I also LOVED that the proportions were big — a generous garage we could park our van in (out of the snow), high ceilings, big bedrooms. Having more space is so nice whenever we’re dealing with winter gear. The coats and hats and boots see to multiply on their own!

On the last evening there, Ben Blair planned a family meeting where he took the kids through some role playing on how to ask for help and how to offer help. And then we stayed up late watching movies.

We checked out on Saturday morning. It was simple — no stripping the beds, no laundry to do. We filled the dishwasher, turned it on, and headed out.

Man oh man. I am deeply grateful for those few days of just our family. It was a really joy-filled retreat — I think it was the most relaxed we’ve all been in ages.

Your turn. Have you ever been to Lake Tahoe? And what do you crave for family retreats in the winter? An escape from the cold? Or a chance to spend time in the snow?

21 thoughts on “Report From Our Lake Tahoe Family Retreat”

  1. Future post idea: I’d love to hear more about ideas for family meetings, how you do them, etc. I think you’ve talked about this at some point before (though I can’t find it).

    1. Yes, please! I third this idea! With 2 teens I feel like they could really use some work with certain social/emotional life skills before they fly the nest! I would love to hear how you engage your teens in this activity and how you make it fun & get them to participate (is it mandatory or optional? How long have you been doing this? How do you choose the topics)?

      The cabin looks dreamy too. Getting out of the house, even just for a weekend, for r&r and to reconnect, is always worth it in my book.

  2. I went right to the website to look into booking for a wedding we’re going to in Tahoe the weekend of June 29, but those weeks are all unavailable. What’s up with that, and where else would you recommend for 2 families (4 adults, 2 kids)?

    1. I’d edit/delete this post if I could but I dont think I can. I thought I was looking at all availability but it was that one cabin. I am still looking for the perfect place though!

  3. We had a great experience with Vacasa when renting a condo for skiing in Utah. We arrived Christmas evening and the key was missing, and someone answered the phone right away and helped us out!
    I also would love more info about this role and how you decide what topics you’re going to cover at your family meeting, if you work off of some kind of outline or script, and how you span the different ages and maturity levels of your kids with these topics.

  4. Beautiful cabin! I’ve lived in SoCal for 29 years and still haven’t made it to Lake Tahoe, but it’s on my list! We’ve rented various vacation rentals before but haven’t heard of Vacasa. I will definitely look into them – sounds like a really nice way to rent as sometimes vacation rentals can be a little hit or miss with the owners and what they provide.

  5. What a lovely trip!! With loads of love and respect for you and all Blairs, I just wanted to mention that snowmobiling is terribly destructive to animals, air quality, plant life, and the winter ecosystem in general. I know you’re a person who cares deeply about the planet, so I did just want to mention it. Cross-country skiing can be a fun (albeit much slower!) alternative!

      1. I frequently snowmobile on groomed trails in western New York. There are hundreds of miles of trails going through farmers fields, they get money from the state for allowing the trails. Many of them are on old railroad tracks (mountain biking in summer, snowmobiles in winter). Snowmobilers give a lot of business to local restaurants and gas stations (not to mention snowmobile shops for gear and repairs), and it really is a way of winter life. I understand snowmobiling through other areas without prepared trails can cause a lot of issues, and in our area it is really frowned upon to go off trail Bc of damage to farmers lands.

    1. Do you see the very first line? (This post is a partnership with Vacasa….)

      That is the equivalent of an ad tag on a blog post. And I always indicate if a blog post is sponsored or a partnership.

  6. The most intriguing part of this post was just one line: “On the last evening there, Ben Blair planned a family meeting where he took the kids through some role playing on how to ask for help and how to offer help.” <– Would LOVE to hear more about this! How do you decide on the topic? And engage the whole family, making the topic accessible to all ages? So interesting, and THIS is the type of stuff I think modern families need help with the most!

  7. Hi – I haven’t followed your blog for awhile – but I was curious what happened to your cottage in France? It seems the last post was in 2015?? thanks so much

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