This is the 4th post in a Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Perfect Family Trip. Click here to start back at Step 1.
I hope you’re feeling optimistic about where things are headed and you’re ready to make this trip a reality, because things are about to get real!
I will warn you right now, this week will probably be the most time-consuming of all the steps in planning the your family trip. But it’s also the most fun! And I hate to tell you, there are no short cuts. If you want to plan a vacation that is truly unique to your family’s personality, style, and at your own pace, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and dive head first into the interwebs with me.
One of the biggest challenges (self included!) about travel planning is there’s just so much information out there! You could literally pick any major city in the world, pop it into Google, and find hundreds of thousands of results with things to do, places to eat, hotels to stay in, etc., etc., etc.
Don’t freak out.
It’s important at this point to not let yourself get overwhelmed. The truth is, once you actually start looking into all of these articles and blog posts, you’ll find that a lot of them will say a lot of the same things, just in different ways. Occasionally, you find a little hidden gem sprinkled in (a cool photo op, a killer brunch spot, a cool kid-friendly park). Hold onto those, because those are what will make your trip truly unique!
And remember this: when it comes down to it, there is no right way or wrong way to do a family trip. Instead of worrying about what everyone else says you must see and do, focus on finding things that interest you and your family.
Ok, grab your research notes and your budget worksheet and let’s get started!
Take a Peek at Airfare Options
If you haven’t already taken a look at transportation and accommodations, do that first. It’s what you’ll base your entire trip around, so it’s important to have a few options in mind. Skyscanner.net, Fareness.com, and Kayak.com (+Southwest.com for domestic fares, since they aren’t included in these searches) are a few of my favorites to start with because they’ll compare nearly every airline at once.
Remember, we are just looking for a ballpark at this point on flight times, durations, and costs – not actually booking anything. Fill in your budget sheet with the approximate airfare costs for your whole family.
Hotel vs. Private Rental
Next, decide what kind of a place you want to stay in: a hotel or a private rental. If you’ve been following us for some time now, then you know that we love to use Airbnb to stay in local apartments when we travel. It’s usually the same price or cheaper than a hotel with way more space and amenities!
Sometimes a private rental is not the best choice though, especially in areas you might feel uncomfortable renting from a private owner or where short-term rental laws are strict, so websites like Trivago.com (which offers comparison pricing for nearly all hotels) or Jetsetter.com (which can help you score a deal on popular boutique hotels) are great starting points. Jot down a few of your favorite places (hotels and/or private rentals) on your research notes, along with any details that you like about that particular option. You can give your accommodations a rough estimate in your travel budget as well.
Now, what to do?
Ok, so that was the easy part! Now it’s time to look at what you actually want to do while you’re there. (Eeks!) This step can be so intimidating, it’s at this point that people usually give up. But not you!
Now’s the time to head back to our secret weapon of travel planning: Pinterest! We’ll break this next part down into a few steps, which you may want to carry out over a few days (a weekend is great) so you don’t burn yourself out on all the things.
Side note: Pinterest may be my favorite tool for finding fun and unique things to do, but it’s definitely not the only one! Check out this post for more ideas on where to find inspiration for your next trip.
Step 1: Pin Away!
Once you’re back and logged into Pinterest, here’s what I want you do. (This is going to get really technical here, so I hope you can hang with me). In that little search bar, type the name of the place you want to go and hit enter. Yup, groundbreaking. Thousands of pins will appear and beg for your attention. At this point, go on a pinning spree! Save anything that catches your eye or interests you (I usually save 8-10 of the most eye-catching pins in this first round). Don’t open up the links yet, just pin away. Once you’ve run out of interesting pins from your first search, try some variations on your search terms like “Things to Do in _”, “Kid-Friendly _”, “Where to Eat in _”, “_ with Kids”, “Local _” etc. Again, don’t worry about over-pinning (this is where you’ll be glad you made that board secret 😉 ).
Step 2: Take Notes
Once you’ve got all of these fabulous looking pins saved, it’s time go back and start extracting the information from them. This is where having your research notes to write this all down will come in handy. One at a time, click through to the actual website/blog/article – whatever it may be – and take note of any recommendations that interest you. (Keyword here being, you. Don’t write it down if it doesn’t feel like something you and your family would love). I know this may sound obvious, but sometimes we get so caught up in doing what everyone else says we should do in a particular place, that we forget that this trip is about us. Trust me, you’ll find plenty enough ideas out there, so you don’t need to write everything down unless it intrigues you in some way.
I like to start with more generic pins from regular travel bloggers: the “how to spend 48 hours in Rome” or “Florence travel guide” type stuff. They’ll give you insight into the most essential places to see. From there I typically move on to family travel pins – those specifically geared towards traveling with kids. You’ll start to see what overlaps from the regular travel bloggers and what doesn’t (hint: if something popular is often skipped by the family travel bloggers, it probably means it’s not very kid-friendly – don’t count it out, but proceed with caution). Finally, I’ll finish up with pins about specific activities, recommendations for where (and what!) to eat, and neighborhood guides about where to stay.
If you’re like me, you might like to have a lot of ideas floating out there to choose from. So if you need to make two notes sheets, go ahead! Write in the margins, make notes on the bottom, whatever!…just be sure to add extra details for each idea so you can remember why you chose it later. I like to add interesting insights and side notes from bloggers, like “must try the lobster rolls” or “best view in the whole city” or “get there first thing in the morning”. Not only are these insider tips incredibly helpful in making your trip a success, but they’ll help jog your memory about the different places on your list when it comes time to put it all together in an itinerary.
Step 3: Add in Little Details
You probably won’t find everything you need to know about a particular place from a travel blogger’s website. So once you have your full list of ideas, go back check the official websites for each spot to get important details like opening times, which days they might be closed, how much it costs for admission, etc. These little notes will help keep you from backtracking into more research later down the road.
Whew, that was a lot! But by the end of this step, you will have a good, long list of places you want to see, where you’d like to eat, and some ideas about where you want to stay. You’re one step closer to the perfect trip and you’re probably even more excited about it now, right?
Next up, we’ll start organizing our ideas so we can widdle them down to the very best itinerary! Til next week!
Check out the full step-by-step guide:
Step 1 // Setting Goals & Expectations
Step 2 // How to Decide Where to Go
Step 3 // How to Start Saving for Travel
Step 4 // How to Find Unique Things to Do
Step 5 // Using Google Maps to Plan Your Trip
Step 6 // How to Create the Perfect Itinerary
Step 7 // How to Build a Travel Budget
Step 8 // How to Save Big When Booking Travel
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