Everything was much simpler when you were 20. You could leave for a vacation on another continent in a minute’s notice and you packed only the necessities that fitted into a single suitcase. However, as your family grew, so did vacation preparations. You are probably scared by now as summer or winter holidays approach, thinking that you’ll forget something or overspend heavily. Well, we have news for you, you are an adult and there is no way you can mess up things that much but, and this is why you need to be ready for the journey in the sense that you must have a checklist on how you approach the whole family vacation issue. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything and that you find the best possible deal for your loved ones, without taking away from the charm and romance of the trip. If you are interested in knowing how a thorough preparation for a typical family vacation should look like, do read on.
I am free on the…
First of all, you have probably come across this text after you were rescheduling the family vacation for months until you were finally able to secure leave from work. However, now you have to wait for your partner to achieve the same and then check with the kids as well. That is why it is essential that you plan ahead because there is no other way that all family members will be free on a given date. If you know how much free days you and your spouse have respectively, you can sit down, grab a calendar try to coordinate free days. Once the initial dates are settled, you have to ask the children if there is an important test at school during that particular week. There are some exams that cannot be skipped, so you better postpone the trip.
Furthermore, there are dates that free for most people, like state and religious holidays, like Easter or the summer vacation. This is the time when others travel as well, so for instance, most Americans travel for their winter holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This means that the roads will be jammed and that you will not enjoy sufficient privacy at your desired destination. Try to avoid the holiday season much as possible, so the vacation could really be about your family bonding and not about sharing a beach with thousands of other holiday goers.
A strict budget
Would you ever agree to start a business without drafting a clear business plan accounting for every dollar spent? You probably wouldn’t and the same principle should go for the family vacation. Basically, you need to know how much you two can spend on this trip and try not to exceed that amount too much. When choosing the destination, you might want to go to an exotic beach resort abroad but if your budget only allows a national destination then sorry, you are staying in your home country. This will serve as an incentive for next year to save more money so you can afford all those luxurious destinations like Europe, Dubai or the Maldives.
The final budget should include the following items: transportation costs, accommodation, food, and entertainment. Firstly, you need to decide whether you are travelling by plane or you are going to use your own car, in which case you need to calculate the amount of petrol you’ll need to put in the tank. As a cheap alternative, you can always purchase a bus or a train ticket, where you get a discount for buying a return ticket and often small children can ride for free. When it comes to accommodation, hotels and hostels seem like a logical choice but if you are travelling with another family then it might be cheaper to rent a house or a bungalow. This way, you can share the total cost and you can buy food together, which is another important item in your budget. Finally, you need to leave enough money for tickets for a museum or an amusement park. Of course, a cold beer in the evening at the local bar is almost mandatory.
When choosing the destination for your holiday there are going to be numerous factors, of which money is perhaps the most important, as we have already mentioned. However, there are advantages and disadvantages that you need to take into consideration. Firstly, are there activities at this destination that all of you can enjoy? You definitely do not want to be one of those parents who force their children to go to a place where they will be the only one having fun, while the children sit in the hotel room watching TV.
This is why city breaks offer the ideal opportunity for the whole family to have fun. For instance, if you travel to Paris, you might want to visit the Louvre and your spouse will want to climb the Eiffel tower, so both of these sights can be seen in a single day. The kids can tag along if they want to see the famous Mona Lisa but hey will all the while be looking forward to the visit to Disneyland in Chessy, east of Paris. The same principle goes for any prospective destination, whether it is a beach, a mountain or a visit to a large city: all the family members have to enjoy themselves. Remember, you are no longer planning only for yourself and you need to incorporate the wishes of others into your travel plans.
A family vacation and any vacation for that matter is a break in the daily routine. During those seven or ten days, you are going to do and experience things you normally wouldn’t, so do your best to include a touch of luxury in this outing with the family. This can entail anything from staying at a luxurious hotel to visiting the local spa centre. Having discussed the travel arrangements, we mentioned that you can fly to your destination, which is pretty much the only option if you must cross a large body of water.
If you are tired of economy class, then you can choose to rent an aeroplane, why not! A private jet charter might seem like something that statesmen and Hollywood stars do but the prices of aircraft rental have dropped over the recent years, making it possible for a family (or several of them) to hire a charter. Before you start shaking your head in disbelief, just take into consideration how much time and hassle you will save you and your loved ones by embarking in your home city and getting off the plane at your destination, where the hotel van will be waiting for you. For the kids, being the only passenger on the flight will be an experience of a lifetime that they will talk about for months after you return home.
If you are travelling abroad for your vacation, then you have to prepare extra. First of all, all of the family members need to have a valid passport, including the children as well. Before you set off, check the expiry date of all documents and IDs, so they are no unpleasant surprise when you reach border control and customs. Furthermore, many countries make it mandatory to have travel insurance but in any case, you should buy this before the trip. This is important because any unplanned medical cost will be covered by the insurance company if something goes wrong. Hopefully, everything will be in perfect order but you can never be too safe when children are involved.
If you are travelling to a country that uses a currency different than the dollar and they don’t accept a dollar, you can go to the nearest exchange office to get the local currency. You needn’t exchange a large sum of money, just enough you can buy a bottle of water or a single meal before you reach your hostel. Try to avoid exchanging the money several times and through several times as your money will lose its value because of the exchange rate.
Booking in advance
Finally, you can save a considerable amount of money if you plan and book your trip in advance. In general, a prudent head of the family will book the trip up to six months before the departure date in order to save money on booking. If you make the reservation early on, you can save money on the whole deal. Furthermore, many establishments offer special packages for families which include free service for the kids. Google a little your desired destination and you would be surprised how low the prices are. Also, if you are booking a date in pre-season, you can expect lower prices, so seriously consider vacationing on the seaside in September and even October.
A little research cannot do any harm
Finally, try to get acquainted with the hotel or the house you are going to stay in. You can get a city plan and mark all the sights you want to visit, calculating the distance from your accommodation. Also, before you book, be sure to check the comments section and read the reviews about the hotel you choose. If the reviews are extremely negative, then you might want to reconsider the hotel you initially picked out. If any of your friends or relatives travelled on vacation before to the same destination, ask them for a recommendation about good local accommodation. In general, try to find out before the destination as much as possible before you set off on your journey.
In the end, the most important thing when it comes to planning a family vacation is starting early. Essentially, it is never too early to start booking and arranging all the details of your journey. Get a passport if you don’t have one, ask for a discount in the off-season, and charter out an airplane as early as possible. By doing these things, you are not only saving money but you are ensuring that everything goes smoothly. After all, your own family’s safety and comfort should be a top priority!