Tips For Planning Your Next Family Vacation

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Family vacations are always a welcome break from the normal routine. After spending most of the past two years at home, families are particularly ready to get away. Any change of scenery is sure to do everyone good, even if you’re still hanging out with the same people.

Family vacations always take a fair amount of planning. You can’t just jump on a plane for a spur-of-the-moment beach weekend like you could when you were single. And if it’s been a while since your family took a trip, preparing can seem especially overwhelming.

The key to enjoying a family getaway is having a good strategy. If it’s time for your family to take a vacation, you may need some help getting back in the groove. Here are some steps you can take to prepare for your next fabulous family escape.

Consider the Possibilities

Family vacations should be a time to relax, broaden your horizons, and experience new things. So why not push the envelope from the get-go and consider all the possible destinations your family might enjoy? Time and budget will obviously take some of the options out of contention, but everyone is allowed to dream.

Before making a decision, it could be helpful to categorize types of getaways. For example, are you interested in educational and cultural encounters, theme park thrills, or active outdoor experiences? Once you narrow the general field, you can get into more specifics.

If you choose theme parks, you may either buy a package or plan your lodging and visits a la carte. Opting for a more educational experience? Pick a city with enough historical and cultural attractions to fill your time. If you’re headed for a beach or national park, consider what watersports are available and the terrain you’ll be hiking.

Whatever you do needs to be suitable for everyone in the family, but try working in some new experiences, too. If you usually canoe or kayak, try stand-up paddle boards instead. If you always go to museums, change it up with tickets to a live performance or a professional baseball game.

Allow every member of the family to weigh in with their ideas and make a list of them. By highlighting common places and activities, you may start to see pieces of a plan fall into place. Once you reach some consensus on the type of vacation everyone prefers, the real preparation can begin.

Prepare a Budget

Unless you have infinite financial resources, creating a budget will be a critical part of your preparation. The bigger the family, the bigger the budget, and the better bang for your buck you’ll need to get.

With an average per-person cost of $1,558 for a one-week vacation in the U.S., it can get costly. Of course, camping for a week and hauling your own gear and paddle boards will save some green. You also might score a super deal on an off-season theme park package that includes lodging, meals, and entrance fees.

You need to avoid thinking about how much you’re spending while you’re on vacation. This will detract from actually enjoying your trip. To do this, start preparing early by socking away some money in a savings account or a cookie jar. Think of it as a Christmas club for your annual family getaway.

Figure out how much you can put into a savings account every month to set your overall budget. Or estimate how much the vacation will cost to know how much you need to deposit every month. Either way, saving is a smart financial strategy to avoid accumulating credit card debt while on vacation.

Penciling in a likely budget and setting aside the money to cover it may require sacrificing a few other things. Giving your family memories that will last a lifetime? That’s worth every hard-earned and hoarded penny.

Schedule in Advance

Scheduling is an important consideration on multiple fronts, starting with finding time away that coordinates with everyone’s calendar. You’ll need to consider taking advantage of scheduling to save money or avoid crowds. Then you must plan the actual events during the getaway.

The more time you give yourself to devote to scheduling considerations, the better. The more family members who are going, the more schedules you need to juggle both before and during the trip. Be prepared for some challenges.

Kids being out of school is the primary reason why most families take vacations during the summer months. It’s also the reason why everything costs more, and vacation spots are extra crowded at that time of year. Although it might take additional wrangling to make it work, scheduling your getaway during the off-season could really pay off.

You’ll want to prepare an itinerary for the actual trip, but don’t make it too restrictive. Leave enough time for everyone to do what they want and make sure you pad the schedule with free time. When you return home, every member of the family should feel like they spent time doing what they enjoy.

Finally, use an app to help simplify your vacation planning. Calendar and scheduling apps aren’t just for the workplace. There are numerous apps available that will aggregate family calendars to make scheduling an easier task. Make this preparation as simple as you can, but be sure you don’t skip it altogether.

Pack It Up (Not In)

Never underestimate the power of packing preparation. How and what you pack will depend largely on the mode of transportation you’re taking. But smart travelers begin this process way in advance of their departure date.

Begin by taking an inventory of your luggage, packing cubes, toiletry bags, duffel bags, totes, and backpacks. If you realize your gear is insufficient, look for deals on new items. You could also look for such items at thrift stores or ask to borrow some from a friend or neighbor. Make sure you always pack an extra duffel or two to transport new treasures back home.

Next, inventory those toiletries and other personal items you’ll need. If you’re flying, keep TSA rules in mind. Start picking up a couple of travel-size products every time you go to the grocery or big box store.

Then have each family member begin laying out what they plan to wear. A guest bedroom or the unused dining room table might be good spots for everyone to make a pile. Most people tend to overpack, so start the process of elimination early.

If you’re loading the car for a road trip, figure out how to keep certain items easily accessible. Check bag weights if flying so you aren’t rearranging on the airport floor or paying surcharges.  Well-packed bags take a concerted effort by everyone.

Prepare for Fun

Benjamin Franklin probably wasn’t referencing a family vacation when he said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Nonetheless, it’s good advice for most situations, including this one.

Commit to the time and effort that preparing for your next family vacation may require. If you do, your next getaway is sure to be nothing but a good time.

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