There is a lot that goes into planning a trip with kiddos, and it often means sacrificing a brewery tour to stand in line for two hours to take a picture with Chewbacca or Princess Elsa. But hey, that’s what we signed up for as parents.
Family vacations are supposed to be fun, memorable and hopefully relaxing. But if you've traveled with kids, you know there are rare times of true relaxation besides when you are asleep! So the question remains, how do you plan ahead to create an enjoyable, unforgettable experience for your family? If you are successful, then just maybe you can revel in a little relaxation as well!
- Depending on where you are traveling, look for hotels with amenities such as pools and kids’ activities. Pools provide a much needed outlet for kids to burn off energy, especially after a day full of travel. Some hotels even offer on-site activities for kids to participate. If you’re at a kid-friendly hotel, chances are you’ll meet some other traveling families with kids along the way, and maybe make some new friendships.
- Stay at a hotel that provides complimentary breakfast. Most major hotel brands have properties that offer free breakfast options that are pretty good. There’s a chance you might pay a little more for the nightly rate, but a family of four dining out for breakfast will likely cost upwards $50. With the variety a hotel breakfast offers, kids can have a sense of responsibility in choosing the food they want to fuel their day with, something they might not always get to do at home.
- Most hotel brands have a loyalty program that you can, and should, sign up for. Not only will you collect points for staying during your trip, but if there happen to be any issues, hotels will sometimes offer you points or other perks to be used on another trip.
- Book a room with a bedroom and living area that will give you more space and typically includes a pull-out bed in the sofa. It’s definitely worth the room upgrade to ensure that extra space. My wife and I have certainly sacrificed comfort in order to have a few glasses of wine and watch tv once the kids are asleep!
- Book the hotel room directly from the hotel’s website. While you might get a lower rate on sites like Priceline or Kayak, if your plans change (and at some point, they will) the room is often non-refundable or you’ll have to leap through hoops to change a reservation. Hotels are much more understanding and willing to change a reservation if you booked directly, especially if you are part of its loyalty program.
- Go all inclusive! There are not many all-inclusive resorts in the U.S., but the Club Med in Port St. Lucie, FL is totally worth it. All food, drinks and nightly shows are included. They have child care on-site, so you and your spouse can actually relax! Really, there is no need to leave the resort; go for the sun and stay for its famous white chocolate bread!
- Utilize free visitor guides. Most destinations publish a visitor guide that you can request from its website to help you in planning a trip. Not only do they provide coupons and insights on promotions, they share a wealth of information about things to do and places to stay. From content on featured attractions and top-notch restaurants to historical gems and in-market tips, there’s something everyone can find to spark inspiration for their trip.
- Do things your kids will enjoy. It sounds very simple but I promise, your five-year-old does not want to go to an art museum. A lot of attractions have activities that will appeal to the whole family. When I got a hug from Elmo during a family trip to Sea World San Diego, it instantly took me back to my childhood.
- Look for bundles. Many destinations will sell packages that include popular attractions. For example, CityPASS currently has 14 cities in the U.S. that offers a much better rate if you’re trying to hit all the main attractions in one visit. Chicago’s CityPASS admission offers tickets, VIP entry and Fast Pass access to five of the most popular attractions in the city. Not only do you save over 50% on admission, you can skip the lines, too!
- Visit during non-peak season. The best advice I ever received from native Floridians about going to Disney World was to go before school is out for the summer. We didn’t and went in June after school was out and it was absolutely packed. Visiting attraction during non-peak times will allow you to pack more into your days, rather than spending excess times waiting in lines.
Thank you for reading, hopefully some of these tips helped. Be sure to check out my next blog post where I’ll focus on dining out while on vacation. Now go out, make some life long memories and travel with your family so you don’t “think the world is a small place!”