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“Best Family Vacation Ever” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center

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Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
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San Rafael Residence Hall, Ucsb, Santa Barbara, CA 93106   |  
Hotel amenities
Los Alamitos, California
1 review
“Best Family Vacation Ever”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2012

We've been going to the UCSB Family Vacation Center for five years now and love it! Imagine a land-locked cruise ship with all the activities to enjoy and the freedom to do nothing at all, if you choose. The staff is excellent and the counselors are terrific with the children. This last summer we brought our 8, 10, and 15 year old kids and each one of them had a blast - even the teenager! The FVC has many adult-themed evening activities as well, and the counselors do double-duty as baby sitters, so we could enjoy our evenings out.

The UCSB campus has much to offer in the way of activities and most, if not all, are available to the vacationers at FVC. I brought my bicycle up for the first time this past Summer and went on several rides around Goleta and Santa Barbara. There are bike paths around the "dorms" as well, so kids have a safe place to ride.

So many great things to do and all this with the security of knowing your children are having a ball with well-trained, fun-loving counselors. You really have got to try the FVC!

Room Tip: We've only stayed in "the tower" which is San Rafael. In that building, the higher you...
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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123 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (21)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
USA
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2012

We were looking for a family vacation that was within California and just by googling "family vacation California" we found the FVC in Santa Barbara. All the reviews we read were excellent so with some trepidation we decided to give it a go. I say with some trepidation because we had never been to a week long all inclusive vacation before and weren't sure if this would cater to our needs, or if we would like it. We were pleasantly surprised, our 7 year old loved it, there were lots of activities to do. If you are looking for a high end vacation, this is probably not the place for you. The rooms are dorm style, beds are a bit hard, the food is in the cafeteria but is not usual student fare. Despite this, it is the time away from home and the fact that it is all inclusive that is appealing. You can do anything from the great list of activities or do nothing at all. There is no deciding what to cook, where to eat, having to cleaning up etc. The staff is friendly and our son is already planning what he'll do when we go back next year!!! Many people we met have been going for years. It is that good. Just depends on what you are looking for. We enjoyed it.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2012 via mobile

We have been coming to the Family Vacation Center for 4 summers. What a wonderful week it is. The staff is truly amazing. Not only are they totally engaging with all children, but they are extremely talented and we are lucky enough to see them perform in a variety of shows throughout the week. My kids are ages 8 and 10 and they have the time of their lives. There is something to do for everyone and if you are like me then it is the perfect mix of being with your kids and getting a nice break from them as well. Campfire, athletics, hiking, bingo night, are just a few things that keep people coming year after year. I highly recommend this vacation. You will not be disappointed!!

  • Stayed July 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Torrance, California
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2012

The FVC is the perfect vacation destination for families with kids and especially ones who like to be active. This past summer my husband and I played tennis, kayaked and rode bikes while our 9 year old son tried out surfing for the first time. Our 2 kids (3 & 9) loved the fun kid group activities and especially the super staff! We loved having family time and couple time (great, fun later evening activities for adults only while the kids are babysat)! We've gone 2 summers in a row and are going back again next summer!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Granite Bay, California, United States
Senior Contributor
32 reviews 32 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2012

People who go to the beach and complain about sand and ocean breezes - well - what can I say?

Let's be clear what FVC is. 40-60 Families per week staying in dorm rooms on the UCSB campus with a full (and optional) schedule of activities segmented by age. Food is upgraded served in the cafeteria.

This is summer camp for goodness sake! Those expecting Ritz Carlton accommodations need not apply. Most summer camps are "camps" - people in cabins or tents complete with bugs and outdoor showers. No gyms, no nearby town to go to, hot water, and really good food.

We're on on our sixth year in a row and have met wonderful people who also go every year.

Calibrate you expectations and you'll be a convert!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
los angeles
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 29, 2012

I read the great reviews on trip advisor and was excited to go. However, we had a bad experience. One of the main selling points is that your kids will have activities to do that they will enjoy so that you will have free time. However, when we got there we found out there were no kids in my child's age group (high school). So they just put him in with the younger group (middle school). I complained to the director that this was not a good alternative but she did not do anything to remedy the situation.

The other major negative is that the rooms are dark and dirty. The carpet in the dorm rooms is filthy looking. In addition, the room was infested with ants. The beds were very uncomfortable as they were hard as a rock. We ending up going to Costco to get mattress toppers. In addition, my wife and I had an itching feeling after sleeping on the beds. I suspect that there were bed bugs.

The campus of UCSB is in a beautiful location and the cafeteria food was excellent.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sheri_Rae, Manager at Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center, responded to this review, September 5, 2012
Dear Vacationer,

Thank you for taking the time to review your recent stay with us at the Family Vacation Center on Trip Advisor. I am disappointed to learn of your experience since, as you mentioned we pride ourselves on the variety and quality of activities provided for the whole family.

I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the location on the campus of UC Santa Barbara and that the dining options and quality were excellent. We strive to provide our guests with a variety of food options to accommodate all palates and will pass on these positive reviews to our dining team.

I would like to apologize that your high school-aged son did not enjoy the activities and field trips that were scheduled for his group. I realize this age is difficult for many teens and that being surrounded by their peers can help ease this challenge. In the future, we will be updating our social media pages and website to inform families of the different age ranges who are signed up for each week of camp. In addition, highschoolers are always able to participate in the daytime adult recreational activities such as bike rides, yoga, surfing, cultural tours, and other classes. I hope with this information, your family and other guests will not face this situation again in the future.

