Family vacations may sound like a fun idea, but any parent can tell you that planning is half the battle. With the wrong plan, your reward is a chorus of “Are we there yet?” and days trapped in close quarters, instead of an opportunity to unwind.
Even so, it’s clear that the right vacation can be a great way to make memories with those you love. One study even suggests that these trips can be crucial “happiness anchors,” or memories that can even help kids get through tough times.
Of course, that’s only the case as long as you plan well—and choosing vacation destinations is a crucial part of that plan.
How can you ensure that you’ve picked the right place for your getaway? If you’re not sure where to start, read on for the tips you need to know.
Nail Down Your Budget
For most families, one of the most important factors when choosing vacation destinations is budget. Take some time to figure out how much you can afford to spend on the trip upfront, as this can help you decide whether the total package will fit into that figure.
From there, planning your family vacation budget can feel difficult or even overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure to follow some basic budget-friendly planning tips like booking early or considering off-season dates.
Consider the Season and Climate
Next, it’s time to think about the big picture: what general types of destinations are you looking for?
If you’re vacationing in the winter, are you hoping to make the most of seasonal snows with some kid-friendly sledding or skiing? Or would you rather escape the cold to relax with your family on a warm beach? There’s no right or wrong answer, but having a chat with your family to gauge everyone’s preferences can help point you in the right direction.
Think About Holidays and Seasonality
There’s another type of season to consider when you’re planning a vacation: peak season.
If you have younger kids and want to avoid the stress of a crowded trip, it might be worth it to wait until low- or shoulder season to book. On the other hand, if you want to make the most of your kids’ time off of school, summer may be the only time of year to head to their favorite theme park!
Don’t forget to also think about holidays and festivals in the area in question. Are you looking to celebrate a family-friendly Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Rio, or do you want to head to your favorite mountain getaway during a local fall festival? Make sure to consider these special dates as you plan.
Factor In the Length of the Trip
Whether you’re traveling within the constraints of school vacation or you have total flexibility to choose the dates, it’s important to think about the length of your trip.
Even if everyone’s thrilled with the idea of camping, for example, is the area worth a week-long trip? If you’re planning a weekend getaway, will it feel too overwhelming to visit a huge city with a wide range of activities? Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but you’ll need to consider your trip’s timeline as you whittle down you’re shortlisted.
Think About the Distance to Your Destination
Any parent can tell you that there’s nothing worse than being trapped on a long drive or flight with bored and frustrated children. As you consider your options, make sure you’re being realistic about what travel times your kids can endure, depending on their ages. The goal is to find an area that hits the sweet spot between a solid destination and one that’s accessible enough to reach without added stress.
Research Your Accommodations
Even if you think you’ve found the perfect destination, it’s important to factor in the accommodations where you’ll spend most of your time. If you’re looking at major cities or if you’re booking far in advance, you may find yourself with a wide range of options to look at. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to get on a last-minute trip, a little research into the available lodgings may show that you’re out of luck!].
When booking a hotel or vacation rental, it’s important to consider the rental’s size, its proximity to your chosen activities, its rules and policies, and its site security. The last thing you’ll want is a cramped space far from your destination’s main attractions!
In addition, if you travel to the same common family-friendly areas—such as Orlando—on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to find a property you can return to over and over again. Check out programs like the Disney Vacation Club, for example, or take a look at resale listings for a budget-friendly alternative.
Research the Activities in the Area
If you haven’t consulted your kids up to this point, now is a great moment to bring them in for a quick family meeting, especially if they’re old enough to get opinionated.
What kinds of activities would factor into their ideal vacation? Can you find a location that offers the historical sites you want to see as well as the theme parks or beaches they’ll love? The best destinations will strike the right balance between having plenty of activities for kids as well as great options for educational fun and physical activity.
Set Aside Time for Choosing Vacation Destinations
Here’s the bottom line: choosing vacation destinations can be a trying process, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Finding the right place to host your next getaway is a surefire way to start the trip off on the right foot, giving you and your family ample opportunities to make long-lasting memories. Don’t forget to start as far in advance as possible for the best deals and options!
Looking for more of the tips you need to make the most of your travels? Whether you’re planning to tour your city or take a trip around the world, be sure to check out our other posts for additional insights.