Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
Not so secret anymore... a great family vacation
Reading a few reviews should make it clear if this is your kind of fun or not. This is a very family-driven camp, but the staff whisks your kids away for hours at a time and plans great activities for the adults, too. Most nights there is an after-hours activity for the adults, too. Babysitting is easily scheduled and reasonably priced.
This camp experience runs from Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday morning. They run 8 sessions a year. This year, all but the first week sold out, long before summer. If you want in, bookmark their reservations page, Like them on Facebook, and consider booking on December 1st, when new vacationers are first able to make reservations.
For 8 weeks every summer, the Family Vacation Center takes over the San Rafael residence hall on the USCB campus. There is a 7 story tower, and multiple 3-story "cluster" buildings. Families each get their own suite with living room, bedrooms, and bathroom. The camp has exclusive access to these facilities, including the Carrillo pool. Most meals are provided at the Carrillo dining commons, and this isn't the dorm food you may remember. Housekeeping comes in daily to make your bed, vacuum, and provide fresh towels as needed. The rooms are a bit spartan, but being in your room isn't really the point. You're mostly there to shower and reapply sunscreen.
The staff are absolutely the life-blood of this experience. This program is over 30 years old, and they excel in consistently hiring and training great college students with boundless energy and great kid amusement skills.
Parents, once relieved of our kids, are a pretty cheerful bunch too, and make just as many new friends as the kids do. Between the free scheduled activities and the available group lessons in kayaking, surfing, and stand-up paddle boarding, there are plenty of opportunities for relaxation and fun.
The week is full of great experiences, but seems to go by so quickly. Many families come back year after year, and some of the kids grow up to be staffers.
My kids cried when we left...it was that good.
With young kids, it is truly a vacation to get a break from cooking, cleaning, planning activities and driving everyone around. We woke up each morning, slapped on some sunscreen and rolled out for a fresh-cooked breakfast and all kinds of fun! Each day is different, but your kids are engaged at least six hours per day. They enjoyed trips to the zoo, bowling, the beach and a scavenger hunt. Our relaxed family time included visits to the craft shack, bike rides around campus and carnival games.
One of my favorite parts of the camp is that it feels like a good, old fashioned time - the kids are learning camp songs and we all bonded together (with tears in our eyes) for the farewell show featuring the amazing staff. Kids got awards for the pinewood derby race, various tournaments, and all kinds of achievements during the week.
I mentioned that my kids cried when we left. I have to admit that I was a little choked up at the thought of going back to reality!
We were reluctant travelers who could not leave a deposit for next year fast enough. Now we are counting the days until the FVC 2013!
Unique Quality: The staff who supervise and entertain the kids have so much energy and do such a great time with them. Kids are grouped by age/grade (mine were in the Kindergarten and Second grade groups this year.) They bonded with new friends and now have pen pals that they are looking forward to seeing again next year.
The adult staff is top-notch as well. We were never bored...stand up paddle board, wine tasting, karaoke night, and many new friends made it a trip to remember.
Directions: On campus at UC Santa Barbara
A REAL vacation for parents!
For just about $3K for a family of 4 for a week, I get rooms, food, and SOMEONE TO TAKE CARE OF MY KIDS 6 hrs a day - while I hike, surf, or go to yoga class!!! This is the first vacation we've taken with children that hasn't been a hassle - it is well located, filled with other kids / families who all play together, and a great time to just chill out. While it isn't luxurious, who cares when you can love your kids on vacation and STILL go out to fine dining at night - ALONE? The counselors are great - well rounded kids who are lots of fun and very responsible - and who will sit every night if you want them to! I would recommend this to anyone who takes kids on vacation - especially tired families who just can't bear the hassle of another vacation ANYWHERE - because this one was actually time off for me! Another great tip - get your friends w/ kids to go too - we all hang out in the courtyard w/ our baby monitors on and have adult time once kids are in bed - and no one has to drive home.
Unique Quality: Best qualities: the counselors who take care of my kids and the location! It is also very family oriented without being Disney (which isn't for us AT ALL).
Directions: UCSB environs
A Great Place for families
The Family Vacation Center (FVC) at UC Santa Barbara is an awesome place for families. This summer will be our third in a row attending the FVC and I highly recommend it to families for the following reasons:
1) All the costs are upfront - This is an all-inclusive deal - housing, activities, child care and food are taken care of with one price. Sure you can add on a wine tasting here, a surfing instruction there, but you can still have an amazing time without adding one thing on.
