As the cold winter temps plummet and cabin fever invades your psyche, there’s no better time to plan your escape to a destination where sunshine still reigns. These resorts that offer beaches, endless sporty activities and even 7-toed cats are just one easy-peasy nonstop flight away, meaning that in mere hours you’ll be able to shed those winter duds and don a swimsuit for a spell.

photo: The Breakers

Destination: Palm Beach, Florida
Resort: The Breakers
Flight time ORD-PBI:
2 hours and 56 minutes
Average High Temperature in January: 75°F

Stretching from Boca Raton to Jupiter and Tequesta, Florida’s Palm Beaches are a collection of 39 interconnected cities and towns located along 47 miles of gorgeous, white sand beaches. Palm Beach is home to the legendary Breakers. Founded in 1896, this historic resort is best known for its old-world elegance. But the Breakers goes above and beyond for family, too, thanks to its playground with 4,500 square feet of outdoor space featuring slides, tunnels, bridges, puzzles and interactive games. Sporty families will want to take advantage of the outdoor basketball court, family golf clinics (offered every weekend), bicycle rentals, oceanfront pools, and watersport offerings including snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking.

photo: Grand Palladium

Destination: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Resort: Family Selection at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa
Flight time ORD-PVR:
4 hours and 35 minutes
Average High Temperature in January: 80°F

Nestled along the picturesque Bay of Banderas in Mexico's sublime Riviera Nayarit and surrounded by lush vegetation, the Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa offers picture-perfect Pacific Ocean views, 300 meters of glistening beach, a 5-star spa, family-sized suites and services designed with little ones in mind. Since it's all-inclusive, families can enjoy peaceful days on the beach, join in on exciting seaside activities, and dig into traditional Mexican and international cuisine without ever having to hop in a taxi or even carry a wallet, making for a more relaxing vacation overall. The special 'Family Selection' suites are much roomier than your average hotel abode and come equipped with a cookies and milk turndown service and delightful welcome goodie bags. Plenty of kid-centered activities round out the fun (and give mom and dad a break), including traditional Mexican arts and crafts workshops, poolside mermaid lessons and meet and greets with local birds.  

photo: The Collector Inn

Destination: St. Augustine, Florida
Resort: Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens
Flight time ORD-JAX: 2 hours and 20 minutes
Average High Temperature in January: 67°F

Imagine this: you could be sitting on the beach building sandcastles with your littles in mere hours. Sun-soaked St. Augustine, Florida is just two hours, twenty minutes of flight time from Chicago to Jacksonville, Florida plus a scenic one-hour drive from the airport. Families will love checking into the historic and homey all-suite Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, a set of nine buildings that date back to the late 18th century. In addition to boasting unique historic features, including coquina walls, romantic fireplaces and refurbished hardwood floors, the suites here have separate living rooms and shared breezy verandas. The resort is within a short stroll of some of the city’s most popular attractions, including the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum and Flagler College, but families will want to spend much of their time splashing around in the heated pool.

photo: The Vendue

Destination: Charleston, South Carolina
Resort: The Vendue
Flight time ORD-CHS: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Average High Temperature in January: 60°F

Just two hours and ten minutes flight time from Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, brims with southern charm. Winter brings spring-like temperatures, perfect for exploring the cobblestone streets and oceanfront sites, including the Battery promenade and Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, which lies across the water. Kids will enjoy the many small parks that populate the waterfront and the elegant French Quarter with its pastel-colored homes; parents will want to take in the well-preserved architecture and vibrant dining scene. The Vendue is the first and only hotel in Charleston dedicated to the arts, with an in-house gallery that plays host to 2-3 different exhibits per year. Every inch of the hotel, from the elevator to the hallways to the roomy suits is overflowing with original art. Kids will adore the complimentary continental breakfast, bicycle rentals and cookies and milk in the evenings.

Destination: Key West, Florida
Resort: Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina
Flight time ORD-EYW: 3 hours and 15 minutes
Average High Temperature in January: 75°F

With its swaying palm trees, year-round warm temps, azure blue water, and cloudless skies, Key West is the perfect tropical escape within the U.S. While you can opt to fly directly to the southernmost tip of the picturesque Keys, the drive from Miami International Airport is a little over three hours long and will take you on one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the U.S.  The original most interesting man in the world, Ernest Hemingway, lived here from 1931-39; kids will enjoy meeting the many adorable and sassy six- and seven-toed cats—all descendants of Hemingway’s pets—that wander throughout his house and grounds. Walking distance from Hemmingway's home, the historic Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina offers both Great Gatsby-era glamour and kid-friendly touches, including a hammock-filled beach and separate adult-only and family-friendly pools. The Florida Keys are all about relaxation, so make this the focus of your vacation. Sip sweet tea poolside, build sandcastles on the Casa Marina's private, pristine beach, and splash around in the crystal-clear water.  

—Amy Bizzarri