With spring just around the corner, I know we are all ready for a vacation. Deciding on where to take the family for that perfect holiday isn’t always easy. There are many things to consider while pondering over the countless options out there. Over the next couple of weeks I will be providing you with some great tips, from myself and several other awesome travel writers, on planning a family vacation. This week we will provide you with 10 tips for selecting a destination that the whole family will love.
Involve the Kids
Regina Kay is a world-schooling mother of five, full-time global explorer, and travel writer at fulltimefieldtrip.com where she brings you real-world tips to make your life easier and your travels exceptional. So you can trust her advice when she says “Involve the kids. That’s my number one tip for choosing your family vacation destination. I want our kids to be excited about going somewhere and experiencing new things.” She also says that “by involving the kids, wherever you all decide to go, it becomes their vacation or holiday too. They aren’t just being dragged along on the family trip.”
Tiffany from Mommy And Me Travels is a long time travel lover. She has expanded her travels to include her 2 young sons, whom love to go on “adventures”! Her advice is also to “first and foremost, get the kids involved!” I think we would all agree with Tiffany that “vacations are more fun for all when everyone provides input.” By having “everyone think of their top 2-3 vacation wishes, it really let’s the whole family feel like they are a big help in selecting a destination.”
Choose Family Friendly Accommodations
Where you are going to stay is an important decision when selecting a destination for your family vacation. Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders is a UK Family Travel Blogger writing about days out and family-friendly holidays. The accommodations are key for families and she says “where we stay is very important to us, not just the location, but the hotel or resort too.” When choosing her accommodations she wants to know “what the rooms are like, whether the hotel has a child friendly pool, kids club or possibly evening entertainment for the children. Does the hotel give off a relaxed family friendly vibe or do they just tolerate families? Finally, what is the restaurant like and will we like the food!”
As full-time RV travelers, our accommodations revolve around campgrounds. There is such a wide variety in this regard that it can be a little intimidating sometimes. Over the past 2.5 years, we have really tuned-in to what we like and what we don’t when deciding on accommodations. In some areas the choice is minimal, in others it is overwhelming. We love staying in National and State Parks because the scenery is awesome and we can usually hike nearby. But, unfortunately, they often do not have hook-ups for our trailer. Mainly, we try to choose places that are family-friendly and inexpensive.
Consider the Cost
For families, price is always an important part of planning a vacation. Annette is a wife and mother to five kids. She writes the blog, Tips From a Typical Mom, where she shares family friendly recipes, activities, travel and parenting tips. “We have five kids and most of them are teenagers now, so that is a big determining factor on where we choose to vacation. Money is another thing we have to think carefully about when we are planning a family vacation,” says Annette. “Most of the destinations we choose are places we can drive to, so we don’t have to spend a fortune on airfare. I’d rather go someplace close and spend money on activities than spend a fortune on airfare.” This is just one of the reasons our family decided to travel full-time in our RV Annette, flying is expensive!
Shannon Elizabeth is the creator and voice behind Grab My Passport, a family-focused travel blog. She also agrees that “when we plan our own family vacations at Grab My Passport HQ, pricing is typically our biggest determining factor.” Kris at Gadsventure wants a destination that’s “just a short, cheap flight away.”
We like to know what inexpensive, family friendly activities are available in the area. Things like museums, playgrounds, and National Parks are great options for our family because they are also fun. Many small towns have little free museums that are usually really interesting. In Peshtigo, Wisconsin, you can visit their small museum where you can learn all about the towns history. They had a huge fire which devastated the town and it was interesting to learn about. There were lots of other cool artifacts too!
Make Decisions as a Family
Selecting a destination as a family is the best way to get everyone excited about your upcoming trip. Regina at Full-Time Field Trip suggest to “give them three destinations that fit your needs and let them vote. Choose your favorite two cities then ask the kids to help you make a list of things to do in those areas. Pick the location that ticks the most boxes for your family.” Let the kids feel like they are part of the decision.