2) Child care. The children are taking care of by great counselors, most current students at UCSB. The children have a blast and the way the schedule the child care time is great. Often the kids will be in the camp from 9a - 12p, then have the afternoon with you, then go back to the camp from 5p - 8/9p so you can enjoy dinner with friends.
3) Activities - everything - swimming, biking, running, tennis,
4) Location - right on the beach!
Only down side is that you do stay in dorms - it's not bad, but you need to know that going in
Great for family reunions
We traveled to UCSB FVC in 2008 for a family vacation and had a blast. The kids programs provide activities for all ages. The staff of young people are enthusiastic, friendly and fun. It's great for parents with young children to have the kids engaged in activities part of the day. The FVC staff also runs hikes, wine tours and other activities for adults. There are also activities for the whole family -- campfires. etc. Meals are in the dining hall, which allows everyone to pick their own food and still have dinner together. Plus no worries about where to eat or cooking. The food was the best I've had in a cafeteria setting. Guests can use UCSB facilities.
Unique Quality: Outstanding staff. Although I checked more expensive than average, the price includes food and activities.
Fantastic Family Vacation
We highly recommend the FVC for a family vacation. You stay for one week during the summer in the dorms of UC Santa Barbara and it includes room, all meals and most activities.
We held our family reunion there and everyone had a blast, from the toddlers to the grandparents. There are so many activities to choose from, it is impossible to get bored. There is swimming, hiking, surfing, wine-tasting, horseback riding, tennis, kayaking, biking, golfing, volleyball, etc. Some activities were an additional fee, but I thought they were reasonably priced. You are able to use the recreation center at UCSB which has state-of-the art gym equipment - it's a short walk away. I heard there is a rock climbing wall, but I didn't see it. And there is a beach just a short walk away too. Downtown Santa Barbara is just minutes away in case you want to venture out on your own. A small group from my family went to the Santa Barbara Zoo, which in my opinion, is the best zoo for young children.
The Kids Camp was so much fun for every kid in our group. Other activities included a beach day (which they brought in a yummy tri tip lunch), talent show, movie night, casino night, pub trivia night, etc. You eat each meal in their cafeteria, which shockingly, was excellent. Everyone was really impressed with the quality and variety of the food. We had the freshest and most delicious fruit while we were there.
Another great feature: the counselors are also available for babysitting in the evenings, so parents can go out and have fun at night.
Unique Quality: What really stood out about FVC is the staff and their service. You can tell that the staff really loved their jobs because everyone was always so nice and had a big smile on their faces. If you had a question, they had an answer. If there was a problem, they would fix it. Everything worked so smoothly.....we were really impressed with them and how well they run their operation.
A great Family Vacation
We had a wonderful time at the UCSB Family Vacation Center. If you are looking for a great, all inclusive resort, with plenty for adults and children to do, then this is the place. The location is beautiful, right on the ocean. The childrens' programs are second to none, the counselors were amazing and did a great job making sure the kids had a great time. The food is very good, although the eating area can get quite crowded at times. Accommodations are quite adequate, although certainly not luxurious. With so much to do in the area, however, you do not spend much time in the room other than to sleep. Overall this was an excellent 7 day family vacation.
Family Vacation Center is located on the campus of UC Santa Barbara, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Guests stay in dorm rooms that have been emptied of students for the summer. The rooms are good sized and clean. There is a short walk to the beach, which is lovely. There are lots of activities for children of all ages, which were enjoyed by the kids in my group. Meals are taken in a cafeteria, this was my least favorite part of the stay; the food is good, but large student groups come through at the same time as family vacationers which makes for a very noisy, hectic, and overwhelming meal. The staff are all very nice and seem to really enjoy their jobs and interacting with the guests.
Unique Quality: Best for me was close access to the beach, it is also nice to drive into Santa Barbara and take advantage of the offerings there, my favorite of which is visiting the Mission.
Great family destination
Traveling to Santa Barbara from outside of California is probably the worst part of the vacation. Flights directly into Santa Barbara are expensive for a family of four. That leaves you with flying into Los Angeles and driving the rest. Under normal conditions that would take less than two hours, however, on the day of our arrival the infamous “California Traffic” was working and we crept along for four hours. My advice, take an early flight and hopefully beat the traffic jams.
The location of the UCSB Family Vacation Center is, as you have probably guessed, on the University of California Santa Barbara Campus. They use a cluster of student dorms on the edge of campus near the beach; the students have all been moved out. The guest rooms are decent. The staff works hard to accommodate your family needs. I was impressed that they lowered the bed for my four year old. The activity rooms are also in the dorm rooms. My four-year-old didn’t seem to care though. Meals are at a student cafeteria and the quality is good. You do have to share the cafeteria with students attending orientation on various days of the week.
