So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to go on a family vacation! Congratulations!
If you are anything like me, I bet you
You want to get started but maybe it’s been a while since you’ve planned a vacation? Are you starting to feel really overwhelmed? There is a massive amount of information out there, does the thought sifting through it all seem daunting?
It’s ok! Don’t worry! Here’s a breakdown of the simple method I use to make sure we have the very best family vacation!
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Hold a family meeting
Try to carve out some time from your busy schedule! I know it’s hard! Everyone is going different directions most days, but I believe that this is a vital step to planning a vacation that everyone will LOVE! Grab some pens and paper, sit down and talk about your destination, your dates and your budget!
Destination – Where do you want to go?
You will first need to decide what kind of holiday you want. Do you want to do lots of sightseeing? Relaxation on the beach? What will make (mostly) everyone happy? It can be frustrating and exhausting trying to anticipate everyone’s needs and wants. I know if I ask my kids where they want to go to, the first place they say is always Disneyland!
Try This! Have each family member create a holiday “wish list”.
Creating a wish list is super easy! Have everyone jot down their top three destinations. The next part is just as important as where they want to go; these are what I call the “musts”. What are the “musts” to make the vacation fit your family?
If you see that four out of five members of your family want “an awesome pool” or “snorkelling”. You’ll be able to narrow down on some of the options out there. This is a fun little exercise to get the whole family involved. And the kids will feel much more invested and may even help with research and planning!
Dates – when do you want to go?
There are a few important questions to consider when are trying to figure out your travel dates.
Questions we ask are … When do the kids have time off school? When is a good time for you to take off work? What is the best time to go to your chosen destination?
Spend a few minutes and research … When are the high and low season? What are the busiest tourist times? What will the weather be like? Are there any holiday’s, cultural festivals or special events taking place?
Now to the time to book off at work and you are one step closer!
Budget – How much are you willing to spend?
Time to come up with some numbers! This may be something that you can excuse the kids for if you would rather. I like to involve them, they need to understand how much things cost and how to create a realistic budget.
Start with an estimate, even though you are taking a guess it will really help you avoid overwhelm with the many, many choices out there, and of course, not spending above what you are comfortable with.
For example, when we decided that our upcoming trip was going to involve a beach somewhere hot and sunny, I decided that we would likely be staying at an all-inclusive resort. We estimated that our budget would be about $2000 per person or $6000 for the three of us. Now it’s one more “filter” I can use when searching to narrow down the options.
Once you have answered all three of the above questions, it’s time to move on to the next step. Start researching!
It is really easy to get sucked into the “rabbit hole” of the internet, so be careful and try to stay focused so you don’t get overwhelmed. This may be a good time for you to get in touch with your travel agent! They are a wealth of information and your vacation will be much more secure when you book with one.
But if you are more of a do-it-yourself person ….
Start with sites such as Expedia, Kayak or Trip Advisor. These are my go-to for when I start looking for hotels, or package vacations. Search by your desired destination, dates, budget and “musts” (must have a pool, spa, kids-club, beachfront, etc.)
I also like to go straight to the supplier or tour company website. For example, when I’m looking for an all-inclusive package, websites such as Sunwing, Air Transat, or WestJet Vacations. They are not quite as overwhelming as some other sites and will give you a price for the week vs. per night.
Jot down any places that you really like and fit into your wish list.
Another great source of information is friends and family! Someone you know has likely been to where you want to go, they usually have great advice! If you put out a question on your Facebook, I guarantee you will get some great recommendations.
Use Pinterest for your research
Pinterest is a great tool for planning a trip, just make sure you keep your families wish list handy!
Get specific with your Pinterest searches!
I knew at this point that we would be heading to Mexico for our vacation. But I wasn’t sure which area would suit us best. It has been over ten years since our last visit to Mexico, so I needed a refresher.
I started my research by searching for the ” best place for kids in Mexico”. I know it’s a bit vague, but did help quite a bit! From this search, I decided that we were going to stay on the east side of Mexico close to Cancun.
Now that I’ve decided which area of Mexico suits us best. It’a time to start looking for hotel ideas. So my next search was for “best all-inclusive resorts for families
The research phase of trip planning can get really overwhelming, especially with the massive amount of information out there.
If it all feels like too much, it’s okay! Put your research aside for a day or two, ask for help or maybe now is the time for you to contact your travel agent.
Create your budget
Creating your budget is a really important step to having a fun and stress-free holiday. You’ll know what to expect, and you won’t have a shock when you get home and open up your credit card
Narrow down your choices
So you’ve powered through! Awesome job! You’ve done so much research your head is spinning!
