20 Tips for Planning a Family Vacation

Family vacation to Banff National Park

You know the vacation itself is going to be fantastic. You just need to get it planned first! Don’t worry, there’s no shame in admitting that planning a family vacation can be a real chore. Figuring out all the details, researching proper accommodations for a family, and making it all fit into a nice, neat itinerary is no cake walk. We’ve learned a few things about traveling as a family that we hope will make your planning just a bit easier and we want to share them with you.

Here are our 20 hard-earned recommendations and tips for planning a family vacation.

  1. Give yourself more time than you think, then double it. Seriously, it always takes more time to get everyone ready to go.
  2. Pick a family-appropriate destination that everyone has bought into. You can show the kids pictures of the things you can do there, so they can get excited about it.
  3. Don’t over plan activities, especially with little ones, but also with teens. Their enthusiasm for museums runs out fast. Plan in stops at the park, downtime at a café, or a few hours at the beach or pool.
  4. It’s very important to book appropriate accommodations. Staying a small, cheap, crappy hotel will only lead to everyone being cranky and frustrated. Make sure there is enough bed space for everyone (double check with the hotel about cribs and cots before leaving home).
  5. Make sure you take enough entertainment for long plane rides to keep the kids occupied. That can be in the form of movies on a tablet, downloaded games on a tablet, iphone games, books, toys, whatever it takes to keep them happy.
  6. Allow the kids to be part of the planning. If you give them some control over what you’ll be doing and seeing, they’ll be more engaged and happy to participate. Let it be their vacation, as well.
  7. If going on a long car ride, or road trip, make sure you have enough snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy, without having to stop frequently. You can carry a cooler with sandwiches and drinks to be sure no one is hungry.
  8. Even if you have a budget in mind, you will always end up spending more than you think, so be sure to pad your budget for incidentals and extras. This way you don’t end up in a situation where you haven’t saved enough.
  9. If you’re on a tight budget, pick one splurge activity for the family to do together that you know you will all get the maximum amount of pleasure from.
  10. Make reservations for everything you really want to do, to avoid disappointment. This applies to camping spots, lunch/dinner, events, activities, hotels, transportation.
  11. You don’t have to take everything with you. If you need a car seat for your rental car, rent from a company that provides car seats. If you need a Pack n Play for your kids, many hotels have them these days. It’s difficult to trek all of that gear around. If you can lighten your load by renting this type of equipment, you can save space and frustration.
  12. Make sure to download plenty of movies on your tablet before you go and always pack a spare charger cable for the plane.
  13. Make sure you check in for your flight as soon as possible after check in opens. This will allow you to reserve the best available seats and make sure everyone can sit together.
  14. Check your health insurance to be sure you’re covered while on vacation. If not, make sure you get proper coverage for everyone. Prepare in advance for an accident or injury by knowing the specifics of your insurance plan.
  15. When something goes wrong, stay calm and try to encourage everyone to see it as an extra adventure or challenge. Losing your cool about something will only make it worse for everyone.
  16. Make copies of your reservations and travel plans so they’re available at your fingertips when needed. We do this using Kayak and it’s Trip feature, where you can store all of your plans, even those not made through Kayak.
  17. Use a packing list for packing so you don’t forget anything important. Put the most important things you need to pack, like medication or special fluffies, at the top of the list so there’s no chance they’ll be forgotten.
  18. Don’t book flights with a tight connection. If there’s any chance you could miss it, don’t book it.
  19. Pack as light as possible so you’re not weighed down with luggage. It’s hard enough navigating through new streets, and making sure the kids and everyone finds their way, why add struggling with heavy luggage to the burden?
  20. Don’t book flights that take off too early or too late. There’s no worse way to start a trip than with everyone being tired and aggravated by the early or late hour.

These are just a few of the tips for planning a family vacation that we’ve learned over the years while traveling. There are so many other tips we’ve got for you. Check back often for more!

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20 Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Vacation
20 Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Vacation

One thought on “20 Tips for Planning a Family Vacation

  1. Tim Yaotome says:

    Thanks for the tip to choose a hotel that has cribs and cots for the little ones and provide enough accommodations to avoid making anyone cranky and/or frustrated. Speaking of hotels, I believe that one can also choose to stay at a lodge. For example, if one is planning a trip to enjoy the great outdoor mountains and forests, finding one can help everyone relax and bask in the mountain air.

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