Step-by-Step Guide to Planning the Perfect Family Trip
So many of us talk about wanting to travel more, but it never happens. Why?
Because the hardest part is taking the leap and getting started! Travel seems like a far-away dream that can only be accomplished someday when we have more time or more money.
Well, I’m here to tell you that that time is now!
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we can help other families get over this first step and travel more. I’ve learned from talking with lots of other parents that there is not only a huge information overload when it comes to planning a trip, but an added uncertainly of traveling with kids. How will they handle a change in routine? How do we know which activities or places are right for families?
Planning a family trip is a daunting task; I know, because we’ve been there. There’s so much to juggle, from nap schedules to feeding times, that trying to make it all work seems too difficult. Sometimes its just easier to throw in the towel and say, “later, when they’re older…easier“.
The problem is, there is no “perfect time”. You keep telling yourself later, and soon years have passed and you’re still waiting.
As hard as traveling with a little one may seem, we have done it. A lot. And successfully!
And despite the struggles of traveling as a family, I’ve never regretted a trip. When we get home, I’m not thinking about the challenges we’ve had with Evelyn not eating a meal or having a hard time sleeping in a new place. Instead I’m thinking about how much we’ve grown as a family and how much we’ve learned to be patient and kind with each other when we’re in new and stressful situations.
I’m thinking about all the good memories we’ve made and the new experiences we’ve shared. And it’s not long before I’m getting antsy to get back on a plane with my toddler, as crazy as that may sound!
I want that for you too. So in the next 8 steps, we’ll put together a plan that will help you and your family travel more often, more enjoyably, and more affordably, without feeling like you’re going to lose your mind! And by the end of these 8 steps, you’ll have real tangible actions in place to make your next adventure a reality!
So if you’re ready to take the leap and make this the year you finally take that dream trip with you’re family, let’s get started!
Step 1 | Set Goals and Expectations
First things first, before you can decide where to go, think about why you want to travel. Are you hoping for a relaxing escape? To experience a new culture with your kids?
Traveling with kids is most definitely not like it was when you were traveling as a couple. So what changes will you make to your travel style to ensure your family trip is a success? What will you be okay with sacrificing in order to make things run smoothly?
Step 2 | Decide Where to Go
This is one we all struggle with. You want to go somewhere unique and memorable, but you also need to be somewhat kid-friendly. My favorite tool for travel inspiration is good old fashioned Pinterest. It’s 100% visual, and leads to real-world advice from real people (and parents!) who have been there!
Once you have a few ideas in mind, there are lots more factors to consider. Time of year, weather, travel costs, kid-friendliness, and what your fellow family members want should all play a part in narrowing down your choices to a final decision.
Step 3 | Start Saving for Travel Now
Here’s the bad news: travel isn’t free. At least not the kind of travel we like to do. And I would never advocate taking a trip on credit. That’s why having a savings plan in place far before your next family trip is so important!
Do some real deep thought as to how much you would feel comfortable spending on you trip, and then how much you can realistically save each week (or month) to get there. Creating a realistic savings plan is the most important step in turning your travel dreams into a reality!
Read More: How to Start Saving NOW for Travel
Step 4 | Find Unique Things to See & Do
Travel is all about finding unique experiences and creating lasting memories. But with so much information out there on the Internet, how do you decide what’s worth your time?
That’s where Pinterest comes back into play! I love using Pinterest to plan my trips for many reasons, but best of all are the many local recommendations! I like to break down my trip research into 3 separate steps so I won’t overwhelm myself: 1) gathering ideas, 2) making notes, 3) filling in the gaps. I could literally talk for hours about different ways to research a trip, so dive a little deeper into the post below if you want to know more. 🙂
Step 5 | Use Google Maps to Plot Out Your Ideas
So you’ve got all of this research done, but now how do you organize everything in a way that makes sense? With Google Maps, of course!
Having a custom travel map not only helps me get acquainted with the layout of a new city, but it also helps in creating the perfect travel itinerary. You wouldn’t want to plan lunch across town from where you’ll be spending the morning, right? Follow this tutorial and you’ll have your own custom Google Map in less than 15 minutes!
Read More: How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Trip
Step 6 | Put it All Together in the Perfect Itinerary
It’s finally time to put together that perfect family travel itinerary! Start by breaking your days up into 3 sections (morning, afternoon & evening), and filling in 1 or 2 activities in each timeslot. This will ensure you don’t overfill your days, leaving the little ones cranky and worn out. Have your map close by so you can group activities and eateries by location, and (most importantly!) don’t forget to schedule in naps! Don’t be afraid to play around with things until you get it just right. For more tips on creating the perfect travel itinerary, click the link below!
Step 7 | Build Your Travel Budget
Now’s the time to take a look back at your budget and make sure your savings goal is still realistic and within reach. Our free travel budget worksheet is great for this so you can fill things in as you go.
After estimating all of your costs, you may find you’re a little over budget, but don’t worry. There are plenty of ways you can adjust your travel plans to make it work!
Read More: How to Build a Travel Budget
Step 8 | Book Your Trip and Save Money While Doing It!
There are two keys to saving big on travel: flexibility and patience! Doing a flexible search instead of set travel dates could literally save you hundreds. Not to mention, with so much competition among airlines right now, being patient and waiting for fare sales could score you some uber-cheap flights. I like to use a variety of tools and websites, coupled with a few tried-and-true search practices, to find the very best deals.
Read More: 15+ Ways to Save Big When Booking Travel