Traveling with family is a jolly affair but can get a bit topsy-turvy if you don’t have a clear trip plan. Visas, insurance, vaccinations (if needed), flight and hotel bookings, transportation, and tours require more time and attention when a group of travelers is involved. Once you’ve handled the essentials, you can breathe easy and focus on the fun. Here are some tips on planning a large family vacation and a family trip planner that makes it easy.
Find family-friendly vacation destinations
If you have teenage or slightly younger kids, they’re mature enough to have their own travel preferences and trip ideas. Take each one’s travel preferences (along with your spouse’s and your own) into consideration in finalizing your vacation destination. If you have preteens, give them a list of places you’ve already chosen, explain each in some detail, and get their reactions.
You may already know about your kids’ dream destinations, but involving them in the process will do its bit to get everyone excited about the family trip. Travel-Wise offers a convenient way to collaborate with family members on trip planning. Get an existing trip template, add family members to the app, and customize your trip easily.
The destinations should be kid-friendly, regardless of how young your kids are. Think amusement parks, beaches, monuments, museums, birdwatching, nature centers, kayaking, etc. You may enjoy Las Vegas, but its adult-oriented attractions may not wow your kids and even be inappropriate. Ditto for Bangkok, Thailand.
Safety is another consideration. Think a bit more about a family trip to a ‘relatively safe’ country like Colombia and Peru, where pickpocketing and purse-snatching are common in the safer tourist areas. Check out the U.S. Department of State’s website for travel advisory, visa requirements, passport validity, vaccinations, and currency restrictions.
Once you’ve identified your destination, you’ll want to know the best times to visit. Visiting in peak season will typically cost you more. But what if peak season falls during the school year? Read on to find out.
Check the school calendar
Travel has a positive impact on kids, from helping them appreciate different cultures and making them more open-minded and compassionate to bettering their social skills and making them street-smart. Families that go on trips annually or more in a year plan their vacations in advance to avoid conflicts with their kids’ school policy.
Scheduling your vacation during the holidays is a safe bet. You’ll have the flexibility to plan a foreign trip without worrying about the kids missing school.
If you plan a short trip within the country A Relaxing Long Weekend in The Hamptons in New York, USA], a holiday overlapping with the weekend may give you sufficient days for travel and enjoyment. Look at the school calendar in advance to mark the dates and decide the type of holidays you can take.
Depending on your school district, your kids may be able to do some school work away from the classroom. When such a provision exists, your child can do schoolwork on their flight or spend extra time in the hotel. It’s worth considering for a trip you don’t want to miss.
Organize passports and visas
Get your travel documents to avoid last-minute shocks. An expired passport or a late visa approval can derail your trip. Use this checklist to manage passports and visas when traveling with family.
- To travel internationally, your passport should have at least six months of validity. Check the expiration date on all passports. If a passport has expired or is close to expiring, begin the renewal process immediately.
- Check whether you require a traditional visa (need to visit an embassy) or an e-visa, which you can obtain online.
- Visa processing times can range from two days to two months. Applying for tourist visas a few months before your trip will give you enough time to resolve any issues that can come up during the application process.
- Make copies of your travel documents. They’ll come in handy if your original documents are lost or stolen.
- Store your travel documents in the hotel safe or carry them in your backpack. Avoid keeping them in your check-in bags in case your luggage goes missing.
Buy travel insurance
Depending on where you’re traveling and whether or not you need a visa, travel insurance can be mandatory or optional. For example, anyone visiting France and requiring a Schengen Visa must have travel medical insurance.
Family travel insurance covers emergency medical costs incurred overseas, emergency evacuations, missed tours, and trip cancellations and delays. Some plans cover as many as ten family members in a single policy. Have a look at the top family travel insurance plans for 2023.
Travelers who wish to enter certain countries or territories must be vaccinated against certain diseases such as polio, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis, and COVID-19. Some vaccinations are not mandatory but are recommended to prevent or reduce the risk of diseases. Younger or senior family members or those with compromised immune systems may be at a higher risk of diseases. Consult your doctor, understand the vaccination requirements, and vaccinate a month before travel.
Planning a family vacation on a budget is easy when you know how to save money. Here are our recommendations:
- If you prefer to stay at a hotel, room sharing will help keep costs low. Make sure to ask for discounts/special rates for group bookings. For a larger group, renting a home on Airbnb or VRBO can work out cheaper. Compare your options to estimate accurately.
- Consider ride-sharing or look up budget car rentals (for a large group). If you’re staying in a walkable city, plan to explore on foot. Take public transportation (light rail/subway/buses). Use a good family trip planner app to cover all places of interest without confusion.
- Research free experiences, such as free museum entries, art galleries, and historic homes. If you’re traveling during festival season, watching a parade, carnival, or street fest will cost you nothing.
- Join walking tours. Many cities around the world offer free walking tours. It’s customary to tip the tour guide.
- When shopping for souvenirs, bring the small, lightweight ones with you and ship the items back home to avoid extra baggage fees. Pack light to ensure sufficient space for souvenirs!
Tips for traveling with kids
A day of adventure and exploration can be exhausting for kids and adults. Keep the kids in a good mood with these tactics:
- Pre-book trips to save time. You can avoid waiting for your turn and testing the kids’ patience.
- Pack snacks so the kids don’t get edgy when the food at the restaurant takes too long to arrive.
- Bring personal electronic devices/unique toys to keep the kids occupied when bored and irritable.
- Schedule downtime on your trip. A few minutes of rest at a park or beach, on a bench, or at a movie can do the trick.
- Have kids journal their trip. From cameras and phones to notebooks, find something age-appropriate to document trip memories.
Planning a family vacation checklist will help you build a foundation for your trip. But the best way to plan your itinerary is through a family trip planner app. The features of Travel-Wise make it ideal for planning a trip from scratch, collaborating on the trip with family members, logging trip highlights, creating a travel journal, and sharing it with other families planning a vacation. Try Travel-Wise now to see how it can work for your next trip with your family.