5 Tips On How To Plan Family Vacations With Kids
You have spent the last few years saving and planning. You have saved credit card points, cash, and liquidated your beanie baby collection to pay for it. Everyone packs up, loads up on the airplane, and 12-36 hours later you arrive at your destination, the most fabulous family vacation! And everyone sits in the hotel room watching NetFlix and impatiently wades through the ancient history museum. All the meanwhile is asking when is it time to eat again! Avoid these pitfalls and learn how to plan family vacations with kids using these 5 tips!
1: Include The Kids In Family Vacation Planning
Depending on your family size and age gap, including the kids in the planning process, can engage them in the destination. It also gives you a glimpse into their brains and personality on where and what they want to do. Thanks to our many methods of point accumulation, we can take one big family vacation a year. Three years ago, we began allowing the kids to each have a year they get to pick where we go. Then I would have the challenge of getting the family there using points. Giving them input has been fascinating and has taken us to places I never thought we would have gone. My 8-year-old soon choose Greece, my 10-year-old daughter chose South Africa, and my 12-year-old son chose Sweden. Including them in the planning process starts us out in an area that interests them!
2: YouTube Is Your Best Travel Planning Guide
I recently was traveling back to the states from a trip to Spain and used the British Airways free award stopover option. We were able to catch about 24 hours in London for my 9-year-old son and me. Considering the size and stature of London, we knew we would have to boil down a whole lot of touristing into 1 action-packed day. We used one of our favorite ways to test our kiddo’s interest in an area and decide what to see and what to skip… YouTube.
When we are traveling to an area and have a short period, YouTube is a great tool. Watching travel documentaries about the region allows us to canvas what the kids are interested in, and they are okay with missing. We typically do it as our “family tv show” the week building up to the trip, but have done it the night before a tour as well. A few 20-30 minute travel shows can pack a TON of information about an area and actually can give you great incite into your children’s interest.
When we were lucky enough to spend ten days on Crete, YouTubing became a staple for us. It was so important because with a lot of ancient historical sites there isn’t that much left to see. The CG and re-creation of these sites illustrate to the kids what the ruins they will be visiting used to look like before it was a ruin! We found in the Minoan palace of Knossos the pre-tourist YouTube ritual involved the kids into what we saw during our time spent at the site. The bonus is they get the joys of becoming mini-tour guides as they regurgitate what they saw the day before.
3: Make it Age-Appropriate
I love history. I could visit museums and stare at artifacts, read about history, and be the happiest guy you would meet. My youngest son, not so much. It took a few failed experiences for my wife and me to begin paying much closer attention to the age appropriateness of a trip. Even if the kids are interested in an area, we have many trips we are holding off on until the kids are a bit older.
We found with the younger kids (4-8-year-old range) the best vacations were a single area. i.e., the beach (and any beach would do as they don’t know the difference between sand in Biarritz France vs. Padre Island, Texas). A beach near an interactive attraction is excellent; amusement parks, nature conservatories are great options.
The 8-12 years old opens up your possibilities. The kids become more durable as travel partners. Thus walking, longer day trips, and more exotic destinations become available. This age group is a great time to visit a new area of the world. Europe, parts of Africa, Australia, and Asia are all great options. We try to spend 5-6 days per city not to rush and have ample time to explore an area. While on an exploration drive into the hills of Northern Spain, we stumbled upon a church that had been concentrated in the 1100s. It had fallen into disrepair and now was unused, but still spectacular. These exploration trips are always fun and adventurous for the whole family.
Ages 12 and up is when the options abound. For the adventurous family, India, Antarctica, South, and Central America. These destinations can provide incredible experiences that they will hold onto for their entire lives.
4: Make the Difference Between Activities and Site Seeing
It is easier (especially when the kids get older) to focus solely on either activities or site seeing in your travel planning. My wife and I tend to lean toward the site seeing side when planning a vacation. We can design a whole vacation with trips to museums, historical sites, and monuments without paying enough attention to activities for the kids. Finding activities could be as simple as planning in some time at the hotel pool, but we always try to find a local activity that is unique to the area to engage with the kids. Find a local swimming hole, a popular local hike, or any activity that interests the kids. My daughter’s favorite option is to find and try the local dessert options. We try to plan the day, NOT just shuffling from exhibit to exhibit. Instead, we design a mixture of touristing and doing actual activities.
5: Don’t Be Scared
As an avid traveler and point hacker, the question I get the most is, how do you afford it? With planning, organizing your spending, and leveraging welcome offers, you would be amazed at how far you can get on a tight budget. Our trip to Africa with flights and accommodations came out to about $500 per person. A trip to France, we managed for $400 per person. Don’t be afraid to pick a seemingly exotic place for your vacation. With proper research and a reliable credit card point plan, the options are close to limitless. (except for Antarctica, if you can figure out how to get there on points, let me know)
Take It Home
These tips have become a part of our travel ritual, regardless of where we go. National or international, modern or ancient history, beaches or mountains, we use these tools on how to plan family vacations with your kids. We can get an excellent gauge at what each child is most interested in. We get to spend time together before the trip doing our “research.” Most importantly, the kids are learning about history and where we are going!