Can you believe most kids only have a few weeks left in school before summer break? By now, they are probably on auto-pilot and thinking about summer vacation. If you don’t already have a plan, it is time to gather the troops and think of a family vacation that will offer a memorable experience.
10 Things to Know Before Planning a Family Vacation:
1. Involve everyone. This is everyone’s vacation, so involve everyone in the planning. Get input and suggestions from each family member about where they want to go and things they want to do. Have the kids help do research on the internet, or assign each person a different activity to organize. Getting everyone engaged in the planning makes the trip special.
2. Set a budget. Don’t start planning too many things before you establish a budget for vacation. The sky is the limit and costs add up quickly. Prioritize expenses in order of importance. Decide what things are splurges and what things you can live with the more economical option. If you insist on staying in a Five-star hotel and want to spend your money there, maybe you drive instead of fly. If you have special excursions that top your list like amusement parks or renting jet-skis, maybe you save by going out to fewer dinners.
3. Be prepared. Make a list of essential family must-haves on vacation. Things like: strollers, travel documents, passports, travel insurance, allergy and pain medications, band-aids and first aid items, doctor and dentist emergency contact information. Write things down as you think of them to ensure you are prepared while away from home.
4. Plan a comfortable pace. Considerations for varied preferences like eating times, activity schedules, sleep needs, nightlife and interest in excursions versus chilling at the beach are important. Everyone will likely have to budge a little, but respecting everyone’s needs goes a long way in ensuring a good time for all.
5. Plan private time. Let’s face it, you will be spending A LOT of time together, especially if you drive. It is important to find ways to give everyone a little breathing room so plan on building that time in on your trip. Many resorts and cruises have terrific age-appropriate kids activities that will keep them busy, and give them a little time away from mom and dad. This is also a perfect option for parents to have some quite time to themselves.
6. Plan for Plan B. Even the best vacation plan can go awry. Travel delays, rained-out days at the beach, a car problem, mixed-up reservations can really throw a kink into your plans and add lost of stress. Having a Plan B that includes eyeballing indoor activities around your destination and packing some extra items in your carry-on luggage can be a lifesaver, or at least a stress saver. Throw in some back-up clothes, snacks and plenty of travel games for the trip.
7. When to travel. When booking flights or deciding when to take off for your trip, it is important to consider schedules particularly if you have young children who require naps. If flying, be sure to allow extra time if you have connections to accommodate the time needed to travel with children. If you are driving, consider traveling in the early morning or later in the evening to dodge heavy traffic and accommodate nap times.
8. Logistics. No one likes planning logistics, but not planning for them ahead of time will most certainly result in disaster. Consider locations and activities that are age appropriate to ensure there are things to accommodate everyone in the family. Then there’s airport security issues. If you require traveling with a child seat or stroller, plan for lots of extra time or ship those items ahead of time. Also, think about any special considerations you might need for food allergies or physical limitations on excursions. You can contact your airline, resort, hotel or tour operator prior to the trip to make sure accommodations can be made for your needs.
9. Lodging. Think realistically about your needs when it comes to lodging. Can you fit your family comfortably into a hotel room or should you consider a house rental that offers more space and feels more like a home?
10. There’s no such things as a “perfect” vacation. There are going to be lots of new experiences and certainly some unexpected ones. You are all in this together and it is important to leave pre-conceived expectations at home and concentrate on building good memories. You may encounter some family conflicts, tough travel conditions and some bad moods. Don’t dwell and make things worse. Roll with whatever comes at you.
Planning a family vacation is the tough part. Once you get reservations in stone, sit back, relax and enjoy!