how to plan a vacation

11 Tips About How to Plan a Vacation Your Family Will Love

When the kids get out of school, it often means it’s time to get out there and travel. Your family spent nearly an entire year inside working hard on grades, they’ve earned a right to spend a little time away from home!

But traveling with a family can be a hectic experience. It’s hard to coordinate everything, it’s expensive, and it can be difficult finding something everyone likes to do. (This is especially true if you have teenagers, right?)

But figuring out how to plan a vacation for a family doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you shouldn’t feel like you need a vacation from your vacation when it’s all over.

Read on to learn our favorite tips for planning a vacation with a family.

1. Get the Kids Involved

On an average day, kids feel like they have little to no control over the things that they do. Tack on a new experience like a vacation to a place they haven’t been before, and this feeling just compounds.

There’s so much new here! They want to do everything all at once! If you constantly feel like you have to say “no” to every one of their ideas, you’re very likely going to experience a meltdown of some kind.

Before you guys leave the hotel, sit down and talk about what’s going on in the area. Give the kids a few ideas of the possible things they can do there. Let them pick out a few for themselves, and really commit yourself to do them.

This is going to ensure that your kids feel involved in their own vacation and can help to eliminate tantrums.

With teenagers, talk to them before you pick where you’re going to go. Ask them about the sorts of things they would like to do on vacation. Maybe sleeping in until 10 am isn’t your idea of a good time, but when you compromise with your older kids about things like this, you’re much more likely to have a teenager who is willing to cooperate without an eye roll later on in the day.

2. Drive and Plan It Out

Flying with a family of four is insanely expensive just for the flight itself. When you tack on baggage fee and the cost of eating or drinking on the plane, and you’ve got a serious expense on your hands.

There are obviously costs associated with driving, but they’re minimal when compared with the cost of a flight. So if you’re trying to save money, the first thing you should do is drive instead of fly.

There are a few things you should do in order to make sure that the drive runs smoothly, though. You should make sure that you pack snacks (but we’ll talk more about that later) and plan out your route as best as you can. If you’ll be stopping for an overnight stay, decide where ahead of time.

Let each child pack a bag full of things to do, batteries for games, and chargers for tablets or DVD players. Encourage your older kids to pack books and school work to keep their minds from getting too bored on the trip.

While riding in the car with young kids for long periods of time might sound like the furthest thing from a vacation possible, there are ways to make it a memorable, fun experience.

3. Budget

You should give yourself a certain budget for your vacation. Think about the things that are more important to you. Would you rather have a fancy hotel or a fancy dinner? These are the things you need to think about in order to budget your money properly.

Set a certain amount per day, per person for food. Stick to that. Keep track of what you’ve spent by keeping the receipt and doing a nightly tally.

4. Pack Food

This one sort of goes hand in hand with budgeting, but we made it a separate post because this can actually turn out to be a pretty special part of your trip. Think back to vacations when you were a kid. Do you remember every restaurant you ever ate at?

Probably not. Truth be told, those places all start to blend together after a while. But what won’t blend together is the picnic lunch you pack to eat at the tables outside of a rest stop.

Pack a cooler full of everyone’s favorite sandwiches and drinks and eat that instead. You’ll save yourself a ton of money on restaurants and you’ll be creating memories.

It’s also a good idea to pack snacks with you when you’re going out and about. Gas station snacks are expensive and hungry kids get cranky pretty quickly. Keep a handful of non-perishables in your car and hand them out when the munchies make their way around the car.

5. Think Like a Local

Tourist traps are exactly that: traps. They’re money grabs that aren’t going to provide you with a ton of memories the way you think they are.

Instead of shooting for the things that scream “tourist” look around for what the locals are doing. They live there, they know the best spots to go.

This is especially true for food. If the locals are there by the boatload, you know it’s going to be a good meal.

6. Prepare for Restlessness

Your kids are going to get bored. That’s okay, it’s in their nature. They’re just not as interested in things as you are.

Pack busy bags for your kids. Fill them up with little toys and coloring books. Pack books for the readers in your family and if you have a tablet, fill it up with games and TV shows for them to watch when you need a minute of your own.

Also, if you can find a hotel that’s kid-friendly, you’ve struck gold. Some hotels come equipped with arcades and game rooms to keep kids busy. And hotel pools are probably more fun for your kids than they are for you, so if you’re worried about a little one, find a place that has a pool for smaller kids.

You can learn more about finding the right hotel here.

7. Plan for the Weather

Mother nature is unpredictable. You never know when the sky is going to open up and pour on your parade.

Prepare for all possible weather scenarios. Pack sunscreen and ponchos. The last thing you want is a bad sunburn for yourself or your kiddos, that’s a sure bet to ruin the rest of your vacation.

It’s also a good idea to plan for some things to do inside if the weather gets too bad to brave.

8. Plan for Downtime

There is no better way to ensure that everyone is going to be miserable than to plan something to do every minute of every day. Overstimulation is a real thing and it’s going to exhaust both you and your children, and that’s a surefire way for you to butt heads.

Your kids have a lot to try to adapt to, so include some downtime in the beginning and end of your trip especially.

Vacations are supposed to make you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on everyday life again. Don’t run yourself ragged so you have to take a vacation from your vacation.

9. Pack Light

You’re probably thinking “yeah, right!” right about now. But seriously, going easy on the luggage is going to save you a lot of headaches.

Limit the number of outfits you bring per child and make it so that they can be mixed and matched. Your hotel probably has a laundry option, so use it as often as possible.

You’re going to save yourself money and time if you pack conservatively, so think about the things you can leave at home.

10. Be Grateful

As relaxing as vacations are supposed to be, you probably feel a lot of stress every time you have to corral your kids out of the hotel to do something big as a family. But you have to remember you’re on vacation. It’s supposed to be fun.

Be grateful that you can do this for yourself and your kids. Say thank you to the people at the hotel and the servers at the restaurants. Make sure you keep a few singles in your wallet so you can tip the service workers who help you handle your bags and park your car.

You want to be remembered as a kind visitor, not an ingrateful tourist.

11. Splurge

It’s good for your sanity to spend a little extra money when you can afford it. Move some things around in your budget to jump for that nicer dinner, if you think it’s going to really seal the deal on an already great day.

You shouldn’t buy every souvenir you see, those usually wind up in the bottom of a drawer or thrown in the donation box after a while, but if there’s something really special that you or your kids want to go for, do it.

How to Plan a Vacation for the Family

We hope that now you have a better idea of how to plan a vacation your family will love. It doesn’t have to be a stressful thing. Just make sure you prepare, at least mentally, for what could happen. Be good to the people around you and, most importantly, have a good time.

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