It’s time to make some decisions, not the big decision just yet… but some!
Review your notes and narrow down all that research to three options. You can get as detailed with this as you want to be! I find after looking at a bunch of different resorts or hotels they can all kinda mush together in my brain. I like to take notes and write down memorable qualities.
Some questions you can ask yourself
- what impresses you about this hotel or package?
- does it fit into your budget? What is the price?
- What amenities are you loving?
- Was there something that made you think “Oh, Joey would love that!
- What is the website address for each resort?
- What are the flight times?
restaurants, spas…. you can go on, and on!
On a side note, this is a fantastic way to start a travel journal. I believe that a good travel journal starts when you are planning your trip!
Back to our vacation planning …. at this point, I have narrowed down our three favourites resorts.
It’s Time for another family meeting
Gather together your information, and get prepped for another family meeting.
Now you have come up with your top three resorts. Have another quick family meeting.
Together look at each of the resorts’ websites. Review the photo galleries, the restaurants, and available amenities at each resort. Come up
I recommend having a look and seeing how much it will cost for you to upgrade your room. It’s often worth that bit extra you will pay for the added space or cool features like a swim out suite.
In the end, we looked closely at our three options and decided on the Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa. Yay! We stayed under our budget of $6000 and also found a resort that everyone is excited about!
We did decide to upgrade our room to a swim out suite, which was one of the selling points for this resort. And the kids think it is super cool! The rooms look ultra-luxurious, modern, and spacious. Plus it has great reviews!
All-inclusive Flights & transportation
When you book an all-inclusive package you likely won’t have a whole lot of choice when it comes to flight options. Simply choose the one that works best for your family.
Airport transfers are almost always included with your package. Check the listing on the tour company site, it will list what is included. If it’s not included or you are not sure, I would call the travel agent or company you plan to book through to see what is available.
Once you are ready to book, find a reputable site to book on, or better yet call up your travel agent!
It’s booked! You are finally going on that well-deserved vacation! So what’s next?
Visit the airline’s website or give their customer service a call to find out any extra costs that may come up. Find out what their luggage fees are? What do they offer for purchase onboard? Are there any upgrades are available? What happens if you need to cancel or make a change? And very important when travelling with kids, what is the onboard entertainment situation?!
One purchase that I like to make is to pre-select our seats. It almost always costs extra but it is worth it when it saves you a major headache later. Once, on a flight from Vancouver to Maui, our eight-year-old daughter spent the whole flight with strangers five rows behind me. I don’t like taking chances.
I know it can feel like a waste. You’ve already shelled out big bucks for the trip and don’t want to spend any more. Before you purchase a new policy, I would recommend finding out what your employer’s health benefits include, most have a travel medical program. Then check with your credit card company. Many credit cards come with a pretty generous travel insurance policy. But please do your research, call your credit card company and find out all the ins and outs. Use your discretion to see if you need any additional coverage.
If you don’t have
We’ve have had to use our travel medical plan a couple of times, and it has saved us over $2000 in the past two years for just minor things like an ear infection and a sprained ankle.
One of the best travel insurance companies is World Nomads. Ready to get a quote, click here!
We typically use one of the private business parking lots right next to the airport. I like to reserve our spot right away after our flights have been secured. This isn’t usually something that is particularly time-sensitive, but it’s just something I like to get off my to-do list.
Tours and Activities
So what kind of stuff do you want to do?
Are you the type of person who likes to be busy from morning to night? Or are you happy to spend your days lounging by the pool and at the beach? Or maybe a bit of both?
The trouble is there isn’t really a “one size fit’s all” holiday. This will be where the “wish lists” will once again come in handy!
Head back to Pinterest and start researching tours. You can also find lots of good information on Expedia under their “Things to Do” section. And another great resource for tours and activities is Viator.
And once again check with friends and family!
We all know that life is so busy and you desperately need a family vacation! You always want the absolute best for your family, it makes your day to see joy and happiness on their faces!
You want to have the greatest vacation together, but it can be hard to find the perfect fit for everyone. Which is totally normal!
Having a family meeting is a really good way to get to know what’s on your family’s “wish list”. Plus, involving the kids can make them feel valued and will get them excited! Use those “musts” from your “wish list” to narrow down your searches on websites such as Pinterest, Expedia, and Trip Advisor to help get you on the right track and cut out some of the overwhelming information. Before you know it you will be relaxing on a beach somewhere!