Family Holiday A to Z: Itinerary
Welcome to my A to Z series on surviving, enjoying and making the most of family holidays. As you read this I am on my own 24 day odyssey to the USA with my husband and three little bears – so I am truly living what I am preaching right now! Each post in this series is designed to cover a specific aspect of family travel and provide 5 tips for making your next family holiday more special, fun and memorable. I would love to hear your stories and suggestions too, so feel free to hit me with them in the comments. I look forward to conversing with you on my return!
The itinerary is the centrepiece of your entire holiday. It usually takes weeks, sometimes even months, of planning to come up with a final itinerary that will suit the needs of your family. When you have that solid plan in your hands, excitement can build and anticipation can skyrocket. Finalising your itinerary truly is one of THE best moments of holiday preparation – you can finally start getting excited and begin sharing your plans with friends and family.
As it’s such an important document, it’s vital that you make the effort to keep it safe – so it pays to store it together with all your other travel documentation. This has the dual benefit of giving you easy access to the documents you need as the holiday approaches as well as a checklist to use when packing and finalising travel preparations closer to the date. It’s also a good idea to break down the itinerary for your kids so they can understand where you will be heading, for how long and what you expect to do while you are there.
We have developed a proven system for keeping our itinerary and travel documents in order and for sharing our plans with our kids. We’ll share some of our strategies with you today so you too can maximise the power of your itinerary for your next family holiday.
5 tips for utilising and protecting your itinerary for your next family holiday
1. Keep everything together in a single place
For each holiday we set up a new clear file folder and keep all our paperwork in there. This folder typically includes:
- hard copy of the itinerary
- paid receipts for the trip
- airport parking booking information
- printed copies of emails from the travel agent and tour providers
- printed off Visa or entry details
- vouchers for use during the holiday
- a detailed contact listing for all destinations and attractions
- copy of the kids itinerary
After we return, we add all the paperwork we have acquired throughout our trip – receipts, pamphlets, tour guides – and this forms the basis for a simple way to record every detail of the trip. This is handy if we want to go back and check out where we stayed or how much we paid for a souvenir in future years.
2. Scan and save copies of all hard copy documents
In the digital age it makes sense to convert everything into a digital format, just in case the unimaginable happens and you lose the originals. If you have the capacity to scan and save your travel documents, including the itinerary, make sure you do it before you leave. If you don’t, go to Officeworks and get everything saved onto a USB or CD. This is a must-do – it could save you a lot of heartache and stress should you lose your hard copies somewhere mid-transit.
3. Turn the itinerary into a word/pdf document for the kids
The normal travel itinerary is very wordy and sometimes hard to follow. To help the kids out (and to get to know the itinerary a little more yourselves) why not create a dedicated word document that can also be converted to pdf. You can really go to town with images, fact boxes, activities and funny anecdotes to interest the kids. Make sure all the important bits of information are included – the where, when, what, who and how of each day – and you will have a document that you can use to familiarise the kids with in the weeks leading up to the trip. If you are interested in finding out what we mean by developing an itinerary just for kids check out the one we put together for our NZ trip – NZ Holiday Book-final. It really does make the world of difference in preparing your kids for the trip to come.
4. Give copies of your itinerary to trusted friends and family
Make sure that at least one person back home has your complete itinerary so if something goes wrong they can do what they can to assist you from home. This is also a sensible safety measure – if you don’t return as expected someone can sound the alarm and alert the relevant authorities. Also on this note, if you are heading overseas, don’t forget to register at smartraveller.gov.au. This will give you access to travel alerts, updates on the countries you are intending to visit and a range of resources providing advice and best practice for Australian travellers.
5. Create a checklist to cross-check the details of your itinerary
Go through the final itinerary and map out each day. Use the details from each day to develop a quick checklist of accommodation, activities, transfers and connecting forms of transport. You can then cross-check the details included in the itinerary against your own notes and confirm whether everything has been included as specified. It doesn’t have to be a full-on excel spreadsheet with formulas – it can be as simple as writing down some notes and ticking them off as you go. Because there is so much detail included in each itinerary, you really do need to cross-check every single entry to ensure that you will have the complete holiday experience that you expect.
Bonus tip – 6. Check, re-check and re-check again
It goes without saying but it pays to go over your itinerary with a fine tooth comb. The checklist mentioned in point #5 will go a long way to help with this but it’s still vital to check, re-check and re-check again. We were caught out in NZ when we didn’t have a booster seat provided with the hire car. We made the assumption that it was included when in fact it needed to be specified in the itinerary – it wasn’t. This time around, after nothing was noted in the itinerary, we had to check the website of the transfer company and ask our agent to contact them directly to confirm whether a booster seat will be provided. It turns it won’t be so we are going to have to take our own to avoid having to buy yet another one on the run. Try not to make any assumptions with your itinerary – if something is not specifically mentioned, chase it up and get it confirmed.
Do you have any suggestions for checking, protecting and maximising the itinerary for your next family holiday?
Do you want to become a more positive special needs parent?
Sign up to grab your free guide now! Full of practical advice from a fellow special needs parent.