When you’re a parent, there are usually two constant truths in your life. First, you could probably use a vacation. Second, you’d like to spend more time with your kids. Fortunately, you can take care of both when you plan a perfect family getaway. The first step in planning your vacation is deciding where your family should go, where you can stay, and what activities you all should partake in to build memories that last a lifetime.
Where Should Your Family Go?
Deciding where your family should go usually involves two decisions. The first is where in the country or world to visit, and the second is where to stay once there.
Deciding Where to Go
When picking a destination for your vacation, make sure the other family members have some input on the final decision. You should all consider the following:
- Ages: What activities are appropriate or safe for the oldest and youngest among you? For instance, a lot of hiking may not be best for elderly family members, and young kids may not be able to engage in many activities at a ski resort.
- Preferred Activities: Not everyone will want to do the same thing all the time. However, if you have one family member wanting to go hiking when everyone else wants to go to the beach, you don’t necessarily have to disappoint one of them. Plenty of beaches have hiking trails and state parks nearby.
- Something New or Something Familiar: Some families have a destination they love to visit each year, while others prefer a new experience. A location you are familiar with will make finding restaurants and activities easier; however, a vacation somewhere you haven’t been before allows you and your family to make brand new memories. Talk with your family members to see which is best for everyone.
Deciding Where to Stay
Your options on where to stay might vary with where you go, but you still have many choices to consider:
A cabin might not be your first thought for a traditional family vacation, but they’re growing in appeal in a pandemic-weary world. Cabins are more private so that you don’t have to share elevators or hallways with others like you would a hotel.
They can also help you save money – most cabins come with full kitchen facilities so you can buy groceries and do your own cooking. Preparing your own meals can really drive down the cost of a vacation, as well as providing the chance for everyone to be a part of cooking together.
Cabins are also more likely to have ample room. The extra space they feature is great not just for giving kids a chance to unwind and run around but also for everyone to have some breathing room from one another. Most cabins have their own outdoor space, more than just a balcony, giving kids plenty of room to play on one side of the cabin while a parent can read a book, get some sun, or just nap in a hammock on the other.
You can also look for cabins that feature a number of bonus amenities. A fully equipped kitchen might help you save money, as mentioned, but what if you want a fire pit? A hot tub perhaps? What if you’d like to be on a waterfront property? Renting a cabin gives you a plethora of possibilities to choose from.
Hotels are certainly the mainstay of travel accommodations. Most travel destinations have enough rooms available for those looking to stay, and you can get housekeeping and room service along with just a place to stay. Although prices are quite variable, you can usually find one in your price range.
This online service has exploded since its inception, letting you rent rooms, homes, apartments, or condos wherever you want to stay for a night or more. You can choose any area you’re interested in, such as close to the heart of downtown or a water-front property. The demand for these has skyrocketed, however, so prices might be more than you want to pay based on when and where you need one.
Camping in a tent is a great way to spend time in nature, and it’s usually far cheaper than most other housing options on a vacation. The outdoorsy experience can make for great family memories. You will also likely be within walking distance to a number of hiking trails, lakes, and other cool spots in nature.
Cruise lines offer dozens of itineraries, and you get the room, board, and plenty of entertainment all at one cost. They can also be a great balance of nightly comforts with daytime adventures for everyone in the family. This is one of the easier vacations to plan, as the cruise line does most of the work for you.
What Should Your Family Do?
When trying to plan activities, it’s best to plan a few extra. Don’t buy tickets or make reservations unless you’re truly committed, but be sure your family will have options to choose from.
- Balance Indoor and Outdoor Options: Some vacations involve a lot of time outside, especially if you visit a beach or go hiking and camping. Then again, you never know what the weather will bring. Being able to swing both ways based on the conditions of the day leaves you flexibility.
- Leave Time Between Activities: Filling your vacation with activities is good, only so long as you can do them and actually enjoy them. Leave room in the schedule for getting from one point to the next. Also, leave gaps for naps, rest, or just cleaning up.
- Cater to Everyone: Just like with picking the destination, you should get input from all family members to make sure everyone feels included.
How to Save Money on a Family Vacation
Consider yourself very fortunate if you can afford a family vacation in the first place. Half of Americans don’t take summer vacations, and lack of finances is a big reason behind that. According to Bankrate, the average family vacation costs $4,000.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a part of that average. Consider these ways to save money on your family vacation so it fits the budget you can afford:
- Find Discounts for Kids: There are tons of resorts, but you may be able to find one where kids get things for free. Some might let up to two kids per family stay for free while others might narrow it down to free activities and meals. You may already be using ‘kids eat free’ restaurants to save money at home – keep the savings going.
- Travel in September or October: If you can schedule it, going just a bit off-season can mean serious savings while the weather is still warm and sunny in many places. Quite a few touristy spots start seeing demand and prices drop in August as schools reopen.
- Visit Midwest Beaches: This region might be the last place you think of for a beach vacation, but the sheer number of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs means you can get a cheap beach vacation without hitting the Atlantic or Pacific.
- Know How to Shop for Theme Park Tickets: Never walk up to the ticket box at a theme park and buy tickets that day. Buy them off the website and print them. Better yet, look for seasonal specials in advance, and skip weekends and holidays.
- Stay in a Metropolitan Area: Hotel room prices in Washington, D.C. or New York City might scare you off, but you can also offset them. Big cities have tons of free or cheap activities, mass transit to get around, and plenty of food trucks with affordable food.
- Try Out Volun-tourism: Whether it’s domestic or overseas, a trip where your family volunteers for a while usually means free housing and food. Teach your kids the value of volunteering while getting to see a new part of the world.
- Visit a Factory: Many factories run tours of their facilities for cheap. Your kids can learn how certain things are made, and your family will probably enjoy free samples and swag.
- Hit a National Park: If your kids enjoy the outdoors, you can visit some of America’s best parks. Plan in advance for any free or discounted days that most parks have.
Time to Pack
Once you figure out what you want your family to do, where to go, where to stay, and how much you can afford, it’s time to pack. Keep these types of items in mind:
- Entertainment: Keep the kids occupied between adventures. Bring activities such as puzzles, video games, or books to entertain your kids during plane trips, long car rides, or even just downtime. This is also your chance to catch up on reading or any TV shows you’ve been wanting to watch.
- Snacks: Buying food can add up and kids seem to be eternally hungry – be prepared.
- First Aid: Accidents happen all the time, and you should still be prepared when away from home. There are a number of first aid items you can bring, but be sure to include bandaids, neosporin, aspirin, gauze, tweezers, and an antihistamine cream.
- Sun Protection: Nearly any vacation involves more outdoor time than your skin is used to, especially if you travel to a different climate than back home. Sunburns can even occur on sunny days in cold weather, so make sure to still bring sunscreen on skiing trips.
- More Clothes: Laundry is often possible, but it may not be convenient depending on where you go. Bring extra clothes in case there’s an accident of any kind.
- Cleaning Wipes: Baby wipes and general disinfectant wipes for all surfaces can come in handy, especially with young children.
Planning a great vacation can take a lot of work, but the time you get to spend with your family is well worth it. Both adults and kids need time off from the everyday stress of normal life; according to Money Crashers, more than 75 percent of kids report that their parents bring some of their work home with them. Most of those kids also report their parents bring their work stress home with them too. This cuts down on the family time that everyone needs, and a trip together just might be the cure. Whether snuggling up in a cabin, hiking up a mountain, or relaxing by the ocean, you’ll be sure to make memories that last forever.