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Do you want to take a vacation that creates lifelong memories that your family will cherish forever? Do you find that your trips are never quite as good as you envision? When you travel, does your family spend more time fighting and complaining than having fun? If so, then you are in the right place! You see, the secret to better family vacations is better trip planning. And to help you better plan your trips, here are 9 simple trip planning tips that will improve your family vacations so you can finally have the vacation you’ve always wanted. So, let’s get started!
Tip #1: Do Your Research
The best and easiest way to improve your family vacations is to simply do your research. The more research you do before your trip, the better it will be, I promise! This is especially true if you are going somewhere for the first time. Look at reviews of hotels, restaurants, and activities on Tripadvisor and travel blogs. Get opinions from friends who have been to your destination before. Look at restaurant menus online. Check out operating hours, admission prices, and age restrictions for activities that you are planning. Consult a map to see what’s nearby some of your must-do’s that your family might also like. The more information you have before you arrive, the better equipped you will be to avoid disappointment and unexpected surprises.
Tip #2: Take Travel Time Into Account
It is easy to get excited when planning a trip and over schedule yourself. This ultimately leads to either your family being bummed out when things have to be cut due to lack of time or everyone being too exhausted to have fun. One way to avoid this is to take travel time into account when making plans. Just because things look close on a map doesn’t mean you can get there quickly. What is the traffic like at your destination? What are the speed limits? If you will be in the mountains, a 10 mile trip may take 30 minutes to drive due to the low speeds of the roads. The same is true if you are on a tropical island.
Many people who live outside of Texas underestimate just how large the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is. Even though these two cities are only 30 miles apart, it may take an hour or more to get from one to the other, depending on where you are and where you are headed.
So, to ensure you have plenty of time to do everything you want, be sure to build travel time into your plans.
Tip #3: Discuss Expectations
During the planning process, one of the big ways you can improve your family vacations is by discussing expectations. What do your kids want to do on your trip? What is the most important thing for each person to see? Does everyone want a relaxing beach trip or would they rather spend one day at the beach and the rest at Disney World? Does your husband have his heart set on playing golf at least once? Is your daughter dreaming of a shopping day? Find out what each person expects from the vacation. This will allow you to plan around their desires to create a trip you will all love. It is much easier to make compromises and change plans while planning than it is at the last minute.
Tip #4: Make a List of Must-Do’s
Once you know what your family’s expectations are, you can move on to the next phase of trip planning: making your list of must-do’s. Take everyone’s top priorities and try to work them into a plan so everyone gets to do at least one thing they want. Prioritize your list to make sure you definitely have time for the most anticipated events or activities. I recommend planning one activity for each morning and one for each afternoon. This will leave your evenings open for something spontaneous or to just relax. By focusing on the most important must-do’s, it will be easier to do the things your family really wants to do while on vacation. And including at least one must-do for each family member into the trip plans will eliminate a lot of the complaining and fighting.
After you make a list of must-do’s, create a second list of bonus activities. These are things that you would like to do but are ok with skipping if you run out of time. Then, if you have some extra time during your trip, you can pick something off this list to do. This will prevent you from wasting time trying to make a decision on the fly of what to do next.
I also like to make a list of must-do and possible restaurant options. Then, when it is time to eat, it narrows down the choices and gives you some direction on where to go. It also helps you make better choices on where to eat.
Tip #5: Keep Everything in One Place
The next trip planning tip to improve your family vacations is to keep everything about your trip in one place. I’m talking about all the details and research regarding your trip. This will make it easy for you to find what you need when you need it. It will also ensure you don’t miss something because you forgot or misplaced the information.
You can use a planner, notebook, file on your computer, or the note section of your phone. I personally prefer a planner, especially for longer trips, but use whatever works best for you. Keep your flight details, hotel information, schedule, research, maps, and any prepurchased tickets together. Also keep any notes or brochures you may have. Don’t forget to keep any confirmation numbers and contact information in your binder or planner.
Tip #6: Pick a Convenient Place to Stay
Most people plan trips by first deciding on flights, then hotel accommodations, and then plan activities and restaurants last. However, if you want to improve your family vacations, I recommend doing this in reverse. Start with activities and restaurants and then pick your hotel. This will allow you to pick a place to stay that is conveniently located to the things you will be doing on your trip. It will also save you time traveling to and from the hotel each day.
Tip #7: Prepurchase Whenever Possible
Another great way to save time (and sometimes money) is to prepurchase tickets for activities whenever possible. By buying your tickets online and printing them at home, you can avoid the lines and get right to the fun. This can also save you some disappointment in the event that a certain event or activity sells out on your day of choice. Just be sure to put your tickets with the rest of your trip information in your planner or binder before leaving home.
Tip #8: Consider the Value of Your Time & Money
Time is money. And sometimes, time is more important than money. So, when making decisions about your trip, consider the value of your time and money. At certain times, you may want to spend a little more money in order to save yourself a chunk of time. This could be by paying a higher price to park closer to your event or spending a bit more on a hotel in order to be closer to the things you will be doing.
Sometimes, my husband and I will choose a crazy early or red-eye flight in order to save money. However, we pay for that in lack of sleep, which usually leads us to take time out of our trip to catch up. When planning your trips, ask yourself which is more important: time or money. Use this evaluation to make better decisions about your plans.
Tip #9: Be Prepared for the Weather
Lastly, to improve your family vacations, be prepared for the weather. Before leaving home, check the weather for your destination. Then pack appropriate clothing. Nothing can ruin a trip faster than not having the right clothes for the weather. If there is a chance of rain during your vacation, pack rain gear. If it will be chilly, throw in some sweatshirts and pants. On the other hand, if the weather man is calling for a heat wave in November, pack your shorts and flip flops.
These simple trip planning tips will improve your family vacations by making you better prepared for your trip. By knowing your family’s expectations and prioritizing your activities, you will be able to properly plan a trip your whole family loves. For more tips to improve your trips, see how to have an amazing vacation on any budget, how to travel when you can’t afford it, tips for stress-free travel with your spouse, things to do before leaving on vacation, how to plan an epic family vacation, and what to do when things go wrong. Happy travels!
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