The first step towards a successful family vacation is to start planning one. I’ve heard many people say that they would like to go on family vacations, but they never get around to the planning phase. A vacation does require some planning, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming or stressful. In fact, my husband Joe uses vacation planning as a stress release…he is a lawyer by day and an amateur travel agent by night. He has discovered that planning a trip gives him something to look forward to and makes is easier to get through those long days of legal work. It is also a nice reward for all of his hard work. He does all of the planning for our family vacations, anniversary trips, and he even helps plan extended family trips and trips that he isn’t going on. He really is good…let me show you!
Joe’s Top 5 Tips for Planning a Vacation:
1. Pick a time frame. When we were first married, our trips always coincided with our college breaks, holidays, or important family events like weddings and funerals. Now we plan our vacations around our children’s schedules.
2. Pick a location. If availability is a factor, you might need to pick a location first, and then choose your time frame. A few years ago we purchased a Worldmark membership…one of our best investments ever! Since then, most of our vacations have been at Worldmark resorts, but they are all over the world, so there is a wide variety to choose from. Sometimes we have to adjust our time frame based on what is available; sometimes we have to change our location based on our time frame. We try to pick a different location every year. So far we have stayed at Worldmark resorts in Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Mexico, and Colorado. Often, Joe and I will take an anniversary trip to a new area, and then decide we want to take the whole family there the next year.
3. Pick your method of travel. Flying is always our favorite, but most of the time it is just to darn expensive for all of us…and once we get there we always have to rent a car. However, sometimes time can becomes a factor and it is worth it to pay a bit more for plane tickets. Flying also saves wear and tear on our car. A good example was our vacation last summer. We planned to drive to the Oregon Coast and be gone for about 10 days in July. Then Courtnee got engaged and the best date for her wedding was July 30. Instead of scratching the trip, we shortened it by deciding to fly instead of drive. After plane tickets and car rental, we paid about $100 more than we would have by driving. But it got us home 6 days before the wedding instead of the 3 days before if we had followed the original plan.
*At this point you need to secure reservations for your location and method of travel if needed.
4. Pick your activities. Once you’ve decided when and where you’re going, decide what you’re going to do on your vacation…relax and unwind, outdoorsy physical activities, shop, visit historical sites, community activities? We usually do a bit of everything. Joe spends a lot of time researching and reading reviews and then getting feedback from the rest of the family before he makes final plans. But, he always does this before we leave…sometimes months before. That way, we aren’t wasting time on our vacation trying to find something to do.
5. Pick an itinerary, but remain flexible. Joe usually does this a few weeks before we go and he posts it on the refrigerator for everyone to look at. That way, the girls know what to expect and the anticipation starts to build. It also helps everyone know what they need to pack. Lately, Joe has started to give a name to each day of the vacation…super fun! Here is a sample of our Colorado Itinerary:
Day 3 Monday - SCARED OF HEIGHTS?
5:00 pm: Explore town and out to dinner
7:00: Games and hang out
Day 4 Tuesday - FLOATS AND FILMS
10:30 am: Float tube Yampa River with Backdoor Sports
1:00 pm: Lunch at Worldmark
3:00: Movies at Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinema
(are we bad for sneaking in movie candy?)
7:00: Dinner at Worldmark
When Joe plans the itinerary, he will usually plan a super active day or two followed by a day where we do more relaxing. Our family does a lot better with quality rather than quantity when we travel. We are also really flexible and sometimes we do something else…or nothing at all. There is always a few things that are really important and we make sure that we do those things. The rest is fluff.
Now, time for you to take these 5 tips and start planning your family vacation. Any questions?