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How Best to Plan for a Family Trip

by Susan Barnes

Sep 28, 2017

Kittiphan Teerawattanakul | Dreamstime


When it comes to family travel, the hardest part may very well be the planning. From where to go to budgeting to how to travel to what to do along the way, there are a lot of factors to consider. For tips on how best to plan for a family trip, we checked in with a handful of parents and aunts — and even a kid himself — for their best practices to share with you.


Michelle, a single mom, has traveled with her kids for the past 10 years, and has planning down to a science. After determining a realistic budget and a destination with her kids in mind, she takes her ideas to her kids for their input.


“When the kids were little I would borrow travel books from the library, and as they are becoming more computer savvy, they are using the internet to find some great things to do,” she explains. “Everyone gets to contribute and everyone learns tolerance and how to have fun at something that wasn’t their idea.” Her daughter has a National Parks Passport that she gets stamped at the parks, and her son, who’s taking French, “found some amazing places to see in Montreal.”


Girl traveling with luggage

Photo: Annems | Dreamstime

Nine-year-old Charlie helps pack his bag when he’s getting ready to go on a trip. His mom, Karen, says, “Having him help pack helps make sure that he has what he wants as far as clothes, shoes, toys, books. Younger kids probably couldn’t care less, but I have Charlie help not only so he has what he wants, but because it teaches him how to pack for future trips.”


When it comes to traveling, Melissa, mom to twin five-year-old girls, usually has one special treat the girls don’t normally have. “Lollipops not only keep them occupied, but keep their ears popping.” She’ll also bring along a few new coloring or activity books, and have some movies downloaded to iPads for the girls to watch on longer trips.


Melissa also advises to allow more time: “It all takes longer. We plan to arrive early for our flights and ‘explore’ the airport,” she says. “Taking your time makes it was less stressful.”


Eating on the road can be challenging, but also an opportunity for more adventure. “Kids tend to want to eat at familiar places while parents like to try new places,” says Karen. “We typically eat someplace familiar on the drive, or pack a lunch, and then again when we get home. But when we’re traveling, we eat local — or at least try to eat non-chain food — for the most part when we’re out.”


Thirteen-year-old Owen has been traveling since he was a toddler, visiting Florida for his family’s annual beach vacation. To help other traveling kids, he suggests trying to not get overwhelmed that they’re sleeping in a different place. “Put your mind to thinking about some good things,” advises Owen. To that end, Stephanie, mother of two boys ages 10 and 7, suggests bringing something familiar from home they can sleep with, and Mary, an aunt to five, tucks a pool noodle into the bed sheets to keep her little nieces and nephews from rolling out of bed in new places.


“I truly believe if you plan things well, then the trip itself is smooth. The minor hurdles are easily negotiated,” says Michelle. “The main goal for a vacation is to create memories and have fun.


“You are building a lifelong passion to travel and explore in your little ones,” she continues. “So much so that when they grow up and have kids of their own, they will invite you back to share adventures with your grandkids.”


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