12 Tips for Planning Your Family Vacation
Are you getting ready to plan your family's summer vacation? Here are 10 tips to make vacation planning easier and get the whole family involved!
1. Choose Your Travel Dates
Planning your family vacation can be a great way to spend time with kids of all ages! Planning and talking about your upcoming trip will make it more special and will also give you great getaway trips to look forward to! Start by choosing your travel dates:
Take out the family calendar and pinpoint what dates are available for weekend trips and what dates are available for a longer family trip. Block out these travel dates on your calendar so you can begin planning your vacation.
Keep in mind that a family vacation doesn’t have to be just a week or two a year. You could plan to take 3 and 4 day weekend getaways many times throughout the year rather that just one long vacation. As kids get older it gets harder to plan a long family vacation since their school schedules, activities and sports take up so much time, so sometimes shorter getaways work better for families.
2. Daydream of all the Places You'll Go!
Brainstorm a list with the whole family gathered together. Include on this list things you'd like to see and do within 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 miles and further from home. With so many great vacation options available it's quite hard to choose where to spend your precious family vacation time. Should it be the beach, the mountains, an adventure trip, a visit to a big city, museums, national parks, all-inclusive island resorts with scuba and snorkeling, great amusement parks like Cedar Point or Disney? Or how about fishing, a dude ranch, camping, an island cruise, an adventure trip to Alaska, a volunteer vacation, sailing, whale watching, swimming with the dolphins? Other great choices for family vacations include hot air ballooning, aquariums, zoos, waterparks, train travel, factory tours, sports stadiums, or oh-wow places like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.
Make a top ten list of some of the vacation destinations that appeal to your family. There are great websites such as TouristEye and TripAdvisor that can also help you find ideas for trips, sightseeing packages and destinations for your family vacation.
Here are some Vacation Planning Conversation Starters:
What do we want to do on our vacation ?
Is there a must-see place we would like visit?
Do we want to be busy or relax?
Do we want to take one big getaway or many small ones?
Will we fly or drive?
Will we need a passport?
Do we want an all-inclusive vacation like a cruise or resort?
Do we want to explore a city or be at the beach?
Do we want to stay at hotels or camping?
What dates (look at the calendar and tentatively circle a few) will we travel?
And just to get to know each other better…if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to visit?
3. Create A Trip Planning Book
3. Once you've narrowed down your vacation destination start a Trip Planning Book for each of the destinations your family has selected for your vacations. A blank spiral notebook will do for this organizer. On the front cover write the name of your trip, such as Disney Trip. In this book you will write important elements of the trip. A lot of your research will be done on the computer so instead of writing these things in the trip book just print out the relevant web pages from the computer and staple them in your trip book. It should include some of the following information:
- Sights We Want to See
- Hotel Options
- Air Travel information
- Car Rental Options
- Travel Budget and Costs
- Restaurant and Meal ideas
- Websites to use for more information
- Maps - Use Google to find directions from hotels, airports, attractions, etc and print them out and put them in your family travel book.
- Reservations and confirmations
- Coupons and deals
- Travel Itinerary
- If you prefer technology over a spiral notebook try the websites TripIt or TripCase for all your travel planning documentation.
4. Destination Reviews and Hotel Reviews
Reading reviews other travelers have written is a great resource for helping to plan a successful vacation. This is a great website where you can read reviews, find destination ideas, book hotel rooms, and more. Need inspiration? Try their great new destination finder for help in planning your vacation! Real life opinions from other families who have visited your travel destinations are invaluable! When reading travel reviews keep in mind that everyone's experience is different and that you should read a handful reviews to get a good picture. For example one family might be upset that a hotel's pool is smaller than it looks in the pictures, while another family is happy that the hotel was in a good location and even had a pool for the kids to play in!
5. What about the Dog? Travelling with Your Pet?
Decide what you're going to do with the family pets. Two good choices are a doggy hotel or a pet sitter that will come to your house and take care of the pets while you are gone. Make arrangements early if they'll be staying at a doggy hotel. The doggy hotels like the one at PetSmart fill up quickly, especially during the holidays, so reserve your dates early.
If you're considering bringing your dog with you on the family vacation, think about it carefully. Is it really the best place for your dog, or would he be better off at home? He probably won't be happy having to stay in a hotel room all day if you're out sightseeing, and the beach just might be too hot or prohibit dogs.
Many chain hotels allow dogs to stay in your family's hotel room for an additional charge. If you're taking your dog along be sure to check all policies and restrictions before leaving home! If you made your hotel reservation online with a travel website such as Travelocity or Expedia and you saw online that the hotel says it is pet friendly be sure to call the hotel directly and discuss your reservation and your intention to bring your dog. Ask the hotel about any fees, size restrictions, etc. and ask them to put a note in your reservation that states you will have your pet with you. Confirm all costs with the hotel directly.
Air travel with pets is very restrictive. Refer to your airline's website for complete information and don't hesitate to call customer service with any questions you may have about air travel for pets. Take a look here at American Airlines pet travel information page on their website where you'll get to see an example of pet travel concerns, conditions and restrictions.