While the accommodations at the Family Vacation Center are family-style dorm rooms with basic beds and mattresses, our housekeeping teams strives to keep these suites up-kept and clean at all times. Our goal is to address any issues right away to meet guest expectation and satisfaction. While I thank you for bringing this concern to my attention, I can assure you that our housekeeping team cleans and monitors each guest suite daily and that bed bugs were not present at any time during this summer.

You may be interested to learn that the Family Vacation Center does offer a “Bed Upgrade” which provides a larger king-size bed as well as a bed topper for additional comfort.

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for your disappointing stay. We hope your school year is off to a great start and that the Family Vacation Center may be in your future next summer.

~Sheri Fruhwirth, Director, Family Vacation Center
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, CA
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 29, 2012

This is the best vacation I've had since becoming a parent! Really, it's true!!!

I just returned from a week at UCSB's Family Vacation, located on campus in Goleta, just 10 minutes North of downtown Santa Barbara. The campus is just gorgeous with well-groomed bike and walkways, and the beach, of course! The weather was perfect (low to high 70s). We stayed in the cluster portion of the San Rafael dorms. The clusters are 3-story buildings, whereas the tower (the main hub with a lobby, TV lounge, ping pong room) has seven floors. The rooms were clean with twin beds (which easily came together with a couple of bungee cords to become a king) and bathrooms with large showers (and a sitting area) and two sinks. I loved the storage space of the bedrooms (2 large closets with a chest of drawers as well). There was also a nice sitting room with a sofa, loveseat and 2 chairs, and a refrigerator, and outside balcony.

Here is why UCSB's FVC earns 5 stars and then some (in no particular order):

1) Staff/Camp counselors

We were greeted by the exuberant FVC staff upon our arrival. About 20 staff members yelled and cheered as they guided us into the parking lot, and then loaded huge blue bins on wheels with our luggage and walked up THREE flights of stairs to our room to unload it all while we checked in.

The staff is genuinely friendly and helpful. I appreciated their energy and enthusiasm for ensuring our vacation was just perfect. I heard staffers say over and over, "We are here for you. You are on vacation"! The staff are mostly 20 somethings who are recent or current college students, mostly from UCSB. I found them to be exceptional - approachable, professional, fun, smart and talented. They are truly the creme de la creme. If I recall correctly, approximately 50 positions are filled from over 150 applications yearly. The staff could all dance and sing, and were obviously comfortable with and/or love children.

2) Location

Just a few hours away from LA and on the beach, people! The weather was mild and just warm enough.

Great dorm location - with a nice grassy lawn right out front, a short walk to the pool and dining area, lots of parking, and a few blocks to Isla Vista with fantastic coffee at Caje, delicious nachos at Freebirds and pizza from Woodstock. Late night fun at Dublin's and Sam's, too!

3) Food

We had most of our meals at the Carrillo Dining Commons. This is not your standard cafeteria. The meal options were amazing (organic fruits, desserts, various stations of hot entrees, salad bar, deli/cheeses; sodas, water, 4 different milks) and the menu changed daily. It was much more like a Las Vegas buffet, or going to a healthy food court. For you Moms and Dads out there...no prep, no clean up , and tons of choices = HEAVEN!

4) Staff

Oh, did I mention this already? The staff is amazing!!!

5) Activities

No one could ever be bored here. Hosted activities included Family Carnival (3 legged races, pie-eating contest, water balloon contest, temporary tattoos, delicious catered lunch), Margarita Pool night (free flowing margaritas and cocktails, hula hoop and limbo contests, hermit crab races), Casino Night (fancy hosted dinner at the Faculty Club, gambling with play money and dancing), Campfire sing-along and s'mores, Karaoke night (free flowing cocktails and night out with the staff in IV afterwards), and the Farewell show (the wonderful staff strutting their stuff and a video montage of pictures from the week). Other daytime activities included tennis, yoga, golf, wine country tours, softball game with staff vs. the vacationers, and much, much more!

6) Babysitting/Camp Counselors

We hired a babysitter so we could participate in the adult evening activities. The babysitters were staff members who also worked in the camp so our daughter felt really comfortable with them, and by the end of the the vacation, was begging for and yelling out their names at the Farewell Show. The babysitters were flexibile, and for the most part, came to our suite. However, I know other families who hired babysitters during the day, to take the kids swimming, or on an outing while the parents had some alone or "me" time.

Our daughter never cried, and was always happy and excited to see her "teachers". I am amazed about the bonds she forged with the staff. This is a testament to how wonderful these counselors truly are...their dedication to the kids and families was clearly evident.

7) Staff

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the UCSB FVC staff. Can I say this enough?!

For those of you who read this review, and think, "This sounds just like a cruise on land...." well, in a way, it is, all inclusive, entertainment, food, etc...but there is one element that a cruise simply does not have and that is the UCSB staff...the people. We really got to connect with the staff because they went out of their way to say hello, to help, and to really be present for our family and the other guests.
Cheers to UCSB FVC...we'll see you next year!

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center

Address: San Rafael Residence Hall, Ucsb, Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Location: United States > California > Santa Barbara
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 16 Specialty Lodging in Santa Barbara
Number of rooms: 68
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Summer Camp for the whole family! The Family Vacation Center offers week-long Family Camp experiences on the beachside campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. This all-inclusive experience includes daily child care (kids camp), family activities like Smores on the Beach, Pool Parties and Family Carnivals as well as nightly adult only activities that include a hosted bar.This hassle free family vacation is perfect for the family who loves spending time together, and also enjoys the option of kids camp and "parents night out" time! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Santa Barbara Family Vacation Hotel Santa Barbara

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