How to Plan an Unforgettable Family Vacation
Your first family trip is exciting and, let’s be honest, a little intimidating. You may not be sure how well your children will react to travel, how much you’ll need to pack, and where the best places for a family vacation are. Once you know how to plan a family vacation, you realize these are all minor issues that won’t stand in the way of you and your family making long-lasting, happy vacation memories.
How to Plan a Family Vacation: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below, we’ll get into planning a family vacation. The process is quite simple if you follow these steps:
- Research the best places for a family vacation.
- Choose a destination with something for everyone.
- Establish your budget and start a savings fund.
- Learn how to pack for a family vacation.
- Prepare for your family trip.
Choosing the Best Places for a Family Vacation
What's the best vacation for a family? That’s a tricky question, as each family is unique. You’ll need to consider what kind of experience you’re looking for, your budget, and what you want to see or do.
Start by brainstorming a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit and the attractions and activities each destination offers.Once you have your list of dream vacations., narrow your options based on your budget, family interests, flight availability, distance, and when you plan to travel (some destinations are better visited at specific times).
Best Places for a Family Vacation
- Orlando, Florida: With Disneyworld, Seaworld, and Universal Pictures theme parks, Orlando is a great destination for families who enjoy exciting rides and shows.
- Maui, Hawaii: Go whale watching, catch the sunrise at the peak of Haleakala, or spend the day exploring the amazing Maui Ocean Center’s incredible aquatic exhibitions.
- North Island, New Zealand: Volcanic hot springs, unique wildlife, and opportunities to explore Maori culture make the North Island a great family destination. Don’t forget to drop by Hobbiton!
- Vancouver, British Columbia: Right on the ocean, close to the mountains, and surrounded by temperate rainforest, Vancouver includes museums, a world-class aquarium, and beautiful Stanley Park.
- Yellowstone National Park: Explore two million acres of wilderness filled with bear, moose, and bison, as well as the spectacle of the Old Faithful geyser.
- Costa Rica: Families who love outdoor activities will enjoy Costa Rica’s national parks, beaches, and mountains. Imagine the look on your kids’ faces as a troupe of howler monkeys leap through the rainforest canopy overhead (or go ziplining through the canopy yourselves).
- Spain: Perfect for families who like to mix exploration with a laid-back lifestyle, Spain offers a slower pace of life than many faster-paced destinations, coupled with centuries of history and architecture.
- Alaskan Cruises: Beat the heat and pamper yourself by heading north to Alaska on a glacier-spotting cruise.
- Grand Canyon, Arizona: Hike the Bright Angel Trail, take a mule ride into the canyon, or ride the Grand Canyon Railway for an adventure in the American West your family will never forget.
- Kruger National Park, South Africa: Imagine taking a safari with the whole family and the chance to see lions, buffalo, elephants, and leopards in one of the largest national parks in Southern Africa.
Choosing a Destination with Something for Everyone
Whichever destination you choose, it should have something to interest every member of your family. You may love spending the day at an art gallery, but your kids might be more interested in the zoo or the local water park. Try to fill your family vacation with activities and sights for everyone (resorts that offer babysitting services allow you to spend the day with the kids and enjoy the local nightlife, for example).
Plan Time to Relax, Don’t Overschedule, and Be Flexible
Don’t try to see and do everything your destination offers — that’s a sure route to exhaustion, and vacations should leave you feeling energized. Plan downtime days where you lounge by the hotel pool or relax at the beach. You’ll enjoy the activities you choose more if you’re all well-rested.
Establishing Your Budget
The best vacation for family members is the one you can afford. Perhaps you can’t take that trip to Europe this year but can take a road trip across the country. Determine your travel budget early when planning a family vacation and stick to it.
One of the best ways to plan for a family vacation is to start a savings fund. Put a predetermined amount of money aside each month for your trip. Saving over time often leaves you with a larger vacation budget and gives you more time to prepare for travel expenses.
Related read: See our blog on the best travel podcasts to get additional tips from a variety of expert travelers.
Packing and Luggage Considerations
If you’re an experienced traveler, you may be used to vacationing with only what you can pack into your carry-on bag. While It's technically possible to travel as a family and only use carry-on luggage, most families find checked luggage a more realistic option. Pack most of your clothing in your checked luggage, and use your carry-on luggage to carry diapers, snacks, games, tablets, and items to keep kids entertained during flights.
The Best Luggage Options for Family Trips
Platinum® Elite 21/25/29 Luggage Set
Looking for a versatile luggage set for your family travels? The Platinum® Elite 21/25/29 luggage set: is a three-suitcase set with fully loaded interior features. Keep your clothes wrinkle-free with a drop-in fold out suiter in the 21-inch bag and built-in, fold-out suitors in the 25- and 29-inch bags. TSA compliant wet bags keep dirty clothing and toiletries separate from your clean packing, while the Travelpro® PrecisionGlide™ System wheels offer an effortless roll so even young family members can help move your luggage.
Shop Platinum Elite 3-Piece Luggage Set
Maxlite® 5 Floating-On-Air luggage Set
Lightweight but sturdy, the Maxlite® 5 Floating On Air luggage set offers the packing room a large family needs, all transported on 360° spinner wheels. Height-adjustable PowerScope lite handles let the kids help roll your luggage to check in, while exterior packets can store your check-in information and boarding passes in one convenient location. For families that love to bring home plenty of souvenirs, the set’s three bags expand for up to two inches of additional capacity.Shop Maxlite 5 3-Piece Luggage Set
Maxlite® Air Hardside Expandable Spinner Set
Prefer a hardside luggage set for your family adventures? The Maxlite® Air Hardside Expandable Spinner luggage set offers 100% polycarbonate exteriors perfect for longer trips and rough handling. The interior of these tough spinners is carefully organized with zippered interior designer panels, making it easy to pack for multiple family members. Environmentally-minded families will appreciate the eco-friendly interior suitcase linings, made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.Shop Maxlite Air 3-Piece Luggage Set
Travel + Leisure® Compact Carry-on/ Checked Medium Spinner Set
Not all families require a three-piece luggage set. For smaller families, the Travel + Leisure® Compact Carry-on/ Checked Medium Spinner Set gives you the convenience of a smaller carry-on bag and medium-sized check in bag. Both bags help you keep your packing organized with carefully thought out divider panels, accessory pockets, and water-resistant pockets to keep wet swimsuits and dirty closed separate from your clean clothes, while 100%Shop Travel & Leisure 2-Piece Luggage Set
Preparing For Your Family Vacation
A little preparation will make your family vacation go much smoother. If you’re unsure how young children will react to air travel, consider taking a short weekend trip first so they can get used to flying. Learn how to navigate an airport so you can get through TSA checkpoints and to your departure gate as smoothly as possible.
Make sure you have all proper documentation and medication before traveling and don’t forget any stuffed toys or security blankets kids absolutely have to have with them. Whether you're traveling by car or plane, a selection of healthy snacks is a must, as are some coloring books, games, or new toys to serve as entertainment for little ones. You may prefer to limit your child’s use of electronic devices, but a pair of headphones and a tablet with some games or downloaded movies can keep a child happy for a long flight.
There are hundreds of places for family vacations. Start planning your next family trip today, and make memories that will last a lifetime.