Between the Research, Prep, and Packing, Your Family’s Dream Trip Can Feel Like a Second Job. Use These Tips to Get It Booked and Enjoy.
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE: You decide to plan a family vacation and are thrilled about the idea of getting away and enjoying quality time together. Weeks later, it’s midnight, and you’re searching TripAdvisor for the 24th time to find an all-inclusive resort within your budget that has decent food and will entertain everyone in your family, while wondering how all this planning fell solely on your shoulders in the first place. Save time and get your life back with these organizational hacks from our experts, who eat, sleep, and breathe travel—and often vacation with kids.
Simplify Your Preliminary Research
NARROW DOWN YOUR DESTINATION. If you’ve already decided on a beach vacation or a trip to Europe, skip ahead to the next section. But if you’re hemming and hawing about where to go—staring down a bucket list of ideas from magazines, friends and family, social media, and so on— try reflecting on a few prompts to start booking flights and planning activities a little sooner. Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the trade group Family Travel Association and father of two children, suggests writing out a list of everyone’s goals for the family vacation. “Are you looking to relax or are you interested in sightseeing or adventure?” he says. If everyone’s goal is to kick back before school starts, for example, book the beach vacation and save the Disney World and Universal Studios park-hopping trip for next year. Still torn? Let your kids help cull your list. “If your children help choose the destination, they’ll be more engaged on the trip,” says Eric Stoen, founder of the family travel website Travel Babbo, who has traveled to more than 50 countries, including Japan, England, and Australia, with his three children. Have a child who’s into Greek mythology? A trip to Greece’s ancient sites is a no-brainer. Foodies? Choose a place based on their favorite cuisine. If they’re obsessed with tacos, try San Diego or visit some markets in Mexico City.
GET EVERYONE INVOLVED.
Family vacations work best—and are easier to plan—when everyone feels like they have a stake in it, according to nearly all our experts. Kids (unless they’re very young, of course) are often great researchers, especially if they have clear parameters and a price limit in mind. “You should definitely outsource part of the planning to them,” says Christine Sarkis, deputy executive editor of the online travel magazine SmarterTravel and mother of two. Give everyone in your family time—say, two weeks—to research your destination online and in guidebooks. Then schedule a family meeting where each person proposes a few activities in order of priority. “Share this list with one another, and the excursions that everyone is most excited about win,” she says. Before you know it, you’ll have a lineup of activities.
Streamline Your Itinerary
STICK TO ONE OR TWO PLACES.
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