So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to go on a family vacation! Whoo-hoo!
If you are anything like me, I bet you’re excited to get planning!
But then it hits you. How are you going to plan a vacation that everyone in the family will love? Especially your hard to impress teen?
We all have been on the receiving end of a teenager’s wrath and mood swings. No one wants to deal with that, especially when you are finally on your dream family vacation.
So how do you plan a holiday that will make everyone happy? Plus, there is a massive amount of information out there. Does the thought of sifting through it all seem daunting?
It’s ok! Don’t worry! Here are a few tips to make sure you plan a fantastic family vacation.
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Hold A Family Meeting
I know sometimes it can be virtually impossible to get everyone in the same room simultaneously. But maybe the lure of an awesome family vacation is enough to get the teens out of their room for a few minutes.
Sit everyone down and make some fun decisions! This is a vital step to planning a vacation that everyone will LOVE!
Make sure the kids understand that it’s now or never. If they can’t take the time now, they may be very disappointed later.
Grab some pens and paper, sit down and talk about the budget, must-haves, and when you should go.
Budget – How Much Can You Spend?
Deciding on your family vacation budget is one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make about your family vacation.
Creating your budget is an essential 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
This may be something that you can excuse the kids for if you would rather or maybe come up with the numbers beforehand, so you don’t drag the meeting on too long.
It’s a great idea to involve them in the budget. It will help them understand a bit better how much things cost. Plus, you can use it as a teaching moment to create a budget if you’d like!
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.
Now it’s one more “filter” you can use when searching to narrow down the options.
Destination – Where Do You Want To Go?
There are three decisions to make when deciding where in the world to travel with your family.
- Choose what category of vacation you’d like,
- Have each family member create a destination wish-list,
- What are the must-haves to make it the best vacation
1. Choose A Vacation That Will Make (mostly) Everyone Happy.
What kind of vacation would your family like to go on?
Here are a few category ideas to get you started.
- Beach or All-Inclusive Vacation
- City Sightseeing Trip
- European Vacation
- Camping or Backpacking Trip
- A Roadtrip across the USA or Canada
- An ocean or river cruise
- A bucket-list trip such as an African Safari
- Amusement Park or Theme Park Holiday
2. Wish-list Time!
Creating a wish list is super easy! Have everyone jot down their top three destinations.
Now that you’ve determined which style of vacation you want. It’s time to brainstorm destinations. Have everyone quietly write down the top three places they’d like to go.
Before you let the kids go crazy, make sure you know what the “no-go’s” for you are.
Even though you’ve already narrowed down a vacation category, the kids will be excited and may need some guidance.
For example, does the holiday need to stay within North America, or can the kids choose a European destination? Do you want to limit the cruise to the Caribbean, or are Alaska and the Mediterranean on the table?
Make sure you’re clear on both limits and what’s possible. (This is also why it’s important to talk about the budget.)
If I ask my kids where they want to go to, the first place they shout out is always Disney. But there is much more to the world than Disney parks. (no shade intended, I love all things, Disney!)
Creating these lists will help you come up with a great starting off point to start researching. Even if one of the places on the list is Disney! lol
Food for thought: Most teenagers crave new experiences and adventures. They will likely get bored and annoyed with the same old holiday over and over again.
Try somewhere new! Your teens will absolutely LOVE to snap or Instagram their buddies cool pictures from their vacation.
3. What Are Everyone’s Must-Haves
The next part is just as important as where they want to go; these are what I call the “must-haves”.
What are the “musts” to make the vacation perfect for your family? And keep everyone happy?
Suppose 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.
My kids would probably all say that the hotel must have wi-fi. And for me, one thing would be a restaurant (that serves cocktails!) in the hotel.
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.
This is also a good time to think ahead about problems you foresee happening. For instance, if your teen (like most) refuses to get out of bed before ten a.m., you may want to re-think those early morning sightseeing tours. Or come up with a compromise.
It can be frustrating and exhausting, trying to anticipate everyone’s needs and wants. But if everyone has their say and input to where to go on vacation, you have a much better chance of finding a holiday that will make everyone happy.
You’ll find more advice and tips on how to travel with teens here 👉 How To Have An Awesome Vacation With Your Teenager
Dates – When Do You Want To Go?
Time To Choose Your Dates
There are a few important questions to ask your family when trying to figure out your travel dates for your family vacation.
Things to consider:
- Do the kids have time off of school?
- Is there a good time for you and your partner to take off work?
- When is the best time to travel to your chosen destination?
- Is there a high and low season?
- When are the busiest times for tourists?
- What will the weather be like?
- Are there any holidays or special events taking place?
This is the perfect time to speak with your teen and find out how they feel about missing school. Do they have anything important happening that week? Will they be overloaded with homework when they get home?
