Everyone needs a break from their daily routine and work pressures and what could be a better break then taking a vacation!? A vacation is perfect for spending quality time with your family and can be the special chance for your family members to bond together. Family vacations can also give your children an opportunity to see a new place in the world.
As we know for Canadian’s, family vacations are a rite of passage every summer. Heading to new places to have some fun and enjoy time with family. But the problem is that we know that we always miss something or the other that would make our vacation perfect. So here are some guidelines for planning your vacations in a way so they can pleasurable without any uninvited problems or hiccups along the way. After all, vacations should be all about fun, fun and fun!
Follow these guidelines to make your fun family vacation a relaxing one to plan!
Choose Your Destination
The most important thing about your vacation is the destination. If you are travelling with kids it is yet another challenge, because you need to select a destination that will entertain kids as well as adults. Take suggestions from everyone in the family for planning your vacation. Yes, the kids get a say too. Choose a place that has something to offer everyone. Some places are more family-friendly while some are less. Do what you can to make sure you choose a vacation spot that makes everyone happy!
If you have children of different ages make sure you plan for a destination that can entertain all of them and that it also has some interesting things to do and places to visit for the adults as well. Plan your itinerary to include various places and attractions to keep your children engaged and cheerful. At the same time the places should be such that even adults can enjoy them with the kids. The goal is that your itinerary has the perfect balance of places for children and adults.
For example you are planning a vacation to Muskoka. It’s full of beaches, lakes, waterfalls and so the first thing that comes to mind is water sport activities. But it has a lot more beyond that. It has activities that will amuse your younger kids as well. You can take your kids to Santa’s Village where your smaller kids can enjoy the swan paddle boats, Elves Island Play Village, live amphitheater shows with clowns, magicians and roving entertainers and much more. Your older kids will love the thrills and challenges at Muskoka Zip Line & Aerial Park. If your family does like outdoor adventure then go for water activities including kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing or you can take hiking or mountain bike trails. The entire family can enjoy cruising on a boat and taking in the spectacular views.
That balance we mentioned? Mission accomplished!
Plan a flexible itinerary
You always have to be flexible with the itinerary you have planned and should be prepared for a Plan B in case there are any last minute changes. Sometimes the weather is the hindrance for a planned activity, like if you had planned for hiking but due to sudden heavy rains you had to cancel and instead go shopping.
Be careful that you plan your itinerary so that it gives you time to relax as well. Planning too much or too little are both perils of a family vacation. Do not pack too much on one day as that will exhaust you and you won’t be in a mood to explore the places you visit. Plan up 2 to 3 places you want to visit each day and start with one. If you are full of energy or it missed the mark (for attention or interests) then you can visit more. It is not necessary that you visit all the places you have planned. So be flexible! If one thing doesn’t work out move to the next!
Most important thing, set a Budget
Plan your vacation with a proper budget and stick to it, because you don’t want to run out of money on your vacation. Here are some ways to save your money and still plan a vacation you can enjoy:
- Online booking: as we know online booking often comes with great discounts, so look to book your resort or hotel online.
- Complimentary breakfast- find a hotel or resort that will offer you free breakfast with your stay.
- Reserve well in advance (>6 months) – this should benefit you with substantial discounts
- Book a room with kitchenette: by having a kitchenette in your room you can cook your own meals and can supply the food/snacks for your day trips.
- Book your tickets (camping spots, flights, rental cars, attractions, etc.) in advance which should offer you additional savings.
Be sure about the details
Planning a vacation involves lot of details:
- What time of the year you are planning to visit
- Enquire about local events happening during that time
- List the attractions available in the area you are planning to visit
- Check the climate of your destination and pack your clothes keeping in mind the usual weather conditions.
- Make sure your kids have ID cards and information about how to contact you, so in case anyone gets separated, they can find/contact you.
Generally people tend to overload their bags for vacation, but in the age of 24 hour stores, you can afford not to take some things from home. You don’t really need to pack your entire house. Try to limit things to three to four outfits per person for everyone and then you can just do a load of laundry as needed. This will make your packing easier.
If swimming is on the list, make sure to pack all the kid’s swim stuff in one bag rather than in the suitcase, so it will be easy for you to sort out. When you arrive, the only thing you have to do is open the bag and hand out the suit and pack them off to the pool or beach. Repeat the same thing with any dress clothes you may have brought with you.
If you are driving, pack some games, books, toys and snacks to keep the kids entertained, so that they won’t be cranky during the journey.
You’ll need more than a change of clothes – here is the handy list for those other things you’ll want to pack:
- Your tablet, playing cards, and board games to keep yourself and your kids entertained
- Outdoor games like Frisbees, small balls, skipping ropes etc
- Prescribed medicine as well as a first aid box (band aids, topical ointments)
- Carry sun screen and a bug repellent
- Some yummy snacks like cheese sticks, fruits, crackers, cookies etc so that you can feed your children if they get hungry while travelling/out at an activity.
