Here are 7 Initial Steps for planning a trip with your kids. There are many more steps involved with planning a successful family trip, but there are the ones you want to start with.
Step 1: Choose a destination.
If you are planning on going to visit your parents’ house, this step is already accomplished for you, well done!
If you are trying to choose a fun destination your family will enjoy, there are a few things to consider. You need to think about the time of year, because weather will definitely have an impact on your trip. You also need to think about the physical requirements of the trip in relation to your current physical health. Is everyone who is going along on the trip with you up for a 15K hike through the mountains? Of course, a huge factor will also be your budget. Can you afford your first choice, including transportation, food, and lodge? Of course, the time of year can have a huge impact on your budget as well. If you are going to go during off season, plane tickets and accommodations will generally be cheaper. But we will get into all of those details in the next 6 steps. Does your destination of choice seem to fit in with these requirements? Well, then let’s start planning!
Step 2: Transportation
It may seem like this should come later in the planning process, but trust me, the sooner you get this taken care of, the better! Now you have to consider the type of transportation you will use.
If you are going somewhere in driving distance, ask yourself these questions:
1. How much will gas and food cost both ways?
2. Will I use my vehicle to get around while on vacation, or can I use public transportation?
3. Are there any papers I need for my vehicle that I do not currently have?
4. Are there any repairs or maintenance I should do to my vehicle before I take it on a road trip?
You will want to get all of these details taken care of before you head out on your trip. For example, if you are driving from Hungary to Serbia, you need to send an application in to get a little slip that allows you to travel between the countries. It would be a bummer if you got all the way there and then you could not get across the boarder. You also want to make sure you have as little extra irritations arise as possible, that means you need your car to be in top shape so you don’t encounter a huge delay in your travel plans because something needs to be repaired. Of course you can’t plan for everything, and we will go over what to do when the unexpected happens in the “Roadblocks” section of this blog.
If you have the money, you want to spend as much time as possible at your destination, and you can use public transportation or rent a car, I would recommend flying. This is definitely my preferred way of travel with our kids, and they love it!
If you are going to be flying, here are my recommendations:
1. Make friends with a trustworthy travel agent. You can ask your friends if they have one. Maybe you know someone that travels for work a lot. I think that building a relationship with a travel agent that you trust is a wise investment of time. And hey, if you find a cheaper, “better,” flight online, you can always book those tickets instead.
2. Consider the timing of your flights. Cheaper is not always better when you have a 5 hour layover with a 3 year old. If you want to make your family vacation the best it can possibly be, you need to think about the details, including your little one’s sleep schedule.
3. Consider the airline you are flying with. Do you have any friends that have flown with them recently? Did their flight attendant roll their eyes when they saw them taking along their infant? I will get into this more in a later post, but you are paying a lot of money for your children to fly, so don’t let other people intimidate you or think you are inconveniencing them by flying with your children. You are a customer, and you paid to be there.
4. Think about the places that you will connect for flights. Are there additional security measures? Will there be any place for you to buy food if you need to?
There are many airport and airplane questions when it comes to traveling with young children, but for planning purposes, there are really the questions you should be asking at this point. We will go into more detail later.
You can also travel by train or bus, and both of those options have positive and negative aspects. Again, more information for a later post.
Step 3: Research!
Now that you have chosen your main way of travel and your destination, you should start to plan out the details of your trip, including places to stay, places of interest, and one of the most fun aspects of travel, where to eat.
You can find books about a specific place, and of course you should always be prepared with a paper map, yes I said paper. You would not believe how many times I have heard of people taking a GPS with them, and they can’t get a signal and are completely lost. In fact, that’s happened to me personally once. Always bring a paper map!
I would also recommend (unbiased of course) that you look for a blog about the place you are visiting. Chances are that someone lives there or has traveled there, and blogged about their experiences and places they found interesting. In Athens there is a local blogger who has steered us in the right direction time after time. People are taking the time to blog about these places, take advantage of their efforts.
Step 4: Set goals
Now that you’ve done your research and know you options you need to sit down as a family and decide what the goal of your vacation is. Nothing formal of course. You can discuss it over dinner one night. This will save you many frustrations and arguments while on the road. One of your children may be interested in seeing an art museum, while the other wants to go to a monster truck rally. Sitting down and discussing expectations will take the sting off of the fact that you can’t do everything for everyone in one trip. That way you can also make compromises as a family.
Step 5: Getting the right travel equipment
You should do some investigating about the physical demands of the trip. You may want to bring your stroller, or a baby carrier. In many countries they do not provide seating for infants, so you may want to consider a foldable baby chair that is easy to carry around. You can check out the “Travel Tools” section of this blog for more information on specific products. It is always good to think ahead about these things because they can suck the fun right out of your trip if you are not prepared.
Step 6: Packing!
For me, packing is a very strategic process that I can’t do without my husband. I get packing anxiety and start to freak out as we get closer to the end of the packing process. My husband, Travis, is a master traveler and packer and it is usually his job to plan and finish the packing, so I am enlisting his help for this section. You need to think about how many suitcases you can reasonably carry through the airport, take with you in car, or whatever. Take as little as possible!! The less you have to carry around, the less physically exhausted you will be, and the more energy you will have for enjoying your trip. Take the bare minimum, because every little bit counts. Do you really need your blow dryer? Most hotels have one in the room. Do you really need four pairs of shoes for each person? Probably not. Once again, there will be more posts on this topic to come.
Step 7: Going
Make sure you get someone dependable to take, and pick you up if you are not driving. And always give yourself a cushion of time for tardiness. If you have kids, you are going to be running late sometimes, and you don’t want to mess your whole schedule up.
These 7 steps barely scratch the surface of what successful traveling looks like, but please don’t be intimidated. This may seem like a lot of work at first, and will be, especially if this is your first time traveling with your children. But as you get used to these steps and how each of your children behave while traveling, it will get much easier and also more fun.