Planning a family vacation can be stressful. For the most part, it is a good kind of stress. The kind that gets you all jittery and ready to squeal with excitement every time you think about it. Nonetheless, it can be stressful to plan everything out. That is why I want to give you these tips to make it easier. These are questions I have been asked, and think it would be great to share this way so anyone can get help when they need it.
I cover a lot of ground here so be sure to read it all through. There are so many things that are easy to forget to do. I want you to have the best time possible and not have to stress or worry while you are on your trip!
Planning a family vacation
How do you decide where you are going?
The very first thing you will want to determine is your budget. How much money do you want to spend in TOTAL? Take into consideration lodging, food, gas/travel/flight, souvenirs, clothing, and unforeseen expenses. Then you will want to add some extra money in just in case because you will probably end up spending more than you budgeted.
With your budget in mind, that will help determine a lot of where you will go. If you don’t have a lot you may just want to do something close to home (like a staycation) or go camping.
If you haven’t gone on a family vacation before, or are newer at traveling with your family, you may want to pick something familiar. Like if you want to travel to places you went as a kid with your parents. Or places you and your spouse have gone together before/without the kids.
Pick places that you can share with your family that are meaningful and will make memories. Sit down and wrote out a list (yes, a notepad and a pen work great, lol) and from there it will grow.
Now you have a list of places in mind, jump onto Google Maps and start mapping out the actual driving part. You will see all sorts of places that you can also add to your list.
There will probably be several places you will want to go, but make sure the times/costs coincide with your schedule and budget. If you have a large family as we do, some things get expensive really fast when you are adding up 6 tickets to everything. You may decide to forgo those stops and focus on what would be more affordable.
How do you decide when to go?
We wanted to go when the kids wouldn’t miss too much school or any school at all. At the same time, we don’t want to go when everyone else will be there crowding the same places because of the peak season. Do some research and see when peak season is for the area you want to visit.
This is really something you will have to look at your schedules, and even determine if it is more affordable in the winter months as opposed to the summer months. Hotel rooms and gas prices change with the seasons and even days of the week.
Planning the itinerary for your vacation
This is the really fun part! Once you have decided when and where you are going and how much you have to spend, you can plan what you will do while you are there. Google Maps offers a lot of places when you zoom in to the map. You can also look up places like like Travel Advisor for more suggestions. We have a lot of trips, hotels, and other family activities we have shared as well. Check out our travel section: https://www.lovebugsandpostcards.com/category/travel
To make this a little easier I am sharing a printable travel planner that you can use to plan out your vacation. It breaks everything down and you can print extra sheets for each day you will be gone. It really helps to plan things out, but also remember to leave time for resting and relaxing. Packing too much back-to-back-to-back can be worse than not going at all.
Booking lodging, planning food, and activities
Once you get the tentative itinerary done, you will want to start getting the lodging booked. A google search will show you several different websites that can offer discounts as well as directly through the property. If you are staying in one place the whole time (like we did in San Francisco) you will want to make sure it is a good location for transportation, food, things you want to do, etc so you don’t spend a lot of extra time traveling just to get to where you want to be every day. Also, read reviews about safety and cleanliness
If you are doing it more of a road trip style, look for something close to food and gas, as well as read reviews about safety and cleanliness. It is also nice to be close to the road so you don’t have to drive into town for 30 mins before you can sleep.
Also be sure to plan for passports, currency exchange, a foreign cell phone, airport parking, car rental, vacation hold for mail, notifying your bank, and buying attraction tickets. Planning a family vacation thoroughly to start with will take a lot of stress off of you when you are there because you will be prepared and ready.
Get a notebook
Write everything down. It is nice to have a dedicated notebook for this that you can keep all your notes in so that you are not sorting through scrap papers or saved files on your computer. Keep a notebook (I like the 5″ x 8″ spiral-bound books) and write down prices of hotels, park tickets, sightseeing, directions, ideas, things you want to take with you, etc. Remember, when you are planning a family vacation, take time to just relax and spend time together. Playing at the beach, going for a walk downtown, or other unscripted things will make for some of the best memories.
Ask for discounts
We called the hotels we wanted to stay at and asked for any discounts. We usually got something. We also looked for specials, coupons, and other deals to help make it more affordable.
Make a list of everything you want to take
As you get ready for your vacation you are going to think of things that you won’t want to forget (like portable battery chargers, extra cell phone chargers, cameras, etc) and if you start making a list and just write down everything as you think of it you won’t have to worry. It will also help you realize what you need to get ahead of time so you are not stopping at Walmart on your way out of town to grab stuff.
Things will inevitably change or plans will have to be adjusted. Look for activities to swap days with. Push things back a little. Try and move things around. Don’t freak out and if something doesn’t work out, hopefully, you will get another chance on a different trip. Remember, when you are
Things will inevitably change or plans will have to be adjusted. Look for activities to swap days with. Push things back a little. Try and move things around. Don’t freak out and if something doesn’t work out, hopefully, you will get another chance on a different trip.
Pack in advance
Start packing up to a week in advance. This will help you sort out what you have and what you still need to get. Make sure all of your portable phone chargers are charged. Headphones are charged. Cameras, phones, and other equipment have chargers, cables, cards, batteries, etc. Make arrangements for your house and animals if necessary.
Take snacks and water
Without a doubt, someone is going to be either hungry or thirsty within 10 minutes of leaving. Be sure to pack a cooler with snacks and take water bottles that can be refilled throughout the trip. We love the stainless steel water bottles like this because the water stays cold for a long time! Plus they come in different sizes and colors.
Also be sure to take a lot of pictures, keep a journal of everything you did and saw and try and have the best time possible! If you think of anything I missed or have any questions about planning a family vacation, leave a comment and I will answer it. Hope you have an amazing vacation!