A handmade sand castle is in focus with two young children in the background
Family vacation planning can be even more complex than planning other trips, but we can provide a stress-free approach.
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How to Plan a Family Vacation: A Stress Free Guide to Family Fun

A Trip the Whole Family Will Enjoy

When planning a family vacation, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of making sure everything goes smoothly. Even if you have imagined a picture-perfect getaway for yourself and your family, traveling with a group of people often brings unique struggles you may not have been prepared for.

While planning a trip in general requires balancing many things at once, family vacation planning can be even more complex. Something that’s supposed to be fun can easily turn sour if you try to pack in too much or you don’t leave room for contingencies — especially when kids are involved. Plus travel changes after you have kids, so what worked for trip planning when you were child-less might not anymore.

If you’re looking for tips on how to plan a family vacation, follow our stress-free guide to ensure everyone has the best time ever.

Put Together a List of Interests

While you may dream of lush Balinese rainforests and the tranquility of a beautiful private beach, your other family members may have different vacation goals in mind. Before choosing a destination, make a list of everyone’s interests to narrow down the type of destination everyone will enjoy.

If your kids hate the water, it might be prudent to stay away from beach-centric locales. You can always take a romantic island trip with your hubby at a later time, and leave the kids at home.

Think about the kinds of things you all enjoy doing locally and stretch those ideas to encompass other activities or destinations that may be similar. To help you narrow things down, take a look at some of the best family vacations from around the world.

Someone almost always has to compromise when planning a family vacation, but at least you’ll have enough information to make a fair decision.

Involve Your Kids in the Process

If you are traveling with kids, it’s always a good idea to involve them in the process. This is especially helpful when traveling with teenagers, who may have begun feeling less than enthused about your annual family vacations. That doesn’t mean letting them take the reins on everything, but it does mean making them feel included.

When children know what’s going on, especially if they helped make a decision about it, they’re more likely to get excited about a trip. Even if you are planning a Disney cruise, there are still decisions to be made that your kids can help you decide on.

When you plan a family vacation, talking with your kids about it beforehand will prepare them for what to expect and how they should act. Make sure they know how to behave in a museum and what to do in case you get separated during a trip.

This is especially important if there will be a completely new experience, such as taking a plane ride to your destination. Consider these tips for flying with kids and make sure you are all prepared for any issues that may arise.

Including the kids also allows you to show them what kinds of activities are available that they might like. If a particular tour or attraction requires booking tickets ahead of time, you can get that taken care of in advance and save them from the disappointment of a sold out show or activity that doesn’t fit into your budget.

Create a Realistic Budget

No matter where the destination, family vacations can get expensive if you don’t reel them in and figure out a realistic budget that won’t break the bank. Airfare and lodging are usually the most expensive pieces of a trip, so cut corners where you can.

No one needs to stay at a five-star hotel or fly first class if they’re on a limited budget. Think about what you all can live without and what you’re not willing to sacrifice and plan accordingly.

It’s a good idea to take into account the types of activities and sites everyone is interested in and eliminate anything you can easily do at home or might have done before. Choose things that are unique to your destination or that might be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

If your kids love souvenirs, but you don’t want to have a gazillion tschotskes cluttering the house when you get home, give them each an individual budget with their own spending money.

You can also still visit an attraction without an expensive guided bus tour or front-of-the-line tickets at a theme park. If you don’t have a budget that affords luxury, either choose a cheaper vacation destination that makes your money stretch further or narrow down the most important aspects of your trip to accommodate a little extra.

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Book Hassle-Free If Possible

If there’s a way to make your vacation go a little smoother while still staying under your budget, do it. For flights, book them during your children’s nap time so they can sleep on the plane.

You may also need to pay a little extra for airline seats with extra legroom to accommodate your tall significant other, but if they’re comfortable, they’re happy.

Hotels are an especially important aspect of booking hassle-free since sleep is a necessary part of having a successful family vacation. A comfortable bed can make all the difference between cranky travelers and well-rested ones.

Some hotels include the type of mattress they’re providing, so be sure to check your reservation or the hotel’s website. Also, if you’re traveling with a toddler or young child, check with your hotel to make sure they have cribs or roll away cots available.

Choosing a hotel with breakfast included is another great way to both stay under budget and reduce some of the stress of trying to find a place to eat that everyone will enjoy. Additionally, some hotels and resorts offer children’s activities, movies and games that can be loaned out to help keep them entertained.

A pool is also a useful amenity that can be used as a fallback if another activity isn’t available or the kids need some downtime after a day out.

Don’t Over-Plan

Anytime you plan a family vacation, you run the risk of over-planning and stressing yourself out. Building an itinerary down to the minute doesn’t bode well for anyone, especially your little ones.

Family vacations require flexibility to accommodate everyone’s level of stamina, health and basic needs. Leave room in your days for downtime, chilling out at the hotel and spontaneous events you may encounter along the way.

Remember that vacations are supposed to be fun, offering a way to escape the hassles of daily life for a while.

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