You've decided to embark on a family vacation. In future years, your family may look back on this trip in nostalgia, and your planning skills can help determine how this vacation is remembered. Consider yourself the project co-manager with your spouse. Start planning well in advance. This will ensure you get the accommodations you want and will help you avoid the last minute stress of trying to please every member of the family.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
The adults should begin vacation planning by setting a budget. You won't enjoy your vacation if you are worried about how to pay for it. If one member of a couple is doing the planning, the other should still know the cost. It's never a good idea to surprise your spouse with large expenses. Set expectations about how much each family member may spend on souvenirs and inform children and teens. Talk to them about budgeting their own money and how much they should bring with them.
- Include each family member in research and planning.
After budgeting, discuss vacation options with children and teens. While adults will make the final decision on the destination, younger members of the family will appreciate being asked for their input. Reading reviews from other families can help you choose your activities and avoid mishaps that other families experienced. Knowing ahead of time that a specific trail is too long for smaller children or that teens are bored at a particular show or event is valuable. When you research, make sure the things you want to see and do are open during the time you will be there. Ask yourself questions like, "Are there are restaurants my family will like close by?" Don't forget to check the weather! Will you need sunscreen, long underwear, or umbrellas?
- Pack wisely.
Make a list of things to pack for each family member, and do it well in advance. You can keep adding to your list or amend it as needed. Let teens and children pack, but don't rely on them to remember everything. The clothes and shoes they think are fun to wear might not be the right ones for the weather or even for certain activities. Remember to check medications to see if they will need to be refilled before you travel. If you do forget things, resort or hotel stores are often well-stocked. Many hotels and resorts will even give you freebie items like toothbrushes if you need them.
- Prepare for the ride.
While most parents would love for their kids to spend less time staring at screens, a long car or plane ride is not the time to make a stand. Set clear rules about online time with children and teens, but know that keeping them occupied during hours of travel may be worth the expense. Make sure your cellular plan has adequate bandwidth. To keep younger ones occupied, remember to bring books, pencils, pens, and paper, as well as toys for littler children. While no one wants to lug extra bags around, there is no substitute for having snacks, drinks, over-the-counter medications, tissues, bandages, and wipes when you need them. You'll be thankful when your child is screaming or your teen is irritable. Make sure all family members dress comfortably, and be sure to bring pillows and blankets for the car.
- Verify all your accommodations ahead of time.
As well as confirming the type of hotel room you have, verify any additional requirements you'll need, such as a crib or a refrigerator. You don't want to arrive at your hotel or resort and hear, "Yes, we have cribs, but they are all taken." Make sure your hotel or resort has Wi-Fi (if you need it), and research if it accrues additional charges. In addition to your hotel, double-check reservations or availability at your other destinations for any specific needs, like stroller rentals.
- Take care of things at home so you won't worry.
Start early in determining who will take care of your house and pets, if needed. You need time to make a backup plan if your regular help isn't available. Remember to pay any bills that will be due while you are away and to make arrangements for things like your mail and newspapers.