Family Holiday A to Z: Planning your journey
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!
You’ll either absolutely love the process of planning your journey or intensely dislike it. I love the process of planning, up until I get to the point where I am completely overwhelmed by choice and options and decisions. At that point, I just want to walk away. But you really can’t do that.
If you want to ensure the best possible holiday with your family, you need to take the time AND make the effort to undertake proper planning and preparation. The easy way is to walk into a travel agent and get them to put together your dream itinerary but still doesn’t get you completely out of planning or preparation.
If you are dreading going through the details of your next family holiday, check out the following tips to make the experience a little less stressful and overwhelming.
5 tips for planning your next family holiday
1. Know your budget and what you can afford
In my second post in this series I discussed the importance of setting a realistic budget and sticking to it. The cornerstone of planning a holiday is knowing how much you can spend. You can’t properly plan if you have no idea what you can realistically afford. This includes having some contingency money set aside in case expenses do grow or plans change. Don’t leave yourself open to disappointment – know your budget and have some extra funds set aside for any unexpected costs that come your way.
2. Work out as a family what sort of holiday would be best for you
A big part of the planning process is working out what sort of holiday you would like to experience. Are you looking for a relaxing beach break, a hike through a national park, a week of sight-seeing or theme park adventure? It’s important to take into account the needs of your entire family when making that decision. For example, an action/adventure trip may not be the best idea with toddlers in tow. Compromises may need to be made but if you want to have the best possible holiday as a family, they will need to be made to ensure that everyone has a great time.
3. Consider the best time to travel
The holy grail of travel is finding the perfect marriage of good weather, low crowds and a bargain price at a time of year when you can arrange leave from your job or from other commitments to travel. It’s rare for everything to come together so, again, compromises may have to be made. You may need to travel outside of school holidays to avoid the crowds and the high tariffs. You may need to consider holidaying in the shoulder periods of late autumn/early spring to get the best deals. And you may have to give up your summer holiday dreams and embrace a cosy winter fireside retreat instead if you can’t get leave from work. It’s up to you to weigh up the best time to travel but it is definitely worth the time and effort to research all options before making your decision.
4. Take the time to develop an itinerary
Family holidays are difficult to plan on the fly. It’s best to prepare a proper itinerary so you can all know what will be happening on your holiday. Even a short, informal trip will work best if you have some idea of what you will be doing while you are away. Details included on any itinerary will vary depending on the length of the trip and distance travelled, etc but a good itinerary will always include the following:
- dates of travel
- details of bookings (flights, accommodation, transfers, tours)
- confirmation numbers
- contact numbers and reservation details
- a list of destinations
- travel times and expected arrival time at each destination
An itinerary can be an important checklist when it comes to making sure everything is covered off before you leave so take the time to develop one before your next family holiday.
5. Book with a travel agent or through a reputable company
These days it’s easier than ever to book your own family holiday. The internet makes it so easy to go directly to the source and save money but it’s important to do your homework first to avoid disappointment. If you do choose to go it alone, take the time to research the company you are intending to book through first. Check reviews through sites like Trip Advisor and ask friends and families for recommendations. This advice is just as relevant if you choose to engage the services of a travel agent. Make sure you are comfortable and confident in the agency and in the agent you are dealing with. If you have questions, and they are not being answered, go elsewhere.
Bonus tip – 6. Plan to have fun!
Planning a holiday can be stressful – I’m quite tense as I write this just thinking about everything we need to do in the next few days before we leave! It’s easy to be caught up in the planning and in the stress of everything that has to be done and inevitably you can lose sight of the reason you are going – to have fun. So ensure you plan to have fun too! Build things in that YOU want to do as well. Book the kids into kids clubs for certain periods during the trip so you can do things as a couple and have a restorative break yourselves. Make sure you sound excited when you talk to the kids about the trip and emphasise that this is going to be fun – this will help ease any fears and gee everyone up to have a great trip!
Do you have any suggestions for better planning your next family holiday?