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“Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center entertaining for children”

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Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed November 27, 2009

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.

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with family
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Thank Ken50
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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155 - 161 of 174 reviews

Reviewed November 17, 2009

This was our second year at the FVC. We went with our extended family and our group had children in many of the different kid's groups. The location on the Pacific Ocean is beautiful. The kid's groups counselors are college students that really like their jobs. You can tell that they really enjoy the kids and are sincerely interested in the children. My middle school aged daughter enjoyed the age appororiate activities planned each day and loved the independence she had around the FVC campus. She loved learning to surf in her 4 person group lesson. The meals are served cafeteria style and have quite a lot of variety. Our favorite meals were the special catered meals on several of the days for the FVC vacationers. The evening activities for adults were also a lot of fun. We enjoyed the Karaoke night, Casino night, and trivia night. The open bar at most of these activities was also very nice. This is a very good vacation for families that want a vacation with their kids, but also like to have some time seperate from the kids. You can keep as busy as you want during the day with various activities such as swimming, bike riding, hiking, horseback riding or touring the town of Santa Barbara. We have already signed up for next year.

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with family
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Thank vacationbum97
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2009

The Family Vacation Center at the University of California Santa Barbara is the best possible place for families to go for a week of exciting activities, delicious food, and spaciously clean accommodations in a spectacular location with surprisingly reasonable rates! The staff immediately becomes best friends with all the attendees and does an uncanny job of remembering names. My group of about 20 people ranging in age from toddler to grandparent over 70 gathered here for a family reunion in 2008 and 2009. Already the extended family is talking about and excitedly anticipating returning in 2010. The only regret one has about a vacation here is that the week seems to fly by so fast because you are always having such a fantastic time!

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with family
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Thank Vacationguy66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 20, 2009

I don't know about your Family Vacations, but ours were never really "vacations" (for us parents) until we went to the UC Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center. Before FVC there was planning, and packing, and traveling to a hotel or campsite, unpacking, cooking all the while keeping our two sons occupied so they don't fight the whole time. Successes were measured in hours (sometimes minutes!) because we always had to be on our toes. That was before FVC.

Now that we have discovered FVC, our vacations are just that...vacations. No more cooking at the campsite and cleaning up with cold water after...no more eating out three times a day and being stressed out because our kids are not behaving well in the restaurant...no more finding things to do when the inevitable, "I'm bored" statement rears its ugly head...again.

The FVC has it all figured out. Activities all day long for the kids, social events for the adults, meals are all taken care of, rooms cleaned daily...it was a "vacation." There was just the right mix of activities with the kids and apart from the kids...they were always happy to see us, and always looking forward to their next adventure.

You will not be disappointed, go to the FVC once and you will be back again and again and again....

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with family
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Thank TreySebastopol_CA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2009

We have been to the Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center twice and loved it! It was the best week of our year. We highly recommend this vacation for families with parents who want to spend time some on their own and be free of household duties (no cooking, no cleaning, childcare included). This is the only place in California that has a "Small World" childcare center for babies (ages 1-2). The Kids' Groups for older kids are loads of fun. When I ran into my four year old daughter during her Kids' Group time she said, "Don't pick me up now!" The moment she woke up she would ask to see her counselors. The counselors are amazing! They love kids and are very hardworking, talented, and enthusiastic. My husband and I had a fabulous time, too. We got time to tour Santa Barbara by foot and by bike, swim and relax at the gorgeous rec center pool, and play in the tennis olympics. The meals are served in the dining commons and were fantastic (plus you don't have to cook or clean-up). We love this place so much that we are going back twice this summer!

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with family
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Thank llll_33
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 25, 2009

Our family has vacationed at the Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center ("FVC") each summer for seven of the past nine years. (The FVC was closed for renovations during the only two summers that we missed.) I do not think that it is possible to devise a family vacation that is so relaxing and enjoyable for both adults and kids of all ages. Our kids were 5 and 3 the year that we first discovered the FVC, and they fully intend to vacation at the FVC every year through high school (and then -- if selected -- serve as counselors during college). Without a doubt, our family’s annual week at the FVC is our kids’ absolute favorite week of the year.