I didn’t put much thought into this when my kids were in elementary school, but I caught on when I almost booked a trip to Orlando during my daughter’s Grade 10 finals.
Not to mention, some kids get really stressed out about missing more than a couple of days of school. I believe it’s an important consideration.
Now that your dates are settled, it’s time to book off at work, and you are one step closer!
Time To Start Researching
You’ve collected all the information from your family that you need to plan an awesome family vacation that the whole family will love.
Now comes the most difficult part. The research!
If you’re a planner like me, you’ll love this part of planning a vacation. If you’re not so much into doing the leg-work yourself, no worries, this is the perfect time to consult a professional!
Your Travel Agent Is Your BFF
A travel agent is a key to having a stress free and wonderful holiday.
I cannot say it enough; a good travel agent is 100% worth any fee that they (may) charge.
You’ll be so glad you have someone on your side when there is a hiccup in your travel plans.
Whether it’s on the phone for hours to get you re-booked on the next flight out or some may be able to use personal relationships they’ve cultivated to ensure your birthday extra special.
Many agents can get you special perks and upgrades that you can’t get booking through Expedia.
Ensure you have completed the steps above before you first consult your travel agent; only you know what will work best for your family, so be clear from the get-go exactly what you want.
Before you speak with a travel agent, decide the holiday type destination ideas in mind, your chosen dates, and budget.
Ok, I’m going to step on my soap-box here for a moment here, apologies.
If you call a travel agent to research and have them put together a vacation proposal for you, please don’t turnaround and book it online yourself.
It might seem easy for you to do it yourself, but please remember, travel agents only get paid if you book through them. They’ve likely put hours of work into creating an itinerary for a dream holiday for your family.
I’m not sure why its become so normalized for travel agents to work for free.
It’s easy to get sucked into the “rabbit hole” of the internet and quickly get overwhelmed. You’ll be looking for hotel ideas and somehow you end up on YouTube watching something totally unrelated.
There is so much information and options out there; it’s hard to know where to look. Here are a few of our favourite sites for research.
Use Google Maps
When I’m first planning a vacation the first website I like to start my research with Google Maps.
- Enter the city you want to visit Ex: Paris, France. To give it a try click “view larger map” on the map of Paris.
- Zoom in on the map and look for landmarks and important locations Ex: Find the Eiffel Tower
- You may find some pink hotel icons that pop up around that location, but if you choose “view more hotels” from the city information panel ( you may have to scroll down a bit) on the left of your screen, lots of options pop up.
- Here you can set filters for price, guest rating, your dates and more.
- You can quickly look through the pins on the map while jotting down hotels that spark your interest.
- This way, you know right away that the hotel will be in a desirable location, and it gives you a preview of all the cool stuff you can see!
Search On Google
Google is such an amazing wealth of knowledge. I’m sure you probably use it often, if not every single day.
Heck, you might have even found this article by searching on Google. They are so good at giving you back search results that fit your search query.
For the best results be as specific as possible when typing in your question.
If, for example, you are looking for hotels in Paris. You’ll get search results that are better suited to you if you type 👉 “Best hotels in Paris for a family of 5” versus just simply typing “Hotels in Paris” in the search bar.
Online Booking Sites
If, after using Google Maps & search, you still haven’t found what you are looking for. Take full advantage of booking websites like Booking.com, Kayak or Trip Advisor. The filters are so helpful in narrowing down your searches.
Input your desired destination, dates, budget and “musts” (must have a pool, spa, kids-club, beachfront, etc.) Stick with two or three sites for simplicity, or it may start to get overwhelming.
Jot down any places that you really like, and hit all those points fit on your wish list.
Pinterest is a great tool for planning a trip!
I had always considered Pinterest to be a form of social media, but after I heard someone explain that it is actually a visual search engine, it totally changed how I look for things
Ah, lightbulb! Of course, that makes so much sense.
So use Pinterest the same way you’d search on Google. If I was searching in Google I’d go straight for the most specific search, and by all means, you can for sure do that!
Here’s a quick tutorial, If you are not too familiar with how Pinterest works and how to get the best results back from your searches.
- Type in a general search query. Here I’ve searched for “Hotels in Paris.” Above the pins, you’ll see some different coloured “word-bubbles.” Here is where you can now narrow down your search even further.
2. Click the coloured word-bubble that best fits your search. I clicked “best” and was then brought to another page of search results. Now there are more word-bubbles to narrow down the search even further.
3. As you can see from the picture above, there are no longer any coloured word-bubbles showing. Now Pinterest has determined that you should have the optimal results for what you’re searching for. This is what is often referred to as the “end of Pinterest.”
Next, you can click and save the pins that interest you.
