Last year I went on a family vacation. We hadn’t gone on one of those for a really long time. When I was a kid my family and I used to take vacations almost every year but I didn’t have to plan anything. But now, as a grown-up, I had a more active role in planning everything. I’m used to traveling by myself or with like-minded people so planning a vacation with my family was a bit of a challenge.
In the end, it was a great trip, we had fun and we enjoyed our time together. We took too many pics and it’s definitely something we will do again. I learned many things from that experience and today I’m writing down some tips you can use to plan your next family vacations.
1. Pick a destination that everyone will enjoy
- We ended up choosing Playa del Carmen, Cancun in Mexico. A place that had activities everyone would enjoy.
If you’re traveling solo you can practically go anywhere but when traveling with children or older people you have to think about comfort. To travel the world with a family may be a challenge! Every member of the family should be part of this process… even little children! Listen to everybody’s opinion and let them get excited about the destination you’ll be visiting. Think of how you’ll get there and if it’s safe for everyone. Key points you have to consider:
- How long will it take to get there: remember long flights or drives are not very comfortable for children and older people
- Airport and airline facilities for all the members of the family
2. Get appropriate accommodation
- We decided to stay at an Airbnb that had enough rooms for everyone, including a crib for my niece and a pool so she could have fun (something I would never ever think as important when choosing accommodation)
I’ve no problem with staying at cheap hostels when I’m traveling solo or with friends. Traveling with my mother was a whole different story. She wanted clean sheets, her own bathroom, and even breakfast. There were times I got frustrated… I didn’t even want breakfast! But I had to cater to everyone’s needs. I mean, it would be easier for me to get used to clean sheets than for my mother to get used to random guys going into her room. To choose the perfect accommodation we looked for these things:
- Safety of the neighborhood
- Location: we checked if there were stores, drug stores and anything we could need close
- Comfort for everyone: check for elevators (essential when you’re traveling with a stroller), AC, Wi-Fi (I demanded that), kitchen if you’re planning on cooking, etc.
3. Plan activities for everyone
- Cenote Azul in Cozumel, Mexico. Cenotes were surprisingly fun for everyone!
I thought this would be one of the trickiest parts of planning our vacation but it was actually pretty easy (or maybe my family is really easygoing haha). Since we chose a beach we had plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy. We went snorkeling while my niece played in the sand with her grandmother. We went to some cenotes that everyone enjoyed and we walked around the city so my mother could buy souvenirs for her friends. There are also tours that are suited for everyone and if you’re short in time, those are a great idea.
Some activities you’ll enjoy more than others but try to plan activities everyone can be part of. And if some activities are not suited for everyone (like clubbing, for example) you can probably go on separate ways. You shouldn’t feel pressured to stay all the time with your family. Of course, family vacations are about spending quality time together but having some time to explore a place by yourself is also important. Your family won’t mind (mine didn’t!).
Planning activities for everyone will be easier if you’ve got local insights into the place you’re going to. I wish I had an app like Talk Travel back then. It would’ve made our planning a lot easier.
Also, if you’re traveling with a big family and want to travel on a budget, check these tips:
4. Don’t over-schedule your days
- Walking down the beach was a great activity that everyone enjoyed. We didn’t have a plan but to just walk and see where that lead us.
Traveling with children means you have to slow down most of the time. If you plan too many activities you may feel frustrated if you don’t get to do all of them. Or what’s worse… if you do get to accomplish every activity, odds are children will feel cranky and tired (and you too!).
Plan one or two important activities during the day and leave the rest open so you can relax and let everyone enjoy moments together. Remember traveling is not a competition. It doesn’t matter if you get to see everything or just some things, the important thing is that you’ll be creating memories.
5. Remember what family vacations are all about
- Discovering the beautiful beaches of Mexico. Now, this is a memory we’ll never forget.
Family vacations are all about making memories. All of us have a special memory connected to our trips with our families when we were young or even as we get older. From this trip, I’ll never forget snorkeling with my mother and my sister. I’ll never forget that time I went with my father to feed some little pigs when I was 4 years old. I won’t ever forget when my sister and I woke up our parents one day at 6 in the morning because we wanted to go to the pool of the hotel.
Spending quality time with your loved ones should be the priority when planning or going on family vacations. Of course, there will be moments you want to make something different or when you feel like you could be doing a lot more stuff but remember… you will never live this moment again, so enjoy!
Family vacations are great opportunities to bond with your family, to explore new places and to learn new things about your loved ones. Don’t miss the chance to have new stories to tell.