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Catalina Island for the Baby Boomer Winter Win!

Catalina Express and Casino

What do the Catalina Express (right) and Avalon Casino (left) have in common? Both dance over water; Neither has ever offered gambling.

Wondering where you can go in winter that offers lots to do, great promotional deals, and zero crowds? My husband and I just lived through our first holiday season as empty nesters. And you know what? We had a great time! Not because we didn’t miss our daughter, who is living in Australia for a year. We miss her every day.

But thanks to the Catalina Boat House Hotel and Catalina Express, we zipped our way to a three-day jaunt over Christmas on Catalina Island off the Southern California coast. Full disclosure more than a Jerry Springer on-camera confession: the hubster and I received complementary hotel accommodations and a reduced boat ride rate with an upgrade. More on the Commodore Lounge later. Opinions of our trip are my own. My husband’s opinions are also mine. Ha haah haha. (Good thing he rarely reads my blog.)  The great weather was provided free and courtesy of our good fortune!

Click the images above to see the captions.

Super Secret Revealed About Avalon Bay and Catalina

Catalina Christmas tree

Christmas tree, palm tree, people free.

Have you ever had one of those excursions where everything seems to go right? I know, I know, it’s more fun to complain about travel travails. But allow me to let you in on a big secret: Catalina in winter is the way to go! You get all the clear ocean water, steady sunshine, and beauty the island has to offer but none of the summer hordes! Notice what my photos have in common? Hint: Something is missing. Did you spot the pattern? Lack o’ people.

Click each image above to see the captions.

We roll up to the Catalina Boat House Hotel to discover we’re the only guests that night. Snap, that meant we got upgraded to the room with the best view.  Oh, and “welcome to the hotel, where we also give you free tickets to the Botanic Gardens and Glass Bottom boat ride. Just cuz’.” Well, this trip is starting out well!

Who Wants Money Saving Tips?

Double bonus whammy (especially for those of you who are like me — frugal and  keen to land a good deal) — prices are lower and promotion packages are more plentiful over Christmas and into March compared to the heavily popular summer. I’ll tell you the BEST deal in just a bit — AFTER you click the link above that leads you to the “Best of Winter” discounts and packages.

Where can you go in winter that offers lots to do, great promo deals, and 0 crowds? Click To Tweet

But first, below are a few ways to save vacay dollars on the island:

  • Book one of the Catalina Boat House rooms that includes a kitchenette. Walk 5 blocks to the Von’s so you can have a few meals and snacks NOT at restaurant prices.
  • Avalon Bay and Descanso BeachSay “yes” when the adorable young men at the hotel offer to take you for free in their golf cart to the Botanic Gardens and the next day to the trail head. Put the dollars you just saved on the shuttle or golf cart taxi towards a tip for this friendly staff.
  • Rent a double kayak instead of two singles. You’ll have paddle power, someone to steer while you watch for rays and fish, and you’ll save dollahs. Winter time bonus that you WON’T experience in summer — the kayak rental crew gave us 20 extra minutes “to get our vests on and stow our stuff in their handy dandy bins.” Bam! We did that in 3 minutes and used the rest of the time rounding bays and commenting on the moored boats we passed as we glided along.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland … and Hiking, Kayaking, Swimming, and Sightseeing

One of our favorite adventures, that the active among you will particularly enjoy was our Hermit Gulch Trail hike. This four-mile loop takes you to a peak where you can see both sides of the island in one calorie-burning, totally amazing, panorama. We did the trail in under three hours at a casual, scenic pace. The only thing more impressive than the views was us with ourselves for feeling happy and comfy the whole time.

How do you celebrate hoofing it up to about 1800 feet elevation on Christmas Day? By discovering you’re the ONLY people in the Catalina Express Commodore Lounge for the one-hour boat ride back to the mainland (world traveler, hipster talk for “the port of Long Beach”). We had three crew members dedicated to us as we raised our water bottles to Avalon Bay disappearing in the sunset behind us. Translation: extra pretzel snacks, extra chocolate chip cookies, an additional free beverage, and an interesting conversation with a young man pursuing his captain’s license.

It’s Your Birthday So Accept a BIG Gift!

View from trail peak Kymberly

Midlife, empty nester Christmas in Catalina: a PEAK experience!

Now to keep my promise to tell you the BEST deal you can snag that will really make a visit to Catalina affordable. It’s called the Birthday Island promotion. Go to CatalinaExpress.com to get more info, but basically you get a slew of discounts, upgrades, and freebies including free round-trip boat tickets if you travel over on your actual day of birth and return within 30 days.

This trip was my husband’s and my Christmas gift to each other. It turned out to be one of our better celebrations. What was your favorite holiday or most recent birthday present?

Beward of trashy foxes!

You can vacation where bear warnings litter the signage (see what I did there? ) or you can experience the unique island fox caution. Available only on the Channel Islands. Basically I got a kick out of this sign so I took the pic. Random, I know.

ACTION: We hope you’re fortunate enough to book a night or three in Catalina. But for sure you can subscribe to our site to get all weather, always in season active aging tips twice a week.

Kymberly Williams-Evans