The best reason to stay at UCSB Family Vacation Center is the staff. They use students as counselors for the children, as you also probably guessed. They seem to be well trained and really make things fun for the kids. My four-year-old had a blast. While they had a play group for my one-year-old, he was not interested in leaving his mother. Maybe next year. While my kids are young, I have large number of nephews and nieces range up to 16 years in age. They also reported having a good time.
For the adults, the biggest benefit is having your kids constructively occupied. With my young boy, we did not have the opportunity to take advantage of the many activities for adults. I look forward to trying surfing next year. Walks on the beach are beautiful. Be warned that there are small clumps of oil that wash us. You can’t see it but it sticks to your feet. My advice, bring an old pair of shoes for the beach and throw them away at the end of the week.
In summation, if you are looking for a relatively inexpensive vacation to a beautiful part of California and you have kids, UCSB Family Vacation Center is worth a try.
A Fun, Relaxing Family Vacation
The Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center is a wonderful place for families. This was our second year at the FVC and we had another great time. We met other members of our extended family there, so there were children in many of the different kids groups. The accomodations are dorm suites with 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms and include a living area and bathroom. The rooms are very basic, but are large and clean. My daughter loved having her own room. The college students that work in all areas of the FVC from the front desk, craft hut, lifeguards to kids counselors are all very friendly and likeable. They go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and included. My daughter enjoyed the age appropriate activities her group did. (some of them were biking to the beach, bowling, surfing, and doing crafts in the craft hut). There are plenty of activities available during the day for the adults, too. They also had fun evening activities planned for the adults. The meals are all served cafeteria style. There is plenty of variety and the food is good. They had excellent frest fruit at all of the meals. The college students that work at the FVC all eat their meals when the vacationers do and make it a point to sit with a new family at each meal so they get to know you even better. The location right on the Pacific Ocean is beautiful. There is a private beach on the UCSB campus that is within walking distance of the FVC that had lifeguards on duty.
We would definately recommend this to families looking for an all inclusive vacation spot that is kid friendly.
Great for Families
Excellent indications of a superior family vacation are the number of returning vacationers and a waiting list. It is no surprise that the Family Vacation Center at the University of California Santa Barbara meets both criteria. The superior location and excellent program are but two of the reasons that draw people to this very reasonably priced locale. The friendly staff of young adults that supervise the wide variety of daytime and evening activities ensures that all family members from youngest to oldest have an enjoyable week hiking, biking, swimming, surfing, etc. The wide selection of tasty food in the college dining commons and ultra-clean suite-style rooms in the dormitories round out the needs of family vacationers. My family signed up for our third year as soon as reservations opened. I obviously recomment this place. We definitely do not want to miss this vacation highlight!
Unique Quality: The Family Vacation Center is outstanding in every way! It has excellent accommodations and food, an absolutely fantastic location on the Pacific Ocean, more activities than you could ever want to do, programs tailored specifically for various age groups up to and including adults, etc. All this is available for a very reasonable price.
Directions: Just west of Santa Barbara, CA
California's Secret Family Beach Vacation
The UC Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center is the ideal place for the active family! I first came to the Family Camp in 1997 and have always had a great time. There really is something for everyone. From surf lessons to wine tasting, faculty lectures to casino nights!
The kids have a blast too. Last year the 3rd graders took a trip to the SB Zoo while the 7th graders headed downtown to check out the "Grossology" exhibit at the SB Museum of Natural History (followed by a trip to the Sea Center on the Wharf).
The service is excellent - the staff really go out of their way to make sure everyone is having a great time.
I would definitely recommend this to my family and friends!
Unique Quality: They have a great pool that is open for lap swim at all times, is lifeguarded daily for four hours. The meals are great - served buffet style with plenty of options for even those hard-to-please members of the family!
The beach is just a short walk away, down a nice path.
Accommodations are suite style, which the kids love! Each suite has a living room (with mini fridge) and large bathroom.
Directions: UCSB Campus
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Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:
- Santa Barbara Family Vacation Hotel Santa Barbara
Address: UCSB Alumni Association, Santa Barbara, California, 93106, United States
Amenities at Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
- Swimming Pool
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Fitness Center
- Free Parking
- Kids Activities
- Continental Breakfast
- Shuttle Service
- Bar / Lounge
- Free High Speed Internet
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