“Now that you have a list of activities and locations take the kids and head to your public library. This allows you and your kids to enjoy an afternoon together looking through books of everywhere around your desired locations and activities. Kids love being able to see, feel, and touch the pictures. This helps them start to get excited about learning and planning for upcoming adventures. Family vacations are about building family memories and this starts with the planning phase.” I love how Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels mentions going to the library. We love books and they are definitely a great place to start planning.
An Educational Component
“With so many places on our travel wish list, we focus on the educational value and age-appropriateness of our choices when deciding where to go next,” says Deb at World Wise Kid. Deborah is a California-based environmental educator, polyglot and mother of two adventurous kids. Her family travel blog www.worldwisekid.com inspires educational discussions around the globe. She lists her top three influences as:
- Nature – Diverse wildlife and dynamic landscapes have motivated journeys to Alaska, Utah, Florida, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico, Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia. With kids under 10, our ideal travel activities included discovering wildlife, waterfalls, walking trails, and beaches.
- Books – Now that the kids ages are in the double-digits, their favorite reads influence where we go. The book “Tua and the Elephant” by R.P. Harris catalyzed interest in traveling to Thailand. The Percy Jackson series will guide our spring travels to Greece and Italy. London means “Harry Potter” and “The Thief Lord” sparked excitement for Venice, Italy.
- Language – As multilingual parents, exposing the kids to different languages is a key value. Spanish immersion influenced our travels to Mexico and Costa Rica. We regularly stay with family in Germany to secure the kids’ fluency. This spring as we travel Europe, we will delve into Latin and Greek word bases, comparing phrases in Italian, Spanish, French and Greek.
“Most of the time I build our itineraries around our curriculum. If we’re studying ancient history, the great philosophers or epic poems like “The Iliad” or “The Aeneid”, then this is the year to go to Italy and spend as long as possible exploring the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea,” says Shannan at Captivating Compass. “With that type of school work, what kid wouldn’t want to grab their passport and go learn on location? So next time you plan a family travel adventure, don’t forget to consider how the destination can inspire a memorable learn on location experience.” Read more from Shannan at Captivating Compass where she blogs about learning on location using the world as your textbook.
Weather Plays a Part
Spending your family vacation stuck indoors because of rain or sun burnt due to unusually sunny days is not ideal. Unfortunately, people can’t control the weather. So careful planning when selecting a destination is necessary. Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels asks her family “do you want to go to the beach or skiing, and so on?” This really helps to narrow down your choices.
Regina knows that “sometimes you’re boxed into a season.” Meaning if you are traveling somewhere in the winter, plan on skiing. If you are going to a tropical island, realize there is a good chance it might rain. She likes to ask er family “what type of shoes do you want to wear on vacation? Flip flops, snow boots, athletic shoes, dress shoes, etc.” This helps determine how you might go about selecting a destination.
Kirsty a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia says “we pick somewhere on our travel bucket list that seems suitable for the length of time/season/cost. We have a very long bucket list that covers most areas of the globe and grows by the year.” It can be tricky to visit all those bucket list destinations when you take into account the season. I know that here in the US we have hurricane season in the fall and tornado season in the spring. Both of these seasons are not ideal for traveling to certain parts of the country.
Kris at Gadsventure says “we shortlist our destinations by considering the time of year and the type of activity we want to be doing. This usually boils down to surfing or snowboarding.” Kris and Brian are totally fun-loving Australians on an international gap year with their 4 kids while world schooling and documenting every step on their blog Gadsventure. They believe that life is short and the time is now! Don’t let the weather interfere with your travels, just be prepared.
Check for Deals
We all want to get a great deal, especially when travel is involved. Kirsty at World For A Girl says “we spend hours on Skyscanner.com and travel websites researching accommodation and flight options.” Kirsty has traveled to over 100 countries, including 25 with her young children. “This amazingly useful Skyscanner function means that you can see all the flights leaving your chosen airport on the date you’re interested in. We then filter the results by flight times and cost.” Tools like this are great Kirsty for families that want to travel inexpensively.
Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom says “we know we can save a ton of money on hotels through wholesale sites like Jifutravel.com. So we use that site to help us determine the hotel we stay in and the activities we do.” While Shannon at Grab My Passport says that “anytime a sale or special promotion pops up that matches something on our bucket list, we try to jump on it. We are subscribed to all the airlines’ email lists, and we follow a bunch of travel deal pages on Facebook so that we are alerted to all of the deals, promos, “error fares”, and discounts that are available as soon as they come out.”
Another great idea from Shannon is to “take advantage of email subscription lists. It’s one of the best ways to learn about discounted travel deals, which can really help you narrow down your destination choices. Also, try to travel to popular destinations in the off-season, if possible. You’ll end up saving a lot of money and avoid the big crowds.” We love being places in the off-season and so does Shannon “since it was off-season, rates for everything were a bit cheaper than normal.”
The Age Factor
“As a multi-generation family who travels with seniors, we first bear in mind who is tagging along before we decide where to head next,” says Yamy at Gofamgo. “When you’re planning a family vacation, you must cater to the different strengths and interests of everyone. Evaluate the limitations of the party,” suggests Yamy Hartsough. She is the creator and main blogger of Gofamgo.com, a multi-generational family travel blog where she chronicles her family’s adventures and shares guides and tips that she learns along the way. “For instance, if the grandparents in wheelchairs are coming, this might mean skipping the hike in sandy and hilly Indiana Dunes National Park and opting for a more accessible location like a museum.”
“Are there enough places to see and things to do to keep our teenagers engaged?” asks Annette when selecting a destination. Most families have children of varying ages which can make deciding where to go on vacation tough. We all want to go somewhere that everyone will have a great time. Annette says “my kids love going beach hopping and that’s just fine with me because beaches are cheap!” This is definitely true for my family too. Beaches are fun for everyone because there are so many things to do like swim, build sandcastles, and find seashells.
Family Interests and Limitations
It is important to keep in mind the interests, as well as the limitations of everyone in your group. Sarah at Dandelion Seeds says that, “for us, my two most important considerations are whether everyone will enjoy the ‘vibe’ of the destination, and whether we all can eat safely (we have food allergies).” A published writer, positive parenting educator, wellness advocate, and world traveler, Sarah invites you to join her adventures at https://www.dandelion-seeds.com. Another great thing Sarah points out is “that my introverted and highly sensitive child loves exploring, but she also requires plenty of downtime to refuel her energy tank. After all, new experiences are wonderful for growth, but she needs enough peace and quiet to be able to process them.”
Melissa Temple is a disability travel blogger who loves Disney. She points out that “selecting a destination can be a very intimidating part of a family vacation.” For her family she says, “we like to go to Disneyland because I have mobility problems and have to be in a wheelchair. One of our priorities is disability accessibility. Disney is great on accessibility and a Disney trip hits all these important buttons for my family.” Knowing what everyone is capable of will make the trip enjoyable for all.
Traveling takes time. No matter where you are you have to plan for how you will get to your destination. Tiffany asks “are you planning on flying, driving, or taking the train?” She points out that “this helps to narrow down which part of the world you will visit.” We always ask ourselves how close is our next destination, can we drive there in a reasonable amount of time, is it close to the places we are planning to explore? This helps us determine whether or not we will need a stop over in between or if we can go from one place to the next.
“Some of our favorite easy family trips close to home are New Zealand, Bali, Japan and Hawaii,” says Kris. The closer it is to home the less time spent traveling and the more time spent having fun! It’s also important to know your children’s limits in regards to travel time. When we first started traveling in our RV, we would spend hours in the car driving from one amazing location to the next. This was fine for a short time, but we quickly realized that we enjoyed it so much more when we slowed down. Now we try to only drive a few hours between stops which means more time to enjoy camp.
Selecting a Destination for Your Vacation
I hope these 10 tips for selecting a destination will guide your planning phase in the right direction. Deciding on a perfect location that the whole family will love is challenging. However, with these tips you’ll be on the right track for taking an amazing, fun, memorable family vacation. Stay tuned for more helpful articles and tips from me and this team of expert family travelers.