6. Travel Apps
Travel Apps are currently among the fastest growing segment of apps for Smart Phones. You'll find a wide range of apps available to make travelling easier; including apps for organizing your trip confirmations, finding the best local eatery, checking the weather, converting currency, navigating public transportation, locating museums, translating languages and so much more. With these innovative travel apps your Smart phone, Kindle, and Ipad become the world's best travel guide book..
Get the family involved, ask each family member to find two Travel Apps that will be helpful or fun to use on your family vacation. Be sure to record them in your trip book.
Here are a few you can add to your travel app list:
- Road Trip Bingo
7. Sign Up For Travel Deals
Save money and time, sign up for Travel Discounts and Deals:
- Set up a separate Google email address for your travel planning.
- Sign up for email notices on websites sites such as Airfarewatchdog where they’ll notify you when the airfares to your ideal travel destinations go on sale.
- Subscribe to one of the many coupon and social sites that offer Daily promotional discounts, such as Groupon, TravelZoo and Living Social. You may already be subscribed to these sites for the city you live in, but you should create a new account and subscribe for the city you are going to visit on your vacation - not your home city.
- Check to see if your destination city has a local city visitor discount card which will offer discounts on admissions to museums, attractions, transportation, sightseeing and more. Many cities offer these cardes for purchase online at a discount.
- Visit the Convention & Visitors Bureau websites for the cities you will be travelling to and register your new email address and home address to receive promotional travel information.
8. Consider a Cruise, it' the perfect family vacation - Family Fun & No Cell Phones!
If you want to get away for a week long family vacation and just the thought of all the planning, price comparison shopping, reservations and details is already making mom crazy, consider a Cruise Vacation on a family friendly cruise line like Carnival Cruise Lines. Booking a cruise is easy, one phone call does it all. Just pick your vacation days and call your local travel agent or contact the cruise line directly, give them your credit card info and you're on your way to a relaxing fun family vacation!
Cruising from a port close to home is even easier nowadays. Ships sail from ports in New York, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, Texas, South Carolina, Seattle, New Orleans, Virginia, Tampa, San Diego and more. Cruising is truly a fun family vacation that includes your hotel, meals, entertainment and fun! If you’ve never cruised before you'll find helpful information in Carnival Cruise Lines beginners guide with and videos, blogs, and games where you and the family can explore cruising as a vacation. On a cruise the fun activities abound: sports, ice-skating, zip lines, rock climbing, movies, ping pong, video games, water slides, stage shows, swimming, spa, massage, relaxing by the pool, scavenger hunts, theme parties, musicals, casinos, comedy, music, dancing, clubs, sightseeing, dining, exploring, island excursions, and more!
Visit various cruise line websites such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival to sign up to for their email newsletters. These newsletters will include notices of many cruise discounts and last-minute deals. During the summer many cruise lines offer kids sail free specials and other friends and family rates which you'll receive notice of in your newsletter.
9. Passport to Fun
Plan ahead - apply early for your passports. A Passport is valid for ten years, so get yours now!
Make it a fun family day by printing and filling out your passport applications at home and then taking everyone out to have their passport photos taken. After you have your photos take a trip to the post office or passport agency to process your applications and you're on your way!
Are you short on time and money for passports but you still want to take the family to the Bahamas or Caribbean? The answer is to take a cruise instead of flying and booking a hotel package. As long as your cruise begins and ends at the same U.S. port you won't need a passport, just a government-issued birth certificate and photo id. Save the money you would have spent on passports to fly to the Bahamas and have frozen drinks by the pool on your cruise ship!
10, Surf the Web
Here are great travel websites to help you with planning your family vacation:
- Trip Advisor
- U.S. National Parks - Experience America
Have you visited the Grand Canyon?
11. Earn Cash Back on Your Vacation
Earning cash back on your vacation isn't very hard at all! Here are several ways you can earn cash back and credit points, thus reducing the cost of your trip:
- Ebates - book your hotel, activities, cruise or air travel through Ebates, this is one of the easiest ways to earn cash back on your family vacation!
- Orbitz Rewards
- Your credit card rewards program
- Airline rewards programs
- Hotel loyalty member points programs
- Many cruise lines offer specials where the third passenger sails free or kids sail free, this results in a great up-front discount.
Cute Travel Tip
- Place your suitcase on the bed and add all the clothes, accessories and money you are planning to bring on your trip.
- Take a good look at the suitcase and everything you just packed in it.
- Now take out half the clothes and put in twice as much money and you're all set to go!
KIds can take Pictures with this Dragon Touch Tablet .
12. Pack a Bag of Fun
Pack a bag or suitcase with new fun little toys, trinkets, card games, a new tablet with games, a portable dvd player and snacks because there's bound to be a long wait somewhere on vacation such as at a restaurant, rides, or attractions and these new distractions can help make everyone a little happier!
KIds can take Pictures on this Tablet or iPad, it's a great way to keep them involved and a distraction when vacation includes Long Lines, Long Rides, and Long Waits for kids.