When they go well, there’s nothing quite like a family vacation. Taking deliberate time away to spend time together, put the screens down, and take in the sights and sounds of somewhere new can be a refreshing way to press “reset.” Yet, unless they’re properly planned, these trips can quickly turn from blissful to stressful in one second flat. Groups can quickly be divided on where to eat, where to visit and even what time to get started in the morning. This is especially the case in families with myriad age groups, who each share different interests.
Yet, for all their hurdles, family vacations don’t have to be challenging. With a little forethought and preplanning, you can ensure yours is as relaxing and memorable as you hope. Here are five tips to help you get started and plan the experience you all deserve.
1. Choose an ideal location.
One of the key ways to make sure everyone is on the same page for the family vacation is to pick the right destination. While this might sound like a task that’s easier said than done, by holding a few family meetings or arranging some long-distance communication, you can easily discern where each person would like to go. Though it might be impossible to please everyone and you could go grey trying, you can at least determine if there is an overall trend.
For instance, you might hear that a majority of relatives want to go somewhere along the beach, where small children can play in the sand during the day and the older adults can go out and enjoy nightlife. Or, your family members might be more interested in an outdoor-centric excursion, such as one spent at an RV resort or campground. Even if you have a few outliers who aren’t thrilled with the final decision, seek to choose a spot that has a little something for everyone to enjoy.
2. Set your budget early.
Too often, unexpected expenses can creep up on you and make planning a family vacation a total nightmare. Take the guesswork and the surprise out of the process by setting a budget as early as possible. If you’re footing the bill yourself, make sure you understand the full extent of what you’ll be paying for, from lodging and airfare to meals and excursions. Or, if you’re divvying up the expenses between family members, make sure everyone is on the same page before the first purchase is made.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, consider choosing a destination that you can drive to, rather than fly. Or, choose to bring food along that you can prepare on-site, rather than eat every meal in a restaurant. Once you have your budget set, stick to it.
3. Plan and book ahead.
Just as it’s important to set your budget early, it’s equally vital to book your accommodations in a timely manner. The general rule of thumb is to book your accound three to four months before your trip, and your flight about three months beforehand. You don’t want to plan an entire family vacation only to find out that the place you want to stay is totally booked up for the remainder of the year, or that there are no flights headed there from your departing destination.
Do your research and plan your bookings so you can make sure to get the best travel deal possible. Many airlines also allow you to set up online alerts that will ping your smart device whenever a fare to your targeted location goes on sale.
4. Keep the itinerary simple.
Sure, you want to fit as much fun as possible into your family vacation. It is a chance to get away and explore and you naturally want to do, seeste and experience all that you can. Yet, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed, tired and cranky as soon as the itinerary starts to pile up. To keep everyone sane, consider planning a low-key trip, or at least sprinkle a few low-key days here and there to help diffuse the ones that are crammed with activities.
The younger and older crowds will especially appreciate the laidback change of pace and you’ll save money and gas by not jeterywhere possible. Stick to around one or two primary activities daily and even factor in rest or napping times if you need to.
5. Be as prepared as possible.
Especially if you’re traveling with younger children, it helps to know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going during your trip. This way, you can stay up-to-date on any changes to your plan and can help communicate the events to others. For instance, if you know you’re going to visit a famous museum in three days, you can go ahead and drop a pin on that location via your phone’s map app, and once you’re ready to make the journey, you’ll know precisely where you’re going and won’t have to fumble around for directions or get lost along the way.
If you plan ahead, you can also save big on travel deals and promotions, especially if you know the spots you want to visit. This is also a great way to plan out your meals and share menus with everyone, so there’s no chance of arriving at a restaurant and someone being unpleasantly surprised with your selection.
At the end of the day, family vacations should be centered on one thing: quality time spent with the ones you love the most. While it’s important to get a few major steps out of the way as soon as you can and to think and plan ahead, remember the reason you booked the trip in the first place. Talk to your family members to learn their ideas and strive to create an environment of shared adventure and mutual enjoyment. Then, be sure to pencil in some time to relax and unwind while you’re there. You deserve it.