If you are looking for more ideas, you can click into a pin that fits your search perfectly, then scroll down. It will say “more like this,” and Pinterest will return more pins that they think are relevant to your search.
Follow us on Pinterest for tons of ideas, inspiration and all kinds of good stuff!
Ask People You Know
Another great source of information is friends and family
Often someone you know has travelled to the destination you’re considering.
They usually have great advice! If you put out a question on your Facebook, I guarantee you will get some great recommendations on where to take your family on vacation.
Another great source of information is Facebook groups that are dedicated to travelling with your family.
The research phase of trip planning can get really overwhelming, especially with the massive amount of information out there. Go to trusted sources when doing your research and call up your local travel agent if you need help.
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 into three options. You can get as detailed with this as you want to be!
After looking at a bunch of different resorts or hotels, they can get all blended into one another. Take notes and write down memorable qualities.
Some questions you can ask yourself
- What impresses me about this hotel or destination?
- What will the price be?
- Does it fit into your budget?
- What is the price?
- What amenities are you excited about?
- Is there something about the hotel or destination that made you think “Oh, Joey would love that!
- What is the website address for each hotel you like?
- What are the flight times?
- Highlights and features of the destination.
restaurants, spas…. you can go on, and on!
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 websites. Review the photo galleries, the restaurants, and available amenities at each hotel.
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.
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 will inevitably come up.
- What are the luggage fees and allowances?
- Can you pre-select your seats (I highly recommend it!)
- 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 critical, when travelling with teens, what is the onboard entertainment situation?!
One extra expense that we always choose to make is to pre-select our seats.
It almost always costs extra but it is worth it when it saves you a major upset later.
Once, on a flight from Vancouver to Maui, when our oldest daughter was around eight-years-old, she had to spend the whole flight with strangers five rows behind me. You cannot count of the kindness of others. Some just refuse.
So, how are you going to get around on your family vacation?
You’ll need to do some destination specific research to find out what’s the best way to get your family around.
Questions to ask:
- Is there easily accessible public transportation?
- Do you need to rent a car?
- Is transportation included with my package or tour?
- Should we use taxies or an Uber?
- How much does this all cost?
Ugh, I know. No one wants to talk about travel insurance.
You’ve already shelled out big bucks for the trip and really hate to shell out another couple hundred bucks for something that seems unecessary.
But, before you purchase that pre-packaged travel insurance policy, check a couple of things first!
- Does your employer offer health benefits? Most have a travel medical program included in your standard benefits.
- Next check with your credit card company. Many credit cards come with a pretty generous travel insurance policy. Yours might too!
But please, please, please do research before you leave on vacation. Don’t make any assumptions. Call your credit card company and check with your employer to 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 such as an ear infection and a sprained ankle.
If you’d like to see how much a travel insurance policy would cost your family. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads.
Airport & Flying
Parking At The Airport
If you need to drive yourself to the airport, be sure to research and reserve yourself a spot at an airport parking lot.
This isn’t particularly time-sensitive, but it’s just something I like to check off my to-do list.
Be sure to make a reservation. They can book up, especially during peak travel times. Plus, a private parking lot is often much cheaper (and more secure) than parking right at the airport.
Tours and Activities
So what kind of stuff does your family want to do?
When you vacation, are you the type of family that likes to be busy from morning to night? Or are you happy to spend your days lounging by the pool or at the beach? Maybe you like a bit of both?
The trouble is there isn’t really a “one size fit’s all” family vacation. You’ll guarantee a holiday that your family (especially your teens) will love when you take their suggestions into account.
This is when the “wish lists” will once again come in handy!
Where to find ideas for tours & attractions:
I’m always on the fence about pre-booking too many activities or tours when we travel.
We like to have the freedom to explore without feeling rushed or having time limits. But then we’ve waited to book until we were travelling only to have popular tours are sold out.
So this is something where you’ll have to use your judgement.
If your teen daughter would be devastated to miss the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, then I would advise you to book it in advance.
Tips for to decide if you need to pre-book your tours and attractions:
- How popular is the attraction or tour? Does it typically sell out?
- What is the cancellation policy? Can you change your mind and get your money back?
- Is this one of the must-see activities that your family has on their wish-list?
- Is it only available on certain days of the week?
I just want to take a few seconds more of your time. There are a couple things that chances are you’re already aware, but I like to mention them just in case.
- Make sure to check the expiration dates on everyone’s passports well ahead of your departure date
- Check government sites for travel advisories and recommendations when travelling outside of your home country
- Do you need a travellers visa?
- Inform your bank and credit card company that you will be travelling.
*Before you book ANY travel reservations please be sure to check for travel restrictions due to the global pandemic.
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!