Wise ones say that there is nothing remotely relaxing about an ill-planned a family vacation. This is exactly why a family needs to plan for one in advance with enviable focus. And make lists! Lots and lots of lists. Our comprehensive, detailed and family travel-friendly checklist will make planning for your next family vacation a cakewalk.
A practical way of planning a vacation is to set a budget for your family trip and then deciding on a destination depending on how much you want to spend on travel, hotels, activities and shopping. Setting a budget can give you a serious headway when planning for a vacation.
Buying food at the airport in particular is expensive; pack a meal so you can avoid spending a fortune before you even start your vacation. Along with setting an overall budget for the trip, setting a daily budget will stop you from overspending. You can also set envelopes for each day of the vacation to limit the spending. Remember to only use cash or gift cards and if you have any cash left over from the day then you can add it to the next day's envelope.
It is always tempting to buy souvenirs but remember that souvenirs can cost a lot. Instead spend your money on experiences and take lots of pictures and videos.
Perhaps one of the most challenging things to do is to decide on a destination for a family vacation. It has to be some place everyone agrees on going and it must have a little something for each member of the family (and a whole lot of something when there are kids tagging along as well!). The destination must also have the right kind of ‘experience’ while being budget-friendly (goes without saying).
To pick a destination that everyone would hop on board for as a family is difficult indeed. So, make a list of the places that you have always wanted to visit. Get input from everyone and before you know it, you will have that the perfect vacay spot for the entire family just like that!
Save the Date!
Sit down with a calendar and a list of everyone’s school schedules and workplace commitments. Pick a vacation date well in advance so that you can book tickets (in case it’s not a road trip in your own car), make hotel reservations as well as plan an itinerary for everyone. This will also give you plenty of time to look for various tourist attractions; plan and book local tours and read about what the destination has to offer.
The time of year during, which you may choose to travel matters a lot as well. Generally, budget travellers plan vacations during off-season. However, that might mean facing unfavourable weather conditions but, on the upside, it will also help you avoid crowds, get bookings at favourable rates as well as book tours without having to wait forever.
The Travel Plan
The next part of planning your family vacation has to do with logistics. How are you going to get there? Are you driving cross-country or booking the redeye? Frequent family travellers highly recommend booking a non-stop, direct flight especially when you are travelling with kids. Lengthy layovers can irritate younger children and that is not how you want your relaxing family vacation to kick-start. If you are travelling with babies, it is always a good idea to check if there is a changing station on the plane and if you can be accommodated by the airline for bulkhead seats.
When travelling by road, plan ahead and plan extensively! Map out the route you will be taking, account for snacks and bathroom breaks for the kids, make sure that there is plenty of in-car entertainment options for the kids, e.g., charged iPads with their favourite movies, card games, drawing paper, crayons, favourite toys, etc.
The COVID Factor
The pandemic has changed the world and has also altered travel practices. There are now new policies for reservations, restrictions and strict SOPs set in place if you want to plan a family vacation in the post-corona world. You may want to consider the following in this regard.
• Avoid COVID Hotspots
Pick a time of the year when your destination is not bound to be crowded, for example, avoid travelling during the summer or public holidays.
• Get vaccinated and Observe SOPs!
Even when you are vaccinated, follow the standard SOPs set in place by the World Health Organization (WHO). Mask up, keep your hands clean and sanitized, practice social distancing and respect the SOPs of the destination you are travelling to.
Packing for Family Trips
The next important thing is packing for your trip. There is a very thin line between packing appropriately and over-packing. A lot of people hop on over that line and wave it goodbye from a 100 meters away. Packing smartly is important. You do not want to lug around bulging suitcases from place to place. Being minimalistic is the key and it is possible to pack minimally even when travelling with children. Consider these following tips from a fellow wanderer.
• Keep travel friendly, compact suitcases for each member of the family. If you are travelling by road, pick suitcases and bags that will fit easily into the trunk of your car. Follow this rule: every member is allowed to pack only those items that they can carry within that suitcase.
• If you are travelling by air, check the luggage allowance extended by the airline. You do not want to show up at the airport with luggage that is over the specified allowance and then end up spending a chunk of your travel budget on paying for the extra baggage.
• Think about using packing cubes or organizers. They fit nicely and compactly into suitcases and you can organize your travel items according to categories — shoes, clothes, toiletries, first aid kit, socks, etc. Another great way to optimize space is by rolling your clothes and stacking them together.
• Always pack a first aid kit in one of your travel cases along with a card detailing medical requirements of each family member (if there are any). Inhalers, Epi-pens, anti-allergic medicines, anti-septic lotions/creams, alcohol swabs, thermometers, painkillers, bug repellents, etc., are some items you can include in your first aid kit.
• Plan outfits rather than packing all the dresses you want to wear on your trip. An outfit for each travel day is generally a good idea. You can swap tops and bottoms as well. This way, you know what you will be wearing every day and will not have to struggle with the eternal, inescapable ‘what do I wear today?’ question. Do the same for the kids, however, pack two to three outfits extra for each child.
• The secret to packing shoes is a basic one; sandals, slip-ons, flip-flops can be stacked in individual suitcases. Bulkier shoes like boots, sneakers, etc., can be carried in a separate carrier reserved just for shoes.
• Some toiletries that you can carry are shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs/brushes, razors, contact solution, hair tools, deodorant, sunscreen and makeup. Consider taking a dry shampoo as well, it may become your new best friend.
• When you are travelling with small kids, pack essentials like a sturdy travel stroller, baby carrier and slings, etc. Some hotels have these available for their guests as well, however, COVID SOPs regulate that families should travel with their own gear. Older kids can easily take their own carry-ons. Let them have a go at packing their own backpacks for things they may need while travelling.
• Remember to take a backup of all your travel documents and also email them to yourself or your spouse. This includes passports for the family, booking details, medical records, ticketing details, etc.
With these tips and tricks in mind, I wish you a masterfully planned and thoroughly well-executed, relaxing family trip! HH
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