15 Great Ideas on How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Vacation

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Ready to take your family vacation up a notch? We’ve gathered 15 tried-and-true tips to help you hit the road like a pro, even with the little ones tagging along. From savvy budgeting to packing light and mapping out memorable adventures, we’ve covered all the bases. Get ready to turn your next family getaway into an experience you’ll never forget.

What Sort of Vacation

Please Touch Museum Photo Credit J Fusco Visit Philadelphial 1
Please_Touch_Museum Photo Credit J Fusco Visit Philadelphia

Sit down as a family and decide what type of vacation you want. Do you want an all-inclusive vacation with kid’s clubs and adult-only activities? Did you want to focus on a particular theme park or destination (Disney or Universal Studios)? Are you looking for an enriching vacation with museums, special foodie destinations, or natural history museums? Or do you want a week at the cottage or cabin to rest and relax? Figure out what amenities you need, and which ones you can do without, and start planning,

Set a Budget

Planning a Trip Photo Credit tkuzminka via Depositphotos
Planning a Trip Photo Credit tkuzminka via Depositphotos

If this is the only vacation you are taking this year or it’s one of many, always know the financial burden it will take. This gives you time to plan and save for the vacation you want. Take into consideration the costs for: accommodations, food, attractions, entertainment and gas or airfare. If you plan well, you may find discounts in off-season travel. Consider multi-attraction discounts with a CityPass.

Research Detectives

Kids on computers Photo Credit Y Boychenko via Depositphoto
Kids on computers Photo Credit Y-Boychenko via Depositphotos

Be detectives and get the kids involved by having them do some of the research ‘homework.’ Have them look up ‘Top 10’ things to do in your destination, ‘things to do for kids in XYZ’ or have them check out YouTube videos for what to do. This will get them excited about what they can do on your vacation.

Read About Your Destination

Child Reading Photo credit IgorVetushko via Depositphotos
Child Reading Photo Credit IgorVetushko Depositphotos

Although a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a whole book can paint a better picture. Before your trip, read books about the destination, the famous people who lived there, or the activities you’ll be doing to get kids pumped about the trip. 

Location, location, Location

Family at a Playground Photo Credit EdZbarzhyvetsky via Depositphotos 1
Family at a Playground Photo Credit EdZbarzhyvetsky via Depositphotos

Choosing the perfect place to stay can really set the tone for your vacation. Opt for a centrally-located spot to save valuable time that would otherwise be spent shuttling around town. Consider booking a suite or connecting rooms at a family-friendly hotel, where you can take advantage of perks like kids’ programs, discounted second rooms, or special amenities geared towards children. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where everyone can unwind and enjoy your getaway.

Pack Light

Baby with Dad Photo Credit VitalikRadko via Depositphotos
Baby with Dad Photo Credit VitalikRadko via Depositphotos

No need to cram essentials like diapers and wipes into your luggage. You can pick them up at your destination or have them shipped directly to your accommodations via Amazon. This savvy move not only saves you from the headache of extra baggage fees when flying but also ensures you have everything you need as soon as you arrive.

Special Surprises

Board Games on Vacation Photo Credit doble.dphoto via Depositphotos 1
Board Games on Vacation Photo Credit doble.dphoto via Depositphotos

Pack a bunch of special games, snacks or books. Don’t show them to your kids before the start of the road trip; make it a surprise. Keep car game ideas (eye-spy, name a city with the letter …). You can also have travel versions of popular games or a deck of cards. Having a tablet or cell phone is easy, but make gameplay a family affair. If you are traveling by car, pack some board games or ask if your accommodations have board games available to borrow.

Save Money on Meals

Grocery Shopping Photo Credit IgorVetushko via Depositphotos jpg
Grocery Shopping Photo Credit IgorVetushko via Depositphotos

Another way to save a ton of money is to have breakfast at your accommodations. It’s great to have a kitchen available so you can prepare breakfast or snacks for the day. Either order groceries ahead of time and pick them up at the store or allot time to get the groceries. If you forgot anything (like sunscreen or sippy cups), you can also easily pick those up.

Group Travel

Childreen Playing Photo Credit serrnovik via Depositphotos
Children Playing Photo Credit serrnovik via Depositphotos

Consider planning a multi-family or group vacation. This serves two purposes: you’re kids will have friends to play with, and you’ll have others to enjoy the activities. This could be a family reunion or two or three families at an organized family camp. There could also be discounts available to families over a certain number.

Snacks for Everyone

Healthy Snacks Photo Credit AndrewLozovyi via Depositphotos 1
Healthy Snacks Photo Credit AndrewLozovyi via Depositphotos

There is nothing worse than a hungry or tired child on a family vacation. Always plan to have snacks and water at the ready to keep everyone hydrated and satiated. It is always cheaper to bring your own snacks, plus if there are any allergies, you control what your family eats. Also, take into consideration nap schedules and rest stops.

Multigenerational Activities

Granddad with children Photo Credit EdZbarzhyvetsky via Depositphoto
Granddad with children Photo Credit EdZbarzhyvetsky via Depositphotos

If you’re planning a multi-generational trip, plan different activities for different people. For example, you could take the kids to the playground to burn energy while grandparents tour a museum. At the end of the day, everyone can join back up to do a shared activity, like dinner at a restaurant.

Make Time for Yourselves

Midland MI Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Midland MI Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Planning a family trip can be very time-consuming and stressful. Even though you have your family with you, take advantage of having the grandparents along and get away for a date night. I could be for dinner or drinks or maybe a bit of shopping. Take time out to enjoy yourself after all the work you’ve put into planning. If you are not traveling with other adults, ask the hotel for a reputable babysitting service – even for a few hours. When making hotel reservations, see if they have a kid’s club where you drop them off for fun activities.

Don’t Over Schedule

Tired children Photo Credit DGLimages via Depositphotos
Tired-children-Photo-Credit-DGLimages-via-Depositphotos

It’s easy to think you can visit three or four attractions in a day, but be realistic. It will take longer to travel as a family, whether eating together, needing breaks, or getting from one stop to another. You can always have more to do, but keep those ‘extras’ to yourself. If you can get to them, its an added bonus, if not, the kids were never the wiser.

Be Flexible and Have Fun

BC Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Family Trip to BC Photo-Credit-DownshiftingPRO.

Lastly, be flexible. Things happen that are out of your control. If you have to change from an outdoor to an indoor activity because of bad weather, don’t worry about it. Have a contingency plan. Plan for a bit of rest time – some screen time, maybe for everyone to have time to themselves. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your vacation.

Additional Travel Planning Trip Ideas with Seniors

Lita and her Grandchildren at Stratford Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Lita and her Grandchildren at Stratford Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Additional Travel Planning Trip Ideas with Couples

Grand Canyon Couples Getaway
Grand Canyon Couples Trip Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.