Does it ever feel like winter will never end? Don’t worry, summer will sneak up on us sooner than we expect, and with it comes summer vacation!
For families, summer vacation can mean the rare opportunity to escape the demands of our work and school schedules to relax and have fun.
Summer vacation planning, on the other hand, might seem like the opposite of relaxing. But with the proper amount of time and consideration for the details of your trip, the planning process can be almost as much fun as the vacation itself.
We’ve laid out some great travel tips for summer vacation planning to make them simple and stress-free. Get the family involved in the planning process, and you’ll be enjoying the excitement of summer vacation together in no time.
1. Brainstorm your options.
The options for planning a summer vacation can be as plentiful and varied as the sunscreen collection at your local grocery store. Do you prefer camping in the mountains or a beachside cottage? Volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica or exploring Europe by train? SPF 15 or 45?
With every option comes varied opinions from your family members. So get started by allowing everyone in the family to share their ideas. Write them all down and then discuss as a group which ones could best be enjoyed by the whole family.
2. Define your budget.
Before you commit to a place or activity, one of the simplest travel tips is to lay out a budget.
By establishing your budget first, you can then pick places and activities that are reasonable and also allow for a cushion to accommodate the unexpected.
You don’t want to spend your vacation days worrying about money. Establishing a realistic budget at the offset will prevent the temptation to spread your finances too thin once you’ve reached your destination.
3. Pick a place.
Now that you have a budget in place, it’s easier to narrow down the possible vacation destinations.
Flights for the whole family will likely be the biggest cost of your trip. If your budget doesn’t allow for flights, consider a road trip or even a special “staycation” getaway close to home.
Picking a place for your family’s summer vacation can be the most overwhelming, but also the most exciting decision. You’ll want to pick a place that can accommodate every family member.
Places with extreme climates or fewer amenities might be more difficult if you’re bringing along infants or older family members. And traveling on long flights with young children can pose additional challenges.
4. Research the different activities to choose from.
You’ll have even more options to choose from once you pick a location. Search popular travel sites such as TripAdvisor to find the available excursions and popular attractions in your destination. If you’re in the United States or Canada, Trekaroo offers lots of ideas for family-friendly vacation experiences.
It can be hard to get everyone on the same page when deciding how you’ll spend your vacation time. Younger kids might not be able to keep up with activities that your teenagers are interested in. And teens can become bored and restless with activities that are suited for the younger ones.
To eliminate frustration, give each family member a day or time slot for which to pick an activity. Giving the kids a chance to take an active role in the planning of the vacation will make them feel more included and enthusiastic about the trip.
Don’t shy away from the idea of splitting up for certain activities. It’s great for everyone to spend time together, but some time apart to indulge in activities that don’t work for everyone can be fun and fulfilling, too.
5. Obtain passports (if necessary).
Don’t wait until the last minute to handle passports, or you could get stuck paying extra fees in order to have the process expedited.
If you’re traveling overseas by air, every member of the family will need one. For children under 16, you’ll need to go to your local passport agency in person, with your child.
Every person who is applying for a passport will need 2 passport photos (2×2”), proof of citizenship, a DS-11 form, photo ID, and two checks for applicable fees. Consult your local passport agency for more thorough instructions on obtaining a passport where you live.
6. Book airline tickets and accommodations.
You’ll land the best fares on flights if you book them well in advance. When you’re planning a trip for the whole family, the cost of flying will have a big impact on your budget, so you’ll want to secure the best deal possible. Some experts suggest around 60 days before the travel day is the best time.
Use sites like Kayak and Skyscanner to compare prices on various different airlines. If you have some flexibility, it’s best to book your flights before your accommodation, as prices can change from day to day. Flying on a Tuesday might save you a pretty penny, compared to flying on a Saturday.
Next you’ll want to book your accommodation. While solo travelers may enjoy booking accommodation on the ground to get last-minute discounts, families will find it much less stressful to know where they’re sleeping long before they arrive.
If you’re willing to be spontaneous, you can save money by booking some accommodation once you’ve landed at your destination. But securing a place to sleep for at least the first night is always a good idea.
7. Get vaccinated (if necessary).
You’ll need to research the destination you’re traveling to in order to identify any required or optional vaccines.
Passport Health is a trusted organization that can help with fulfilling all of your necessary travel vaccines.
Visit your local Passport Health office and tell them about your vacation plans. They will offer you all of the information and vaccines you may need, along with answers to any health-related questions you and your family may have.
8. Count down and enjoy!
Once the logistical details are out of the way, it’s time to look forward to your big trip! Start a countdown on the family calendar to make the most of anticipation and excitement.
The more you and your family can learn about the destination you’re visiting, the more you can appreciate it once you get there. If you’re traveling somewhere that speaks a different language, involve the whole family in learning some of the basic vocabulary words and phrases.
Reading books, listening to music, and watching movies from the destination are other great ways to learn about the culture of the place you’ll visit.
Once you’re there, remember that plans aren’t what make the trip. It’s great to be organized and prepared before you go, but expect the unexpected, and enjoy the things you can’t plan for. Travel is always going to involve some bumps in the road. But, with the right attitude, your family will enjoy the experience no matter what.
Follow these simple steps and you’ll help make your next summer vacation one that the whole family will remember for years to come! –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.