The many high points of the FVC include:

* Some activities (e.g., welcome show; family carnival; talent show; water show; campfire; derby car races; farewell show) are done together as a family, while other activities are designed solely for adults (e.g., dinner and casino night at the U.C.-Santa Barbara Faculty Center; "night on the town" in downtown Santa Barbara; pub trivia night; karaoke night; wine tastings; golf tournament) or solely for kids (the kids spend most of each day in groups with other kids their same age, and college-age or post-college-age counselors supervise these groups and engage the kids in all sorts of sports, arts and other activities). Thus, unlike the case with vacations where you are required to arrange everything on your own and splitting up is not always feasible, you never have to worry about any family member grudgingly compromising on an activity that another family member drags him/her along to do. Moreover, the kids’ group activities are geared appropriately for each age group (from pre-kindergarten through high school) and are changed around each year (so you never have to worry that your kids will be repeating the exact same activities that they did the previous year).

* You can choose to be as active or inactive as you would like. If you want to bike, hike, kayak, surf, mountain climb, and play tennis each day, all of these activities are available (for no extra charge or a very nominal charge). On the other hand, if you would prefer to sit by the pool and read a book all day, or work on solitary projects in the crafts room, that is perfectly O.K. too, and nobody will pressure you to do anything more or different.

* You meet a high caliber of interesting, eclectic people (many of whom are professionals) who come together to form a true community for the week. I greatly look forward to the stimulating meal-time conversations. Our family has formed close, lasting friendships with other families whom we see at the FVC each summer. Even though we do not live in the same city, we often get together with fellow FVC families during other seasons of the year. On the other hand, the FVC is not at all cliquish. Returning families consciously seek out and reach out to first-time families, who are welcomed and included with ease in all of the various activities that the FVC has to offer.

* Virtually everything is included in the vacation fee, including an unlimited quantity of fresh, good-tasting cafeteria-style food that is served in the college students' dining commons (minus the college students). It is such a relief not to have to search for restaurants, cook meals, or do dishes while on vacation. The "make-your-own-waffles" during breakfast are an especially big hit with our kids.

* The FVC is located in a fairly self-contained part of a relatively upscale college campus. Thus, and especially if you live in a major metropolitan area, you will marvel at the amount of freedom and independence that you can give your kids at the FVC. They are able to walk to meals and other activities and to bike around campus on their own (in fact, our daughter first learned how to ride a bike at the FVC), and you do not have to worry every second about where your kids are and what they may be doing.

* The counselors and other staff at the FVC are the mature, responsible and well-rounded role models that you hope your kids will emulate. Our kids keep in touch with these staffers on Facebook and other social media sites, and our kids race to find out which ones are returning each summer. The enthusiastic attitude and high energy level of these staffers is amazing; they go out of their way to make sure that every member of your family is having a fabulous time.

In short, I cannot recommend a vacation place more highly than the FVC. The middle weeks of the summer book well in advance, so you should rush to reserve your next vacation at the FVC as soon as possible.

  • Stayed: July 2008, traveled with family
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1  Thank MindyJeff92
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 25, 2009

UCSB's Family Vacation Center is a great choice for family vacations. Essentially what we've called a "poor man's" Club Med, but with even better location and kids' programs plus a wide range of adult activities. The accommodations are private dorm suites on UCSB campus so no frills but very clean and plenty of space for families and gear. Each family gets their own private suite with 2-4 bedrooms, living room, and bathroom.

Great setup for a vacation with young children. Childcare is superior and always available with additional babysitting arranged by the front desk. For older kids, their middle school and teen programs are great. Your kids are kept happy and busy with their own weeklong camp. You connect with them for meals and any other time that you want. But in between, adults are free to choose from a wide variety of their own 'camp' activities including horseback riding, wine tasting, tennis, golf, kayaking, cycling, trips to Santa Barbara downtown, and more.

Food is all included and convenient in the neighboring commons. Good selection of healthy and not-so-healthy options for everyone in the family. And some meals are catered separately at events just for the FVC group.

Access to the UCSB campus recreation center and magnificent pool complex is included. Enthusiastic types will find themselves doing an activity during every open slot while others will enjoy sitting out by the pool or beach.

A good deal to get camp for the kids plus a vacation for adults plus family time all in one. And the beautiful Santa Barbara area available for extra excursions. Definitely a vacation you should try for yourself!

  • Stayed: May 2009, traveled with family
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1  Thank Calif-Family4
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 93106-0001
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 17 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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