Hello Friends, Shani here! I often get asked how I plan a trip for my family. We have a wide range of ages and lots of different interests. To be honest, sometimes it is hard and overwhelming! There have been times when each family member wants to do something different. Over the years I have found some things that really work for our family and help everyone have an enjoyable vacation experience. Read below to find out our Top 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning and how to implement them into your travel planning today!
Also, be prepared, I am spilling the beans about a humiliating “mom fail” (I promise my kids are well behaved – most of the time haha).
Top 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning
Tip 1- PLAN
So this might seem obvious but really, plan ahead. We even plan our downtime. When we don’t have a plan, precious time is wasted and frustrations flare. If our family arrives without a plan, chances are we aren’t able to see the things we were hoping to see, eat where we want to eat, or visit the sites that are so high on our list of things to visit. We have extended family members who poke fun at our travel itineraries (it’s all in jest), but it’s true; our itineraries are detailed, but we most often get to see what we want to see. For us, planning is crucial.
Tip 2 – KNOW YOUR GROUP
Take into account the interests of the people in your group. How do they like to vacation? Is their idea of a perfect vacation sitting on the beach for a whole week under an umbrella with a drink in hand? Are they active, history buffs or nature lovers?
Knowing this important information about your group helps in planning a successful trip. For example; I love a good beach vacation but I am only good on the beach or at the pool for a few hours each day and then I need something else to do. Knowing this helps us plan beach vacations that are balanced with some history or culture and then everyone is happy. Planning to the interests of my group aids tremendously in having a successful trip.
Tip 3 – TAKE A POLL
Ask the members of your group what specific activities they would like to participate in and what landmarks or sites they would like to see. This makes the trip something that each person can look forward to. In our family, I always know that a round or two of golf for the guys is what will really make them happy. I always consult with them to see which courses in the area they would like to play and try to make that happen for them. Everyone wants to feel like they have a say and this helps to plan a well-rounded vacation. Do your best to include everyone in the process. It’s fun and gets everyone involved. We even ask the little one what he would like to do most!
Tip 4 – DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM CHILDREN
I have learned over and over again that most often adults can have fun participating in children’s activities but children really struggle to have fun participating in adult activities. If you have children in the group, try to keep it friendly; maybe a reservation at a fancy restaurant with the whole group is not the best idea. Trust me, we’ve been there. Even the most well-behaved children start to act up with they are starving, tired and then have to sit all proper. “Hangry” takes on a whole new meaning!
Parenting Restaurant Fail 101
Once after a long day of touring, we decided it was a great idea to go to a slow, romantic, very intimate, and upscale restaurant in Lake Como. All of the diners were dressed up and quietly enjoying their dinner and in we waltz. A group of 6 Americans with 2 young children and a 2 teenagers. My youngest (Easton) was 5 at the time and was in NO mood to sit quietly and got bored (boredom is a recipe for disaster!). He gulped in some air and I knew what was coming – but it was TOO LATE – out came this loud b.u.r.p! Everybody immediately looked directly at us and then the entire restaurant went silent. It’s hilarious now, but at the moment… it was a pure nightmare!!
We also try and keep museum visits and other adult-oriented activities to a short time limit (or have a plan to split up the group to take the kids if needed). We also try to prepare the littles ones in advance about what we are doing and what to expect. There have been many times when half of the group stays in the museum for another hour or so and the other half goes, gets a snack, and feeds the birds outside. This really helps up the chances of a successful visit.
Tip 5 – DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO DO EVERYTHING
When we expect too much from everyone, we end up disappointed and frustrated. It is much better to give the group some flexibility in what they want to participate in. For example, let the person who has a tendency toward seasickness opt out of the water activity. My family loves to jet-ski, everyone but ME that is. I have tried it many times and I am scared of it. LIKE SCARED. We have figured out that we can plan a fun jet-ski excursion for everyone else in the group and I will stay back and have some one on one time with my grandson while the rest of them are going nuts out on the open water (YIKES, did I mention that I become a freaked out mess on a jet-ski?). That works well and all are happy. It makes life a lot more enjoyable for everyone.
Tip 6 – CONSIDER A CRUISE OR ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT
Cruises offer many different tours, excursions, and activities at varied times. Maybe some want to sleep in while others want to photograph every sunrise. Perhaps some would like to go on an organized excursion while others want to rest by the pool all day. So Grandma and Grandpa want sushi for dinner but the little ones want chicken nuggets and fries? The point is, on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort, there is flexibility and usually, more than enough for everyone to participate in. This is a sure way to keep everyone happy.
Tip 7 – DON’T OVER PLAN
While it is crucial for my family to have a plan (as we have discussed above), I have also learned NOT to over plan. It is sooooo easy to become overly ambitious. Many times I have wondered when I was going to be able to re-visit a particular destination and have become so eager to “see everything” I have ended up over-planning. In the end, it becomes a chore and everyone is so tired and overloaded it ends up not being a pleasant experience. For us, traveling is about wandering, experiencing, and learning. It is more challenging to savor the moment when we are running from one attraction to another.
Tip 8 – SPACE
This is the number one suggestion we have for group travel. In my experience, this is the key to everyone getting along. Everyone needs their space (especially the teenagers). I try to make sure accommodations are adequate and to be mindful if someone’s nerves are wearing thin. For us, trying to make sure that our accommodations are large enough for everyone to have space is worth every cent.
We know people who cram their entire group into a single hotel room. This is not for me. I love my kids, but boy do I need a break at times! Not only is cramming people (usually) against hotel policy, for my family, it has the makings for a disaster. We all need a place where we can retreat when we become annoyed/tired with each other (and the WILL happen while traveling) and need to decompress. A time out from one another can be a good thing.
Tip 9 – MY 3 PLANNING HACKS
- If it is an active vacation, (ie Disney, Europe, etc.), I recommend spending two full days sightseeing followed by a day with lots of scheduled down time. That way the group can gauge their energy levels and decide exactly what they are feeling up to. Maybe a restful day sleeping in, or a day by the pool is just what is needed.
- If you can help it, don’t follow a late night activity with an early morning activity. I know it is sometimes unavoidable but it really makes a difference if everyone is well rested. We all need our rest.
- Another thing I always like to do when planning a trip; especially if it is a heavy sightseeing trip like China or Europe is to leave the very last day of the trip open, with nothing planned. That way if anything unexpected arises, or you would like to revisit a particular attraction there is time available to do it. We have found this very effective. More often than not, by the end of the trip people are tired and it is a good day to just rest a little, wander, linger and get off the beaten path a little more. It’s a great way to wind up a trip.
Tip 10 – SEND OUT THE FINAL ITINERARY AHEAD OF TIME
When final plans have been made and the itinerary is in place (at least a few weeks before travel) I love to send out the itinerary to all parties involved. That way everyone knows exactly what to expect. Chances are that with a few weeks left before travel if changes or cancellations need to be made, there is still time. It is also really exciting to sit together and go over an itinerary for an upcoming trip. Everyone seems to get excited!!! When we have traveled with a travel company (which we do sometimes), they always send out the final itinerary a month or so in advance for us to review. I have found when planning our own trips (which we do most of the time), it is wise to follow this example.
These are a few of the suggestions we have for you after lots of travel experience and lots of trial and error. Of course, in the end, follow your intuition and experiment with what works for your family! What works for one doesn’t always work for all and you know your family/group best :)!
*For some tips on how to prepare your little ones for an upcoming trip that will help ensure a fabulous vacation, read our 7 Ways to Prepare Your Little One For an Upcoming Trip here – Traveling with Kids.
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