1. Slow Down
Plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt if solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can see and do with kids in tow. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. The less you feel you have to see, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
For the most part, the pace of the trip should be set to what your youngest child can handle. Build into your agenda time for stops along the way for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and nap time. If you can avoid cranky children it will make for a much more pleasant experience.
2. Determine Your Preferences
Sit down with your whole family and discuss your ideas and interests. Memorable trips are those where each member of the family gets to experience something they love. Talk about budgets, expectations, and how you can work with the dollars available to plan an exciting family trip.
Travel experts have found that the most successful family vacations are those that involve both parents and children in choosing destinations and planning for their trip. Through these conversations, you will learn more about each others needs and find destinations and activities to suit the whole family.
3. Be Flexible
Avoiding holiday periods and traveling off-season can yield big savings on flights and accommodation. Even if your kids are in school, consider traveling just outside of major school holiday periods.
Give yourself the best chance to capture a cheap flight. Leaving a few days or even weeks before or after your ideal date could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. Think about using airfare sales to help determine your family’s vacation destination and time of departure rather than the other way around.
4. Pack Smart
Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll clothes and stuff socks and underwear inside shoes. Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. Encourage kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel skills.
Select versatile and comfortable clothes and color-coordinated separates so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit. And pack bags with what is needed first on the top — a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day including a change of clothes in case of accidents.
Hot Tip: Halve your clothes, double your budget
5. Hotel Tips
Pick a Kid Friendly Location – Stay in a safe and central area that’s close to local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and all preferably within walking distance. This will save you time, money, and your kids from getting bored.
Stay More Than 1 Night – Many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
Stay over Sunday – Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.
Check for Family Deals – Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
A Pool and games room – Kids love both of these options. Does the pool have any special features (like a slide or waterfalls)?
Make Sure it Has a Lift – Carrying strollers, toys, and luggage up several flights of stairs is NO FUN!
What’s the room configuration? – For our family of four two double beds is required or a portacot. If you have a baby make sure this is available, and for free.
Coupons and Discounts – Check out the brochure shelf in the lobby and any tourist literature in your room for ways to shave a few bucks off the price of your family vacation.
Enroll in a Loyalty Program – Many hotel chains are now offering free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future family vacations.
Check the Dining Options – Does the hotel restaurant and room service have a kids’ menu?
TV Channels – Does the hotel offer several family-oriented cable stations, like Disney, Nickelodeon, AMC, Discovery and Lifetime? Is there a movie library with kids’ movies?
Bathtub? – You’ll want to be sure that your room will include a bathtub.
Laundry – For longer vacations, check to see whether the hotel has coin operated machines for hotel guests.
6. Consider a Cruise or All-Inclusive Resort
With activities to appeal to every generation, food choices to suit all ages, and itineraries that can be full-on or you just sit around and do nothing, a cruise or a resort can eliminate daily decision making that can cause conflict. Look for Kids Eat Free, Stay Free, and Play Free deals.
7. Consider Apartment Rental
Most big-city hotel rooms were not built for families with young kids. They usually have no refrigerator or microwave, floor space is at a premium, and neighbors can hear every tantrum. But with an apartment you get more space, thicker walls, a kitchen, a washing machine, and separate bedrooms.
These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
8. Do a Test Run
If this is going to be your first serious trip as a family, consider starting with a shorter trip such as a weekend away or even just a day trip to the zoo as a trial run. This will help you figure out packing choices, daily routines, how fast you can move around, and how you all get along and interact together.
9. Set a Budget
Travel with kids does not have to be expensive. Decide on a comfortable budget that works for your family and include items such as souvenirs, entertainment, and a few unexpected activities. Once again involve your kids to make sure they feel comfortable with your travel plans.
Hot Tip: Every now and then blow your daily budget. We go away to experience things and create lifelong memories. Don’t limit yourself to just traveling for the sake of traveling. Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, jump out of a plane, do something incredible.
10. Build in Some Private Time or “apart” time
No matter who you are, everyone needs a break from each other at some point. While the goal of your trip is to create shared memories, it is also important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age.
Likewise, us parents need quiet periods for rest and some adult company as well. Keep this in mind and be a little flexible on your trip, as children’s moods and interests can change constantly. If you and your children find something you’d rather do, be spontaneous and go with the flow.