There's a reason why movies like Vacation and Home Alone are so popular. It's because we have all endured a family vacation filled with one mishap or another. And as a mom to twin preschoolers, I have found that ANYTHING can happen, especially when you're away from home.
But I've also discovered that when it comes to planning a family vacation, like most things in life, a little organization goes a long way. Want to make sure your next family trip doesn't end up a disaster of cinematic proportions? Read on for my top tips for planning your family vacation.
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7 Tips for Planning Your Family Vacation
Start with a Bucket List
The first step to planning your vacation is deciding your destination, and the best way to do this and maintain family harmony is to create your vacation bucket list. Mom might want to relax by the pool while Dad is determined to play a few rounds of golf. And the kids could want to do anything from surfing to checking out the coolest theme park around. Make a list of everyone's dream vacation, and it will help you narrow down your destination choices. You won't be able to fulfill everything, but by brainstorming together you'll probably find a place that has a little something for everyone.
Make a Budget
No matter if you're camping under the stars or staying at a 5 star hotel, you need to make and stick to a vacation budget. There's the obvious expenses: airline tickets, hotel accommodations, a rental car, meals, etc. But don't forget about the little things that can add up quickly. If you're taking a road trip, be sure to account for gas and tolls. Even at an all-inclusive resort or cruise, you need to budget for gratuities and extra purchases. Decide on your limit for souvenirs or gifts too.
You should also decide in advance how you're paying for everything. Are you using one credit card to earn points? Paying in cash? Make a plan and stick to it.
And finally, a great piece of advice from my husband the frequent business traveler: if you are traveling overseas, be sure to notify your credit card company of your itinerary ahead of time. This way your card won't be declined in the middle of dinner in Paris because of a fraud alert (true story).
Research Your Activities Ahead of Time
Going back to your bucket list - make a list of any of your "must do" activities at your destination and do your homework before heading out. You may need to purchase tickets or make reservations well in advance of your trip. You would hate to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity because you didn't plan ahead.
Create an Itinerary
I'm not suggesting that you plan every day down to the minute. Believe me, I am all about having fun and relaxing on vacation! But you should schedule at least the must do activities that you researched above so that you make sure you fit everything in and that you're not overbooking yourself. Planning ahead with a basic guide of what your goals are for each day will make sure that you're not overdoing it and you're also not missing anything important.
Make a Packing List (and Use It)
Write down what you need to take and use it as a checklist to make sure that you're not forgetting anything. If you're flying, pack essentials like medication, eyeglasses, and a change of clothes in your carry on bag, just in case your luggage is delayed or lost. Make a list for each person and double check everything before you go.
Plan for Your Pets
If pets are part of your family like mine, you'll need to decide if they are coming with you or staying home. If they are joining you, ensure that your accommodations are pet friendly and that you've paid any necessary pet deposits. This could save you on costly cleaning bills later.
If your pets are staying home, be sure to make arrangements for them to either board or be cared for at home by a pet sitter. Our pets do both - our dogs board at a kennel and our cat stays home with a cat sitter. Do your research on either option: ask for recommendations from friends or your vet, ask for references, and tour any facility that you may be using.
And provide anyone caring for your pets with all the information that they need: medication and feeding instructions, emergency contact information, etc.
Write Everything Down in One Place
With everything you have to remember to do before heading out on vacation, you need one place to keep all your trip details, activity information, itineraries and checklists. That's why I've put together a printable Family Vacation Planner. It's what I am using to plan our first family trip to Disney World and it has everything to keep you organized so you can enjoy a stress free trip.
The Family Vacation Planner has 15 pages in all, including:
- Vacation Bucket List
- Transportation Planner
- Accommodations Planner
- Activity Planner
- Daily Itinerary
- Packing Checklist
- Before We Leave Checklist
- House Sitter Information Sheet
- Dog Sitter Information Sheet
- Cat Sitter Information Sheet
This planner will keep all your vacation details in one place, so that you can keep track of everything from travel and hotel details to your budget, activities, and even the information for your pet sitter. It's a must have for anyone looking to get organized and plan a fun, stress free family vacation.
Ready to get organized with your own Family Vacation Planner? Just click on the "See More" button to preview some pages and to grab yours. Plus for a limited time you can take 25% off with the promo code VACATION25. That's only $3.00 for the whole package!