Plannining your family vacation can be as relaxing as the vacation itself… with pre-planning. Here’s a handy checklist to get you started on the right path…
1. Determine your budget.
2. Set your family vacation destination wish-list. For some, this is already decided, for others, you may want to start with each family member’s top choice and go from there. My 4yo, for example, always picks either Denver (for the dinosaur fossils) or Orlando (for Disney and Universal Studios). Some of these you may be able to eliminate right off the bat because of the budget, or, you may check into each of them and surprise yourself.
3. Determine what kid-friendly hotel amenities you need, and how many rooms. Check into extended-stay hotels, even if you’re only staying a few days. Although they are typically geared toward business travelers, many are perfect for families because they are set up more like apartments with full kitchens and separate bedrooms. Many people also rent a house or condo, but buyer beware on these. You typically don’t have anyone on site to help you if you encounter a problem. For others, camping or RV-ing is a fun and affordable option.
4. Browse family friendly attractions in each destination. This way when you check hotels, you can find ones nearest your favorite attraction, or centrally located to all of them.
7. If you need to rent a car, do that now.
8. Create a loose itinerary for each day. Search sites like this one and the visitor’s bureau for your destination, as well as the hotel website for ideas. Print out helpful info from websites. Buy tickets to attractions that require them.
9. Call and ask your hotel to mail you a map of the area. Hotels often have the best maps at their front desk that are free to their guests. Having one in advance can really help you plan your itinerary. If you have a baby or toddler, ask the hotel associate to mark the nearest (or safest, best, etc) grocery store for you. While you’re on the phone, confirm/reserve a fridge for your room, or any other baby needs you’ll have.
10. Create your packing lists: separate for carry-on bags and checked luggage. If you’re driving, modify these same lists and pack your things in grocery bags or baskets in your trunk. Things will be much easier to get to. Of course, you can still do a carry-on type bag in the car and your big luggage in the trunk as well.
11. Create your checklist of things to do before your trip:
- hold the mail/newspaper
- arrange for pet care
- timers for lights
- let a trusted neighbor know you’ll be away and if you expect anyone in the house while you’re gone
- give a trusted local friend the key in case of emergency
- anything else that fits your family needs
12. If available, travel guides can come in handy for addresses and websites all in one place.
13. Join our community (and other forums) and chat with other parents who’ve been there or are from there for even more helpful tips.