- Paper napkins to clean any mess or spills
- Carry the things that your kids are most attached to. For example- a soft toy or a pillow that your little one needs for sleeping
- Carry a laundry bag so that you can stuff it with all used clothes
- Pack some story books or colouring books for your kids enjoyment
Plan your dates in advance
Plan the tentative dates. The best and most popular time for family vacation is summer because of school schedules. Even spring break and winter vacations are great times for family vacation.
- The three weeks between the end of November and Christmas is the cheapest time for most resorts and flights. It may be difficult to plan a vacation during this time as high school kids have final exams etc., so make sure to cross check the schedule with your child’s school year if you are planning to travel during this period.
- If you are planning to take the children in middle of the school year, it is very important to talk to their teacher so that your child can complete their work ahead of time.
Book your accommodation
- Do your research and compare the prices of different resorts and hotels. Most hotels have pools, play area for kids, spa and many other amenities. So choose the one that suits your needs and take advantage of the benefits
- Certain other things to consider: is it in the centre of the city from where you can walk to different places? Does it have any in-house meal plans?
- Check the reviews online for your hotel or resort. Whether the resort is safe and clean.
- See to it if your hotel or resort provide kids activities like shows, games or scavenger hunts
Plan other activities
- Book the tickets for activities well in advance as there can be a possibility that you won’t get it on last minute especially if they are theatre tickets, theme park passes or sightseeing tours tickets or tickets to any amusement park.
- If you are planning to take up adventure you will want to complete the bookings for that in advance too.
Keep the routine for kids
If you are travelling with your little ones, make sure that you keep their routine similar to what they get at home. So their meals, bedtime and bath should be around the same time each day. This is important because when you return to daily life, you’re looking to have everything go as smoothly as before.
Pack their favourite toys or books to make the surroundings as familiar as possible. Their routine and proper sleep will keep them happy!
How long are you staying?
If you have school age kids, then obviously you will plan a trip by keeping in mind their school vacation schedule. It is always good to plan a short vacation as kids tend to get bored easily, unless you have planned lot of activities to entertain them for each day throughout the duration of your trip. A span of a week is just about the perfect family friendly time-frame if you plan for the activities and events. To be on the safe side, you should always keep a buffer of few days when you plan, as that will help you if you need to extend your vacation (from enjoyment, travel delays etc.).
Tips for Road trips:
Road trips give you the flexibility and control over the schedule hence making the trip planning process a little easier. Road trips can be adventurous and fun for the whole family.
Here are few tips to make your road trip safe and sound!
- Make sure your vehicle is up to date, check the tires, coolant and oil before starting the trip
- If you have any car or motion sickness then even a fun trip will make you cranky and irritated. Make sure to take motion sickness medicine and also keep at least one window open. Keep paper bags handy and mint candy can also help ease symptoms.
- Make sure to keep your gas tanks full wherever you spot a gas station – fill up!
- Taking 15 minute breaks after every hour so that you lessen the odds of not noticing when you get tired. Get out of the vehicle and stretch your legs. (Passengers too!)
- Make sure your smart phone has a map app and also update your GPS maps
- Research the games that you can play during journey as it will keep you entertained and fresh (i-spy anyone?)
- Ask your kids to maintain a travel journal to write down their experiences of different cuisines they tried or the interesting places they got to visit
- Add some of the kids’ favourite songs to your playlist to keep them happy and entertained!
- Carry healthy snacks and fruits along with you and also sufficient water to keep you all hydrated
- The road trip with family will definitely take longer time as compared to a road trip with your friends. So plan your stops and night pit stops accordingly.
- Be flexible! Not everything that you thought will happen will according to your plan.
- Bring a cookie tray or a small lap desk for your kids so that they can play with puzzles or blocks, toys or they can even draw with coloring books and crayons. This will help to keep them occupied and happy.
Last but not least; enjoy your trip to the fullest and make your trip relaxing and full of excitement. Create some unforgettable memories with your family. Take lots of pictures and videos on your trip. Capture each and every place so that when you look back on your trip you know where you went and what you did. Take a picture of the unique things or animals that you see on your trip. Shop for some souvenirs just for your memories. Tell your kids to collect the memorable items from the trip such as ticket stubs, sea shells or sand from their favourite beach.
Sorry forgot one last important thing while planning your family vacation. Take at least one extra day off from your work between your return home and your first day back to office, school or daycare. Yes vacations are for fun but they are exhausting as well and after a long break you won’t feel like going back to routine immediately, so a one day rest will be welcomed by everyone in the family.
Make your vacation fun as well as easy going with this travel tips.